1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burton-upon-Trent

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BURTON-UPON-TRENT, a market town and municipal and county borough in the Burton parliamentary division of Staffordshire and the Southern parliamentary division of Derbyshire, England; lying mainly upon the left bank of the Trent, in Staffordshire. Pop. (1891) 46,047; (1901) 50,386. It is 127 m north-west from London by the London & North-Western and the Midland railways, and is also served by the Great Northern and North Staffordshire railways. The Trent is navigable from a point near the town downward. The neighbouring country is pleasant enough, particularly along the river, but the town itself is purely industrial, and contains no pre-eminent buildings. The church of St Mary and St Modwen is classic in style, of the 18th century, but embodies some remains of an ancient Gothic building. Of a Benedictine abbey dedicated to the same saints there remain a gatehouse and lodge, and a fine doorway. The former abbot's house at Seyney Park is a half-timbered building of the 15th century. The free grammar school was founded in 1525. A fine bridge over the Trent, and the municipal buildings, were provided by Lord Burton. There are pleasant recreation grounds on the Derbyshire side of the river.

Burton is the seat of an enormous brewing trade, representing nearly one-tenth of the total amount of this trade in the United Kingdom. It is divided between some twenty firms. The premises of Bass's brewery extend over 500 acres, while Allsopp's stand next; upwards of 5000 hands are employed in all, and many miles of railways owned by the firms cross the streets in all directions on the level, and connect with the lines of the railway companies. The superiority which is claimed for Burton ales is attributed to the use of well-water impregnated with sulphate of lime derived from the gypseous deposits of the district. Burton is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen and 24 councillors. Area, 4202 acres.

Burton-upon-Trent (Burhton) is first mentioned towards the close of the 9th century, when St Modwen, an Irish virgin, is said to have established a convent on the Isle of Andressey opposite Burton. In 1002 Wulfric, earl of Mercia, founded here a Benedictine abbey, and by charter of 1004 granted to it the town with other large endowments. Burton was evidently a mesne borough under the abbot, who held the court of the manor and received the profits of the borough according to the charter of Henry I. granting sac and soc and other privileges and right in the town. Later charters were given by Henry II., by John in 1204 (who also granted an annual fair of three days' duration, 29th of October, at the feast of St Modwen, and a weekly market on Thursday), by Henry III. in 1227, by Henry VII. in 1488 (Henry VII. granted a fair at the feast of St Luke, 18th of October), and by Henry VIII. in 1509. At the dissolution Henry VIII. founded on the site of the abbey a collegiate church dissolved before 1545, when its lands, with all the privileges formerly vested in the abbot, were conferred on Sir William Paget, ancestor of the marquess of Anglesey, now holder of the manor. In 1878 it was incorporated under a mayor, 8 aldermen, 24 councillors. Burton was the scene of several engagements in the Civil War, when its large trade in clothing and alabaster was practically ruined. Although the abbey ale was mentioned as early as 1295, the brewing industry is comparatively of recent development, having begun about 1708. Forty years later it had a market at St Petersburg and the Baltic ports, and in 1796 there were nine brewing firms in the town.

See William Molyneux, History of Burton-on-Trent (1869); Victoria County History, Staffordshire.