According to legend, an Irish abbess called Modwen brought Christianity to the area in the seventh century and founded a chapel beside the River Trent. Burton’s recorded history began with the founding of a Benedictine monastery around the year 1000 by Wulfric Spot, a Mercian nobleman.  A town developed around the abbey and in 1200, King John confirmed the abbot’s right to hold an annual fair and weekly market.  After the Reformation, the abbey estates were granted to Sir William Paget.  Paget’s descendants became Earls of Uxbridge and in 1819 acquired the title of Marquis of Anglesey.  The family remained lords of the manor and owned much of the town until the twentieth century.  The names of a number of local streets, schools, and public houses commemorate the connection.

Mineral rich well water filtered through gypsum deposits proved particularly suitable for brewing.  Burton acquired a reputation for producing distinctive ales of exceptional quality.  A few casks of Burton ale were sent to London but transport problems limited opportunities for trade outside the local area until the River Trent navigation opened up wider markets from 1712. 

Completion of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1777 put Burton at the hub of an efficient distribution network.  Robert Peel, grandfather of the famous prime minister, moved his textile mills from Lancashire to Burton.  Brewing and textile manufacture became important local industries.  Business boomed after the railway arrived in 1839.  Companies such as Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton, who marketed their ales under the Red Triangle logo (later registered as Trade Mark number 1); Allsopps; Worthington; and, London brewers Ind Coope, and Charringtons who moved into the town to take advantage of the ‘brand’, made Burton the brewing capital of the world.  By then, the local textile industry was in decline but throughout most of the eighteenth century, hat making thrived.

By the close of the nineteenth century, 87 miles of private brewery railway lines criss-crossed the town with 32 level-crossing gates controlling the movement of freight across public roads.  Half of Burton’s working population were employed in brewing.  Considerable proficiency with specialised tools was required to make the many wooden casks demanded by the industry and coopers were the highest paid craftsmen.  The Burton Cooper, a life-size bronze statue commissioned by Burton Civic Society in 1977, has become a symbol of the town’s brewing tradition.  

Burton is also the home of ‘Marmite’ and where the recipe for Branston Pickle was first cooked up.

In the modern era railway sidings and redundant brewery buildings have made way for new residential developments, shopping centres, light industrial estates and business parks.  


Phillip Brookes Mason - A 19th century local surgeon and naturalist, who lived and worked in Horninglow Street.