Nettleton, Burton and West Kington are grouped together under the heading of Nettleton, but Burton is the main settlement as that is where the parish church of St. Mary's is located. Burton and Nettleton were amalgamated into one civil parish in 1934. The parish borders Gloucestershire in the northwest and accommodates the M4 motorway, also in the north of the parish. The southern boundary of the parish is partly defined by the Broadmead Brook which runs through areas of woodland in the east of the parish. The Fosseway crosses the parish on the south eastern side. The underlying rock is clay with some limestone and the soil is described as stonebrash with subsoil of clay.
There is a large amount of evidence in the area suggesting early settlements. Lugbury long barrow is ¾ of a mile from Nettleton and was excavated in the 19th century yielding 28 skeletons. There is evidence of cultivated terraces east of Burton and a Roman road from Nettleton to Grittleton has evidence of side ditches, found during an excavation in 1998. Goulters Mill has evidence of early ditches, while Neolithic tools and Iron Age coins have been found in the surrounding area. Near Nettleton there is evidence of Saxon earthworks and medieval headlands which show ridge and furrow fields as well as a rubbish mound from that period. On the Nettleton road in Burton, a post medieval causeway was discovered in 2005 and north of Nettleton, near Down Farm, are traces of a round barrow which is as yet undated. A Neolithic long barrow has been found near a fox covert northwest of Nettleton and traces of medieval armour have been found near Priory Farm, also northeast of Nettleton. South-west of Brotton Hill wood in the north-west of the parish there is evidence of a Romano-British settlement; a medieval spearhead has also been found there. The many examples of undated ditches, enclosures and trackways, combine to suggest that this was a favoured area for settlement.
The shrine of Apollo, excavated at Nettleton Shrub from 1956 to 1972, is a major find. It was obviously a significant religious centre. There is a large octagonal structure overlooking the river, the shrine of Apollo, and this was a place of pilgrimage in Roman times. There is also evidence of pewter casting and metal working. Stone axe heads, flint implements and small ditches revealing Belgic pottery and British coins have been found. It was certainly a place of prehistoric settlement as well as being a site of Roman enclosure, probably when the Fosseway was being constructed in A.D. 47.
The shrine of Apollo dates from A.D. 69. The site included a hostel constructed on the Fosseway and a rectangular hall near to the shrine, as well as a priest's house, a shop and domestic buildings. By A.D. 230 an octagonal podium was built which encompassed the original shrine and there was a wall with a gateway. By A.D. 250 this was destroyed by fire and then a larger octagonal temple was built on the same site, using the original octagonal base. The settlement developed quickly and additions were made to accommodate the number of visitors who were interested in the centre. The altar was inscribed, a bronze plaque found and an intaglio (engraved stone) found on a finger which all indicate the dedication of the shrine to Apollo.
By A.D. 330 the building had fallen into disrepair but was possibly used as a place for Christian worship and then later as a homestead. A brief resurgence in pagan worship occurred in A.D. 370 but then faltered again. After A.D. 330 and with the falling off of visitors and their income, there was more industrial activity. Pewter, bronze and iron smelting occurred as shown by the stone moulds found alongside iron slag. In the 4th century the area was raided, possibly by Irish pirates via the Bristol Channel. Some may have settled here as early burial sites housing stone lined graves indicate this. By the 5th century the settlement came to an end, possibly by violent means. Many human bones have been found with sword slashes, some indicating decapitation and therefore violent deaths.
There is also an association with Diana, perhaps suggesting that this was a place for healing; other cults indicate Silvanus and Mercury. A medieval farmstead was built using the Roman buildings as cattle byres and it all eventually reverted to a green pasture as it fell out of use.
According to the Glastonbury Abbey Cartulary, 'Netelington ' was granted to King Edmund's servant Wulfrie in A.D. 943 and then in A.D.946 to the Abbot and monastery of Glastonbury. According to the Domesday Suvey, Nettleton was part of the Glastonbury Abbey Estates and in 1086 between 110 and 120 people lived on the estate. By 1189, 55 heads of household are recorded and the rental surveys of 1235-52 indicate 48 tenants. The Tax assessment of 1334 shows Nettleton paying 130 shillings and the Poll Tax record of 1377 record 138 people over the age of 14.
There is also mention of a letter from Abbot Whiting who placed the rectory of Nettleton at the disposal of Thomas Cromwell, who in fact had hoped for Batcombe. The Blounts of Bitton also had a small estate here in 1443. According to the survey of the manors in 1525 the Manor of West Kington covered 1,068 acres and had 24 holdings yielding rents of £19 3s.6d. It was then held by Lady Cecily Marchioness of Dorset, Lady Haryngdon and Bonvyle.
The Manor of Nettleton was bought by the Botelers at the time of the dissolution. They also owned Badminton for 400 years until 1608. In the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign John Astley purchased the manor and it was then passed down to Sir Richard Grobham of Great Wishford who died childless and leftit to his sister's son John Howe. He was the first Lord Chedworth, Baron of Chedworth and M.P. for Gloucester, then M.P. for Wiltshire and also Recorder for Warwick from 1737 - 1741. Nettleton was amongst other manors passed down to him. They remained in the Howe family until the death of John Howe in 1804, the fourth and last Lord Chedworth. Thereafter the title became extinct. Then in 1806 the manor and advowson was purchased by Andrew Carrick of Clifton, M.D. and sold after his death in 1839 by his trustees to Thomas Penrice for just over £11,009. The estate of West Kington measured 2,350 acres and the estate of Nettleton measured 1,009 acres at the time of this sale in 1839. Thomas Penrice later sold to W.A. Hulton in 1870.
The Priory house, part of the Abbot's estate, was demolished in 1852 and a new one built by a Mr. Hill. There are a number of listed buildings in the parish and these include a number of farms, such as Burton Farm, Priory Farm and Latimer Farm, as well as cottages and houses, such as Fosseway House, West Kington House, Martins House and Violet Cottage. Other listed buildings include the school in Nettleton, the old post office, and the churches and monuments in the churchyards.
In 1801 the population was 338 rising to 395 by 1811 and 423 by 1821. It continued to rise and reached 565 by 1851, and 632 by 1861. In 1871 there was a slight drop to 567 possibly due to emigration. Towards the end of the 19th century it dropped again to 379 and remained fairly constant in the early years of the 20th century. By 1934 it had again increased to 489 owing to the fact that West Kington had been transferred to Nettleton and by 2001 Nettleton had a population of 597.
In medieval and later times the lord of the manor retained a small permanent staff for usual tasks such as ploughing and livestock care. Ploughmen at Nettleton lived rent free and were allowed the use of the plough to cultivate their own strips of land. The attention to the fertility of the soil was important and the Nettleton villagers had to spread a row of dung on half an acre of the demesne land each year to help this. Three ploughings a year were demanded at Nettleton as well as help with the hay making, and small flocks of between one hundred and five hundred sheep were kept. A total of 520 acres of common land were enclosed by an Act of Parliament in 1812.
There are a large number of farms in the parish and they include Burton Farm in the north; Westfield, Kingtondown and Ebbdown Farms in the west. Goulters Mill Farm and Fosse Farm on the Fosseway, now a stylish Bed and Breakfast, are in the east of the parish. Then Latimer Farm and Church Farm are situated in West Kington. Nettleton accommodates Manor Farm, Yew Tree Farm, Priory Farm and Green Farm. The emphasis in the area is very much on agriculture and this dictated the way that people lived.
There are a number of small quarries, not in use now, but they would have supplied the local stone. There are also mills alongside Broadmead Brook. Littleton Mill, later Goulters Mill farm in the 1700s, is east of Burton; Longs Mil,l also established in the1700s, was south-west of Nettleton; and Kington Mill was at West Kington. There are also a number of small sluices and weirs along the course of the brook to help direct the water as required.
Ogilby's map of 1675 shows the Bristol to Oxford road passing through Burton, then on to Malmesbury and Highworth. The parish is crossed by a number of small roads in contrast to the busy M4 which lies just north of Burton. The nearest rail link is at Chippenham. There is no mains gas to date, although interest is still shown in getting mains gas to Burton. Mains water was installed during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Much discussion occurred about the possibility of the Nettleton borehole adding water to the Yatton Keynell water tower. This in turn would help boost the supply of water to Bremhill, Castle Combe, Grittleton, Kington Langley and Kington St. Michael, Sutton Benger and Yatton Keynell itself. The early estimate of costs to supply mains water to this rural area was in excess of £46,000 in the early 1940s.
Burton means 'farm by the borough' and was named in 1204. It is situated in a slight valley at the junction of three roads. 'A large part of the parish and village is called Burton' as Aubrey says and this seems to be the main area of settlement. It is close to the county boundary with Gloucestershire and in the north of the parish of Nettleton situated on the B4039. The soil is stonebrash with clay subsoil and the chief crops are wheat and barley, along with pasture land. It is a small village currently comprising 96 households. A map of 1821 shows the plan of the road from the west end of Burton running south easterly and arriving at the Salutation Inn in the parish of Littleton Drew. It indicates a small number of properties at Burton, no more than 18-20 and shows field names, such as 'Horsedown' on the southern side of the road and 'Littleton Field on the north side. There were originally two pubs in Burton, the Plume of Feathers, a free house dating back to the 16th century which is no longer a pub but now a residence called the Old Plume. This was included in the 1839 sale of the estate and was leased at that time by Thomas and William Comly and included land in the east and west field, as well as the pub building itself, and a barn, stables and outbuildings. The other public house is the Old House at Home and is still open.
The church sits on a rise overlooking the village and is Grade I listed; the rectory is adjacent. Also listed is Chestnut Cottage formerly the forge. Early Kelly's directories mention a Post Office, a maltster, grocers, drapers, carpenter, blacksmith, publicans and numerous farmers. By 1920 there was also a haulier and a coal merchant. The Rector of Nettleton, the Rev. Brooks Rickards, obtained plans for the proposed erection of a village hall, in 1921. It was located on the Nettleton Road just south of the turning to Church Hill and was of wooden construction in army hut style as made by Whiteley & Co., of Salisbury. The cost was £75. This land, no longer in use for the hall has now been earmarked as extra parking for the church. The Nettleton Rectory, parts of which date from 1605, was sold in the mid 20th century and is now a private residence. Accounts and correspondence of the 1950s suggest that the rectory was in a poor state of repair at that time and advise that 'a small house in Swindon would be preferable.' Some council housing was built post war and a small close of stone houses more recently and there is ongoing development in the centre of Burton.
The name Netelingtone is difficult to define but is mentioned in early charters and is possibly from the Old English name 'Neoel'. It is situated in the middle of the parish with Burton to the north and West Kington to the west. It has stonebrash soil with subsoil of clay. Nettleton lacks a close structure and was at one time labelled 'C' category and suitable for infill. There is some post war housing and a Post Office and store built in the mid 20th century.
Some land in Nettleton, as well as land in West Kington ,was owned in 1843 by Sir C. Bethall Codrington and this was passed through his family until some parts were sold in 1942, including Coates Farm and Church Farm. These were then purchased by the Duke of Beaufort for £11,200 and covered an area of 442 acres. Westfield Farm to the west of the village was sold in 1963; it covered 318 acres and during the course of the sale, concern was expressed about the proposed route of the then non-existent M4 motorway. Back in 1964 that route was still being decided upon. Today the parish of Nettleton is an ideal location for commuters with its proximity to the motorway.
The Codrington Arms, originally a public house, is now converted into residential use and is known as Codrington House. The King William IV, the other public house in the parish, was owned and run by Ushers Brewery from 1904 - 1958. It was situated on the corner of Wood Lane and is now a private residence. Trades established in Nettleton in the late 19th century include a publican, butcher, mason, hurdle maker and a number of farmers
The main parish church of St. Mary's is situated at Burton. A Quaker group in Nettleton mentions John Davis who 'steadily opposed authority' and there is a Baptist Church at Nettleton which was established in 1823.
West Kington means 'royal farmstead or manor' from the old English 'cyne-tun'. The soil is cornbrash with rock subsoil and the main crops are wheat and barley. According to the survey of the manors in 1525 the Manor of West Kington covered 1,068 acres and had 24 holdings yielding rents of £19 3s.6d. It was then held by Lady Cecily Marchioness of Dorset, Lady Haryngdon and Bonvyle. By the 1620s it was held by Sir Richard Grobham and after his death in 1629 it passed to his heir, his brother John. Land was also held by Sir Richard Grobham, in Nettleton.
West Kington is now a quiet place but in the late 19th century had a school, post office, a public house called 'The Plough' and a blacksmith. Most of these buildings have now been converted into residential use. However the main emphasis has always been on agriculture. The principal landowners in 1889 were Captain Sir G.W.H. Codrington bart, J.P. of Dodington Park, Chipping Sodbury, the fellows of New College, Oxford and Edward Chaddock Lowndes of Castle Combe. The village has a small population of only one hundred or so, but still has four garden designers, two landscape architects, a nursery growing over one million plants a year for the wholesale market, and a smaller nursery specialising in topiary, as well as a garden furniture and kitchen designer. Church Farm is now a stud farm.