There is evidence of early man’s presence in the Parish with archaeological finds dating back to Palaeolithic times.

The name Watton is first mentioned as Wattun in the 10th Century Anglo Saxon Wills, and as both Wodtune and Watone in the Domesday Book. The suffix “at Stone” is first mentioned in 1311 (Watton atte Stone).

Parts of the village were held by different Manors: Watton (Bardolf), Crowborough, Watton Hall (Watkins Hall) and Woodhall.

A more detailed history of the village is contained in the Watton-at-Stone Village Guide published by the Watton at Stone Conservation Society in association with the Parish Council.

Famous Residents

In 1200, Watton Manor was held by Henry Fitz Ailwin, the first Lord Mayer of London.

In the early 17th century, the Thompson brothers were involved in trade with the Colonies in New England where they owned several plantations. The brothers sided with Parliament against King Charles. Maurice Thompson was a very successful merchant adventurer involved in trade in slaves, sugar and tobacco. His son John Thompson was created 1st Baron Haversham. William Thomson, after his return from Virginia to England, was knighted and became Governor of the East India Company in the reign of Charles the Second. He was an MP for the City of London and a Customs Commissioner.

Colonel George Thompson was an MP for Southwark, a Councillor of State, and an Admiralty Commissioner. Major Robert Thompson owned considerable property in both England and New England. He was very friendly with Oliver Cromwell and was Navy Commissioner from 1649 throughout the Interregnum, serving in 1657-60 as victualing commissioner at Plymouth. Thompson, Connecticut, is named in his honour.
Maurice Thompson and Sir William Thompson helped found Watton’s first free school in 1662 when they founded a trust for the benefit of children of the poor in Watton. This trust was augmented in 1703 by Abraham Crossland.

The evangelical author and social campaigner Edward Bickersteth was rector of Watton church for twenty years from 1830 until his death in 1850. His works include A Scripture Help (1816), which has been translated into many European languages, and Christian Psalmody (1833), a collection of over 700 hymns, which forms the basis of the Hymnal Companion (1870), compiled by his son, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Bishop of Exeter (1885-1890).

Thomas Rawson Birks (1810-1883), theologian and controversialist, was curate to Edward Bickersteth at Watton. He figured in the debate to try to resolve theology and science. His discussions led to much controversy – in one book he proposed that stars cannot have planets as this would reduce the importance of Christ’s appearance on this planet.

The year 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Sir Nigel Gresley (1876 – 1941), the designer of the steam locomotive Flying Scotsman.

Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), lived at Watton House, Watton at Stone, for a few years until his death on 5th April 1941. In 1937, after his eldest daughter Violet married Major Geoffrey Godfrey, he decided to leave his home at Salisbury Hall and live with the couple at Watton House.

The River Beane flowed through the large garden, and the most important thing to be done before transferring his large family of mallards and other ducks to their new river home was to make a safe and wired-off river bank enclosure to protect the area from foxes.
He also owned a small syndicate shoot at Watton which gave him much enjoyment on Saturdays.

Watton House was used as his base along with Charles Newton (Chief General Manager, LNER) and Henry Richards (Electrical Engineer LNER).

Sir Nigel is buried at St Peter’s Church, Netherseal, Derbyshire near his family home.