At the time Dick Whittington and his cat searched London’s streets paved with gold, Marton born John Middleton was also seeking his fortune to become a wealthy mercer of the City of London. Coventry had clearly become too small a town for a man with such prospects of fame and fortune in his head and Marton was left behind, but not forgotten.
Just north of Southam, Marton is dissected by the Coventry to Banbury Trunk road and on the edge of the village the River Leam is crossed by the oldest trunk road bridge in England. Called “Middleton Bridge”, John Middleton probably had it built around 1414 to celebrate his retirement as Warden of the Ancient Mercers’ Company.
The narrow medieval packhorse bridge is a listed Ancient Monument in an established archaeological site and it is very unusual in that it follows the curve of the road.
In 1926, to take the increasing weight and quantity of modern traffic, it was widened by the addition of a concrete attachment to the northern elevation. Unfortunately this covered up much of the 15th century workmanship.
With extensive consultation between the Environment Agency, English Heritage and the District and Local Councils, work began in 2000 on exposing the buried north face and bringing the stone arches back to their pre-1926 condition. So a modern twin-span river bridge was constructed alongside the medieval bridge. The original bridge is now visible and well preserved and worth a visit.
Marton is another village close to Southam, which has extensive connections with the Nuns of Nuneaton, whom in the 12th century had the parish church granted to them by King Stephen as a Chapel of Ease.
Some years ago, when land nearby was being excavated for building, some medieval bones were unearthed. This site is thought to have been associated with the Chapel and the bones were possibly those of the Nuns.
This may also account for the number of old stories around the village about visions of ghostly Nuns!
The village is well supported by social groups and a village hall that hosts events and there is the Marton Museum of Bygones which is a large collection of old country craftsmen’s items, open for visitors during the summer or by appointment.