The name of Littleton has changed throughout the ages. It has appeared as littletona, lytletun et alia, litletun, luthlet, north luttelton, lytlinton, luttilton, lytleton, lettleton, sutlitinton and northlitleton.
The area of the present day North and Middle Littleton has a long history of human occupation. It seems, from the finds of flint implements, that the area was occupied during the Neolithic period when some clearance of the native woodland would have taken place. Evidence of some Bronze Age human activities comes from dagger blades found on Cleeve Hill, North Littleton.
The earliest defined occupation in the Littletons belongs to the Iron Age. Evidence from finds of Iron Age pottery suggests that a settlement was established on the east side of Cleeve Hill escarpment between the 6th and 3rd Centuries B.C. In 1822 cultivation at Harrow Hill in Middle Littleton revealed a hoard of 104 iron currency bars dating from about 0 – 200 B.C.
There are two accredited Roman roads and a number of early roads that are possibly of Roman origin. Firstly, there is Ryknild Street, which was probably constructed during the late 1st and early 2nd Centuries. Dredging of the River Avon at Bidford in 1970 revealed a Roman ford or causeway to the east of the packhorse bridge. The exact course of the Roman Ryknild Street across the Vale is unknown as actual Roman road metalling has never been discovered here. The modern Buckle Street is probably on approximately the alignment as the Roman road. A second minor road or trackway (today a bridle path) ran along the crest of Cleeve Hill. The excavation of this road at Cleeve Prior revealed that it consisted of rubble paving 3 metres wide. The southern continuation of this road is uncertain. There are two possibilities; it turned either westward towards a crossing point on the River Avon or eastwards via Blakes Hill to join Ryknild Street. Excavations on Blakes Hill in 1938 revealed a pitched stone roadway, 2.7 metres wide, aligned east-west. This is thought to be of Roman origin.
In the Romano- British period, there were three settlements established In the North and Middle Littleton Parish. These were located at Blakes Hill, Littleton pastures and Ullington and were probably developed during 2nd Century B.C. to remain in occupation for two centuries. At Middle Hill in North Littleton, there was almost certainly continuity of occupation from the Iron Age until the Romano-British period. All farms would have been a mixture of livestock and arable land but with the emphasis on arable land producing wheat and barley. In A.D. 407, the last Roman forces are believed to have been withdrawn from Britain. A hoard of coins consisting of 450 – 600 gold coins and 3,000 silver coins were found in Cleeve Prior in 1811. These bore the head of the Emperor Gratian (367 – 383 A.D.
Evesham Abbey records show that the Abbot, St Egwin, had thirteen manors or farms in Littleton to assist him in raising money for the construction of the Abbey. So by 709 A.D. Littleton consisted of at least thirteen farms.
The first documented evidence of settlement in the Littletons is to be found in the Domesday Book. There are two entries of which the second entry of “Litteltune” almost certainly refers to Middle Littleton. It reads “In Lordship (owned by Evesham Abbey) – two ploughs and there are fifteen villagers or tenants and one Frenchman with two villages amongst them they have seven ploughs. There are three serfs and eight acres of meadow. It was worth four pounds and ten shillings, now seventy shillings” The Frenchman (i.e Norman) was probably a tenant of Evesham Abbey.
By the 14th Century, much of the land in Middle and North Littleton was an estate farm, belonging to the Abbey at Evesham. The Tithe Barn was built by Abbot John de Brokehampton (1282 - 1316) to store hay and cereals (before threshing). The Abbey extracted a ‘tithe’ (annual tax of 10%), on both crops and livestock, to provide an income from the Littletons to finance the hostilarius for the accommodation of guests at the Abbey.
The Survey of the villages, dated 1697, shows the Tithe Barn with adjacent buildings of the Church, the Manor House and Church House. St Nicholas Church dates, in part, from the 12th Century with additions in the 13th, 15th and 16th Centuries. The tower and other parts of the Church were added in 1871. The Manor House is an impressive stone house built in the Jacobean style and was almost certainly built in the early 17th Century. In 1690, it came into the possession of the Rushout family, whose ancestors were wool weavers from West Flanders. A small number of other houses are shown on the Survey but these, like many houses in villages, would have been poorly constructed and of a temporary nature to be replaced every 20 – 50 years. Some buildings would have been timber – framed with a wattle and daub in-fill and with thatched roofs. The timber framed buildings on West Side in North Littleton are of late 16th or early 17th Century origin. In the 18th and 19th Centuries some more substantial building took place using the local blue Liassic stone, quarried in the neighbourhood, and bricks produced locally. Some quite substantial buildings date from this time in the form of farmhouses and private dwellings. There are also cottages of the same period which were built for farm labourers. These included the cottages in Croft Road that were built in 1875 for the workers employed on the Manor lands. A school, positioned next to these cottages, was in existence in Middle Littleton from the end of the 19th Century.
The number of people living in the two villages during the 18th Century is uncertain but it was severely reduced by a fever and smallpox epidemic (1726 – 1732) when 97 deaths were recorded. The Census for 1901 records 78 dwellings in the Parish of North and Middle Littleton with a population of 373. In the period 1918 to 1939, there was a substantial increase in municipal housing in School Lane, Middle Littleton (known locally as ‘Antwerp’) but also on Blakes Hill in North Littleton. This housing was intended to provide homes for families who would work the land. At the same time, some of the growers built houses on their own plots of land. House building continued after the Second World War so that, by 2001, the Census for that year recorded 390 households with a population of 906.
In 1913, the Parish Council took up a proposal to construct a bridge across the River Avon adjacent to the Fish and Anchor Public House but, after much debate with the County Council, the idea was dropped. Changes were also taking place at the Manor. The Rushout family, who had provided two Members of Parliament and a Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, had taken the title Lord Northwick in 1797 but, when the main family line died out at the end of the nineteenth century, the property passed to a maternal grandson, Captain Edward G Spencer Churchill. The whole Manor Estate of 1070 acres, consisting of five farms, small holdings, cottages, meadows and much market gardening land, was sold in 1920.
Between the two World Wars, the villages of North and Middle Littleton were basically self-supporting. There were a variety of establishments, which included a Cider Mill, The Blacksmith Arms and the Ivy Inn Public Houses, the Malt House (which housed fire fighting equipment), Lloyd’s builders’ yard (which was also the local timber merchant), and local industries including builders, undertakers, wheelwrights, tyre smiths, blacksmiths, painters and decorators. Lime burning was also carried on to supply the local area with lime. In North Littleton there were two bakers (Badhams and Heming), two medium sized shops, including a Post Office, and two smaller shops (known as ‘backdoor shops’). Milk and eggs were sold at the farms with, also, a morning delivery of milk. Several grocers ran a village delivery service. A van, selling hardware items, made regular calls and there was the weekly visit of the fish and chip man. The only reason to visit Evesham for shopping was to buy clothes. Transport there was supplied by a local bus service operated by R. Oldacre.
In 1937, after years of deliberation, the funds were raised to build a Village Hall in Middle Littleton. This building remains to this day and flourishes with grants from Parish and district councils and donations from local residents. The members of the Royal British Legion, Littleton and Cleeve Prior Branch, built a club house, opposite to the Village Hall, which ran successfully for many years until it closed down, due to falling membership, in 2002. The site is now occupied by houses.
The original school, housed in a stone cottage in Croft Road, had moved to new premises at the corner of School Road and Croft Road. It stayed on this site until 1968, when a new school was built in Farm Lane, South Littleton. The School Lane school building was converted into flats.