A Short History of Corton by Michael Soanes
The village of Corton has ancient origins: Neolithic and Roman remains have been found here and there was a Roman road leading to Corton from Oulton, although the supposed ruins of a Roman signal station, discovered in the early 19th Century, were more likely those of a Tudor fort or blockhouse built to defend the coast against French or Spanish invaders.
The name Corton comes from a Viking invader with curly hair ('Kari'), who set up his homestead ('tun') here in the 9th century, dispossessing the previous Saxon landowner. His farm may well have stood to the east of the church, which, with land falling away on three sides and with a network of ancient roads leading to adjacent villages, would have been a suitable site for Kari and for subsequent medieval manor houses. The church probably started out as the lord's private chapel, which evolved into a parish church in the 12th century.
At the time of the Domesday Survey, Corton had about 360 acres of cultivated lands occupied by seventeen families. A Domesday farm of forty acres, held by Ralf the Crossbowman, may have developed into the hamlet of Thorpe, to the south west of Corton proper, of which no trace now remains.
At some point between 1086, when it is listed in Domesday, and 1254, when it was omitted as a separate entity from the Norwich Taxation, the 'lost village' of Newton, which lay east of Hopton, was incorporated into the parish of Corton. It's church, however, was still active up to the Reformation and it's ruins visible well into the 19th century.
In the 14th century, the outlet of the River Yare was opposite Corton, which brought prosperity by way of increased maritime trade and led to the shift of the village, from around the church, to the cliffs to the east of it. The tax returns from this period show the population had higher than average wealth and this enabled them to build the large late 14th century church, which, when the village became impoverished in the late 16th and 17th centuries, it was unable to maintain.
Parts of the church date from the 12th century, but it was greatly enlarged in about 1395, although the tower was not started until 1445 it was only completed in 1694, when the parishioners decided to ruinate the nave and convert the chancel into their parish church. Part of the nave was re-roofed in 1846, but otherwise the building sadly remains much as the lamentable decision of 1694 envisaged.
From Tudor to Georgian times little of note happened to change or challenge village life, which relied almost entirely on farming and fishing, but from about 1800, erosion began to eat away at the cliffs on which the village stood (opposite the church) and it was gradually rebuilt on the common land to the south (the isolation of the church has nothing to do with the Black Death, as many people believe).
The Corton of 1900, although in a different position, was very similar to the Corton of 1700, but, during the 20th century it changed greatly, with the arrival of modernity. The holiday industry generated holiday camps and caravan sites from the 1920s onwards combined with housing development during the 1960's and 1970's have given Corton more of an urban or suburban feel rather than rural