- This article is about Northampton in England; for other places of the same name see Northampton (disambiguation)
Northampton is a large market town and local government district in the East Midlands region of England. It is ca. northwest of London on the River Nene, and is the county town of Northamptonshire.
The district's population is 200,100 and the urban area's 189,474, making Northampton the 21st-largest settlement in England and the UK's 3rd-largest town without official city status, after Reading and Dudley. Northampton is the most populous district in England not a unitary authority, a status it failed to obtain in the 1990s local government reform. Northampton's population has increased greatly since the 1960s, largely due to planned expansion under the New Towns Commission in the early-1960s.
It was a major centre of shoemaking
and other leather
industries; only specialist shoemaking companies such as Church's
and Trickers, formerly in nearby Earls Barton
, survive. A large number of old shoe factories remain, now coverted to offices or accommodation, surrounded by terraced houses built for factory workers. Northampton's main private-sector employers are now in distribution and finance rather than manufacturing, and include Avon Products
, Nationwide Building Society
, Travis Perkins
, Coca Cola Schweppes Beverages Ltd
, National Grid plc
. The university is also a major employer.
Remains have been found in the Northampton area dating back to the Iron Age
. Farming settlement may have begun in the area around the 7th century. By the 8th century it was an administrative centre for the kingdom of Mercia
. The pre-Norman town was known as Hamtun and was quite small of only ca.60 acres.
The town became significant in the 11th century, when the Normans
built town walls and a large castle under the stewardship of the Norman earl, Simon de Senlis
. The original defence line of the walls is preserved in today's street pattern (Bridge St, The Drapery, Bearward St and Scarletwell Street). The town grew rapidly after the Normans
arrived, and beyond the early defences. By the time of the Domesday Book
, the town had a population of about 1500 residents, living in 300 houses.
The town and its castle were important in the early 12th century and the King often held Court in the town. During his famous fall out with Henry II, Thomas Beckett at one time escaped from Northampton Castle through the unguarded Northern gate to flee the country,
Northampton had a large Jewish population in the 13th century, centred around Gold Street. In 1277 300 Jews were executed, allegedly for clipping the King's coin, and the Jews of Northampton were driven out of the town.
The town was originally controlled by officials acting for the King who collected taxes and upheld the law. In 1189 King Richard I gave the town its first charter. In 1215 King John authorised the appointment of William Tilly as the town's first Mayor and ordered that: 'twelve of the better and more discreet residents of the town join him as a council to assist him' . In 1176 the Assize of Northampton laid down new powers for dealing with law breakers.
A university was established in 1261 by scholars fleeing Cambridge. It briefly flourished, but was dissolved by Henry III in 1265 owing to the threat it posed to Oxford. It was restored in 2005 (See below).
The first Battle of Northampton took place at the site of Northampton Castle in 1264 - when the forces of Henry III over ran the supporters of Simon de Montfort. In 1460, a second Battle of Northampton took place in the grounds of Delapre Abbey - and was a decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, and King Henry VI was captured in the town by the Yorkists.
In May 1328 the Treaty of Northampton was signed - being a peace treaty between the English and the Scots in which Edward III recognised the authority of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland and betrothed Bruce's still infant son to the king's sister Joanna.
A large network of medieval tunnels remain under the centre around All Saints church.
Civil War to 1900
Northampton supported the Parliamentarians
during the English Civil War
. For this reason the town walls and castle were later torn down on the orders of King Charles II
as punishment. The railway station
in Northampton stands on the site of the former castle, and used to be called "Northampton Castle Station".
The town was destroyed by fire in both 1516 and 1675 (for the latter see Great Fire of Northampton), and was re-built as a spacious and well-planned town. In the 18th century Northampton became a major centre of footwear and leather manufacture. The prosperity of the town was greatly aided by demand for footwear caused by the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
In his 18th century, "A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain", Daniel Defoe described Northampton as, "...the handsomest town in all this part of England."
Northampton's growth was accelerated in the 19th century, first by the Grand Union Canal, which reached the town in 1815 and later the coming of the railways. The first railway to be built into Northampton was a branch from the main London-Birmingham line at Blisworth to Peterborough through Northampton which opened in 1845. This was followed by lines to Market Harborough (1859) and Bedford (1872). The Northampton loop off the major West Coast Main Line was built into Northampton in the late 1870s.
Over the coming centuries the town continued to grow rapidly; after 1850 the town spilled out beyond the old town walls and began the growth we see today. in 1800 the population was round 7,000 and this had grown to 87,000 a century later.
In the 19th century Northampton acquired a reputation for political radicalism when the radical non-conformist Charles Bradlaugh was elected on several occasions as the town's MP.
Growth after 1900 slowed until the 1960s. The shoe industry declined and other employment was slow to arrive. In the 1920s and 30's, council houses were built in the east of the town at Headlands; north at St Davids; and south in Far Cotton. The Borough boundary, first extended in 1900, expanded again in 1932. The population grew to '[ca]' .100,000 by 1961 and 130,000 by 1971. Northampton was designated a New Town in 1968, and the Northampton Development Corporation (NDC) was set up to almost double the size of the town, with a population target of 230,000 by 1981, rising to 260,000 in later years. In 1958 the M1 motorway was built nearby. Growth was slower than planned. The 1960s and 70's saw the town centre change with development of a new bus station, the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, flats and hotels. By 1981 the population was 156,000. When NDC wound up after 20 years, another 40,000 residents and 20,000 houses had been added. The borough boundaries changed in 1974 with the abolition of Northampton county borough and its reconstitution as a non-metropolitan district also covering areas outside the former borough boundaries but inside the designated New Town.
Music in the 20th century
In the 1960s The Deco was an ABC cinema. The Beatles appeared there twice on stage in 1963, on Wednesday, 27 March as part of the Tommy Roe/Chris Montez Tour. Montez commented "Who are these guys The Beatles? I try to keep up with the British scene, but I don't know their work". The Beatles were back on Wednesday, 6 November, in their own right and on their own Tour.
Northampton Development Corporation made a single released by EMI: "60 Miles by Road or Rail" by Linda Jardim (also a vocalist on Buggles's "Video Killed the Radio Star") in an attempt to generate publicity for the town. Sixty miles is the approximate distance to London. The B-side was "Energy in Northampton", about extraterrestrials choosing Northampton as a landing site. Neither song was popular; a copy is kept at the town's museum.
Another major expansion is planned with the population projected to 300,000 inhabitants by 2018.
Northampton asked, unsuccessfully, for city status as a part of the 'millennium cities' scheme. However, the University of Northampton was established in 2005 after several years as a University College and previously Nene College.
Northampton's population has increased greatly since the 1960s, largely due to planned expansion under the New Towns Commission
in the early-1960s. Other factors are the rail link and the busy M1 motorway
that both lead direct to London
. Northampton is within 70 miles of central London, and by train it takes approximately 1 hour to journey between the two. This transport link to the South East has proved attractive, with already high house prices in and around London rising rapidly since the 1990s causing many people to move increasingly further away from the area in order to commute
from more reasonably priced housing.
Most of Northampton's housing expansion has taken place to the east of the town with developments such as the 1970s eastern district estates built mainly for the London overflow population and recently, on the western outskirts at Upton and to the south adjacent to an improved junction on the M1 at Grange Park, a development of some 1,500 houses actually in South Northants Council area.
Since 2006 Northampton is in a government designated expansion zone. This new wave of development is being overseen by the West Northamptonshire development Corporation (WNDC). A goal is the development of up to 37,000 new dwellings within the borough and necessary infrastructure and services.
Expansion has already started with new roads and housing developments in West Northampton at Upton and St Crispins (2007).
A lot of the expansion will be on brownfield sites such as Ransome Road, Far Cotton (an inner suburb) and within the existing borough boundaries.
The WNDC will also oversee the redevelopment of Central Northampton into a primary regional centre that will service the expanded population, that will be comparable to UK cities such as Coventry and Nottingham with a population of approx 300,000 by 2018-2021.
Government and politics
Northampton is administered by both Northampton Borough Council
, from May 2007 for the first time run by the Liberal Democrats
, and also Northamptonshire County Council
. From 2005 this has been controlled by the Conservative Party
. The Borough Council runs services such as housing, waste collection and smaller planning items in the Borough. The County Council looks after social services, education and libraries in the whole county. Since April 2006 major planning decisions such as large housing schemes and new roads have been the responsibility of West Northamptonshire Development Corporation
(WNDC), an appointed body.
Northampton is represented in Parliament by two MPs:
Both of these constituency boundaries change significantly from the next General Election after 2005 with the creation of a new constituency of Northamptonshire South which takes a large chunk of the Northampton borough area (see external link to election maps).
Northampton is near junctions 15, 15a and 16 of the M1
London to North Yorkshire motorway
. The A45
can be accessed by a partially completed ring road
. The A14
is close by to the north.
Northampton railway station is on the Northampton Loop of the West Coast Main Line, and has regular services to London and Birmingham provided by London Midland. Virgin Trains also provide some services to London and the north, with a small number of Pendolinos running each day.
Sywell Aerodrome is the nearest airfield but still has a grass runway only. A concrete runway for jet aircraft is planned. For international links, East Midlands Airport and Luton Airport are quickly accessible by the M1, and Birmingham International Airport is accessible by train.
In the town, buses are by Stagecoach and First Group, with typical wait times of 10-30 minutes. Stagecoach provide travel to outlying villages and towns during the day. National Express cover major routes to other towns. There are good links to Daventry, Wellingborough, Rushden, Kettering, Corby and Market Harborough.
Northampton is the terminus of an arm of the Grand Union Canal. The arm connects to the River Nene and from that to the River Great Ouse and the North Sea. No longer used for freight, the waterway is still a popular leisure pursuit for narrowboats. Principal outlying villages on the canal include Gayton, Blisworth, Braunston and Stoke Bruerne.
Until 2004 the county operated a three-tier system involving lower, middle and upper schools. The controversial move to a two-tier system was announced in 2001, with the aim of improving educational standards. A complete list of Primary and Secondary Schools in the town and surrounding area is available on the County Council website.
Independent government reports on all schools can be obtained from the OFSTED
For a complete list see the NCC site.
Formal parks include: Abington Park; The Racecourse, home in summer to Balloon Festival and originally for horse-racing till 1904; Delapre Park; Bradlaugh Fields; Becket's Park, named after Thomas Becket as are nearby Becket's Well and Thomas á Becket pub. There is a park around anIron Age fort in West Hunsbury.
Billing Aquadrome leisure park is on the eastern outskirts with a caravan site, marina, funfair, bar, riverside restaurant and converted water mill with original workings. Other smaller ones are Thorntons Park and Victoria Park.
The main shopping centre is the Grosvenor Centre built in the 1970s. The town has one of Britain's largest market squares, dating from 1235. Outside the centre the Weston Favell Centre built in the 1970s is in the eastern district together with various out of town retail and leisure parks.
theatres are located in Guildhall Road, opposite Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. They were renovated and reopened in 2006, at a cost of £15-million. The Deco
is a 900-seat theatre/conference centre based on the Grade-II listed former Cannon Cinema, in Abington Square used mainly by the voluntary and charitable sector. The Deco was restored by the Jesus Army
as part of their Jesus Centre project.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery has a world-class collection of historical footwear, and also Italian art, glass and ceramics, plus visiting exhibitions and local history. There is also a smaller historical museum in a former mansion within Abington Park.
The old Fishmarket, opposite the market square, has been renovated by the NAC (Northampton Arts Collective). As The Fishmarket Gallery it now has three art gallery spaces, retail units, a cafe, and an arts studio. Since it re-opened it has played host to exhibitions by nationally recognised artists and stages live music, community events and workshops.
An independent contemporary arts gallery is The Sanctuary, funded by the Arts Council, and also offers eight studios. There is also the Avenue Gallery at the Avenue campus of Northampton University. Northamptonshire runs an annual county-wide Open Studios event in which artists' studios are open to the public.
The University is spending £3m on its Portfolio Innovation Centre, and by early 2009 it will be home to up to 45 creative freelancers, digital media developers, and designers.
Two commercial cinemas are also located in the town: Vue (formerly UCI) at Sol Central, Cineworld (formerly UGC, Virgin Cinema and MGM) at Sixfields. There is also the subsidised Forum Cinema at Lings Forum, showing art-house and subtitled films.
Music venues are The Soundhaus and The Black Cat Jazz Bar. Until the removal of council funding caused its closure and liquidation, the Northampton Roadmender was a leading venue for live music in the region. It has since been brought by the Purplehaus group and recently reopened as a venue for live popular music.
The market square and surrounding streets hosted a St Crispin Street Fair from 1993-2005, but it was dropped after complaints from market traders.
The town is home to Premiership Rugby union
club Northampton Saints
, who play at Franklin's Gardens
in the St James area. "The Saints" had its greatest moment when it won the Heineken Cup
in 2000 at Twickenham
, beating Munster
League One football club Northampton Town, known as "The Cobblers" from the town's shoemaking background, are based at Sixfields Stadium. There is an athletics track adjacent to the ground. There are also three non-league clubs in the United Counties Football League: Northampton Spencer; Northampton Sileby Rangers; and Northampton Old Northamptonian Chenecks.
Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, known in limited overs cricket as "The Steelbacks", play at the County Ground, in the Abington area.
Nene Whitewater Centre provides an artificial whitewater course for canoes, kayaks and rafts.
Northampton Swimming Club trained the young Olympic swimmer Caitlin McClatchey.
Collingtree Golf Club, which hosted the British Masters in 1995.
Northampton International Raceway near Brafield is a leading venue for stock-car racing and hosts the European Championships every July.
- Northampton's oldest standing building, the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, is one of the largest and best-preserved round churches in England. It was built in 1100 on the orders of the first Earl of Northampton, Simon de Senlis , who had just returned from the first Crusade. It is based on a plan of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
- The current All Saints' Church was built on the site of a great Norman church, All Hallows, which was almost completely destroyed by the Fire of Northampton in 1675. All that remained was the medieval tower and the fine vaulted crypt, but by 1680 All Saints had been rebuilt, with the help of donations from all over England, including 1,000 tons of timber from King Charles II, whose statue can be seen above the portico. Famously, the poet John Clare liked to sit beneath the portico of the church.
- The Guildhall in Northampton (see picture at top) was constructed mostly in the 1860s in Victorian Gothic architecture, and extended in the 1990s. It is built on the site of the old town hall.
- 78 Derngate contains an interior designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke and is the only major domestic commission outside Scotland. It is open to the public.
- The 127.45 metre tall Express Lift Tower is a dominant feature in the area. Terry Wogan conducted a radio phone-in during the 1980s to come up with a name for it: "Northampton Lighthouse" was suggested as Northampton is one of the furthest places from the sea. It is also known as the "Cobblers' Needle". It was built to facilitate the testing of new lifts at the Express Lifts factory. It is visible from most of the town, but is now redundant. The tower has however been listed as being of architectural importance in the town.
- Northampton Castle (now only remaining as a rebuilt postern gate in a wall outside the railway station and the hill on which it stood) was for many years one of the country's most important castles. The country's parliament sat here many times and Thomas Becket was imprisoned here until he escaped.
- The Carlsberg UK brewery is located in the town.
- Delapre Abbey – former Cluniac nunnery, founded by Simon de Senlis - later the County Records Office and site of the second Battle of Northampton.
- Queen Eleanor's body rested here on its way to London – and the nearby Eleanor cross at Hardingstone commemorates this. The Cross is also referred to in Daniel Defoe's a "Tour through the whole island of Great Britain" where he describes the Great Fire of Northampton, "...a townsman being at Queen's Croos upon a hill on the south side of the town, about two miles off, saw the fire at one end of the town then newly begun, and that before he could get to the town it was burning at the remotest end, opposite where he first saw it."
- The town's Greyfriars Bus Station, built in the 1970s to replace the old Derngate station, was featured on Channel 4's Demolition programme and was cited as the ugliest transport station in the UK, and it was suggested worthy of demolition.
- Northampton & County Club, established in 1873, was the old county hospital before becoming a private members' club; the cellars are medieval.
Other notable church buildings include: St Edmunds, closed 1978 and demolished 2007 with the bells now in Wellington Cathedral, New Zealand]; St Giles; St Matthew's, built 1893 ; Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate & St Thomas of Canterbury, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton and seat of the Bishop of Northampton.
, in Hessen
; 75,000 inhabitants. Has links with the brothers Grimm
and one of the oldest universities in Germany;
, [[Vienne], south-west France
US towns with the same name in several east coast states include: Maryland, Massachusetts, New York , North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
- Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is a lifelong resident. His novel Voice of the Fire is a fictionalised history of the town.
- The modern architect Will Alsop. was born, raised, and studied for his Foundation degree in the town. Designed North Greenwich tube station on the London Underground Jubilee Line extension.
- Actresses: Judy Carne, born Joyce Botterill on 27 April 1939 in the town. Best remembered for her phrase "Sock it to me!" on Laugh-In. Joan Hickson, who played Miss Marple, comes from Kingsthorpe. Birds of a Feather actress Lesley Joseph grew up in the town. Nanette Newman, actress and author, was born here.
- Comedian Alan Carr attended what is now Weston Favell School. Host of Channel 4's "Sunday Night Project". His father Graham Carr managed Northampton FC..
- Journalist and broadcasters Andrew Collins grew up in the town and wrote about it in his memoir "Where Did It All Go Right?"; Former BBC radio presenter Anna Murby is from the county; Jo Whiley, a BBC Radio 1 DJ, was born here in 1965; Blue Peter's Peter Purves lived in the nearby village of Cogenhoe.
- Actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) was born here and lived at 47 Booth Rise until the age of 13 (source: Anglian TV's Celebrity Going Home: Robert Llewellyn (2004))
- Des O'Connor lived here, worked at Church's for some years and played for the Cobblers (Northampton Town Football Club).
- The late Delia Derbyshire, prduced original Doctor Who theme tune, spent her final years in the town.
- Myrea Pettit, fantasy artist of fairies, flowers and butterflies learned her craft in Northamptonshire.
- Derek Redmond, Olympic runner, was born and raised here. He attended Roade Comprehensive School, now Roade Sports College, where the sports hall is named after him.
- Professional wrestler Norman Smiley was born here.
- Nearby is Althorp, the country estate of Earl Spencer where Diana, Princess of Wales is buried. Charles Spencer, the current and 9th Earl Spencer (b.1964) is her brother. In 1989, the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles & Diana, made an official visit to Northampton and Diana was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough. The Royal Pioneer Corps from Simpson Barracks, Wootton in the south of the town, stood guard of honour on the day. There is a bronze plaque in her memory on the outside of the Guildhall extension.
- TV presenter Michael Underwood lives in the town and attended what is now Weston Favell School.
- Marc Warren, who plays Danny Blue in the BBC's Hustle series, was born in Kingsthorpe.
- Stuart Pearson Wright, award winning artist, was born here in 1975.Historical
- Scientist Francis Crick, born in the town in 1916, along with James D. Watson discovered the structure of DNA, and went on to win a Nobel Prize. In December 2005, a public sculpture called Discovery by Lucy Glendinning was erected in Abington Street as a memorial to Crick
- Walter Tull, Northampton Town FC player who became Britain's first black army officer during the First World War.
- Composers: William Alwyn, Sir Malcolm Arnold and Edmund Rubbra were born here.
- Elizabeth Bowen, 20th century Anglo-Irish writer, lived here after her marriage.
- Charles Bradlaugh was the famous radical MP and member for the town.
- Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)- a puritan poet later based in Massachusetts.
- Alban Butler (1710-1773) - the author of Lives of the saints
- John Clare, the poet, was compulsorily remanded to the local madhouse, where he remained until his death in 1864.
- Errol Flynn acted in the Northampton Repertory Theatre between 1933 and 1935.
- Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat and other works, died here in 1927.
- Spencer Perceval was a local MP and Prime Minister. He was shot in the House of Commons by assassin John Bellingham in 1812.
- Victorian cricketer and pioneer missionary Charles ("C.T.") Studd who played in the first Ashes test, was born at Spratton.Musical
- Bauhaus (band)
- The Departure, a former band
- Mark Griffiths, bass player with Shadows, Cliff Richard, David Essex, Matthews Southern Comfort
- Faye Tozer, singer from pop group Steps
- James Chapman, Northampton-based musician with band Maps
The Northampton Chronicle and Echo
is the town's only paid-for newspaper. It is published Monday to Saturday each week and has a daily circulation of approximately 21,000 copies.. Newspapers issued free of charge, but with a town circulation only, are The Mercury
(Thursday) and Northants on Sunday
, both from the publishers of the Chronicle & Ech
o, and the Herald and Post (Thursday). These free papers tend to be mostly advertising media with limited news coverage.
Radio Two stations are based in the town and broadcast county-wide. BBC Radio Northampton broadcasts news, topical items and some music, switching to a regional network after 7pm. A commercial station, Northants 96, broadcasts mostly popular music.
Regional TV news is broadcast on the BBC East (terrestrial and satellite) with a main programme, BBC Look East, and on ITV's Anglia News. From 1999-2004, Northants TV (NTV) on cable and later terrestrial showed local ads, sport, and limited local activities.
Film and TV
Northampton was the town location in the BBC's Keeping Up Appearances from 1990-1995. Parts of the 2005 film Kinky Boots were made in Northampton and featured shots of the iconic statue outside the Grosvenor Centre in the Town Centre and inside RE Tricker's shoe factory in St. Michaels Road representing the original factory, in Earls Barton.