Not as old as Stonehenge but still fascinating.
Unusual and surprising Northamptonshire History
Which Northampton is this referring to?
This is the original Northampton in the UK. All other Northampton’s used this name later.
Interesting history of the word Northampton. Firstly called “Hamm tun” by Saxon settlers, was also named Hamtune, Northafendon and Northaneton in its early beginnings.
Northamptonshire today is called the “Rose of the Shires,” but it is also called the County of Spires and Squires. Spires references the many historic churches in the area, and Squires is a nod to Lords and landowners who have built their stunning estates in the county.
General Background information
Northampton boasts one of the largest and most impressive historic market squares in England. The market features top high street names, modern outlets and local speciality shops. Other important market towns in Northamptonshire include Towcester, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby, Daventry and Oundle.
The county lies on the River Nene in the East Midlands Region, approximately 67 miles northwest of London and 50 miles southeast of Birmingham. The eastern border of Northamptonshire is a mere 15 miles from Cambridge, while the southwestern border lies only 16 miles from Oxford. Northampton is home to about 250,000 people, making it one of the largest urban centres and fastest-growing towns in the UK.
The most important steps Northampton has taken.
Northampton has seen a boom in development, including the Radlands Plaza Skate park, Becket’s Park Marina, the new North Gate bus station, and improvements of the Market Square, Waterside and Grosvenor Shopping Centre areas. The Billing Aquadrome Park lies on the eastern outskirts of town and features a converted watermill complete with its original workings.
Popular events in Northampton include the Northampton Carnival, the Delapré Beer Festival, the Umbrella Fair, the Dragonboat Races, the Northampton Music Festival, and St. Crispin’s Fair. The Grand Prix races in the county offer a weekend full of motorsports excitement. Towcester hosts 16 days of National Hunt racing each year, dating back to the 1870s when Empress Elisabeth of Austria visited the region regularly.
Current major employers include Avon, Barclaycard, Coca-Cola, Schweppes, Texas Instruments and Carlsberg Beer. The University of Northampton employs many local residents, as does St. Andrew’s Healthcare. St. Andrew’s Hospital is the UK’s largest psychiatric hospital and is based in Northampton.
This is the River Nene and Great Ouse story.
Northampton serves as a terminus of a leg of the Grand Union Canal which connects the River Nene to the River Great Ouse and onto the North Sea. Importantly, a tunnel between Blisworth and Stoke Bruerne opened in 1805 and remains the second-longest canal tunnel open to navigation. Stoke Bruerne features seven locks along with one of the UK’s finest waterways museums.
History of old Northampton
Northamptonshire’s primary asset is its history. The county features hundreds of historic houses, magnificent churches, centuries old and much more. A system of ancient tunnels runs beneath Northampton Market Square and connects government buildings, including The Guildhall. It is believed these tunnels served as secret escape routes during times of trouble in Northampton’s colourful past. There is a lot of Northampton History.
More than 5,000 years old
Settlement in the Northampton region dates back to Neolithic and Bronze Age times. A large circular earthwork dating to 3500 BC along with other ancient settlements and the remains of Roman roads can be found near the town.
Iron Age hill forts, such as Hunsbury Hill, date to approximately 400 BC. A small settlement near the Duston district dates to the Roman occupation of Britain. In fact, the Northampton Market Square was originally used by the Romans to distribute food and instructions to soldiers reporting from Central England.
All Saints’ Church Brixworth, dates from the seventh century. It is built partly from Roman-era materials and is “perhaps the most imposing architectural memorial of the 7th century yet surviving north of the Alps”.
Northampton was the focus of several Danish invasions and became part of the Danelaw as a centre for part of the Danish army’s military and administrative functions.
By 918 AD, Northampton had an army and an Earl. Edward the Elder history records the recovery of the settlement from the Danes and turned it into a prosperous river port and trading centre as one of the new shires. The village of Earls Barton has a standing Saxon tower which dates to 970 AD.
Simon de Senlis, the first Earl of Northampton, built a Norman castle in the county in 1084 AD. William the Conqueror added Rockingham Castle, and the town became a vital strategic point for government and political meetings. By the beginning of the 12th century, Northampton was so important to England, that it had its own mint.
Northampton Castle became a Royal residence in the 12th century, and it also held the English Parliament. The county’s oldest standing building, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, was built in 1100 by de Senlis.
Firstly, it is based on plans of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and it remains one of the largest and best-preserved round churches in England. King Richard the First, granted the town’s first charter in 1189 in exchange for donations to fund his crusades.
Simon II, son of Simon de Senlis, built St. Peter’s Church between an Anglo-Saxon palace and Northampton Castle. He founded Delapré Abbey, where one of the three standing Eleanor Crosses remains in the memory of Eleanor of Castille.
Northampton was the site of the trial of Thomas Beckett in 1164 as well as the declaration of peace with Scotland by the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. The second Battle of Northampton was fought here in 1145 AD.
King John used the castle as a residence in the early 1200s and moved the Treasury to Northampton Castle in 1205. He appointed William Tilly as the town’s first Mayor in 1215. At the time only London, York and King’s Lynn had mayors.
Northampton Market Square became vital to the area in 1235 when King Henry III prohibited selling goods in the All Saints’ churchyard.
Later in the century, the forces of Henry III defeated supporters of Simon de Montfort, resulting in significant destruction to Northampton in the First Baron’s War. The Second Battle of Northampton occurred during the Wars of the Roses between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians.
King Henry VI was captured on 10 July 1450 by the Yorkists, who soundly defeated the Lancastrians after only 30 minutes of battle. The Lancastrians continued to experience defeats until their ultimate and unexpected victory at the Battle of Wakefield in December 1460.
The Spencer Family
The history of the Spencer family, ancestors of Princess Diana, built Althorp House in Northamptonshire approximately 500 years ago. The house has remained home to Earl Spencer and others of the Spencer family since that time.
During the English Civil War in 1642, Northampton sided with pro-Parliament forces. The town was the main garrison in the southeast Midlands area used and Northampton Castle was the headquarters for the Parliamentarian forces. Prince Rupert attacked Northampton in 1643 but was defeated. Charles I’s Royalist Army was also beaten decisively at Northampton in 1645.
English Civil War
During the Civil War years, Northampton craftsmen manufactured 4000 pairs of leather shoes and 600 pairs of cavalry boots for the Parliamentarian armies. They also produced 2000 more pairs for Cromwell’s New Model Army in 1648. The Civil War eventually ended in a Parliamentarian victory and England became a commonwealth. The reign of King Charles II was restored in 1660.
Hazelrigg House was built in Northampton around this time, and it was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire of 1675. The fire started on St. Mary’s Street on 20 September 1675. Ultimately destroying over 600 buildings in the town centre in less than 24 hours.
All Hallows Church was almost completely destroyed and was replaced by the current All Saints’ Church in 1680. All Saints church still dominates Northampton’s town centre. The Sessions House and what is now called County Hall were among the first buildings completed in the town after the devastation of the fire.
Northampton continued to be a historical whirlwind throughout the next several centuries. Marvel’s Mill, operated by Edward Cave, opened in Northampton in 1741, becoming the first water-wheel-driven cotton mill in the world.
Northampton’s reputation as a major centre of manufacturing leather and footwear continued to grow. In 1762, the Nene Navigation Company made the River Nene navigable from King’s Lynn to Northampton.
Battle of Northampton
If you are interested in Northampton’s History, there is more information on the Battle of Northampton in July 1460
Northampton Transport History
In 1815, the Grand Union Canal joined the River Nene in Northampton directly to the Midlands coalfields and on to Birmingham, Manchester and London. The first railways to enter Northampton opened in 1845. In the 1860s, the Northampton Guildhall was built in the Victorian Gothic style. The first tramlines were laid in 1881 and they were electrified in 1903.
During the First World War, the Northampton shoe industry produced over 23 million pairs of boots for the military. Today, Edward Green Shoes, Crockett & Jones, Church’s, Trickers, and Wildsmith Shoes survive in Northamptonshire. Following World War II, Northampton saw growth in engineering as a major area of employment.
The Express Lift Tower also called the Northampton Lighthouse and the Cobbler’s Needle was built for testing new lifts at the Express factory. Although the factory is now closed, the tower is now used for different types of testing.
The tower structure was built in 1980 by the Express Lift Company as their lift testing tower and was opened by The Queen in 1982. For more information see Wikipedia The tower still stands 127.45 m (418 ft 2 in) tall. The first Carlsberg Brewery outside Denmark was opened by Princess Benedikte of Denmark in 1974.
Where can I find more information on Northampton’s history?
Northampton History updates
The Northamptonshire Business Directory welcomes corrections or additions to this article. Local businesses can find out more in our Q & A’s
© Copyright Northamptonshire Business Directory 2014-2023