Monday 5 February 2024

Northamptonshire Places (5) : Northampton

The county town of Northamptonshire is located towards the south of it's county. The place is first mentioned in 914 as Ham Tune. North was added to the name to distinguish it from Southampton! By the time of the Domesday Book the town was known as Northantone, the current spelling did not appear until about the 17th century.

Northampton was a Saxon settlement (though there have been earlier settlements found in the area dating back to the Bronze Age. Northampton was attacked a number of times by the Danes in the 10th century including being burnt down a couple of times. However, the town survived and after the Norman Conquest became an important strategic location.

A castle was built in Northampton by the first Earl of Northampton in 1084. The castle was used as a royal residence by a number of monarchs including King John who kept his treasury there. Little of the castle remains these days, the railway station has largely been built on the castle's site!

The town became a centre for religious dissent in later centuries including Puritanism and became a Parliament stronghold in the Civil War. Fairfax marched from Northampton when the Roundheads defeated the Royalists at Naseby in 1645. Supporting the Parliament war effort helped kickstart the town's boot making industry, this remained an important industry for the town until the 19th century.

In latter years Northampton has continued to grow though the boot and leather industries which once employed over a third of the town's men has now mostly gone apart from some specialist manufacturers. Many people now commute to London thanks to the railway and other transport links.