Northampton

Kingsthorpe Village, Northampton

Northampton is the county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of England. It lies on the River Nene, about 67 miles (108 km) north-west of London and 50 miles (80 km) south-east of Birmingham. In 2011, it had a population of 212,100.

Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. During the Middle Ages, the town rose to national significance with the establishment of Northampton Castle, which was an occasional royal residence and regularly hosted the Parliament of England. Medieval Northampton had many churches, monasteries and the University of Northampton, which were all enclosed by the town walls. It was granted its first town charter by King Richard I in 1189 and its first mayor was appointed by King John in 1215. The town is also the site of two medieval battles; the Battle of Northampton (1264) and the second in 1460.

Northampton Castle was one of the most famous Norman castles in England. It was built under the stewardship of Simon de Senlis, the first Earl of Northampton, in 1084. It took several years to complete, as there is no mention of it in the Domesday Book, a great survey of England completed in 1086. The castle site was outside the western city gate, and defended on three sides by deep trenches. A branch of the River Nene provided a natural barrier on the western side. The castle had extensive grounds and a large keep. The gates were surrounded by bulwarks made of earth, used to mount artillery. The castle was ‘obliterated’ by the arrival of a railway branch of what is now the West Coast Main Line in the 19th century, the station of which was built on the castle site and the construction of the original Northampton Castle railway station.

The University of Northampton was based in Northampton from 1261 to 1265. The university was established by Royal Charter after approval from King Henry III in 1261. It was the third university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge, and the 22nd in Europe. After being advised by bishops and magnates that Northampton was a threat to Oxford, Henry III dissolved the university in 1265, and signed a Royal Decree that banned the establishment of a university in Northampton.

Northampton was a major shoe manufacturing town, although most have now closed, there are still a few at the ver high end, producing some of the best and most expensive shoes in the world. It is rumoured that the Northampton shoe industry supplied Cromwell’s army with boots, during the civil war, (one of  the major battles took place at nearby Naseby) which incurred the wrath of the Monarchy, and this is believed to be the reason that Northampton has never been granted City status.

There are lots of sights to see in Northampton, as well as the river and the Grand Union Canal, which has a feed directly to the Nene River in the town centre, this is called ‘The Northampton Arm’

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