Moving to Northampton? Having a little knowledge of the area in which you live, or of where you intend to move, can provide an enormous sense of psychological wellbeing. Homes and their locality are an important part of what makes us who we are. An understanding of the history of our hometowns can instil a sense of belonging and pride.
The following short post will hopefully serve as a springboard to help you learn more about the market town of Northampton, famed for its leather and shoe industry.
A little knowledge of the area in which you live can provide a sense of belonging and pride.
Northampton’s Military Beginnings
Northampton first came to prominence as a centre for military and administrative purposes during the conquest of the Danes in 877 to 912.
Following the next invasion, this time by the Normans in 1066, Northampton was again designated as a place of strategic importance. William the Conqueror recognised the significance of Northampton due to its location being in the heart of the Kingdom. So much so that a substantial Castle was built – the first Castle that could be reached within a day’s horse ride from the capital London.
The first castle from London.
Northampton Castle and Thomas Becket
The Castle became popular with subsequent monarchs and, for a period of time, was used as the forerunner to today’s Houses of Parliament. Feasts, tournaments, and trials were held at the Castle and it was here that Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was found guilty of treason.
During the civil war Northampton sided with Cromwell and the Castle was used by pro-Parliamentarians. For this reason, following Cromwell’s death, it was partially demolished in 1662 by Charles II after the monarchy was restored.
What was left of the Castle remained mainly intact for the next 200 years; however, it was levelled to facilitate the construction of Northampton’s first railway station.
Apart from blocks of sandstone, that were pilfered and reused to construct some of Northampton’s current buildings, the only remaining part of the Castle is the postern (a back or side entrance gate). This was dismantled and rebuilt into part of the original boundary wall to the train station.
One of the more notable of Northampton’s Victorian buildings is the Guildhall. A Grade 2* municipal building located on St. Giles Street, designed by E W Godwin. The building has an intensively decorated Gothic façade which includes statues of monarchs together with the archangel Michael (patron Saint of Northampton). The arcaded ground floor has a central vaulted entrance where many a newlywed bride and groom have descended the stones steps under a rain of confetti amid cheers and applause from wedding guests and local shoppers alike.
Cordwainers, Clickers, & Cobblers,
The trade that made Northampton famous was the manufacturer of boots and shoes. The industry was boosted from the need to supply soldier’s boots during the war against Ireland and also the supply of boots for Cromwell’s New Model Army.
Providing boots for the New Model Army.
The shoe industry in Northampton has seen a decline in recent years, due mainly to cheap overseas manufacturing processes. It does, however, still hold onto its reputation for making high quality shoes and is, of course, where the town’s football club obtained its nickname ‘The Cobblers‘.
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