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Northampton


coat of arms
'Castello Fortior Concordia' means 'Peace is stronger than a fortress'.

The historic transitions from the small Saxon settlement, the great Norman fortress, the royal town of the Plantagenets, the vigorous municipal commonwealth, the stronghold of Puritanism, the quiet county capital, Northampton, the Crossroads of England, was to become one of the most prosperous and most important towns in England. From it's early Saxon beginnings when it was known as Hamm Tun (The village by the well watered meadow), Northampton rose from a royal and ecclesiastical centre of some importance from the eighth century to become a military centre for the Danes and probably fortified from the late ninth or early tenth century. Once described as a port in 1010, it is well placed in the heart of the country for access to all major routes, East , North, South or West, Northampton was a critical link. NE. to SW, Northamptonshire is about 70 miles in length and E. to W about 26 miles in breadth covering an area of approximately 629,912 acres.

Northampton Castle became the seat of Parliament for over 200 years and to prove it was an important town, it had it's own mint between 970–1154. The Doomsday book has Northampton as the only place where burgesses are recorded, indicating that Northampton was the only borough in Northamptonshire. A burgess is a freeman who holds land called a burbage in a borough.

Daniel Defoe:

From Daventry we cross'd the country to Northampton, the handsomest and best built town in all this part of England; but here, as at Warwick, the beauty of it is owing to its own disasters, for it was so effectually and suddenly burnt down, that very few houses were left standing, and this, tho' the fire began in the day-time; the flame also spread itself with such fury, and run on with such terrible speed, that they tell us a townsman being at Queen's Cross 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 to that there he first saw it; 'tis now finely rebuilt with brick and stone, and the streets made spacious and wide.


The town was a popular place for the Kings through the centuries with King John spending most of his reign in Northampton. Even today, Northamptonshire still retains it's strong royal connections and ultimately became the resting place of the Princess of Wales, Princess Dianna, at Althorpe house.


Northamptonshire


As Northamptons' strength increased so did it's weakness. High taxation in the 13th & 14th centuries coupled with the Bubonic plague (Black Death) drove Northampton into a deep recession. A recession that threw it from power and one that it could never fully recover from. Not even the thriving shoe industry in later times, was able to bring it back into the top three towns for prosperity.

In 1662, Northampton was severely reprimanded for it's loyalty. For siding with parliament in the Civil War, Northampton was soon to feel the wrath of the newly restored monarchy. Charles || tore down Northamptons castle vowing that Northampton should never be able to defend itself again.

And by a quirk of guilt perhaps, during the Great Fire of 1675, when the town was almost completely destroyed and raised to the ground, the same King relented and helped rebuild the town. Did you know that during the Great Fire of 1675, 600 or so buildings were destroyed, 700 families were made homeless but only 11 people died. " It was a city set upon a hill, but now God hath turned it into a burning beacon," writes an eye-witness. The fire burned most of the medieval city to a cinder and the Georgian town grew up in its place. During this period Northampton was much admired for its public buildings, such as All Saints' Church and the Sessions House

Did you know ?
The population of Northamptonshire increased by just over four-fold between 1801 to 1991.
In 1991, one in seven households in Northamptonshire did not have central heating.
Between 1851 and 1901, the number of people employed on the railways in Northamptonshire increased from 465 people to 5,375 people.
In 1881, 8% of Northamptonshire’s female population were employed as indoor domestic servants.
In 1851, there were 2 chimney sweeps aged between 5 and 9 in Northamptonshire.
In 1831 the Borough of Northampton increased in population by 4,558 persons, chiefly attributable to the extension of boot and shoe manufactories. By 1891 there were 1,229 blacksmiths in Northamptonshire.
In Northamptonshire the number of agricultural labourers fell from 25,822 in 1861 to 8,502 in 1931
Over the last 150 years, the proportion of children has dropped steadily: in 1851, 38% of the population was under 15, but today only 19% is.
The proportion of the population aged over 65 was close to 5% in all censuses from 1851 to 1911, but it then tripled during the 20th century.

As with many other towns, Northampton has a chequered history and many legacies, monuments and buildings from bygone ages still survive. From the earliest known settlement camp at Hunsbury Hill to the Roman villa remains found at Duston and the 11th century castle "stumps", Northampton is able to plot it's course through the ages.
Northampton is easy to find - right in the heart of the country at a crossing of major routes both north-south and east-west.

Northampton has a strong connection with the USA as founding families such as the Washingtons and Franklins came from Northamptonshire. Even President Bush claims a connection!! He has traced his roots back to a village near Daventry in the north of the county called Badby. He is related to Henry Spencer of Badby born about 1392 in Badby, Northamptonshire, England. He died about 1476.

The first Mayor of Northampton was thought once to be in the reign of Richard 1st, but there appears to be no evidence for the existence of a mayor except for the handwriting of certain undated deeds. On 17 February 1215, King John, then at Silverstone, addressed a writ to Northampton: 'Know that we have received William Thilly to be your mayor. We therefore command you to be intendent to him as your mayor, and to cause to be elected twelve of the better and more discreet of your town to expedite with him your affairs in your town.'

In the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, Northampton had been called the Mecca of English Nonconformists, and, less kindly, 'a nest of Puritans—malignant, refractory spirits who disturb the peace of the church.' Between supporting Simon de Montfort against the King and the persistence in re-electing Charles Bradlaugh, there is a recurring tradition of defiance of authority.