Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for NORTHAMPTON

NORTHAMPTON, a town and a district in Northamptonshire. The town stands on the river Nen, at ajunction with it of a branch canal south-by-westward to the Grand Junction canal, and at a convergence of railways from respectively Blisworth, Market-Harborough, Peterborough, and Bedford, 66 miles by road and 67½ by railway N W by N of London. A great mistake was made, at the forming of the Birmingham and London railway, afterwards part of the main line of the London and Northwestern, in causing it to pass 4 miles S W of the town, instead of passing through or near it; but that mistake has been tolerably well rectified by the formation of branches and lines from the town, running into communication with all parts of the kingdom. A main branch goes south-by-westward, into junction with the Northwestern near Blisworth; a line, in continuation of that branch, goes north-eastward to Peterborough, and connects with various intersections and continuations; another line, in course of formation in 1867, goes east-south-eastward into junctions at Bedford, and sends off at Olney a curving branch, by way of Newport-Pagnell, into junction with the Northwestern at Wolverton; another line goes northward into junction at or near Market-Harborough, and thence north-west-by-north-ward, into further junction at Leicester; and two lines, in continuation of the main branch to Blisworth, and in course of formation in 1867, go west-south-westward and west-north-westward into intersections and junctions in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The communicationsnow, partly by river and canal, and mainly by railways, are ample and facile, and have greatly contributed tolocal prosperity.

History.—Northampton probably dates from the ancient British times; but it does not appear in record till the times of the Saxons. It was then called Hamtune;it afterwards took the prefix North to its name, to distinguish it from other Hamtunes or Hamptons; it figured in the later Saxon times as Northafendon; and it appears in Domesday-book as Northantone. The Danes held it in 917-21; they burnt it in 1010; and, after severe and desolating struggles with the English throughout the kingdom about 1064, they again burnt it, and almost completely depopulated the surrounding country. Simonde St. Liz received it from William the Conqueror, took from it the title of Earl, fortified it with walls and a castle, and speedily raised it to comparatively high prosperity. It soon became the occasional residence of several of the kings, and acquired for a time a quasi-metropolitical influence. Henry I., in 1106, met here his brother Curthose. The same king, in 1122, celebrated Easter here with great pomp; and, in 1131, assembled a parliament here, in which the English barons swore allegiance to his daughter the Empress Maud, as his appointed successor to the throne. Parliament was convened here also, in 1138 and 1144, by Stephen; in 1160, by Henry II., to arraign Archbishop Becket; in 1175, to confirm "the constitutions of Clarendon; " in 1176, attended by King William of Scotland as a prisoner; in 1179, for further consideration of the laws of the realm, and attended for the first time by burgesses; in 1194, when Richard I. met the king of Scotland, and when a mint was established which continued till the time of Henry III.; and in 1199, on the death of Richard I., to take the oath of allegiance to his brother John. John removed his exchequer hither from London in 1209; he convened a council here in 1212, attended by the Pope's legates, Pandulph and Durant; he failed here to make concessions satisfactory to the legates, and was then excommunicated; and, after the outbreak of the war between him and the barons, and after they had unsuccessfully laid siege to the castle, he was obliged to place both the castle and the town in their custody as security for the fulfilment of the conditions of Magna Charta. Henry III. received the homage of the king of Scotland here in 1217; kept Christmas here in 1218; convened parliaments here in 1227 and 1241; held a tournament here in 1241, at which Peter de Savoy the queen's uncle tilted; took the town from Simon Montfort and the barons in 1 264; and held another parliament at it in 1266. An effort, in consequence of disputes among the students of Oxford and Cambridge, was repeatedly made, in the time of Henry III., to establish a university in Northampton; and it so far succeeded as to obtain royal license for the establishment, and to draw hither a large party of the Oxford and Cambridge students; but itfinally lapsed in 1265. Thirty Jews were hanged here in 1277, for clipping the king's coin; and fifty more were put to death in the following year, on the allegation of their having crucified a child on Good Friday. Edward I. held a parliament here in 1290, and kept Christmas here in 1300. Edward II. held parliaments here in 1307 and 1316. Edward III. held a parliamenthere in 1328, at which peace was made with Scotland; another in 1336, at which war was declared against France; and another in 1338, under the Black Prince. Richard II. held a parliament here in 1380, when the poll-tax was enacted, the levying of which provoked the insurrection under Wat Tyler. The action known as the battle of Northampton, when Warwick the king-maker defeated Henry VI., was fought at Hardingstone fields in 1459. Rivers and Widville were beheaded at Northampton after the battle of Edgcott in 1469. Richard III.was here in 1483, before seizing the young king; Henry VIII., in 1540; Elizabeth, in 1564; and James I., a this accession. The Court of Eyre for the forests was held here, under the Earl of Holland, in 1637. The town was garrisoned and re-fortified, for the parliament, by Lord Brooke in 1642. Cromwell was here in 1645; Fairfax, in 1647; and Cosmo, Duke of Tuscany, in 1669. The plague devastated the town in 1637; great floods occurred in 1663 and 1720; a fire consumed 600 houses and one of the churches in 1675; and shocks of earthquake were felt in 1720 and 1776. The desolation by the fire of 1675 affected the greater part of the town, made an easy prey of the houses in consequence of their being chiefly built of wood and covered with thatch, and destroyed property estimated at £150,000 in value; butit led to the obtaining of an act of parliament for re-building the town, and occasioned it to be transformed from a state of meanness to a state of comparative beauty. Queen Victoria visited the town in 1844; and the Royal Agricultural Society in 1847. Bishops Adam of Northampton, John of Northampton, another John of Northampton, Cartwright, and Parker, the monk Beaufu, the theologians Addington, West, and Woolsten, the dis-senter Browne who founded the sect of Brownists, and the enthusiast Fisher who went to Rome to convert the Pope, were natives; and the family of Compton take from the town the titles of Earl and Marquis.

Structure and Antiquities.—The town stands on agentle ascent, on the left bank of the Nen; and has charming environs, adorned with wood, and gemmed with mansions and villas. It comprises two principalstreets, spacious and regular, nearly a mile in length, intersecting each other at right angles, and dividing it into four nearly equal parts; includes minor streets, diverging from the principal ones; includes also a spacious market-place, where formerly stood a cross and a conduit; consists of well-built houses, chiefly of a reddish-coloured freestone; has neatly paved thoroughfares; and is supplied with water by a company, whose works are on the Billing-road. A committee of the local improvement commissioners was appointed in Oct. 1866 to act conjointly with the sanitary committee of the town-council, in reference to the efficiency of the water-supply, and to the removing of nuisances. The castle and the town-walls were dismantled in 1662; but a round tower of the castle, with an arch and part of the wall, also part of the fosse and of the S postern of the town-walls, still remain. Drawings of a fragment of a stone coping found among the debris of the castle, of a plinth in a Norman wall on the W side of the castle, and of a portion of the postern in the S wall, were exhibited at a meeting of the Northamptonshire Architectural Society in Dec. 1862. Some Roman coins, Roman urns, and mediæval pottery have been found. A circular Danish camp, inclosing upwards of 4 acres, and supposed to have been formed by Sweyn, the father of Canute, is on a commanding eminence, adjacent to the battle-field of the battle of Northampton, about 1¾ mile S of the town. Some other ancient military works, indicative of frequent and formidable struggles in the course of the local history, are in other parts of the neighbourhood. A Queen Eleanor'scross, of three stories, octagonal, and on eight steps, erected by Edward I., and restored in 1762, is in Delapré Abbey park and near the London-road, a little N E of the Danish camp. A black friary was founded at the town about 1240 by J. Dalyngton, and given at thedissolution to the Samwells; a grey friary was founded in 1246, and given at the dissolution to the Taveners; an hospital, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was founded in 1450; another ecclesiastical building, of unrecorded date, stood on the ground afterwards occupied by Wetton's library; and all these four buildings have left some vestiges. A Cluniac priory, a cell to St. Mary de Caritate in France, was founded in 1084 by Simon de St. Liz, and given at the dissolution to the Smiths; a white friary was founded in 1271 by Simon Montfort; an Augustinian cell was founded in 1322 by John Longueville; a hermitage also stood at an old bridge over the Nen; and all these have disappeared. An old house, still or recently standing, bears the fine Welsh motto of the Pennants; and an old cottage, still or recently at Black Lion hill, has over its door a curiously carvedarabesque. A well of ancient repute is called Becket's; and another well, called the Scarlet well, was notable for the sending of cloth from London to be dyed in its water. The Vigo promenade is near Becket's well, and commandsa good view.

Public Buildings.—The town hall stands in St. Giles'-square; was erected in 1861-4, at a cost of £11, 980; is a splendid structure in the mediæval style, elaboratelydecorated with sculptures and statues; presents a frontage of seven compartments, in two stories; and contains a magnificent great hall, and a number of chambers and offices. The county-hall stands also in St. Giles'-square; is an elegant and spacious structure, in the Corinthian style; contains courts for the assizes and the quarter-sessions, and a commodious suite of rooms for the county business: and is adorned with a splendidly ornate ceiling, and with fine portraits of William III., Queen Mary, Queen Anne, George I., and George II. The county-jail stands likewise in St. Giles'-square; was rebuilt in 1846, at a cost of about £25,000; is a handsome and well-arranged structure, on the model principle; and has capacity for 156 male and 25 female prisoners. The borough-jail stands on the Mounts; was erected in 1846, at a cost of £17,000; is a large brick structure, on the model principle; and has capacity for 113 male and 21 female prisoners. The barracks stand at the N extremity of the town, were erected in 1796, and are a well-constructed range of buildings. The corn exchange stands on the Parade; was erected in 1850, at a cost of more than £10,000; is in the Italian style; includes shops, offices, and the apartments of the mechanics' institution; and contains a noble hall, 140 feet long, 65 feet wide, and 60 feet high. The Religions and Useful Knowledge Society's buildings are situated in Gold-street; comprise premises purchased in 1851 for £1,050, and enlarged and beautified, in the Italian style, at a cost of about £800; and include a new lecture hall built at a cost of £1,000, improved and decorated in 1865, and capable of seating upwards of 500 persons. The theatre at the end of Gold-street, was first opened in 1806, and is a neat edifice. Several bridges span the Nen. Other public buildings will be noticed in subsequent paragraphs.

Parishes.—The borough is divided, politically, in to the parishes of All Saints, St. Giles, St. Peter, St. Sepulchre, and St. Andrew; and, ecclesiastically, into the parishes of All Saints, St. Giles, St. Peter, St. Sepulchre, St. Andrew, St. Katherine, and St. Edmund. St. Andrews-political was extra-parochial till 1857; St. Andrews-ecclesiastical was formed out of St. Sepulchre's in 1842; St. Katherine's was formed out of All Saints in 1836; and St. Edmund's was formed out of St. Andrew sand St. Giles' in 1846. Acres of the whole, 1, 520. Real property in 1860, £96,023; of which £1, 165 were in gas-works. Pop. of All Saints-political, in 1851, 8, 973; in 1861, 9,058. Houses, 1, 780. Pop. of St. Giles-political, in 1851, 4, 956; in 1861, 6, 314. Houses, 1, 182. The increase of pop. arose from the erection of houses chiefly for agricultural labourers. Pop. of St. Peter, in 1851, 1, 272; in 1861, 1, 216. Houses, 247. Pop. of St. Sepulchre-political, in 1851, 8, 189; in 1861, 9, 814. Houses, 1,893. The increase of pop. arose from the erection of houses for iron-stone labourers, and from extension of the shoe-trade. Pop. of St. Andrew-political, in 1851, 3, 267; in 1861, 6, 411. Houses, 1,048. The increase of pop. arose from the erection of many small houses, and from the rates being lower than in the adjoining parishes. Pop. of St. Andrew-ecclesiastical, in 1861, 5, 601. Houses, 1,051. Pop. of St. Katherine, in 1861, 2, 638. Houses, 555. Pop. of St. Edmund, in 1861, 6, 445. Houses, 1, 179. The living of St. Peter is a rectory united with the p. curacy of Upton, the livings of All Saints, St. Giles, St. Sepulchre, St. K., and St. E., are vicarages and that of St. A. is a p. curacy in the diocese of Peterborough. Value of St. Peter-with-Upton, £575; *of All Saints, £350; * of St. Giles, £111; * of St. Sepulchre, £300; * of St. Katherine and St. Edmund, each £300; of St. Andrew, not reported. Patron of St. Peter-with-Upton, St. Katherine's Hospital, London; of All Saints, Lord Overstone; of St. Giles, Simeon's Trustees; of St. Sepulchre, the Rev. W. Butlin; of St. Andrew and St. Katherine, Hyndman's Trustees; of St. Edmund, alternately the Crown and the Bishop.

Churches and Chapels.—The places of worship within the borough, at the census of 1851, were 11 of the Church of England, with 6, 840 sittings; 3 of Independents, with1, 806 s.; 5 of Baptists, with 2, 121 s.; 1 of Quakers, with400 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 290 s.; 2 of Wesleyans, with 1, 397 s.; 1 of Primitive Methodists, with 300 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 214 s.; 1 of an isolated congregation, with 200 s.; 1 of Roman Catholics, with 300 s.; and 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 400 s. The places of worship, in 1867, exclusive of those in public institutions, were 7 of the Church of England, 3of Independents, 4 of Baptists, 1 of Quakers, 1 of Unitarians, 2 of Wesleyans, 1 of Primitive Methodists, 3 of United Free Methodists, 1 of Swedenborgians, and 1 of Roman Catholics.

Seven parochial churches formerly stood within the walls, and two without the walls; but only four of these old churches now remain. All Saints church stands in the centre of the town; was rebuilt soon after the fire in 1675; retains the tower of the previous church, in decorated English, surmounted by a small modern cupola; has a portico of twelve lofty Ionic columns, surmounted by a balustrade and cornice, with a statue of Charles the centre; has also a cupola, supported on Ionic columns; was restored in 1866; and contains a finely carved oak pulpit, and an altar-piece of " Moses and Aaron" by Sir God frey Kneller. A marble statue of the Right Hon. Spencer Percival, by Chantrey, was formerly in the church, but has been removed to the town hall. St. Giles' church is of various dates, from Norman downward; has been greatly altered by repairs, renovations, and extensions; was restored and enlarged, by extension of the nave and by erection of an additional N aisle, about 1855; appears to have been originally cruciform, without aisles; has a fine Norman doorway, reinstated in the new W end; has also a large embattled tower, of the early part of the 17th century; and contains a later English octagonal font, and a beautiful alabaster tomb, supposed to belong to the Gobion family. St. Peter's church stands near the W extremity of the town, contiguous to the site of the ancient castle; is supposed to have been erected either by Simon de St. Liz about the same time as the castle, or by his immediate successor; shows interesting and exquisite features of Norman architecture; has a tower, surmounting a fine arch; was well restored about 1862; and contains a monument to Smith the distinguished mezzot into engraver, and various other monuments. The church of St. Sepulchre was built by the Knights Templars, after the model of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem; is one of only four ancient round churches remaining in the kingdom; has a cupolain the centre of the roof, which is supported by eight round Norman columns and plain pointed arches; hasalso a W broad embattled tower, with pyramidal spire, about 116 feet high; underwent, at a remote period, a substitution of its Norman chancel by an early decorated English one; was very greatly altered and improved in 1861-4, under the direction of G. G. Scott, at a cost of about £6,000, by enlarging the Round and converting it into a vestibule, by substituting a new nave for the old chancel, which had become dilapidated, by building a new chancel and a new N aisle, and by making extensive interior improvements; and has, in the new chancel, three fine stained glass windows, put up in 1866. St. Andrew's church was built in 1841. St. Katherine's church also is modern, and was much improved in 1865. St. Edmund's church was built in 1852; and is in the early English style.

The Independent chapel in Castle-hill is notable for the ministry of Dr. Doddridge, and for his academy; and has a monument to him. The Baptist chapel in College-street was rebuilt in 1863; that in Grafton-street, fronting Grafton-square, was rebuilt in 1869; and that in Princes-street was enlarged and beautified in 1862. The Roman Catholic church stands in Leicester-road; was enlarged in 1863, by the erection of a clere storied and aisled nave, 86 feet long and 56 feet wide; is in the early decorated English style; has a richly carvedre redos, and several stained glass windows; and ranks as a cathedral. The residence of the Roman Catholic bishop and a small ecclesiastical seminary adjoin the church; and a convent, occupied by a small community of nuns, is in Abington-street. The public cemetery lies on the Billing-road, and has an area of 9 acres.

Schools and Institutions.—The free grammar school was founded in 1542, at St. Gregory's old church, by Chipsey; was rebuilt in 1840; has an endowed income of £134; and had Bishop Cartwright and Hervey for pupils. The corporation or brown school has about £100 a year from endowment; the boys' blue-coat or Dryden's school has £150; the girls' blue-coat or Becket's school has £119; and the green-coat or Newton's school has £45. There are a central national school, two parochial schools of All Saints, a parochial school of St. Giles, a parochial school of St. Sepulchre, a mixed school of St. Peter, a girls'school of St. Katherine, four infant schools, a Britishschool, and a Roman Catholic school. St Giles' schoolwas rebuilt in 1862, at a cost of £2,018; includes departments for boys, girls, and infants; and has decorated English windows, and a tower surmounted by a woodenbell-turret. The mechanics' institution, now located in the corn exchange buildings, was established in 1832; and has a library of nearly 12,000 volumes, a reading-room, a spacious lecture-room, class-rooms, and a museum. The general infirmary occupies a healthful and airy site, to the E of the town; was built in 1793, at a cost of £25,000; and is a handsome stone edifice. The general lunatic asylum stands on a plot of 24 acres, contiguous to the Billing-road; was built in 1836, at a cost of £35,000; is a splendid quadrangular edifice of white Bath stone; serves both for pauper and for private patients; and has capacity for about 260 inmates. The dispensary was built about 1862. St. John's hospital, foraged and infirm persons, was founded about 1160, by William St. Clere; and has an endowed income nominally of £146, but actually of about £1, 700. St. Thomas'hospital, for 18 aged widows, is partly as old as 1450, and has an endowed income of £785. Sillesby's hospital has £58. Bickerstaff's alms-houses were founded in 1695. The total of endowed charities is nominally about £2, 655 a year; but there is also a fund of £13, 427 left by Sir T. White, and lent in sums of £100 without interest.

Trade and Manufactures.—The town has a head post-office‡ near its centre, a receiving post-office‡ in Regent-square, a railway station with telegraph, two telegraphic offices, two banking offices, and several good hotels: and publishes two weekly newspapers. A weekly market for fat stock is held on Wednesday; another weekly market, largely attended, for cattle, sheep, and pigs, is held on Saturday; and fairs are held on the second Tuesday of Jan., 20 Feb., the third Monday of March, 5 April, 4 May, 19 June, 5 and 26 Aug., 19 Sept., the first Thursday of Nov., 28 Nov., and 19 Dec. A trade in saltpetre and pigeons prevailed in Fuller's time; a trade in leather bottles prevailed at an earlier date; and an importation of oysters was long carried on, from such a distance or with such slow carriage that they were often stale on arrival, and gave rise to a proverb that the mayor "opened them with his dagger, " indicating that he could not bear to hold them near his nose. A trade is now carried on in the currying of leather; a very extensive trade exists in the making of shoes and boots, for the supply of the army, and for the London market; the manufacture of pillow-lace also was largely carried on, but has materially declined since the introduction of Machinery; and there are extensive iron foundries, three large breweries, several extensive maltings, several flour-mills, and a paper mill. Races are held annually, about the last week in March, on a course of about 117 acres, at a short distance from the town; and usually draw a large assembly.

The Borough.—Northampton was first chartered by Henry II.; it has sent two members to parliament since the time of Edward I.; it has the same borough limits, co-extensive municipally and parliamentarily, since there form act of 1832 as before; and under the municipal act of 1835, it is divided into three wards, and governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. It has a court of record, and is a seat of assizes, quarter sessions, and county courts, the head of an excise collection, and a polling-place and the place of election for the S division of Northamptonshire. The borough police station is in Fish-street; the county police-office is in St. Giles'-square; and a county police station is in Angel-lane. The police force of the borough, in 1864, comprised 39 men, and was maintained at a cost of £2, 459. The crimes committed within the borough, in 1864, were 95; the persons apprehended, 74; the depredators and suspected persons at large, 251; the houses of bad character, 56. The limits are conterminate with aggregately the five political parishes. Electors in 1833, 2, 497; in 1868, 2, 857. Corporation income, in 1861, £9,005. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £10, 426. Pop. in 1851, 26, 652; in 1861, 32, 813. Houses, 6, 150.

The District.—The poor-law district of Northampton comprehends the sub-district of All Saints, containing the parishes of All Saints, St. Peter, Kingsthorpe, Dallington, and Duston; the sub-district of St. Giles, containing the parishes of St. Giles, St. Andrew, St. Sepulchre, Abington, Weston-Favell, Little Billing, and Great Billing, and the extra-parochial tract of Moulton-Park; and the sub-district of Bugbrooke, containing the parishes of Bugbrooke, Nether Heyford, Upper Heyford, Kislingbury, Harpole, and Upton. Acres, 20, 903. Poor rates in 1863, £17, 708. Pop., in 1851, 33, 857; in 1861, 41, 160. Houses, 7, 978. Marriages in 1863, 427; births, 1, 779, of which 75 were illegitimate; deaths, 1,059, of which 468 were at ages under 5 years, and 11 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 4,005; births, 13, 784; deaths, 9, 232. The places of worship, in 1851, were 23 of the Church of England, with 10,047 sittings; 4 of Independents, with 1,806 s.; 13 of Baptists, with 3, 616 s.; 2 of Quakers, with 530 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 290 s.; 7 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1, 940s.; 2 of Primitive Methodists, with 390 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 214 s.; 1 undefined, with 200 s.; 1 of Roman Catholics, with 300 s.; and 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 400 s. The schools were 22 public day schools, with 2, 772 scholars; 71 private day schools, with 1, 471 s.; 44 Sunday schools, with 5, 582 s.; and 1 evening school for adults, with 111 s. The workhouse is in Wellingborough-road, within St. Giles parish; and, at the census of 1861, had 278 inmates.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Northampton CP       Northampton PLU/RegD       Northamptonshire AncC
Place: Northampton

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