History of Northampton

The early history of Northampton, the centre of English shoemaking:

Remains found here date from the Bronze Age. Farming settlement probably began around the 7th century AD. In the 8th century it was an administrative centre for the kingdom of Mercia. The pre-Norman town was known as Hamtun.

The town became significant in the 11th century, when the Normans built town walls and a large castle under the stewardship of the Norman earl, Simon de Senlis.The original defence line of the walls is preserved in today's street pattern (Bridge St, The Drapery, Bearward St and Scarletwell Street). The town grew rapidly after the Normans arrived, and beyond the early defences. By the time of the Domesday Book, the town had a population of about 1500 residents, living in 300 houses.

The town and its castle were important in the early 12th century and the King often held Court in the town. During his famous fall out with Henry II, Thomas Becket at one time escaped from Northampton Castle through the unguarded Northern gate to flee the country,

Northampton had a large Jewish population in the 13th century, centered around Gold Street. In 1277 300 Jews were executed, allegedly for clipping the King's coin, and the Jews of Northampton were driven out of the town. Archaeological sites include a medieval Jewish cemetery and the Northampton Medieval Synagogue.

The town was originally controlled by officials acting for the King who collected taxes and upheld the law. In 1189 King Richard I gave the town its first charter. In 1215 King John authorised the appointment of William Tilly as the town's first Mayor and ordered that: 'twelve of the better and more discreet residents of the town join him as a council to assist him' . In 1176 the Assize of Northampton laid down new powers for dealing with law breakers.

A university was established in 1261 by scholars from University of Cambridge. It briefly flourished, but was dissolved by Henry III in 1265 apparently as it posed a threat to the University of Oxford.

The first Battle of Northampton took place at the site of Northampton Castle in 1264 - when the forces of Henry III overran the supporters of Simon de Montfort. In 1460a second Battle of Northampton took place in the grounds of Delapré Abbey - and was a decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, and King Henry VI was captured in the town by the Yorkists.

In May 1328 the Treaty of Northampton was signed - being a peace treaty between the English and the Scots in which Edward III recognised the authority of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland and betrothed Bruce's still infant son to the king's sister Joanna.

A large network of medieval tunnel remains under the centre around All Saints church.

Northampton supported the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. For this reason the town walls and castle were later torn down on the orders of King Charles II as punishment. The railway station in Northampton stands on the site of the former castle, and used to be called "Northampton Castle Station".

The town was destroyed by fire in both 1516 and 1675 and was rebuilt as a spacious and well-planned town. In the 18th century Northampton became a major centre of footwear and leather manufacture. The prosperity of the town was greatly aided by demand for footwear caused by the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In his 18th century "Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain", Daniel Defoe described Northampton as, "...the handsomest town in all this part of England."

Northampton's growth was accelerated in the 19th century, first by the Grand Union Canal, which reached the town in 1815 and later the coming of the railways. The first railway to be built into Northampton was a branch from the main London-Birmingham line at Blisworth to Peterborough through Northampton which opened in 1845. This was followed by lines to Market Harborough (1859) and Bedford (1872). The Northampton loop of the West Coast Main Line was built in the late 1870s. After 1850 the town grew beyond the old town walls. In 1800 the population was round 7,000 and was 87,000 a century later. Thus a ready supply of labour became increasingly available to the growing shoe industry. Joseph Tricker established his factory in 1829. The Sanders brothers began manufacturing in 1873 and then in 1880 the Loake brothers started up. View their latest shoes and boots at www.bradshawandlloyd.com.

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