Navigational Notes

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Stage 1: St James to Derngate
Church's shoe factory

Church's Shoes was started by three brothers in 1873 who, to quote; "brought the different cottage industry aspects of shoemaking under one roof". The truth is somewhat different however; once the employers had got the workers "under one roof" they could impose a greater level of control and exploitation over them.

St. James' Church

In 1880 the vicar of this church, the Reverend Samuel Wathen Wigg started a rugby team from the "church improvement class" as a way for high-spirited lads to let off steam and this became the Northampton Saints.

Green Man Public House

There's been a Green Man in St James as far back as the 17th century, probably one time a coaching inn. This is a modern rebuild and is now called the Thomas A Becket.

The Green Man is a motive widely found, often carved, on pubs, churches and other buildings usually depicting a face made up of leaves and/or disgorging foliage. The Foliate God in northern Europe goes all the way back to the Bronze Age and represents the force of Nature. Although Pagan in origin it has been adopted by the Church and a good example can be seen on St Ragener's reliquary slab in St. Peter's Church.

Frog Island Brewery

Started in 1994 with a five barrel plant. A Frog Island beer was named best drink in Northamptonshire this year.

Foot Meadow

It is said that in days gone by the Foot Soldiers of the Town's Militia would parade here close to the Castle, hence the name.

Postern Gate

Only standing remains of Northampton Castle and not where it was originally positioned. A postern is a secondary door or gate, particularly in a fortification such as a city wall or castle curtain wall. Posterns were often located in a concealed location, allowing the occupants to come and go inconspicuously. In the event of a siege, a postern could act as a sally port, allowing defenders to make a sortie on the besiegers.

Saxon and Medieval Gate

It is about here that both the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval West Gates of the Town must have stood.

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Old Black Lion Public House

At least 16 or 17th century. The following two advertisements appeared in the Mercury newspaper;

1729; "stallion, late belonging to Sir Arthur Hesilrige, known by the Name of Red Rose which will cover Mares this season at half a Guinea a Leap and 6d the Man."

1884; "Cabs, Flys, Wagonettes, Dog Carts etc for hire, good horses and careful and obliging drivers. Good loose boxes, livery and Bait Stables, Lock-up Coach Houses."

Northampton Castle

There was probably some sort of defence here in Anglo-Saxon times and it seems some sort of wooden Motte and Bailey was erected on orders of King William the Bastard by Waltheof the last Saxon Earl of Northampton shortly after 1066. Waltheof had recognized William as his King, but by a trick was later accused of treason and executed and Simon de Senlis became the first Norman Earl of Northampton. He greatly extended the Town to the east and north, put a wall around it and built a huge castle here. It is said Northampton Castle was the biggest in Europe and Northampton, in the centre of the country, was of great strategic importance and almost became the capital at one time.

St Peter's Church

In 1973 - 74 the Northampton Development Corporation Archaeological Unit uncovered a large timber building just to the east of the present church along with two stone replacement buildings with a radiocarbon date in the early 8th century. At least one appears to have been a church. A theory is that it was an early Minster with some sort of royal connection. We may have been the centre of an important royal estate. Northampton's name at the time was Hamtun interpreted as Home Farm in the sense that Home means Central or Chief.

It is from here that the town as we know it began to grow. St Peters church was built in the Early Norman period with fine carved capitols to the columns. It was probably used as the church of the Castle across the way, at least when royalty visited, as there is a mis-restored Grand Arch in the west wall of the tower that would be required for a royal procession to enter the building. Contains the reliquary slab of St Ragener

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Hazelrigg House and "Strata Smith"

Hazelrigg House is a Tudor building probably constructed between 1570 and 1580, front remodeled in the 17th century. Sometime before 1886 reduced from 5 bays to 3. Cromwell is supposed to have stayed here, but that is unlikely. The Hesilrige family bought the Castle in 1669 and in 1676 Robert Hesilrige bought the house. Subsequently bought in 1831 by George Baker who lived here with his sister who was responsible for saving St. Peters from being replaced by a new "modern" corrugated-iron building!

Dr. William Smith "Strata Smith" the father of English geology was a friend of the Bakers and stayed here on his way to a meeting in Birmingham. He contracted a chill and died in August 1839 - he is buried in St Peters churchyard and there is a monument in the church.

Q1: Which Tudor building is associated with Dr William "Strata" Smith

Freeschool Street

Named for the Grammar School that was here in 1557 and founded by Thomas Chipsey in 1541.


In Anglo-Saxon times the carfax was the cross-roads in the centre of the Town.

Gold Street excavations

Earlier this year Gold Street was dug up to lay new services and early road surfaces were found, one at least a yard below the present surface as well as quantities of leather in clay layers.

This was an exciting opportunity to look under a road that may well have had Roman and even Prehistoric origins. Although the ground was badly disturbed by old service trenches for water, gas, sewers, electricity and telephones some interesting material was recovered and we wait with interest for the archaeological report to follow.

Stirling bomber

In July 1941 a Short Stirling Bomber with a wingspan of 99 feet was returning from a night raid suffered mechanical trouble and, after pointing the aircraft away from the town, the crew bailed out. However, the aircraft flew in a circle until it was pointing due east. It crashed into the lower end of Gold Street knocking its wings off. The fuselage slid up the middle of the street and came to rest in front of All Saints' church scattering bombs and ammunition all around the front of the church and along George Row.

Picture reproduced from the article The History of Winthorpe Airfield

Q2: What event in 1941 lead to Gold Street becoming a makeshift runway

Saxon ditch

Between the double streets of College Street and the Drapery lay the Anglo-Saxon defensive ditch. We have now left the old Town and entered the "New Borough" of the Norman Town.

College Street / Silver Street [Jewry]

All this street was once called Silver Street and the juxtaposition of Gold and Silver streets in an ancient town usually indicated the location of the Medieval Jewry. The Synagogue at the time was at the top of this street.

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All Saints' and the Great Fire

When Simon de Senlis built All Hallows he put it right outside the Saxon Town entrance. The original, pre-1675 fire church was the same size as now and the base of the original tower has survived, but it also stuck out west the same distance, almost into the Saxon Town gateway. This was probably done to intimidate. The base of the tower survived and is red from The Great Fire of Northampton.

On September 20th 1675 at 9:00am a fire broke out in a house in St Mary's Street. We are told that it was caused by a poor woman carrying live coals in a shovel from a neighbour's house to warm her dinner. The weather was dry and a strong wind was blowing from the south-west. An ember caught the thatched roof and the fire rapidly spread. It raged on until 6:00am the next day, leaving a large part of the town destroyed, including All Saints' and about 600 houses. Much of the rest of the town suffered some damage and even the Market Cross, isolated in the middle of the Square was destroyed.

Market Square

About 1180 All Saints' Church was known as the Church of the Market Place and in 1253 Henry III ordered that no more fairs or markets were to be held in the church or churchyard of All Saints, but were to be held in, "a void and waste place to the north of the church". Thus was our Market Square born.

Traditionally a market is supposed to have something in the centre, this is always called a cross although it doesn't have to be one. The first recorded was a large wooden structure which housed the Town weights and the market bell with an upper level from which the Market officials could observe what was going on. It was destroyed in The Great Fire of Northampton in 1675.

In 1789 we had a stone obelisk with a pump, water being essential for the cattle sold here. Replaced with an iron pump in 1806 and then, to celebrate the wedding of the future king to princess Alexandra, an ornate cast-iron fountain donated by Samuel Issac in 1863. This was pulled down as "unsafe" in 1962 - it took all day to get it down! Now we have nothing, but are about to have a pathetic fountain in the south entrance to catch litter and for people to relieve themselves as we have now closed the public toilets.

Old Town Hall

Located on the corner of Wood Hill and Abington Street, this was probably the second Town Hall since the Norman invasion. The first stood on the Mayorhold and was probably replaced around 1300. This one survived the Great Fire of 1675 only to be demolished and replaced in 1864.

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Sessions House

Before The Great Fire of Northampton in 1675 the Quarter Sessions were held in the Castle and as this became more ruinous, in any convenient inn that had a large enough room, or at the Market Cross. There were plans to use some of the castle stone to build a new court and Judges' Lodgings on that site but then the Fire intervened.

The sessions House was the first public building to be completed after the Great Fire. Some of the limestone frontage is pink; this is caused by heat, evidently re-used stone that had been burnt during the Fire.

Present Town Hall

The present Northampton Guildhall was built in three phases, the first designed by E.W.Godwin and opened in 1864. The second part by Matthew Holding and A.W. Jeffery and opened in 1892 - we will be seeing more of Holding's work later. The final part was opened by the Queen in 1992, designed by Stimpson Walton Bond.

We know of at least three town halls in Northampton's past. The oldest stood on the Mayorhold at the end of Scarletwell Street. The second, about which we know more, was at the corner of Wood Hill and Abington Street. This one was built about 1300 and it survived the Great Fire in 1675 only to be demolished in 1864. The oak panelling from the council chamber and an Elizabethan refectory table are now in Abington Park Museum.

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Stage 2: Derngate to Abington Park
Royal Theatre & Opera House

The only theatre with the word Royal at the beginning of its name; it seems that the stonemasons erected the stones with the words the wrong way round and permission was sought and gained from Queen Victoria to keep the title. The Royal Theatre opened in 1884 with a production of Twelfth Night. Restored after a fire in 1887.

Central Museum and Art Gallery

Best collection of shoes in the world, exhibition of the Town's history and a stone fragment of a medieval Jewish memorial unique to Britain.

Northamptonshire has a very long connection with the production of leather and leathergoods. This was due not only to our proximity to water and a plentiful supply of oak bark (both required for tanning in the early days), but also the county's central location.

You can read more about this key aspect of Northamptonshire's past at Northamptonshire Leather.

Swan Hotel

The Records of the Borough of Northampton 1898 lists this establishment as one of the 16th or 17th century inns. It changed its name in the 1970's to the Mailcoach as a result of a competition, the new name alluding to the Postal Sorting Office that was opposite at the time.

In those days the bar would fill up with uniforms, Postmen and Bus Drivers from the United Counties Bus Station just down the road. The lounge, by contrast, would fill in the evenings with theatre goers from the Theatre just around the corner. Errol Flynn stayed here in the past when he was a member of Northampton Repertory Players in the early 1930s.

This picture of the Swan and many other old pubs in and around Northampton can be seen on the Phipps-NBC web site.

Swineswell Street [Watergate]

Derngate, formerly known as Darngate is the only road in Northampton to retain its original gate name. East Gate was reputedly the finest of the gates, both large and high and embellished with coats of arms and other stone work ornamentation. Dern, or Darn is derived from the old English word for water - Derngate being the gateway to the rivers and wells. Derngate has also been known as Swineswell Street and the eastern section as Waterloo until comparatively recently. Many of the original buildings within the area succumbed to the Great Fire of 1675 and therefore most of the existing buildings of character stem from the 19th century.

This extract is reproduced from the Northampton Borough Council document Derngate Conservation Area Assessment which is in PDF format (approx 2.84Mb).

Derngate Centre

Built at the rear of the Theatre Royal, and opened in 1983. Looks like a power station, should be called The Swineswell Centre!

78 Derngate

Between 1916-17 this building, the property of Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke was remodelled by the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Macintosh. Although Macintosh was responsible for the design he never actually visited the house. It was his last major commission and his only commission outside Scotland.

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Becket's Well

Thomas Becket stayed at St. Andrew's Priory in 1164 when the barons on orders of the king attempted to try him. He threatened them with excommunication and fled to France. Legend has it that he stopped to drink from this well. It is more likely that after he had been murdered a small quantity of his dried blood was brought here and added to the water thereby sanctifying the waters.

The priory of St Andrew Northampton, which was one of the houses of Cluniac Monks, was founded between 1093 and 1100 by Simon de Senlis, earl of Northampton.

Late Medieval Town Wall

This is the line of the Late Medieval Town wall.

St Giles' Church

Built outside the early Medieval Town wall in the early 12th century. Around 1300, the Town was expanded a little to the east which then included the church. The tower fell down in 1613 which was probably due to the tower taking over a hundred years to complete. St. Giles is patron saint of cripples and beggars so money for the church probably took a long time to raise.

The church has been lengthened and a clerestory added. The fine Norman door has been rebuilt and can be seen at the west end of the church. At the top of this doorway is a small carving of a skull and indicates that the door was used in the past for the funeral service. It was customary for the dead to be taken out of the church after the ceremony by an unusual door to prevent them finding their way back later!

Saint Giles is the name given to an abbot whose festival is celebrated on the 1st of September. According to the legend, he was an Athenian of royal descent. After the death of his parents he distributed his possessions among the poor, took ship, and landed at Marseilles. From there he went to Aries, where he remained for two years with St. Caesarius. He then retired into a neighboring desert, where he lived upon herbs and upon the milk of a hind which came to him at stated hours.

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General Hospital

In 1743 Dr James Stonhouse came to Northampton and, through his efforts, a subscription list was opened to provide an infirmary for the benefit of the local community. The infirmary opened in George Row on 29th March 1744 and during its first five months the infirmary treated 103 inpatients, who occupied 30 beds, and saw 79 outpatients.

The front part of the present Northampton General Hospital was opened in 1793 at a cost of £11,967. The King Edward VII Memorial which stands in a recess on the corner of Billing Road and Cheyne Walk was unveiled on September 20th 1913. The reason for its erection in this place can be explained by reading the inscriptions on the two flanking panels:

The small statue above the bust of the King is of St. George slaying the dragon of disease.

Billing Road Villas

In 1845 the Corporation offered ten lots of ground for sale, on each of which was to be erected a villa rated at not less than £50 per annum, the plans and elevations subject to approval by the Estates Committee of the Corporation.

St Andrew's Asylum

Now St. Andrew's Hospital, the Hospital at Northampton opened in 1838, intended to offer humane care to the mentally ill and was founded on the principle of "Moral Treatment", led by Dr Thomas Prichard. The land, once owned by the Cluniac Priory of St Andrew's, was purchased at auction. The Northamptonshire peasant poet John Clare stayed here from 1841 until his death in 1864.

Northampton Municipal Cemetery

The cemetery was laid out by Robert Marnock an eminent landscape gardener who designed the botanical gardens in Regent's Park, London. This cemetery is the burial place for non-conformists, atheists and odd-balls which is why there are several famous, infamous and influential people buried here.

These include James Kemp, a policeman shot after having a drink; Caroline Chisholm, the "Emigrant's Friend"; Robert Fossett [horse statue] and Manfield the shoe manufacturer. When he died in 1899, the representatives of the philanthropic organisations he was involved in stretched for 1 mile behind his coffin and 15,000 people lined the Billing Road - popular bloke without a doubt.

Q3: Why did 15,000 people line the Billing Road in 1899.

Northampton Grammar School

Founded by Thomas Chipsey in 1541 in a small tenement in Bridge Street. It moved in 1557 to the old Church of St Gregory in Freeschool Street. In 1864 the School briefly closed, but re-opened in 1867 in the Corn Exchange [now Chicago Rock] and moved into new premises in Abington Square in 1870 [now the Jesus Centre]. Finally moved to Billing Road in 1911 and is now called Northampton School for Boys.

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C.W.S. Model Shoe Factory

Although this is now called Mobbs Miller House its real name is the C.W.S. Shoe Factory and carries on the north aspect one of the symbols of the Co-operative Movement i.e. the torches. Following the line of Manfield's second factory on the Wellingborough Road by being largely on one floor [except the offices]. An important example of a model factory.

Abington Park Hotel

The Abington Park Hotel is a Grade II Listed building erected in 1898 in French Renaissance style by Matthew Holding. The original part of the building is constructed of red brick and has finely carved stone dressings. Whilst the frontages of the building have remained relatively unaltered, various additions and alterations to the rear have taken place.

Abington Park was established one year earlier in 1897 and this, together with other attractions along the Wellingborough Road, must have added to its business. In 1984 a single storey flat roof extension was constructed to provide what was to be Northampton's first micro-brewery. This was subsequently taken out 9 years later.

The landlord during the period 1925-39 was George Quennell who was a player for the Star Cricket Club, hence the connections with the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club.

Opposite Manfield's Factory

There was a Wild West Rodeo here where people could join in and a Palais-de-Danse where the garage now stands. A miniature Railway of Great Britain Co. was formed by Mr Bassett-Lowke in 1904. He was refused permission to run it in the park so he operated it along the Wellingborough Road - fare 2d.; closed around 1914. c Around 1906 there was a Grapho and Jackson's Pierrot show. 1909 Roller skating and Grapho's Winter Gardens, cinema shows and Abington Park bands in wet weather. Skating rink - burnt down 1914.

Q4: Where was there a Wild West Rodeo in which people could participate.

Manfield's Second Shoe Factory

Manfield opened this revolutionary new factory in fields along the Wellingborough Road in 1892, when he was 73 years old. Designed to an American plan where all the machinery etc is on one floor.

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Christ Church

Building began in 1904, but was never finished as the design by Matthew Holding included a huge tower and spire that proved to be too expensive to build. The west end was finally tidied up a few years ago with a more modern but substantially cheaper alternative.

Keeping Up Appearances

Many scenes involving the vicar and that Bucket woman, played with great finesse by Patricia Routledge, were filmed here along Christchurch Road and also in the courtyard of the dome-roofed church hall.

Abington Park and Deserted Medieval Village

All that now remains of the village of Abington is the Manor House [museum], the Church, a cottage - probably the vicarage, a group of farm buildings, the water tower and the relatively late Archway Cottages. Part of the park was given to the Town by Lady Wantage, the part that could not be built on i.e. the church, churchyard, manor house and lakes [20 acres]. We, that is, the Corporation purchased the rest [100 acres]. It was one of the first Municipal Parks in the country.

When Henry Thursby bought the estate [which is also the whole parish] from John Bernard [whose wife had connections with Shakespeare] in 1669 for £13,750 he had a map made which can still be seen in the museum and it shows 28 cottages in the village. The main reason why the village was slowly deserted was the burgeoning shoe trade in the Town. People were drawn to reliable, regularly paid jobs in the factories and went to live in the new terraced streets of the growing town.

Abington was sold to Lewis Loyd [Lady Wantage's father] in 1841 for £88,000. The Manor House and Park were rented in 1845 to Dr. Octavius Prichard who opened an enlightened lunatic asylum that he called Abington Abbey Retreat. There is no connection in any way with any religious establishment, he probably used the title to give the place class. John Clare was a resident for a time.

There are earthworks within the park which are the remains of the village, roads and house platforms as well as the village fish ponds that are now the Rose Garden.

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Stage 3: Abington Park to The Five Bells
County Tavern [Hotel]

When Northamptonshire County Cricket Club first started, the County Hotel, owned by the Trustees of the Cricket Club, was used as the pavilion and changing rooms until other facilities were built.

White Elephant Junction

In the 1970's when the surgery on the corner of the Crescent and Abington Grove was being extended, a pit was found containing several skeletons and it is believed these were the fruit of the gallows tree.

Q5: At which surgery were several skeletons found in the 1970's.

Public Executions

Local legend has it that the condemned were taken in a wagon from the town along the Kettering Road to here to be hung, receiving their last drink at the Bantam Cock on the way. It is said that if the prisoner had committed a particularly bad crime this comfort would be denied and when the innkeeper asked if the prisoner was to have a drink the guard would answer, "No, he's on the wagon." Another story says that the condemned would offer to stand the guards a round saying that he would pay on the trip back!

The White Elephant

Originally called the Kingsley Park Hotel, it was built by a syndicate of "Sporting Gentlemen" in 1883 but racing ended in 1904. It became redundant and was purchased by the Northampton Brewery Company (N.B.C.) in 1922 but it wasn't until 1952 that they applied to change the name.

Dr. Eric Shaw, Chairman of the Magistrates said in granting the change, "We hope that in its new official name the White Elephant will prosper over the years." If in the past one had to apply to the Magistrates to change a pub's name - why not now? They are part of our heritage and merely buying the property should no more give one the right to change its name as one the right to knock it down or paint it a silly colour!

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The Racecourse and Tram Shelter

Racing began on this Common Land in 1727 but the history of The Racecourse goes back as far as 1632. Edward VII attended, the pavilion still stands. In 1901 a man ran out to rescue his son and he and rider were injured; the man subsequently died. In 1904 a horse somersaulted over a fence and landed on a spectator before running off into the crowd. This was the last straw and racing ended, as permanent fences could not be erected on Common Land. The Jockey Club also thought the course was too short. The tram shelter shown here marked the extent of the early Northampton Tramways public transport service.

Romany Way [Kingsley Road]

Also known in the past as Tinkers Lane or Gypsy Lane.

Romany Public House

The Wallbeck stream issues on the Golf Course and joins the north arm of the River Nenn at the top of St. Andrews Road. There used to be a ford here; the land has been built up and the pub is on a concrete raft supported on 35 foot concrete piles.

The Romany Hotel was opened in November 1938. A purpose built establishment, it was provided with a forecourt for a considerable number of cars. The interior was in Tudor and Jacobean styles, rather better executed than was done in the Racehorse three years later. The three bars Smoke Room, Lounge and Public Bar have gone, as have the fine wood veneer. The pub no longer provides accommodation for travelling salesmen etc., but real ale, food, music and other entertainment for University students from the nearby Avenue Campus.

The Golf Club

The land here was called Sourlands Furlong on the Kingsthorpe Inclosure map of 1767. Later it was largely orchards and subsequently allotments to the north-west. The Golf Club was founded in 1908, moving to its present location in 1914.

Kingsthorpe "Green"

Now only a traffic island, but has the other surviving tram shelter, albeit in a poor condition.

White Horse Pub

Famous in the past for bowling and cheesecakes! It is said that during King Charles I's captivity at Holdenby he visited here to play on its famous green. Before the advent of the lawn mower in 1830 bowling greens were cut by hand with shears and represented a considerable investment in time and effort, so this inn would have been of some local importance hence the King's visits in the previous century.

The following advertisement dates from 1751:

By order of the Gentlemen.
The bowling green at the White Horse at Kingsthorpe near Northampton will be opened on Thursday 3rd of May 1751 and the Ordinary* will be at twelve o'clock and continue every Thursday following during the bowling season by their obedient humble servants. William Barnard.

*Ordinary, a set meal at a fixed price and time and paid for on arrival.

Q6: Which pub was famous for bowling and cheesecakes.

The Five Bells

Earliest record 1830 - much older - probably a coaching inn. Turn of 19th century. Adverts for Pleasure Gardens and quoits were being played here at the time. In the 1960s Nemo Poetry Group met in the back room.

There are two possible reasons for calling a pub by this name. Ship's bells denote the half hour intervals in each watch and five bells on First Watch comes at 10:30pm which is a reasonable hour (on land perhaps) to call time. The other is the typically English pastime of bell ringing in churches, something particularly associated with the Anglican Church. In the past this was only done by aristocrats and scholars, so to associate your pub with this august company would perhaps imply a bit of class!

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Stage 4: The Five Bells to The Drapery
Thornton Park

Erroneously called Kingsthorpe Park by the Council. Bought from the Thornton family by the Borough in 1938 and opened to the public [i.e. the owners] in 1939. The Hall is 18th century [1774] and according to the Borough web site it is a community centre, but in fact it has been sold and is being developed into flats.

Halfway House

Earliest date I have is 1864, but must be much earlier. Not the original building. Advertisement in 1878 has "Albert Recreation Grounds - Good coach house and stables - Ornamental Lake - Running, Bicycle and Quoits Grounds - Tents for hire, Good grass keep for cattle". One minutes silence please for the recent destruction of this fine hostelry.

Coliseum Cinema

The Coliseum Cinema was first called the Coliseum Electric Theatre and was open from 1920 to 1958 after which it became a builders' merchant. Now we've lost the front bit. The following extract is from the Mercia Cinema Society's Gould Gazetter of Provincial Cinemas, Music Halls and Theatres.

Kingsthorpe Hollow Opened 2nd August 1920. Man. dir. J. G. Covington, Gen. mgr Harold Arnold (same pair as at Vaudeville Cinema). 900 seats. By 1927 W. Harris, later John Norfolk. Films booked by wife Mabel. Kalee 7s & arcs, Gyrotone sound. By 1941: (Gyrotone) - Props., Coliseum Cinema (Northampton) Ltd. Phone Northampton 1350. 655 seats. Booked at Hall. Continuous. Prices 3d. to 1s.3d. Phone Northampton 1350. Station, Castle, L.M.S., & Road Transport. To Eric Wright in 1948. Re-named New Coliseum 1951 - re-equipped B.T-H. kit. Closed 11th November 1958 - St. Louis Blues. August 1959 converted to builders merchant, which it is still. Façade was removed early 90s, date cartouche and corner pediment re-erected on ground.

Barratts Footshape Works

This fine building was built in 1913 and designed by Scottish architect A.E. Anderson. In 1903 the Barratt brothers pioneered the idea of supplying boots through the post. You drew around your foot onto a piece of paper and sent it off along with 9/9d - hence the name of their factory.

The world's first aerial commercial post was carried out for Barratts by W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse [first airman's V.C. (posthumously) during WWI] from the Racecourse to Hendon - it should have taken 40 minutes, but due to adverse weather conditions it took two days!

Q7: Why was Barratt's Footshape Works so called.

Britannia Inn

The patriotic name of this pub is probably due to the Barracks that used to be just over the road, a small part of which still remains. Many of the pubs in this area had names such as the "Red, White and Blue" recorded as being at Hope's Place (part of the Barrack Road) in 1864. The sign probably does not refer to the Union Flag but an old sea song about the three Admirals of the Fleet.

The Brit has recently re-opened with a new name, The Five Rivers. I do not, however, have any idea where these five rivers are; we have the two tributaries of the Nenn joining at the West Bridge - but five?

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Semilong is a contraction of South-Mill-Wonge, meaning Meadow of the South Mill probably referring to a mill once belonging to St. Andrew's Priory, perhaps the mill that once stood in Millers Meadow?

In a will of Henry Coup of Northampton written during the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413) it is called Southmylluonge and in 1555 John Bailey was ordered to enlarge his ditch at South mylle uonge near his mill on penalty of 6s. 8d.

There is a stream in Kingsthorpe that feeds into the Nasby branch of the River Nenn called the Walbeck. In 1547 Kingsthorpe Manor Court ordered that, "no man of no out Towne shall not digge nor dame nor fysche in the Walbeck broke, from Swailuong hedd to Walbecke, in penalty of 3s 4d". The penalty is a quarter of a Mark, a Mark was never a coin, but used for accounting purposes with a current value of 13s 4d or two-thirds of a Pound (66.6p).

Q8: What is the current name for what was "South-Mill Wonge".

Medieval Jewish Cemetry [Lawrence Court]

Recent work by JTrails has shown interesting results in locating the Medieval Jewish cemetery which we knew was hereabouts. More news in the future.

Bull PH and North Gate [Campbell Street]

The first inns in England were probably started by the religious orders; they called them hospitals, not quite what we mean by hospital today. Monks and friars as part of their calling were required to care for the sick, poor and travellers, especially pilgrims. Their hospitals could be summed up with the words hospital, hospice, hotel, hostel and hostelry. St. Andrew's Priory occupied the land now bounded by St. Andrew's Street, Grafton Street and St. George's Street. The North Gate of the Town was at the north end of Regent's Square and it is almost certain that the Priory would have established a hospital by the gate.

As people couldn't read traders would put up a picture or object to show their trade; two still survive - the barber's pole and the pawn shop golden balls. Religious institutions would put up their seal to show where accommodation and refreshment could be found. The Latin word for a seal is bulla; this became shortened to bull, as in Papal Bull. The original sign of this establishment almost certainly was not the beast with a ring in its nose. Demolished for road widening.

Wheatsheaf Pub

Records date back to 1864. This fine stucco building closed in 1957 but became the Commonwealth Club for a while. Eventually being demolished for road widening.

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St Sepulchre's Church

Built by Simon de Senlis and started in 1098 apparently on the site of an earlier church. It is said he ordered it built as a thanksgiving for his safe return from the Crusade.

The oldest part of this church is the round bit. This is the part built by Senlis and is modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Israel. The church was later given to St. Andrew's Priory and over the years aisles and a tower have been added. There is in the central aisle a small window in the west wall that contains the only surviving pieces of stained glass from the Priory.

It is the best preserved of only four surviving round churches in the country and also claimed to be the oldest standing building in the Town.

Round churches are supposed to be connected with the Knights Hospitallers or the Templars, but this one was built before either Order had been formed. However, that doesn't mean that the Holy Grail wasn't hidden here by the Templars at a later date!

Left - The Seige of Antioch

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Bird-in-Hand Pub

Earliest 1824. Cycling was popular in 19th century. James Birt, a one time safety cycling champion of the world had license from c1889-1900 and started the Northampton Rover Bicycle Club with their HQ here. Once a year they held the High Hat Run - precursor of the Cycle Parade - Carnival Parade.

Manfield's first Factory [Warehouse]

This Italianate style building erected in 1859 was "the first modern factory in Northampton". It started as a warehouse, but became a factory when new American sewing machines were introduced.

Moses Phillip Manfield, or Phillip, as he preferred to be called, was born on July 26th 1819 in Bristol. When he was very young his father became paralysed and could no longer work. His mother educated him until he was seven when he went out to work. He had various jobs and at the age of twelve he realised that he needed a trade and so became an apprentice to a boot-closer. He later moved to London, back to Bristol and then to Northampton where he became the manager of a boot factory.

In 1844 it went bankrupt but with £150 savings he started up a shoe manufacturing business. 15 years later he had built the first modern factory in Northampton on Campbell Square. In 1878 he took his two sons into partnership and gave more time to public affairs, practically relinquished business altogether in 1890. In 1892 he opened a revolutionary new factory along the Wellingborough Road which was largely all on one floor. This one hasn't been knocked down but has been converted into flats for the elderly, a restaurant and offices.

During the Great Strike of 1887 whilst he was contending with his men he fed their children at his own expense. I understand that their mothers were told not to tell their husbands where the money and food was coming from! As a young man he was a Chartist and throughout his life a Liberal. He became the leading Liberal of the town, not only becoming a councillor, but an alderman, mayor, magistrate and in January 1891, on the death of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, a Member of Parliament. He was knighted in May 1894 and due to age retired from Parliament in July 1895.

He died on July 31st 1899 aged 84. At the funeral every sect and political party in the Town attended. The representatives of the various public bodies in which he had been interested formed a procession more than a mile long, and it was estimated that 15,000 people lined the Billing Road on the way to the Municipal Cemetery. He was buried here as he was a Unitarian and by all accounts a good and popular one!

"New" Civic Centre c1930 [The Mounts]

A new Civic Centre was planned for the Mounts in the 1920's and building had got as far as the Magistrates' Court, Police Station, Fire Station and Baths when WWII intervened, stopping the work.

Greyfriars Excavation

In 1972 the remains of Greyfriars priory was excavated here. We found remains of the church, cloisters etc.

Doddridge Academy [Sheep Street]

This building was originally much larger, extending to the north where Greyfriars road is now for another three bays. It was the town house of the 2nd Lord Halifax (1716 to 1771) who subsequently gave it to Dr. Doddridge for his Academy.

In days gone by Non-Conformists couldn't attend Universities so they set their own Academies. This one was famous for its high standard of education not only for the ministry, but also for business. John Wesley visited Dr. Doddridge in 1745 and addressed the students here.

Shipman's [Drapery]

Called The Roebuck in 1767, later The White Hart. In 1790 W & R Shipman, wine importers started a business, continued until 1945.

Market Square and "tunnels"

A seismic survey in 1975 showed evidence of about 32 cellars under the Market Square, but no tunnels were found.

Ancient names around here

Mercer's Row used to be called The Old Drapery whereas our current Drapery was known as the Gauterie or the Glovery, depending on which side you were. Jeyes Jitty was called Cutpurse Alley, the haunt of medieval pickpockets who would cut the purses from people's belts to steal them. Dychurch Lane appears in old documents as Gropec*ntelane. Yes really!

Q9: Which Jitty used to be called "Cutpurse Alley".

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Stage 5: The Drapery back to St James

Judge's lodgings [Wood Hill/George Row]

A fine 18th century house purchased by the Town in 1819 for £2,753 to house the visiting Assize judges. Before this they probably stayed at the George Hotel that was on the site of Lloyd's Bank at the top of Bridge Street.

County Infirmary [George Row]

The County Infirmary was opened in 1744 with 30 beds, but the building is now the County Club. The large sky-lights in the roof, as seen in this photo, were put in to give a good light to the operating theatre. This room in recent times became the studio of the late artist Henry Bird.

The building has fine, stone, vaulted medieval cellars - there is a tale that they connect with the crypt of All Saints' Church across the road. In 1793 a new, larger hospital (now Northampton General) was built out in the fields along the Billing Road at a cost of £11,967.

George Hotel

Listed as an Ancient Inn 1585. Could have gone back to the time of first crusade. Rebuilt after the Great Fire 1675 [inns needed to save town]. Left by John Dryden in 1707 to the Town and used to endow the Blue Coat School. First Masonic Lodge 1730. One of the best cock-pits in the county - later Skating rink. 1844 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stopped here. 1919 sold for £20,000. 1921 pulled down for bank [Lloyd's].


In this town Jitties are never called Jetties - just as the river in Northampton is pronounced the Nenn, and never, ever the Nean!

One theory is that the name jitty comes from a Norman word jetee which means a mole or causeway, to throw out. When the Normans expanded the Town it left the old Saxo-Danish ditch running through the centre between the double roads of Bridge Street and Kingswell Street, Drapery and College Street, Bearward Street and Silver Street, Scarletwell Street and Bath Street. It is thought that causeways were first made across the ditch at various points and these became jitties, later the word was applied to any alleyway.

Swan Inn [The Drapery]

An ancient inn 1585 - hence the name Swan Yard for the jitty and the Swan Press that used to be here.

Fish Market

In 1938 several buildings were demolished along the north side of Bradshaw Street, including the Criterion pub. However, N.B.C. had built a replacement on the opposite corner, now called the Boston. By 1939 the new "model" Municipal Fish & Meat Market was open. The idea was that perishables such as fish, meat, fowl, cheese etc could be displayed and sold under cover in hygienic conditions. Many other towns followed our lead. Now meat & fish are once more being sold on the Market Square.

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Medieval Synagogue [Sheep Street]

Recent research indicates that the Medieval Synagogue was in this area. In the future we hope to know more.

Bear Inn

Next to the Bear in times past stood the Red Lyon Inn on the corner of Bradshaw Street and this is about where we think the Medieval Synagogue was. During the "Spendthrift Election" of 17-- this is where the Tories holed up whilst the Whigs hung out at the George Hotel, at the other end of the Drapery. In those days the polls would be open for 14 days and how people voted was published so bribery was rife including offers of loads of coal, bread and booze.

It seems the town was paralysed with drunks and at one point a mob of 200 Tories chased 200 Whigs along the Drapery into the George whereupon they tore up the cobble-stones and smashed all the windows in the hotel. Earl Spencer, the Whig candidate went out onto the balcony and promised the Tories £1,000 worth of coal and bread if they dispersed; which it seems they did.

Elections were much more exciting in those days! It was called the "Spendthrift Election" because the two Tory candidates spent £150,000 whereas Earl Spencer spent £100,000. Spencer and one of the Tory candidates won but alas the other lost.

St Katherine's Garden of Rest [Memorial Square]

This chapel was built to take the overflow from All Saints' in 1839 and demolished in 1950. Now dedicated to the fallen of WWII.

The Horse Market

No prizes for guessing what used to be sold here!

Sol Central

Possibly the most hideous building in town?

Shakespeare Inn

Why was it called The Shakespeare? Answer: the theatre Royal stood next to it from 1806-1884; then Latimer & Crick 1887 and demolished in 1922 for road widening. Shakespeare, earliest 1824 but demolished in 1974 for further road widening.

Corner Gold Street & Horse Market

Once an ancient pub of low repute stood on this corner called the Crow & Horseshoe. This became in 1855 a music hall - between 1869 and 1877 it was the Alhambra then becoming the alcohol free British Workman No. 1 cafe and Temperance Hall. By the next year it was called the Temperance Hall of Varieties and in the 1890s J. Grose's cycle factory. 1901 it was the Palace of Varieties and in 1912 a picture house to become Vint's Palace one year later, showing films and variety acts. Re-opened in 1919 as the Majestic cinema [where Gracie Fields once performed between films]. Closed 1937. Then A. Bell & Co 1952.

North-Western Hotel

This establishment started life around 1903 and was correctly called the London & North-Western Hotel, but it was always known locally as just The North-Western. This railway hotel was on the north side of Marefair right by the junction with Horsemarket. It was demolished in 1970 to clear the area for the building of Barclaycard House but this has also been demolished and replaced with the grotesque Sol Central.

In the 1960s there was a pub opposite called the Shakespeare, named because of the theatre that stood next to it. The theatre had been demolished years before to widen the road, and guess what, the pub was later also sacrificed to the Great God Car.

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Quart Pot Lane [Doddridge Street]

Named from the Quart Pot Inn. The lane name goes back to the 14th century.

Northampton Castle Station

Small halt opened in 1859. People had to travel to Blisworth to get onto the main line. The new station, connected to the main line, was opened in 1881 after moving the river and quarrying most of the Castle away.

New cut of river [north of West Bridge]

The river used to run more to the east here, but to make way for the station the river was shifted to the west. This is why it looks like a canal.

Dover Works and Cinema

The building that used to be here started life as a skating rink. Later it became the St. James's Cinema, then the Castle and lastly the Roxy. It was a cinema from 1912 to 1949 when it closed and became a factory to be replaced in about the late 70s by the Dovercourt Flats.

R. Whitton, "The Lastman"

Whitton's factory stood here, they manufactured, "wood lasts, sole and clicking press knives, wood, fibre and celluloid fillers, upper patterns and designs, treeing feet, wood heels etc."

Robin Hood and Little John PH [@ bend of St. Jame's Road]

First mentioned in 1830 - by 1864 it was just called the Robin Hood and finally demolished in 1976.

Foundryman's Arms Public House

This pub stands on the corner of St. James' Road and Stenson Street which was once called Foundry Sreet and this name was still visible, painted on the brickwork of the house on the north-east corner in the 1990s. It is so named because a foundry once stood on part of what is now the bus depot.

Many years earlier, there was another pub called The Foundry at the bottom of Bridge Street, just before the Southbridge. This was named because of another foundry over the road that disappeared when the Brewery was expanded sometime in the 19th century.

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