Not Quite Krakow But Definitely Underated!
Judging by how few pages there are here on VT about Northampton it appears that it doesn't get many visitors and not even its resident members (of whom there are 241, active or not) seem to have little to say about the place. Maybe the residents just don't want to share it with the rest of us!
I used to pass through here from time-to-time many years ago and always found it a very welcoming town with lively and friendly pubs and a good variety of shops. This visit I was looking at the town with my VT head on and was pleasantly amazed at what an attractive place it is visually as well as being friendly and welcoming.
The Great Fire of Northampton, in 1675, totally destroyed the town centre. The subsequent rebuilding cost in excess of 25,000 Pounds, mostly raised by local subscription and the new town was built with wider streets and several fine buildings. Daniel Defoe describes it, in 1724, as the "handsomest and best built town in all this part of England...finely rebuilt with brick and stone, and the streets made spacious and wide."
Further developements took place in the 19th and 20th centuries as the town prospered due to its thriving shoemaking industry - in the early 1800's there were over 1000 shoemakers and the local football team is nicknamed "the cobblers".
Unfortunately the 1960's and 70's developers did the town no favours, demolishing several fine buildings and replacing them with concrete monstrocities - the 1975 Greyfriars Bus Station (cunningly linked to the, then new, Grovesnor Shopping Centre) being adjudged one of Britain's ugliest buildings.
"So Where's The Krakow Comparison?"
After the fire about the only bit left unburnt was the market square (a bit difficult for a fire to raze a piece of level open ground! ). And so the town was rebuilt around it...and rebuilt...and rebuilt.
The modern market square still hosts very much a thriving market but the present day Borough Council seem to want to make the space more of a civic centre than a commercial one, trying to squeeze the trading market into half the space and using the other half for local events. This has created quite a controversy as the traders fiercely oppose the Council's plans. For the traders side of the debate visit HERE
For more about the market there'll be a shopping tip here soon!
"And Another Krakow Comparison"
A wander around Northampton Town's centre reveals it to be a town with a lot of churches, ranging from the art deco "Jesus Centre" to the more traditional St Giles (see travelogue below for pics).
In the centre of the town is the All Saints which was one of the first buildings to be rebuilt after the Great Fire. This is still very much a working church, and by all accounts quite spendid inside, and now hosts a popular coffee shop and cafe which spills out onto the church's porticoed veranda during the summer.