This was my main reason to visit Northampton and I was very impressed with what I saw. Northampton's accomplished history in the field of shoemaking makes it an ideal place to visit a museum where the process and products of cobbling are centre stage.
I started on the upper floor where there was an interesting permanent exhibition about Hamtun, the original Anglo-Saxon settlement on the site that Northampton now sits. There were exhibits such as hoards of coins and artifacts from the Roman era. There was also an area where children could dress up as Vikings which I thought was a good way of making Northampton's history accessible to young minds.
The lower floors were dedicated to Northampton's shoemaking industry that sadly no longer exists. Here you could see the machines involved in producing footwear and many examples of shoes through the centuries. Sadly at the time of my visit, they had loaned a pair of boots worn by David Beckham to another museum. As you can imagine, I was devastated about this.;-)
All in all, I enjoyed walking around the museum and spent a while browsing. There is no admission charge so it is a great place to go if you find yourself in Northampton with an hour or so to waste. Recommended. Open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm and Sun 2-5pm.
Northampton's very extensive Norman castle was a majorly important castle. Medieval kings held their parliaments there and it was the site of the trial of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (later sainted).
After the English Civil War (mid-1600s) King Charles 11 ordered that the castle be made uninhabitable. It was in ruins by the 1800s, of course, but it is still a great pity that the Victorians decide the castle site would make an ideal location for the brand-new railway station for the brand-new railway.
All of the castle was destroyed and the site cleared and levelled. Now all you can see is one tiny bit of it: the postern gate, which was dismantled and re-erected near the station in the early 1880s.
A great pity indeed.
St Peter's really is a stunning Norman (1100s) church, a wonderful example of the Romanesque style.
It is 'the most outstanding Norman church in the country'.
St Peter's is no longer used as a place of worship but is open for visitors and is well worth visiting.
The church is constructed of ironstone (orange ish) and limestone (yellowish), the two colours used to give a striped appearance in parts (like many very early Italian churches, where different colours of marble were used) The exterior roofline is decorated with tens of carved heads, human and animal, many of which are still in very good conditions.
Inside the chancel is divided into 8 bays, with wonderfully-carved arches and superb column capitals. These were long hidden beneath plaster and paint, so they look as fresh today as when they were carved over 1000 years ago. The capitals are decorated with complex patterns of foliage, animals, intricate 'ropework' carving (sub-Celtic) and faces.
The church was greatly restored in the 1850s, with a complex stencilled deign being painted onto the interior east wall by John Oldrid Scott.
There is a Saxon graveslab on display, dating from the 900s-1000s. It has a superb carving of the 'Green Man', a pagan fertility symbol, interlinked with beasts, birds and foliage. It is thought that it was originally part of the earlier church on the site and *may* be the gravestone of St Ragenor, martyred in 870AD and to whom a shrine was built in the earlier church. But there is no absolute proof of that nor is there likely to be.
This church is absolutely magnificent and, imo, entirely unmissable. But its interior is only open for visitors on Wednesdays to Saturday in summer from 1000 - 1600, from 1100-1500 in winter.
Northampton has a pleasant mix of architectural styles although, of course, nothing much from before the great fire of 1675.
I especially like the yellow/orange local stone which really does glow in the sunshine.
Do look up as you wander...but remember that black-and-white half-timbered buildings are very often not in any way Medieval. There was a resurgence of this fashion in late Victorian times: at least one such building in Northampton actually dates only from 1901!
There's been a church on this spot for the past 1000 years, but the one you see now only came into existence after the great fire of 1675.
The church which stood at that time was almost totally destroyed (only the chancel crypt and the tower survived). King Charles ll gave 1000 tons of timber from the Royal forests to help with the building of the new church, a donation recognised by an inscription in the stonework above the entrance:
>This Statue was erected in memory of King Charles II who gave a thousand tun of timber towards the rebuilding of this church and to this town seven years chimney money collected in it.
and by a statue of the King himself, erected in 1712.
The original church was twice as long as the one which stands now.
The church is open every day of the year, from 0900 to 1800. Well worth seeing, even if (like me) you do not go inside.
To the rear of the church is Northampton's War Memorial, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens.
Many very early Christian churches were round with a central altar, following the plan of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
England has very few round churches remaining (just 9) and the one at Holy Sepulchre is exceptionally well-preserved. It was founded in 1098 by one Simon de Senlis, the Earl of Northampton at that time, to give thanks for his safe return from the Crusades. Although round churches are often associated with the Knights Templar it seems unlikely that this is the case with Holy Sepulchre.
Originally the church had just a very short chancel leading up to the circular altar area, but in 1180 a northern aisle was added. A second aisle was added in the late 1200s and in the 1500s a southern aisle and tower were built, almost enclosing the original round church within a much larger building.
The interior arches of the round church were originally rounded but it soon became clear that the walls were moving outwards. They were replaced with then then new-fangled 'Arab' pointed arches.
I found the church fascinating but, somehow, rather lacking in atmosphere. Possibly this is because it is very well lit (for a church) with bright lights which make ordinary photography almost impossible. You do, however, get a sense of what the church must once have been like and there are a couple of original Norman windows still in existence high above the columns.
Don't be misled into thinking the strange, narrow, opening in the stonework was for the Templar's lances! It's much too short for that and was probably a cupboard for storing processional crosses. :-)
I was interested in the various display boards about Northampton's history (presumably these are only brought out when the church is open for visitors).
The church is still a functioning place of worship with a lovely, peaceful, green churchyard.
Definitely well worth a visit, but be aware that the church is only open from 1400-1600 on Wednesdays and from 1100-1500 on Saturdays.
We arrived in the hotel quite early so I tried to asked the attendant if we can check-in a bit early but she refused and looked the clock and said the check-in time must be at 12o'clock, ok fine..so we decided to stay in the hotel lobby for a couple of hours. Thats why I took some photos to make myself busy, to entertain myself=))
Northampton received its first Market Charter in 1189 allowing it to charge tolls and prohibit rival markets. The present market dates from 1235 when the previous market was banned from All Saints Churchyard. The Market Square is one of the largest in England and one of the oldest. Markets are held Monday to Saturday with occasional special events.
The Neo Gothic style Guildhall in Northampton is located in St Giles Square just off the main pedestrianised shopping area. Build between 1861 and 1864 from a design by the young Bristol Architect Edward William Godwin it replaced the much earlier smaller 14 century town hall which could no longer serve its purpose. As services continued to grow the Guildhall was extended two further times. It was once the court house, jail as well running the functions of the town. Today it is used for civil weddings and the mayor hosts a number of civic functions during the year. Tours of the Guildhall will be held from 8-11 September 2011.
Probably the major event in Northamptons calendar, and I enjoy it when I'm able to go. Attracts a huge number of hot air balloons, live music and countless other attractions. If the weather is good it's a great day out.
2007 is scheduled for 17 -19 August, see their website for more info.
2009, looks like this is no more either, financial problems - shame
A church has stood on this site at least since the Middle Ages. The Northampton fire of 1675 destroyed it, along with much of the old city centre (probably why so little of the old city remains today). The present structure was built during the latter 17th century, with a generous donation from the new King Charles II. It was a magnanimous gesture, given that the city had supported the Parliamentary army during the Civil War.
It's not the largest church in the Midlands, but certainly one of the most beautiful, especially inside.
...then Shipmans, in the town centre, is as pleasant a little pub as you'll find!
This certainly is an individual establishment with a tiny front lounge and an only slightly larger rear one connected by the bar which runs corridor-like, bringing to mind a mismatched weightlifter's dumbells, between the main door on The Drapery and the back door which leads out to Peacock Place.
Not a food pub, that I noticed, and whilst it claims to be a "Wine Vaults" it strikes me as the sort of old-fashioned wine vault where you'd buy your wine by the pint, rather than a yuppie-style wine bar.
This is the place for a decent pint of beer in a proper local pub with friendly (and busty!) barmaids - yep, well worth dropping in!
The pub is also reputedly haunted and so if ghosthunting is your thing...
As always on my travels, I decided to pop in somewhere for a pint, and picked the Wig and Pen more or less at random. What a good choice it turned out to be. Friendly staff and the service was quick. I got my pint and went to the back garden, which was packed. It wasn't that it was a particularly nice day, but due to the smoking ban imposed by the current Government, us smokers have to go outside. There were about 30 people outside and two inside which must tell you something.
I suppose because such a large section of the clientele appears to smoke, they have made a particular effort with the outside area, which they boast is the largest in Northampton and is very pleasant, landscaped with a nice awning. the locals seemed very friendly.
Whether you are a smoker or not, I'd recommend this place for a drink.
There's a great jukebox as well.
Apparently, Northampton Market was founded in 1169 and, as you can see from the photo, it is still going strong. It is one of the larger English markets i have seen and takes up the entire market square.
Everything is on offer here from fruit and veg to beds and sofas, and everything in between. I'm not sure if it was a one-off but when i visited there was a sizeable section devoted to Italian foodstuffs. I got some wonderful ciabatta bread - lovely.
The market runs every day except Sunday, and if you go latish in the afternoon, just before they close, you can get some good bargains on fruit and veg as the stallholders just want to get rid of it.
OK, so it's an old joke, but the town of Northampton is synonomous with the trades of leatherworking and shoemaking, and a good proportion of the interesting museum is reflected in this. There is a large exhibition covering footwear throughout the ages and including a fully fitted old-fashioned shoe workshop. My favourite exhibit here was the huge stilt boots worn by Elton John as the "Champ" in the film of the Who musical Tommy. they are absolutely massive.
Apart from the shoe exhibition, there is a section on the history of the town, including a display of the disastrous fire which destroyed the town in 1675. another section is devoted to Italian Art, although this is not really my thing. There are also exhibitions on ceramics and glass, and, somewhat incongruously, I thought, an exhibition on the history of the Boy Scout movement!
On the ground floor is an art gallery with most of the pieces for sale. A small gift shop completes the Museum.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and there is an induction loop for hearing impaired visitors. Admission is free and the Museum is open Monday to Saturday 1000 - 1700 and Sunday 1400 - 1700. Worth a visit.