| 01604|| East Midlands|
John Caswell (Con)
| University of Northampton, Northampton College|
Delapre Abbey, Abington Park, Royal & Derngate, 78 Derngate, Nene Whitewater Centre
Northampton is the county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of England. It lies on the River Nene, about 67 miles (108 km) north-west of London and 50 miles (80 km) south-east of Birmingham. In 2011, it had a population of 212,100.
Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. During the Middle Ages, the town rose to national significance with the establishment of Northampton Castle, which was an occasional royal residence and regularly hosted the Parliament of England. Medieval Northampton had many churches, monasteries and the University of Northampton, which were all enclosed by the town walls. It was granted its first town charter by King Richard I in 1189 and its first mayor was appointed by King John in 1215. The town is also the site of two medieval battles; the Battle of Northampton (1264) and the second in 1460.
Northamptons royal connection languished in the modern period; the town supported Parliament (the Roundheads) in the English Civil War, which culminated in King Charles II ordering the destruction of the town walls and most of the castle. The town also suffered the Great Fire of Northampton (1675) which destroyed most of the town. It was soon rebuilt and grew rapidly with the industrial development of the 18th century. Northampton continued to grow following the creation of the Grand Union Canal and the arrival of the railways in the 19th century, becoming an industrial centre for footwear and leather manufacture.
After the World Wars, Northamptons growth was limited until it was designated as a New Town in 1968, accelerating development in the town. Northampton unsuccessfully applied for unitary status in 1996 and city status in 2000; the town continues to expand with many areas undergoing urban renewal.
The earliest reference to Northampton in writing occurred in 914 under the name of Ham tune. The prefix "North" was added to distinguish it from other towns called "Hampton". The Domesday Book (1086) records the town as Northantone, which evolved into Norhamptone by the 13th century and later Northampton by the 17th century.
Northampton is subdivided into suburbs, council wards, constituencies, ecclesiastical parishes, and other less formal areas.
There are 33 electoral wards, as defined by the borough council (the county council divides the town into much larger wards which have different boundaries), in Northampton:
The most northern wards make up the Northampton North parliamentary constitency; the most southern make up the Northampton South parliamentary constituency. However, East Hunsbury, West Hunsbury and Nene Valley are included in the South Northamptonshire parliamentary constituency.
Nine registered parish councils also lie within the borough of Northampton. These are Billing, Collingtree, Duston, Great Houghton, Hardingstone, Hunsbury Meadow, Upton, West Hunsbury and Wooton & East Hunsbury. There are also settlements outside the town boundaries that are sometimes considered suburbs of Northampton, including Boughton, Cogenhoe, Ecton, Grange Park, Harpole, Little Houghton, Moulton, Overstone and Rothersthorpe.
Northampton was a major centre of shoemaking and other leather industries, although only specialist shoemaking companies such as Wildsmith Shoes, Edward Green Shoes, Crockett & Jones, Churchs and Trickers, formerly located in nearby Earls Barton, survive. A large number of old shoe factories remain, mostly now converted to offices or accommodation, some of which are surrounded by terraced houses built for factory workers.
Northamptons market square is one of Britains largest and most historic which dates back to 1235. The market square is linked to Abington Street, a major shopping area of Northampton. The western part of the street was pedestrianised in 1984. The eastern part was pedestrianised in 1995 and de-pedestrianised in 2014. There are also two shopping centres in the town centre: the Grosvenor Centre, which was built in the 1970s, and Market Walk (previously Peacock Palace), which was constructed in 1988. St James Retail Park is also a large shopping precinct just south of the town centre. Many out-of-town retail parks exist like Weston Favell Shopping Centre, built in the 1970s, and Riverside Retail Park in the east of the town, as well as Sixfields in the west. Each precinct has a range of high street shops, department stores and many smaller individual speciality shops.
Billing Aquadrome leisure park is on the eastern outskirts with a caravan site, marina, funfair, bar, riverside restaurant and converted water mill with original workings. The Northampton Leisure Trust have 4 leisure centres across Northampton: Danes Camp, Lings Forum, Mounts Baths, and its newest addition Duston Sports Centre. There are also the action centres Benham Sports Arena and Kings Park Tennis Centre as well as the Delapre Public Golf Course. Radlands Plaza is a new skatepark that opened in 2012.
According to the website of the Northampton Borough Council, there are a total of 170 parks and open spaces around Northampton, which altogether span around 1,880 acres (761 ha). Popular parks include Abington Park, which is the towns oldest, and the Racecourse, which was used for horseracing (until 1904) and as a cricket ground (between 1844–1885) in addition to being the original home of Northampton Balloon Festival. Other parks include Beckets Park (which is named after Thomas Becket as are nearby Beckets Well and Thomas a Becket pub), Bradlaugh Fields (named after the Northampton MP Charles Bradlaugh), Dallington Park, Delapre Park, Eastfield Park, Hunsbury Hill (which is built around an Iron Age fort), Kingsthorpe Park and Victoria Park.
Popular annual events include Northampton Carnival, the Delapre Beer Festival, the Dragonboat Race, the Umbrella Fair, Diwali celebrations and St Crispins Fair. Northampton Balloon Festival used to be a major event in Northampton, but since being scaled down, it has been poorly attended. Northampton Music Festival has been celebrated every year since 2007 in the town centre. A smaller music festival A Walk in the Park has been put on since 2008 in Wootton. A new music festival, Alive at Delpare, debuted in the summer of 2013.
In addition to the Grade II listed Northamptonshire Central Library in the town centre that was erected in 1910, there are seven other public libraries that are dotted across Northampton — in Abington, Duston, Far Cotton, Hunsbury, Kingsthorpe, St James, Wootton — all run by Northamptonshire County Council.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery on Guildhall Road in the Cultural Quarter has a collection of historical footwear (one of the worlds largest at 13,000), Italian art, glass and ceramics, plus visiting exhibitions and local history. There is also a smaller Grade I listed historical museum in the former Abington Park house which mainly has history on domestic life in the town and the Northamptonshire Regiment. 78 Derngate homes both a museum celebrating Charles Rennie Mackintosh and an art gallery.
In 2014 the Boroughs museums were stripped of accreditation by the Arts Council, following the Borough Councils decision to auction off a very fine ancient Egyptian statue of the scribe and priest Sekhemka which had been gifted to the Borough in the nineteenth century.