A chance look to the left reminds the BBC’s Helen Blaby that Northampton is full of hidden treasures and some of them might not be there forever…
As I was coming back from doing an interview one morning recently, I happened to get caught in traffic coming back in to Northampton. No great surprise there, really, but it was somewhere I’d not been caught before. I was heading off Barnes Meadow on the Bedford Road, waiting for the lights to turn right in to Cliftonville Road. Maybe I’ve never looked to the left while going past here before, but behind the trees opposite the BMW garage there’s a chimney, a most magnificent chimney at that.
I had no idea what it might have been, so I did the best thing I know how for a curious mind. I asked my listeners if they knew what it was. That’s the great thing about what I do for a living, I have this vast bank of knowledge available to me, particularly when it comes to the county. I can ask practically anything and someone will phone in with the answer.
On this occasion though, there were several different answers. The chimney for a big house, the place where laundry was done in the 1880s amongst others. Turns out the answer is actually slightly less poetic. The chimney is part of the original sewage works for Northampton before it moved out to Billing in 1875. It was built to accommodate a 12 horse power engine in 1863.
Obviously I’ve not had chance to inspect it closely, but it appears to be very well-preserved for its age. Something that’s not fairing quite so well is Northampton’s Queen Eleanor Cross. My colleagues on the BBC Radio Northampton Breakfast show have been trying to track down who owns the monument, which is falling in to disrepair. Northampton Borough Council say it’s not part of their collection, despite their website listing it as one of their assets. They do say that they will spend some money on its upkeep. It would be a shame to see it crumble, being one of only three left in the country, the others being in Geddington and London.
My next mission is to find out what happened to the mural of the Great Fire of Northampton which used to grace the side of Beatties in the Grosvenor Centre. I have some shady memories of it as a child, I used to find it quite scary with its bright reds and oranges. I don’t remember when it was removed, and I don’t remember whether it was something which could have been removed whole. It’s something I will be putting to the listeners to my programme, and trying to find out if anyone else knows anything about it. Do you?
You can Tweet Helen Blaby @blabers.
A Facebook group called Save Our Queen Eleanor’s Cross has been started.