It was one of the great strongholds of the kingdom before it fell into ruin but Dr Marie Dickie OBE says Northampton Castle can still be an influential presence in the town…
Nowadays if you arrive at Northampton train station and pause to look at the extensive etched window that dominates the concourse you will see that once, Northampton was dominated by its Castle. It stood where the present station buildings and sidings are, though on top of huge defensive earthworks. It stretched out to the East toward the town centre and beside it on the West ran a broad river, fast flowing and fed by numerous streams.
So if you are planning on boarding the train on platform one, be careful you may get swept away! The fact that you find this hard to imagine is due to the engineering genius of the Victorians working for the L&NW Railway Company. We know so much about the Castle ‘s size and configuration and the previous course of the River Nene because Northampton citizens at the time, argued for the Castle’s preservation, then set to mapping as much of the Castle as they could before it was destroyed. Is it then too late to make Northampton’s Castle a part of the future of the town and especially its town centre?
Friends of Northampton Castle would argue that far from it being too late – it is now an absolutely must for the town. Some remains of the Castle can still be found under grass on the East of St Andrews Road and with modern GPR surveying techniques we are bringing these to light. Virtual Reality offers us the chance to aide our imagination and give an insider experience of the Great Hall. You can now download free apps ( view with easily available headsets) which include an experience of the Great Hall during a Christmas Feast and tour of the Castle in preparation for a tournament somewhere around Kings Heath. In future we may be able to add an augmented reality look at the Castle, straight from your phone. But there is still something really missing and that is just a sense of the place. Anyone walking to or from the railway station would be forgiven for thinking Northampton has lost its way.
In the station itself, with its well lit concourse, there is a tantalising introduction to Northampton’s great past. The etching across the great window is recognisably of a Castle, river and small walled town. But once you get outside and turn left toward the town centre the view is barren, windswept and without feature. So much so that it has inspired some Northampton artists to paint a WELCOME sign on the ramshackle purple hoarding opposite the beautiful St Peter’s church. We applaud their initiative but surely we can do better? That is why Friends of Northampton Castle has been campaigning for a heritage park linking the distinguished and listed buildings on the South side of Marefair with Castle United Reform and the remains of the Castle on the North side. Local artist Elke Pollard has imagined the way this would look.
Northampton is going through a bit of an identity crisis, with its young population having little to cling to that would make them proud to be Northamptonians, while at the same time the town centre struggles to compete with out of town shopping and mail order. History is now a means both to define Northampton and how it is different from other places, and provide our young people with a sense of their town which stimulates pride and aspiration.
Who would not want to live where real “Game of Thrones” events once took place? The 12th and 13th century battles between England and Scotland, with William the Lion King of Scotland imprisoned in Northampton Castle in 1174 , and then King Edward 111 ‘s surrender of his claim to Scotland in Northampton in 1328 certainly qualify for this level of epic story telling.
So if you want to help make Northampton’s past part of its future (3) please visit our website, sign our petition online, visit our Facebook page or join us. www.northamptoncastle.com ( for the link to our petition). facebook.com/NorthamptonCastle. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org