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The History of Northampton

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The settlement at Northampton dates back to at least Anglo Saxon times. Originally just called Hamm Tun; it was not long before it became known at North Hamm Tun in order to distinguish it from Southampton . References including the ‘North’ part have been found dating as far back as 914 AD. During the Danish occupation of the northern half of England in the late 9th century, the town was fortified and made into what the Danes called a ‘buhr’; the fortifications included a ditch and wooden ramparts. The town became a thriving marketplace and the home of many craftsmen. Despite having built the fortifications, the Danes themselves burnt the city to the ground in the early 11th century.

Northampton recovered during the Middle Ages and once again became a relatively large population centre. The first Earl of Northampton built the Church of the Sepulchre in Northampton in the early part of the 12th century; upon returning from the Crusades . During the Middle Ages, Northampton thrived on the wool trade. Its central location in England was ideal, offering good access to other major population centres in England.

The latter part of the Middle Ages saw something of a decline for Northampton, with an unsuccessful rebellion against the King in 1264 leading to the town being ransacked and taxed to death in the years that followed. A few centuries later, the town suffered further at the hands of a major fire and the Black Death. Fire was a common hazard at that time due to the construction of houses from timber and the use of thatch on roofs. Despite these setbacks, the town continued to grow steadily in size over these few centuries. Once again the town became a centre of rebellion when it became a stronghold of the Parliamentarians fighting the Civil War against King Charles and the Royalists. Once again the town was later to pay for its stance as Charles II ordered the city walls and castle to be destroyed. In return for their loyalty to Cromwell , the people of Northampton were left with an unpaid bill for a large number of boots they had made for his army. After initially building the town on the back of the wool trade, it was the boot and shoe industry for which Northampton was ultimately to become famous. It was at the very centre of the English boot and shoe trade for many centuries.

The coming of the Grand Union Canal in the 18th century provided another link from Northampton to the Midlands; further strengthening Northampton’s trading capabilities and providing yet more impetus to the growing town. The railway arrived in Northampton in the mid 19th century and cemented the already good links for trade to all parts of Britain. The trains also provided an important and very rapid link to central London . Another century later, the M1 motorway was built, passing close to Northampton and making for a quick road link to London. This was Britain’s first motorway and helped fuel the latest and perhaps most dramatic phase in the expansion of the town of Northampton.

Rail and road links made London within commutable distance and other popular cities such as Liverpool and Manchester had also been put within easy reach. The people of Northampton seemed to have their fingers on the fashion pulse, with The Beatles appearing at The Deco in Northampton twice as early as 1963.  During the 1960s Northampton underwent a planned expansion programme under the New Towns Commission, which set out to almost double the size of the town. Further expansion is again planned for Northampton, with a target of increasing by a further third to 300,000 by 2018.

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On this day:
Battle of Nechtansmere - 0685, Major Earthquake Damages Canterbury Cathedral - 1382, Treaty of Troyes - 1420, Cooper Floors Ali - 1966, Cutty Sark Ablaze - 2007
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