The pre-Norman town was known
as Hamtun and was very small at just half an acre. Northampton became important
in the 11th century when the Normans built town walls and a large castle under
the supervision of the Norman Earl, Simon de Senlis. In the streets today, the
first initial defence line of the walls is still present.
A large network of medieval tunnels remains under the centre
around All Saints church. The earlier site of the castle is now the railway
station and is called "Northampton Castle Station".
Leather and footwear manufacture were important industries in
Northampton in the 18th century leading to the building of the first railway in
In the 1960s, The Deco was an ABC cinema and the Beatles
appeared there twice on stage in 1963. In 1968 Northampton was designated as a
New Town leading to its expansion. The University of Northampton was
established in 2005 after several years as a University College and prior to
that being Nene College.
Formal parks in Northampton include The Racecourse which was
formerly home to the Balloon Festival and was – as the name suggests -
initially used for horse-racing until 1904. Also used from 1844 until 1885 for
horse-racing was Abington Park. There is a park around an Iron Age fort in West
Hunsbury. Other parks include Bradluagh Fields, Delapre Park and Becket's Park
which is named after Thomas Becket as are nearby Becket's well and Thomas a
Very much a modern city, the Grosvenor Centre is the main
shopping centre in Northampton and was created in the 1970's. One of Britain's
biggest market squares is in Northampton and dates back to 1235. Guildhall Road,
adjacent to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery houses the Derngate and Royal
theatres. They were renovated and reopened in 2006, at a cost of £15 million. A
900-seat theatre/conference centre called The Deco is predominantly used by the
charitable and voluntary sectors and is based on the former Grade II listed Cannon
Cinema in Abington Square.
Local history, Italian art, ceramics, glass and a
world-class collection of old footwear are displayed at the Northampton Museum
and Art Gallery. Within Abington Park in a previous mansion lies a small historical
museum. The old Fish market, opposite the market square, was renovated by the
Northampton Arts Collective. It has three art gallery spaces, retail units, a
cafe and an arts studio and is host to live music, workshops, community events
and exhibitions by premier artists. The Sanctuary is an independent modern arts
gallery with 16 studios. The Avenue campus at Northampton University is home to
the The Avenue Gallery.
Northamptonshire runs an annual county-wide Open Studios
event in which artists' studios are open to the public. The Portfolio
Innovation Centre at the university cost £40 million, and is now home to some
60 digital media developers, designers and creative freelancers.
Many local music venues in Northampton provide events. The
Roadmender used to be run and funded by the council and was purchased later by
The Purplehaus group. It is host to mainstream touring bands and one off gigs.
Dodgem Logic - an underground magazine by Alan Moore - included a CD
"Nation of Saints; 50 Years of Northampton Music" in 2009 in the
An artificial white-water course for kayaks, rafts and
canoes is available at the Nene White-water Centre in Northampton. The Olympic
swimmer Caitlin McClatchey a long term member and was trained by the
Northampton Swimming Club.
From 1990 to 1995 the BBC's popular programme ‘Keeping Up
Appearances’ used Northampton as its town location.
Northampton's oldest standing building, the Church of The
Holy Sepulchre, is one of the largest and best-preserved round churches in
England and dates back to 1100. The Guildhall in Northampton - built on the
site of the old town hall - was constructed in the 1860s in Victorian Gothic
architecture, and extended in the 1990s. 78 Derngate is a Grade II* listed
Georgian Town House remodelled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Wenman Joseph
Bassett-Lowke in 1916-17. It contains notable Mackintosh interiors (which have
been restored) and is his only major domestic commission outside Scotland. It
is open to the public.
The 127.45 m (418 ft
2 in) tall Express Lift Tower is a dominant feature and visible from most of
the town. Also named the "Cobblers' Needle" – reflecting the town’s
shoe making heritage - it was constructed for assessing new lifts at the
Express Lifts factory, now unfortunately closed.