Heritage > Counties > England


Located in the area known in England as the South Midlands, Northamptonshire covers an area of 915 square miles and has a population of 570,000.

The county town of Northampton is known worldwide for it's footwear production and indeed the nickname of Northampton Town Football Club is 'The Cobblers'.

Along with Kettering, Corby and Wellinborough, Northampton is a community which is a fine mix of industry and agriculture. The town of Corby, not so long ago famed for it's steel production, has a high percentage of inhabitants with Scottish ancestry and indeed holds a 'Highland Games' each year in honour of this.

The main physical feature of the county is the river Nene.

The county has cereal production and cattle farming as it's main commercial activity.

Facts on the region

Origin of name: Comes from the Old English North Hamtune meaning northern home town or farm.

Name first recorded: 1011 as Hamtunscir.

County Town:NORTHAMPTON An ever-expanding, vibrant ‘new’ town with a long history - it’s probably been around since the ancient Brits but does not appear on record until Saxon times. The old town hall dates from 1671. Long before Margaret Thatcher the original poll tax was enacted at a parliament held here in 1380, which led to Wat Tyler’s rebellion. In 1459 at the Battle of Northampton Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated Henry VI.

County Rivers: Nene, Welland, Avon, Swift.

Highest point: Arbury Hill at 734 feet.

Northamptonshire’s local government: All of the County of Northamptonshire apart from Peterborough has two tiers of local government service providers: Northamptonshire County Council and seven district councils of Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire, Wellingborough. The City and Soke of Peterborough has its own unitary council.

The local landscape

This key county in the East Midlands is located between seven other counties. Geographically the county as favoured after the Norman Conquest as it lay between York and Winchester, then the capital, and half-way between the Welsh border and the east coast. It’s fairly easy to traverse, being low-lying country.

When trade was by river the slow and wide waterways of the north part of the county proved useful for barge and boat traffic. Close to the flatlands of Cambridgeshire the land is particularly low and marshy and is known as the Bedford level.

Getting hillier the land rises from the flat northeast towards Towcester in the south, while the western part of the county encompasses a range of chalk uplands, an extension of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Here the towns and villages are stone built and architecture adds much charm to the softly undulating landscape. Very little is cultivated except a few fertile glens and coastal strips, and it is very sparsely populated (except by deer).

Local Towns and Villages

BRACKLEY A lovely little town, once a wool centre, with a high street over a mile long flanked by trees. Bartering on the Magna Carta took place at a castle here (no longer standing).

BRIXWORTH A 7th-century Anglo-Saxon church. One of the best of its kind, it was made from abandoned local roman building sand included Roman tiles in the arches. A hunting centre also.

CORBY Great iron and steel capital. The workers poured in from Scotland so you could go round the town and never meet an English accent.

DAVENTRY In typical rolling countryside, this was once a centre for whip making. Automobile works and light engineering took over. Charles I spent several nights here in the Wheatsheaf before the battle of Naseby.

EARLS BARTON One of the finest Anglo-Saxon towers in England is on the Church of All Saints and is decorated with pilasters.

EYE This overgrown village was built on an island before the Fens were drained. A brickmaking centre with an imposing 80-foot windmill well seen from the surrounding flat countryside.

IRTHLINGBOROUGH This small historic town with the remains of a college founded by Edward III is the envy of many big-league sports clubs with its excellent stadium at Nene Park housing Rushden & Diamonds Football Club.

KETTERING A footwear centre with its own Boot and Shoe College.

KINGS CLIFFE Beautiful little village with a 17th-century almshouse, and church with Norman tower and 13th-century spire.

OUNDLE Narrow streets and alleys with tiny cottages and stone-built houses of great character. The church spire rises 280 feet.

RUSHDEN Another Northants shoe town, with a manor that belongs to the sovereign and a beautiful church with a 200-foot spire. Its go-ahead football club plays at Irthlingborough.

PETERBOROUGH 'Only one hour from London' as the ads used to say and certainly a thriving new town element with an ancient city to be discovered.

SILVERSTONE This little village in the far south of the county is the magnet for racing men - and women - all over the world as the venue for the British Grand Prix.

TOWCESTER Once a coaching stop now a race meeting venue. Several old inns including the Saracen’s Head featured in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers. At nearby Weedon Lois, Dame Edith Sitwell is buried with a monument designed by Henry Moore.

WELLINGBOROUGH On the meeting of the Ise and Nene rivers a once old market centre now serves many growing light industries including footwear and clothing.





Burton Latimer




Higham Ferrers

Long Buckby

Middleton Cheney










Places to Visit

Boughton House, Kettering, Northamptonshire

Deene Park, Corby, Northamptonshire

Holdenby House, Holdenby, Northamptonshire

Lamport Hall, Northampton, Northamptonshire

Rockingham Castle, Nr Corby, Northamptonshire

Coton Manor, Guilsbrough, Northamptonshire

Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire


Castles vie with each other for events in the county. Prudhoe Castle has events of all sorts from beekeeping to archery, Etal Castle presents music, Belsay Castle has flower shows, Chester’s Roman Fort has performances.

May: Northumberland County Show at Corbridge.

October: The Newcastle Festival.

Spring: Northumbrian Festival at Morpeth.

Sheepdog trials take place in summer in the fells.

New Year’s Day: Allendale Town is alight with fires as blazing tubs are carried to mark the end of the year with the Baal Fire Festival.

September: Great North run half-marathon from the central motorway at Newcastle to South Shields over the Tyne in County Durham.

Autumn: Sea angling festival at Whitley Bay and fishing and boating events at Kielder Water.

Famous names from the region

The great poet John Dryden was born in the county and lived at Titchmarsh. The ‘Northamptonshire poet’ John Clare was born in Helpston, lived most of his life in the county and published a book of country poems in 1820.

George Washington never knew Northampton as he was born in the fledgling USA but his ancestor Lawrence Washington built the ancestral home Sulgrave Manor in 1560 and like Washington Old Hall in Durham it is allowed to fly the stars and stripes.

Princess Diana, born a Spencer,. spent her girlhood at the stately home of Althorp, the family’s home since 1508.

Thomas Becket, the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, was tried at Northampton Castle in 1164.

Sir Charles Isham created one of the earliest rockeries in England at Lamport - and dotted it with goblins and elves - the very first garden gnomes to be seen in Britain.

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