Aug 282019

Squares through time

Over the years Northampton has lost a number of its squares, some completely and remembered only in street name, others have shrunk to a size significantly less than their former extent and others have succumbed to traffic thoroughfares.

The public square has been important through history, and we can trace its origins from at least the Roman city forum. Squares either evolved due to the convergence of a number of key roads or were created as part of a wider town or city plan. It more recent times because squares are more for the benefit and meeting of people they have conflicted with the needs of the automobile. When a square is allowed to remain it either becomes isolated by perimeter roads or transected into multiple parts by new roads.

Over time squares also suffer from shrinkage due to fill-in or encroachment from the sides. We can see examples of all of these situations in the present state of Northampton’s squares.

Where are the squares?

This is not a comprehensive list of squares and does not include some of the smaller ones that were once peaceful islands in an otherwise compact Victorian residential street scene. These are the examples we will visit:

  • Abington Square
  • Campbell Square
  • St Giles Square
  • Grafton Square
  • Regents Square
  • The Green
  • Mayorhold
  • Market Square

Figure 1: The locations of a selection of Northampton’s squares

The first group of squares: Abington Square, Campbell Square and St Giles Square all emerged as a convergence of roads and became significant meeting places for trade, entertainment or stallholders social gathering. Abington Square lies at the junction of the Kettering and Wellingborough Roads, where at the western end they join the extended medieval high street which we know as Abington Street. When the town walls were enlarged to their medieval extent Abington Square was immediately outside the western gate.

Figure 2: Regents, Campbell and St Giles Squares – Speed 1611 map

Campbell Square lies on the Mounts at the summit of the hill that overlooks the old town and immediately beyond the perimeter of Holy Sepulchre churchyard. It was the convergence of Campbell Street, Upper Mounts and Church Lane. St Giles Square is a much smaller square today than earlier times and lies at the junction of Derngate, Guildhall Road and St Giles Street and like Campbell Square lies beyond the perimeter of a churchyard, in this case, All Saints. Speed’s 1611 map suggests that this square was much wider in the 17th century with the buildings on the south side lying further south on their plots. It is also likely that both of these locations were in former times were used for livestock sales. On Speed’s 1611 map Campbell Square shows what appear to be sheep hurdles similar to one also appearing in Cow Meadow. All three squares remained important meeting places and centres of entertainment in the late 19th century as they were for a time all venues of visiting circuses and even “attractions” like bear-baiting.

Figure 3: Grafton Square at the entrance to St Andrew’s Priory – Speed 1611 map

Grafton Square and Regents Square both lay on the north side of the medieval town adjacent to the north wall. Regents Square was immediately inside the North Gate where Sheep Street and Broad Street converge. This area was formerly known as North End and appears as such on Noble and Butlin’s 1746 map. Grafton Square was at the junction of Crane Hill, Todds Lane (both later together known as Grafton Street) and St Andrews Street alongside the internal alignment of the north town wall. The square was the area immediately in front of the entrance to St Andrews Priory rather than being an exit point from the town. Many of the buildings and the intact boundary wall of the priory can still be seen on the 1611 map, the priory having been dissolved in 1538.

Figure 4: Regents Square – Law 1847 map

Figure 5: The Green – Noble & Butlin 1747 map

The final group of “squares”: The Green, Mayorhold and Market Square have one thing in common. They were at one time the main focal point of the town, but each was succeeded by the next as the town expanded further eastwards. The Green, now completely lost under a car park was the Saxon town’s green, close by St Peter’s Church. It remained as a street name until St Peters Way was constructed. 18thcentury maps show that the area had already been encroached upon and by 1746 was probably less than half its original size.

Figure 6: Mayorhold – Noble & Butlin 1747 map

The Mayorhold replaced The Green in importance in the early medieval period when the medieval walls were built to enclose the enlarged town. It lay near the north-south alignment of Horsemarket where it passed through the earlier town defences. Speed’s 1611 map shows the Marhold (Mayorhold) as a key focal point of the road network with no fewer than eight thoroughfares converging at this point. Nearby the town’s first town hall is known to have stood in Scarletwell Street[1]. For those that were born or lived in the streets radiating from the Mayorhold, and known locally as “The Boroughs”, it was their square. The Mayorhold retained its importance in some respects until the 1970s and prior to its final disappearance under a dual-carriageway, it was a secondary departure point for a number bus and coach operators serving the town.

Figure 7: Market Square – Speed 1611 map

Of course, for most residents of the town, the Market Square was and remains the central feature of the town. We know from an order made by the king in 1235[2] that the market was established on the open space to the north of All Saints, it had previously been the practice to hold markets in the churchyard and within All Saints itself. In the 15th century the square acquired a market cross which appears on Speed’s map but was lost during the 1675 fire. A water pump was added early in the 19th century but was moved to Cheyne Walk in 1863 when the square gained a cast-iron fountain which survived until one year short of its centenary. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the scene of many social and political gatherings, speeches, military musters and parades apart from its regular use for its primary purpose as an open market.

  1. Described by Henry Lee, town clerk of Northampton in “Collections of Henry Lee, Town Clerk of Northampton 1662–1715”, MS. Top. Northants, c.9. p. 94. (Bodl. Lib.)

  2. Calendar of Close Rolls 1234-7 p206-7 (Henry III)

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 212019

Of the hundreds of people who work in the Moulton Park area of Northampton, few are probably aware that the ground on which they walk was formerly known as King’s Park and was indeed one of the King’s hunting parks.

There are some clues in the modern-day road names, Kings Park Road and Deer Park Road, but there are more physical reminders of the actual park in the present-day landscape, but more of that later.

Moulton Park, Edward F Leach, 1908

Moulton Park, Edward F Leach, 1908

Click the map to see an interactive version

We are indebted to Edward Leach who surveyed the area and delivered a paper to the Northampton Natural History Society and Field Club in 19081. He also produced a sketch map of the area.

King’s Park was located to the north of the Kettering Road in Northampton and bisected west to east by the modern Red House Road. Its northern extent is the old alignment of Boughton Green Road and Bougton Lane. In the medieval period, the park extended to 450 acres (or if you prefer, 675 football pitches) and was enclosed by a stone wall around its perimeter and sat in a broader open landscape extending to the perimeter of Northampton including the modern Bradlaugh’s Fields, Kettering Road golf course and probably Eastfield Park. The rising ground on which this land lies was known as Campion’s Hill.

Turning to the history of the park which was variously named Northampton Park, King’s Park and Moulton Park over the years. The park was probably originally connected with Northampton’s Castle and one of the earliest references was in 1227 when the sheriff was ordered to enclose the park. Interestingly reference was made to this practice during the reigns of Henry II, Richard I and John confirming the existence of the park in the late 12th century. Clearly, this was not done or the fence or wall required further work as a similar writ was again issued to the sheriff in 1250.

Deene stone, King's Park

Deene marker stone, King’s Park, Northampton

The maintenance of wall has proved to be a problem throughout its life but considerably helpful in tracing the history of the park in the official records. The cost of the work was shared by a number of villages in the county and the King himself. The sections that were the responsibility of these parishes were marked by named stones along the wall itself. The following parishes have been identified with this responsibility for sections over the years: Abington, Boughton, Clipston, Corby, Cransley, Crick, Dallington, Deene, Drayton, Guilsborough, Hannington, Heyford, Islip, Litchborough, Moulton, Norton, Orlingbury, Pistford, Rothersthorpe, Trafford in Byfield, Walgrave, Warden. At the time of Edward Leach’s survey, five name-bearing stones remained: Dallington, Deene, Islip, Trafford, Clipston, and Drayton. All these stones were along the southern boundary wall now mostly beneath the Parklands estate, apart from a small section enclosed by trees beyond Mallory Walk leading to the University’s Park campus. Although as recently as 1985 two stones were believed to have been included on the inside face of the rebuilt wall along Boughton Green Road bearing the inscriptions [HAY]FORD and [ROT]TRO’ (Rothersthorpe)2. Clipston, Dallington, Deene, and Islip stones are apparently in the collection of the Northampton Museums 3 .

The park was not merely the King’s Park in name only, as Richard II is known to have been at the park in 1380 since Patent Rolls record him making orders in December of that year4.

In 1576 Sir Christopher Hatton, afterwards Lord Chancellor, obtained a grant in fee of the custody of the park and warren at Moulton5. He was a in favour with Elizabeth I and no stranger to Northamptonshire having been born at Holdenby House.

Some time in probably 1649, during the Civil War, the land was sold and in 1690 it was in the ownership of Sir Andrew Hackett of Moxhull, Warwickshire6. Through a succession of owners in the 18th and 19th centuries, including William Thursby of Abington between 1720 and 1767, the land had passed into the ownership of St Andrews Hospital by the early 20th century.

King’s Park today

Remarkably there remain some physical remnants of the once great park in the modern landscape. As has already been mentioned a short section the southern boundary can still be found beyond the Parklands estate. The most obvious reminder is the sweeping curve of the old Boughton Lane road alignment along the northern boundary. There are too a number of spinneys and copses that seem to coincide with their historic locations. Most if not all of the trees will have re-grown but the characteristic outline of these features gives there presence away. Most notable is Brickyard Spinney towards the eastern end of Boughton Lane. Three copses in the open space between Parklands and Moulton Park estate exist as does a tri-angular collection of trees marking the eastern boundary of All Saints Primary School. The other notable visible feature is the entrance drive off the Kettering Road opposite Cynthia Spencer Hospice.

Interactive mapping

The interactive map shows Edward Leach’s sketch of 1908 georeferenced to current mapping7. The map aligns reasonably well to a corrected alignment. The transparency can be adjusted the slider at the top left of the screen. The map can be re-orientated with north to the top by clicking the north arrow at the top right. Alternatively, the map can be rotated using Shift+Alt+Drag or a two-finger twist on some tablets or phones.

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 132019

Old maps reveal a lot about our town. The landscape of St James and Duston has changed unrecognisably in the last 100 years. Looking at an OS map surveyed in 1883 shows an extensive standard gauge railway over a larger part of this area linking various industrial facilities together. My journey started from Stenson Street, St James, around the corner from the grandparents’ home. I noted that Stenson Street was originally named Foundry Street. This referred to an ironworks on the site of the later Tram/Bus sheds. The ironworks in St James was opened in 1853 by Joseph Stenson.

Duston and St James tramways

Duston and St James tramways
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Notice the railway lines entering the site which can be traced back to a junction on the Northampton-Blisworth line adjacent to Hunsbury Hill Iron Works. These were not the only tracks: others extended to quarry workings south of Duston and almost into the heart of Duston village. There is evidence on the map of scarring due to quarrying around other areas on the south side of Duston.

The tramway was extended under the Weedon Road through a tunnel in 1859 and continued until 1908/9. The quarry at the furthest extent, north of Bants Lane was a limestone quarry.

This was very convenient as limestone is used in the processing of Iron ore. There were lime-kilns located near the junction between the Duston and St James branches, today the site of Ross Road estate (behind Wickes and Hobbycraft). To the east is shown the Duston Brick Works.

This map is assembled from four sheets surveyed in 1883/4. I have highlighted the main tramway routes.

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 062019

Hidden in plain sight!

Northamptonshire XLV.5 (Northampton)
Surveyed: 1883 Published: 1887

Primrose Hill Congregational Chapel was built 1901-3, but it was not the first home of the meeting on the Kingsthorpe Road. It had started in 1865 from a group that left Doddridge Castle Hill. First meeting in just one room of a cottage in the area, but they had outgrown this by 1879 and built a small chapel on the corner of Knightley Road at a cost of £800. A much larger plot became available between Agnes and Arnold Roads to which they moved in 1903. The pictures show the location of the earlier building as surveyed in 1883, and another map from 1938, but what is really interesting is that the building still stands today and is incorporated into the premises of Garden Machines.

Northamptonshire XLV.5 (Northampton)
Revised: 1938 Published: 1943
Aerial view of the site
Bird’s eye view of the site
North elevation of the building

Maps: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Images: Map data ©2019 Google

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 12:10 pm