Northampton’s forgotten railway

Most railway enthusiasts in Northampton will be well aware that the first railway station in Northampton was on the Blisworth to Peterborough extension of the London and Birmingham railway. The town’s first passenger station was located in Bridge Street and opened in 1845. However, this was not the first railway in the town.

George Cole and John Roper(engraver), plan of Northampton, 1807 showing the railway and terminus near south bridge
George Cole and John Roper(engraver), plan of Northampton, 1807

At the foot of Cole and Roper’s 1807 plan of Northampton there is an intriguing railway line and terminus.

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The 1899 25 inch map shows where this terminus was located on the south side of the Nene basin to the west of South Bridge. This interesting terminus and river wharf would have been swept away when the Northampton Arm of the Grand Junction Canal was constructed from Gayton Junction to Northampton in 1815.

Northampton in 1899 showing the location of the original terminus of the railway in Northampton
Northampton in 1899 showing the location of the original terminus of the railway in Northampton


The story of this railway starts in 1792 when a scheme by th
e Grand Junction canal was planned to extend a branch from Gayton into Northampton and another venture by the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union to join up in Northampton at the Nene. However, the Leicestershire project was abandoned in Market Harborough in 1795. Several years of agitation in Northampton finally led to the construction of a double-track tramway or railway from Gayton to the town which opened in 1805. It probably used track that was no longer used for a similar railway over the route of the Blisworth tunnel and had a gauge of 4ft 2in.

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Evidence of better connections for merchants to trade with the town can be found in newspaper advertisements soon after opening, as this property advertisement from the Northampton Mercury in 1806 shows.


The above Premises are most eligibly situated by the navigable River Nine, very near the Grand Junction Wharf, from whence is a direct Communication, by the present railway to the Grand Junction Canal, and are capable of carrying on a very extensive Trad
e. 1


The railway was not an ideal arrangement as it required transfer of goods to and from the river at one end and the canal at the other. Pressure from the town’s merchants continued to b
uild a canal from Gayton to Northampton. It was finally completed in 1815 thereby making the railway redundant and its trackbed forming canal tow-path. It was another thirty years before a railway returned to Northampton.

© 2020, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

  1. Northampton Mercury – Saturday 01 November 1806
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