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.
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.
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.
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.