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Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire is one of the quieter English counties, less affected by the industrial revolution than its western neighbours. The shire is traversed by the river Nene, which rises near Daventry and leaves near Peterborough. Camden called it ‘a noble river and a continual blessing to this province’. In the north, the Welland marks the border with Rutland and Leicestershire, and in the west the Cherwell separates the county from Oxfordshire. Northamptonshire covered a great swathe of central England: Brackley in the west seems like a Cotswold town, Eye, east of Peterborough, is a fenland village.

In Roman times the region belonged to the Coritani. Towcester on Watling Street was a small Roman town and the Nene valley at Castor, on Ermine Street, was an important pottery centre. In Saxon times the shire was part of the kingdom of Mercia. Peada, son of Penda, founded a great monastery about 657 at Peterborough, which survived sacking by the Danes in 870. The first mention of Northampton is when a Danish army seized it in 917. When the area was recovered by Edward the Elder a little later, the Danish territory seems to have been the basis for the emergent county. Two remarkable Saxon churches are at Brixworth and Earls Barton. Hamtun, the chief settlement on the Nene, became Northampton after the Norman Conquest to distinguish it from Southampton.

In the medieval period the shire was fertile and prosperous. Northampton was a town of importance. The massive castle was not finally destroyed until the railway station was built in Victorian times. Its charter dated from 1189 and parliaments were frequently summoned there. In 1460 it was the site of a bloody Yorkist victory and in 1645 the last major battle of the Civil War took place at Naseby, after Rupert's ephemeral victory at Leicester. In 1675 the greater part of Northampton was destroyed by fire. The rebuilding, possibly supervised by Henry Bell of King's Lynn, was much approved. Defoe commented in the 1720s that ‘the great inn, at the George, the corner of the High Street, looks more like a palace than an inn’. The county produced corn and cattle and, according to Camden, was ‘overrun with sheep’. Northampton horse fair was of national importance. Among the great landed estates were Althorp, Deene, Easton Neston, De la Pré, Boughton, and Burghley, though the parliamentary representation was dominated by the country gentlemen.

Although the industrial revolution came to Northamptonshire, it was gentler than elsewhere. Northampton was slow to tie into the growing canal network, but after the Grand Junction branch opened in 1815, connecting with London and Birmingham, it began to grow into a manufacturing town, specializing in boots. But the London to Birmingham railway bypassed it in 1838, and a loop line to Birmingham was only established in 1872. Peterborough, promoted to a bishopric in Henry VIII's reign, profited from the coming of the railways, became a major junction, and developed heavy engineering. Wellingborough, Kettering, and Rushden all profited from rail links to become boot centres, the latter trebling in population between 1881 and 1901. Corby, no more than a village in 1801, developed as a steel town, exploiting the local iron resources. Stewart and Lloyd's factory was established in 1934 and Corby was given new town status in 1950. Though it has grown to more than 50,000, its planned development was stunted by the decision in 1980 to abandon steel-making.

The county has suffered considerable boundary changes. In 1888 the soke of Peterborough, which retained special jurisdictions, was given its own county council, and in 1965 was merged with Huntingdonshire, before finding its way in 1972 into a substantially enlarged Cambridgeshire. The rest of Northamptonshire was not affected by the local government reorganization, and the Banham commission recommended in 1994 that the two-tier system should continue.

J. A. Cannon

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"Northamptonshire." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire (nôrthămp´tənshĬr) or Northants (nôrth-hănts´), county (1991 pop. 568,900), 914 sq mi (2,367 sq km), central England. The county seat is Northampton. The county comprises seven districts: South Northamptonshire, Northampton, Daventry, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby, and East Northamptonshire. The terrain is undulating agricultural country, devoted to pasture and forests. The principal river is the Nene. The iron and steel industry, which flourished on the basis of local ore from the start of the 20th cent., has dwindled in significance. The county's specialization in boot and shoe production has also withered in the face of competition. The Roman roads Ermine Street and Watling Street crossed the county. In Anglo-Saxon times the area was part of the kingdom of Mercia and was probably organized as a shire in Danish times. In 1974, Northamptonshire was reorganized as a nonmetropolitan county.

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Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire County in central England; the county town is Northampton. There are traces of pre-Celtic habitations as well as Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement. The land is undulating and is drained by the Welland and Nene rivers. Much of the region is devoted to pasture, wheat growing and forestry. Products include cereals, potatoes, and sugar beet. There are extensive iron ore deposits, and iron and steel industries are important. Industries: footwear, engineering, food processing. Area: 2367sq km (914sq mi). Pop. (1996) 604,351.

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Northamptonshire

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