|Area: 80.76 kmē|
Northampton is a large market town and a local government district in central England on the River Nene, and the county town of Northamptonshire, in the English East Midlands region.
The district has a population of 194,800, whilst the Urban Area has a population of 189,474. By this measurement, it is the 21st largest settlement in England and is the UK's third largest town without official city status, after Reading and Milton Keynes. It is situated 67 miles (108 km) north of London.
Traditionally Northampton has been a major centre of shoemaking and other leather related industries. Shoemaking has virtually ceased, though the back streets of the town still show the pattern of small shoe factories surrounded by terraced houses for the outworkers. Northampton's main industries now include distribution and finance, and major employers include Barclaycard, Panasonic, Coca Cola & Schweppes Beverages Ltd, and Carlsberg.
Northampton is the most populous district in England not to be a unitary authority, a status it failed to obtain in the 1990s local government reform.
It is also one of the most populous urban districts not to be a London Borough, metropolitan borough or city; on this basis the council claims that it is the largest town in England. Various other boroughs could claim the title, sometimes taking into account areas outside their civic boundaries, or outlying areas not usually considered part of the town.
Northampton's population has increased greatly since the 1960s, largely due to planned expansion under the New Towns Commission in the early-1960s. Other factors are the rail link and the busy M1 motorway that both lead direct to London. Northampton is within 70 miles of central London, and by car and train it takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to journey between the two. This transport link to the South East has proved attractive, with already high house prices in and around London rising rapidly since the 1990s causing many people to move increasingly further away from the area in order to commute from more reasonably-priced housing. Most of Northampton's housing expansion has taken place to the east of the town, with recent developments on the western outskirts at Upton and to the south adjacent to an improved junction on the M1 at Grange Park.
Remains have been found in the Northampton area dating back to the iron age. It is believed that farming settlement began in the Northampton area in around the 7th century. By the 8th century it had become an administrative centre for the kingdom of Mercia.
The pre-Norman town was known as Hamtun and was quite small, occupying only some 60 acres.
The town became significant in the 11th century, when the Normans built town walls and a large castle. The original defence line of the walls is preserved in today's street pattern (Bridge St, The Drapery, Bearward St & Scarletwell Lane).
The town grew rapidly after the Normans arrived, and beyond the early defences. By the time of the Domesday Book, the town had a population of about 1500 residents, living in 300 houses.
The town and its castle were important in the early 12th century and the King often held Court in the town. During his famous fall out with Henry II Thomas ā Beckett at one time escaped from Northampton Castle through the unguarded Northern gate to flee the country,
Northampton had one of the largest Jewish populations in 13th century England, centred around Gold Street. In 1277 300 Jews were executed, allegedly for clipping the King's coin, and the Jews of Northampton were driven out of the town.
The town was originally controlled by officials acting for the King; these officials collected the taxes and upheld the law.
In 1189 King Richard I gave the town its first charter and in 1215 King John authorised the appointment of William Tilly as the town's first Mayor. He also ordered that, "...twelve of the better and more discreet" residents of the town join him as a council to assist him. In 1176 the Assize of Northampton laid down new powers for dealing with law breakers.
A university was established in the town in 1261 by scholars fleeing Cambridge. It briefly flourished, but was dissolved by Henry III in 1265 owing to the threat it posed to Oxford.
The first Battle of Northampton took place at the site of Northampton Castle in 1264 - when the forces of Henry III over ran the supporters of Simon de Montfort. In 1460, a second Battle of Northampton took place in the grounds of Delapre Abbey - and was a decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, and King Henry VI was captured in the town by the Yorkists.
In May 1328 the Treaty of Northampton was signed - being a peace treaty between the English and the Scots in which Edward III recognised the authority of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland and betrothed Bruce's still infant son to the king's sister Joanna.
There remains a large network of medieval tunnels that can be found around the centre of Northampton centred on All Saints church.