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Northamptonshire (or, archaically, the County of Northampton; or ; abbreviated Northants. or N/hants) is a landlocked county in the Englishmarker East Midlands, with a population of 629,676 as at the 2001 census. It has boundaries with Warwickshiremarker to the West, Leicestershiremarker to the North, Rutlandmarker also to the North, Cambridgeshire (including the city of Peterboroughmarker) to the East, Bedfordshire to the South East, Buckinghamshire (including the borough of Milton Keynesmarker) to the South, Oxfordshire to the South West, and Lincolnshiremarker (England's shortest county boundary at ) to the North East. The county town is Northamptonmarker.

Northamptonshire's county flower is the cowslip.

Geography

Northamptonshire is an upland county in the East Midlands region. It contains the watershed between the Severn and The Washmarker. Several important rivers have their sources in the north west of the county, including the River Nenemarker, which flows north-eastwards to The Wash, and the "Warwickshire Avon", which flows south-west to the Severn. In 1830 it was boasted that "not a single brook, however insignificant, flows into it from any other district". The highest point in the county is Arbury Hill at .

Northamptonmarker is the largest town in the county, with a population of 194,458 people at the time of the 2001 census. This is followed by Ketteringmarker (81,844), Wellingboroughmarker (72,519), Daventrymarker (71,838), Corbymarker (53,174) and Rushdenmarker (25,849). Most of the county's population is concentrated in a central north – south band which includes the four largest towns (corresponding to districts 2, 4, 5 & 6 on the map). The west (districts 1 & 3) and east (district 7) are predominantly rural with small towns and many villages. Northamptonshire is a long, thin county (more so with the Soke of Peterborough), running from south-west to north-east. The county's location and shape, as well as the increasing importance of distribution to the local economy, has led to it being known as "England's Pancreas".

Places

These are the main settlements in Northamptonshire with a town charter, a population over 5,000, or which are otherwise notable.

Peterborough

The Soke of Peterborough was historically associated with Northamptonshire, as the county diocese is focused upon the cathedralmarker there. However, Peterborough had its own county council, and in 1965 was merged with the neighbouring small county of Huntingdonshiremarker. Under the Local Government Act 1972 the city of Peterboroughmarker became a district of Cambridgeshire.

History

Much of Northamptonshire’s countryside appears to have remained somewhat intractable with regards to early human occupation, resulting in an apparently sparse population and relatively few finds from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. About 500 BC the Iron Age was introduced into the area by a continental people in the form of the Hallstatt culture, and over the next century a series of hill-forts were constructed at Arburymarker Camp, Rainsborough camp, Borough Hill, Castle Dykes, Guilsboroughmarker, Irthlingboroughmarker, and most notably of all, Hunsbury Hillmarker. There are two more possible hill-forts at Arbury Hill (Badbymarker) and Thenfordmarker.

In the 1st century BC, most of what later became Northamptonshire became part of the territory of the Catuvellauni, a Belgic tribe, the Northamptonshire area forming their most northerly possession. The Catuvellauni were in turn conquered by the Romans in 43 AD.

The Roman road of Watling Streetmarker passed through the county, and an important Roman settlement, Lactodorum, stood on the site of modern-day Towcestermarker. There were other Roman settlements at Northamptonmarker, Ketteringmarker and along the Nene Valleymarker near Raundsmarker. A large fort was built at Longthorpemarker.

After the Romans left, the area eventually became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Merciamarker, and Northampton functioned as an administrative centre. The Mercians converted to Christianity in 654 AD with the death of the pagan king Penda. From about 889 the area was conquered by the Danes (as at one point was almost all of England except for Athelneymarker marsh in Somersetmarker) and became part of the Danelawmarker - with Watling Streetmarker serving as the boundary - until being recaptured by the English under the Wessexmarker king Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, in 917. Northamptonshire was conquered again in 940, this time by the Vikings of Yorkmarker, who devastated the area, only for the county to be retaken by the English in 942. Consequently, it is one of the few counties in England to have both Saxon and Danish town-names and settlements.

The county was first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1011), as Hamtunscire: the scire (shire) of Hamtun (the homestead). The "North" was added to distinguish Northampton from the other important Hamtun further south: Southamptonmarker.

Rockingham Castlemarker was built for William the Conqueror and was used as a Royal fortress until Elizabethan times. The now-ruined Fotheringhaymarker Castle was used to imprison Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution. In 1460, during the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Northamptonmarker took place and King Henry VI was captured.



George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, was born into the Washington family who had migrated to America from Northamptonshire in 1656. George Washington's great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Lawrence Washington, was Mayor of Northamptonmarker on several occasions and it was he who bought Sulgrave Manormarker from Henry VIII in 1539. It was George Washington's great-grandfather, John Washington, who emigrated in 1656 from Northants to Virginiamarker. Before Washington's ancestors moved to Sulgravemarker, they lived in Wartonmarker, Lancashiremarker.

During the English Civil War Northamptonshire strongly supported the Parliamentarian cause, and the Royalist forces suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Nasebymarker in 1645 in the north of the county. King Charles I was imprisoned at Holdenby Housemarker in 1647.

In 1823 Northamptonshire was said to "[enjoy] a very pure and wholesome air" because of its dryness and distance from the sea. Its livestock were celebrated: "Horned cattle, and other animals, are fed to extraordinary sizes: and many horses of the large black breed are reared."

Nine years later, the county was described as "a county enjoying the reputation of being one of the healthiest and pleasantest parts of England" although the towns were "of small importance" with the exceptions of Peterborough and Northampton. In summer, the county hosted "a great number of wealthy families... country seats and villas are to be seen a every step." Northamptonshire is still referred to as the county of "spires and squires" because of the numbers of stately homes and ancient churches.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, parts of Northamptonshire and the surrounding area became industrialised. The local specialisation was shoemaking and the leather industry and by the end of the 19th century it was almost definitively the boot and shoe making capital of the world. In the north of the county a large ironstone quarrying industry developed from 1850. During the 1930s, the town of Corbymarker was established as a major centre of the steel industry. Much of Northamptonshire nevertheless remains largely rural.

Corby was designated a new town in 1950 and Northampton followed in 1968. the government is encouraging development in the South Midlandsmarker area, including Northamptonshire.

Governance

National representation

Northamptonshire returns six members of Parliament:

Constituency Member of Parliament Political party
Corbymarker Phil Hope Labour
Daventrymarker Tim Boswell Conservative
Ketteringmarker Philip Hollobone Conservative
Northampton Northmarker Sally Keeble Labour
Northampton Southmarker Brian Binley Conservative
Wellingboroughmarker Peter Bone Conservative


Local government

Like most English shire counties, Northamptonshire has a two-tier structure of local government. The county has an elected county council based in Northamptonmarker, and is also divided into seven districts each with their own district or borough councils:

Council Where based
Corby Borough Councilmarker Corbymarker
Daventry District Councilmarker Daventrymarker
East Northamptonshire District Councilmarker Thrapstonmarker
Kettering Borough Councilmarker Ketteringmarker
Northampton Borough Councilmarker Northamptonmarker
South Northamptonshire District Councilmarker Towcestermarker
Borough Council of Wellingboroughmarker Wellingboroughmarker


Northamptonshire also has a large number of civil parishes. (see List of civil parishes in Northamptonshire.)

From 1993 until 2005, Northamptonshire County Council for which each of the 73 electoral divisions in the county elects a single councillor, had been held by the Labour Party; previously it had been under no overall control since 1981. The councils of the rural districts – Daventry, East Northamptonshire, and South Northamptonshire – are strongly Conservative, whereas the political composition of the urban districts is more mixed. At the 2003 local elections, Labour lost control of Kettering, Northampton, and Wellingborough, retaining only Corby. Elections for the entire County Council are held every four years – the last were held on 5 May 2005 when control of the County Council changed from the Labour Party to the Conservatives. The County Council uses a leader and cabinet executive system and has recently (from April 2006) abolished its area committees.

Northampton itself is the most populous urban district in England not to be administered as a unitary authority (even though several smaller districts are unitary). During the 1990s local government reform, Northampton Borough Council petitioned strongly for unitary status, which led to fractured relations with the County Council.

Northamptonshire is policed by Northamptonshire Police, and is covered by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Before 1974, the Soke of Peterborough was considered geographically part of Northamptonshire, although it had had a separate county council since the late nineteenth century and separate Quarter Sessions courts before then. Now part of Cambridgeshire, the city of Peterborough became a unitary authority in 1998, but it continues to form part of that county for ceremonial purposes.

Economy

Historically, Northamptonshire's main industry was the manufacture of boots and shoes; R Griggs and Co Ltd, the manufacturer of Dr. Martens, still has its UK base in Wollastonmarker near Wellingboroughmarker. Weetabix breakfast cereal is made at Burton Latimermarker near Ketteringmarker, and Carlsberg beer is brewed in Northamptonmarker. Other major employers in the county include Avon Cosmetics, Seimens, Barclaycard, Saxby Bros Ltd and Golden Wonder.North of Daventrymarker is the Daventry International Railfreight Terminalmarker; Wellingborough has a smaller railfreight depot on Finedon Road.

This is a chart of trend of the regional gross value added of Northamptonshire at current basic prices in millions of British Pounds Sterling (correct on 21 December 2005):
Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 6,139 112 2,157 3,870
2000 9,743 79 3,035 6,630
2003 10,901 90 3,260 7,551


Motor racing

The area of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and south Midlands has been described as "Motorsport Valley... a global hub" for the industry. The Brawn F1marker and Force India Formula One teams have their bases at Brackleymarker and Silverstonemarker respectively, while Cosworth and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines are also in the county at Northampton and Brixworthmarker.

International motor racing takes place at Silverstone Circuitmarker and Rockingham Motor Speedwaymarker; Santa Pod Racewaymarker is just over the border in Bedfordshire but has a Northants postcode. A study commissioned by Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd (NEL) reported that Northamptonshire's motorsport sites attract more than 2.1 million visitors per year who spend a total of more than £131 million in the county.

Education

Northamptonshire County Council operates a complete comprehensive system with 42 state secondary schools. The county's music and performing arts servicemarker provides peripatetic music teaching to schools. It also supports 15 local Saturday morning music and performing arts centres around the county and provides a range of county level music groups.

Colleges

The Tresham College of Further and Higher Educationmarker, which has campuses in Wellingboroughmarker, Ketteringmarker and Corbymarker, provides further education and offers vocational courses, GCSEs and A Level. It also offers Higher Education options in conjunction with several universities and has recently announced its intention to seek university status from the government and to open a Higher Education campus in Kettering.

University

The University of Northampton has 10,000 students and two campuses apart. It offers courses for needs and interests from foundation and undergraduate level to postgraduate, professional and doctoral qualifications. Subjects include traditional arts, humanities and sciences subjects, as well as entrepreneurship, product design and advertising.

Healthcare

Northampton has several NHS branches, the main acute NHS hospitals in the county being Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospitalmarker. In the south west of the county, the town of Brackley and surrounding villages are serviced by the Horton General Hospital in Banbury in the neighbouring county of Oxfordshire for any acute medical needs. A similar arrangement is in place in the northwest of the county for the town of Oundle and nearby villages, being serviced by Peterborough District Hospital.

Due to much expansion in the east of county, Kettering General Hospital has seen increasing pressure on its services. In January 2009, Irthlingborough was earmarked by the hospital to have a new satellite out-patient centre to provide over 48,000 appointments a year, as well as a minor injury unit - to serve East Northamptonshire.In June 2008, Anglian Water found traces of Cryptosporidium in water supplies of Northamptonshire. The local reservoir, Pitsford, was investigated to find a rabbit which had strayed into it, causing the problem. About 250,000 residents were affected; by 14 July 2008, 13 cases of cryptosporidiosis attributed to water in Northampton had been reported. Following the end of the investigation, Anglian Water lifted its boil notice for all affected areas on 4 July 2008. Anglian Water revealed that it will pay up to £30 per household as compensation for customers hit by the water crisis.

Transport

The gap in the hills at Watford Gapmarker meant that many southeast to northwest routes passed through Northamptonshire. The Roman Road Watling Streetmarker (now part of the A5) passes through here, as did later canals, railways and major roads.

Roads

Major national highways, including the M1 motorway and the A14, provide Northamptonshire with transport links, both north – south and east – west. The A43 joins the M1 to the M40, passing through the south of the county to the Junction west of Brackley. The former steelworks town of Corby is now home to large areas of warehousing and distribution companies.

Rivers and canals

The Grand Union Canal at Braunston


Two major canals – the Oxfordmarker and the Grand Unionmarker – join in the county at Braunstonmarker. Notable features include a flight of 17 locks on the Grand Union at Rothersthorpe, the canal museummarker at Stoke Bruernemarker, and a tunnel at Blisworthmarker which, at , is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network .

A branch of the Grand Union Canal connects to the River Nenemarker in Northampton and has been upgraded to a "wide canal" in places and is known as the Nene Navigation. It is famous for its guillotine locks.

For the last five years Northamptonshire County Council has been in partnership with WS Atkins, Europe's largest Engineering Consultants to manage and maintain all highway functions.

Railways

Two trunk railway routes, the West Coast Main Linemarker and the Midland Main Line traverse the county. At its peak, Northamptonshire had 75 railway stations. It now has only six, at Northamptonmarker and Long Buckbymarker (on the WCML), Ketteringmarker, Wellingboroughmarker and Corbymarker (on the Midland Main Line), along with King's Suttonmarker, which is a few metres from the boundary with Oxfordshire on the Chiltern Main Line.

Corbymarker has been described as one of the largest towns in Britain without a railway station The railway running through the town (from Kettering to Oakhammarker in Rutlandmarker) was previously used only by freight traffic and occasional diverted passenger trains that did not stop at the station. The line through Corby was once part of a main line to Nottinghammarker through Melton Mowbraymarker but the stretch between Melton and Nottingham was closed in 1968. In the 1980s, an experimental passenger shuttle service between Corby and Kettering but was withdrawn a few years later.A bus link operated by East Midlands Trains provides access to Corby from Kettering station. On 23 February 2009, a new Corby stationmarker opened providing direct hourly access to St Pancrasmarker in London.

Railway services in Northamptonshire were reduced by the Beeching Axe in the 1960s.. Closure of the line connecting Northampton to Peterboroughmarker by way of Wellingborough, Thrapstonmarker, and Oundlemarker left eastern Northamptonshire devoid of railways. Part of this route has been re-opened in 1977 as the Nene Valley Railwaymarker. A section of one of the closed lines, the Northampton to Market Harborough line, is now the Northampton & Lamportmarker heritage railway, while the route as a whole forms a part of the National Cycle Network, as the Brampton Valley Waymarker.

As early as 1897 Northamptonshire would have had its own Channel Tunnelmarker rail link with the creation of the Great Central Railway, which was intended to connect to a tunnel under the English Channelmarker . Although the complete project never came to fruition, the rail link through Northamptonshire was constructed, and had stations at Charweltonmarker, Woodford Halsemarker, Helmdonmarker, and Brackleymarker. It became part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923 (and of British Railways in 1948) before its closure in 1966.

Before nationalization of the railways in 1948 and the creation of British Railways), Northamptonshire was the base of three of the "Big Four" railway companies; the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, London and North Eastern Railway and Great Western Railway. Only the Southern Railway was not represented. After nationalisation, it is served by Virgin, London Midland, Chiltern Railways and East Midland Trains. From being served by 75 stations in 1948 and three operators, in 2009 it has 6 stations with four operators.

In June 2009 The Association of train operating companies (ATOC) recommended opening a new station on the former Irchester railway stationmarker site, for Rushdenmarker, Higham Ferrersmarker and Irchestermarker. (see Rushden Parkwaymarker and [10434]).

Buses

Most buses are operated by Stagecoach or FirstGroup Some town area routes have been named like the Corby Star or Connect Wellingborough. Unusually Wellingboroughmarker, Ketteringmarker, Corbymarker and Daventrymarker have route designations that include a letter, such as W1, W2, X7, Y4, and so on. (see Stagecoach in Northants)

Airports

Northamptonshire has Sywell Aerodromemarker, which is situated on the edge of Sywellmarker village. The airport has three grass runways, but is soon to get a concrete runway so it can be used in all weathers.

Media

The two main newspapers in the county are the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and the Northampton Chronicle & Echo.Northamptonshire has a local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Northampton, which broadcasts on two FM frequencies–104.2 MHz for the south and west of the county (including Northamptonmarker and surrounding area) and 103.6 MHz for the north of the county (including Ketteringmarker and Corbymarker). There are three commercial radio stations. Heart Northants (96.6 MHz FM), whilst AM station Gold (1557 kHz) also forms part of a national network. The former Kettering and Corby Broadcasting Company (KCBC) station originally broadcast on 1530 (later 1584) kHz AM before eventually moving to 107.4 MHz FM. Its studios and FM frequency are still in use following a merger with Wellingborough-based Connect FM which now broadcasts on 97.2 and 107.4 MHz.National digital radio is also available in Northamptonshire, though coverage is limited.In regional radio and television terms, the county is not usually considered as part of the East Midlands; unusually, it is associated with East Angliamarker, being part of the BBC East / BBC East Midlands/BBC Oxford regions and the Anglia Television region of ITV, the latter having an office adjacent to BBC Radio Northampton in Abington Street, Northampton. These services are broadcast from the Sandy Heathmarker transmitter.

In the southwest of the county - primarily Brackley and the surrounding villages, broadcasts can be received from the Oxford transmittermarker, from ITV Thames Valley and BBC Oxford with local current affairs very much focused on the Thames Valley and a lack of focus on this area of the county.

Sport

Rugby Union
Northamptonshire's most successful sporting participation is in rugby union ; its premier team, Northampton Saints, compete in the Guinness Premiership and achieved the status of European champions in 2000 by defeating Munster for the Heineken Cup, 9-8. Saints are based at the 13,600 capacity Franklin's Gardensmarker, the second largest rugby stadium in the country, only beaten by Welford Road Stadiummarker, home of the Leicester Tigers (17,498).

Football
Northamptonshire has severalf football teams, the most prominent being the League Two side Northampton Town. Other football teams include Kettering Town and Rushden & Diamonds, which are in the Conference National. Wellingborough Townmarker claims to be the sixth oldest club in the country.

Cricket
Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is presently in Division Two of the County Championship. Northamptonshire Cricket Club has recently signed overseas professionals such as Sourav Ganguly.

Motor Sport
Silverstonemarker is a major motor racing circuit, most notably used for the British Grand Prix. There is also a dedicated radio station for the circuit which broadcasts on 87.7 FM or 1602 MW when events are taking place. Rockingham Speedwaymarker near Corbymarker is the largest stadium in the UK with 130,000 seats. It is a US-style elliptical racing circuit (the largest of its kind outside of the US), and is used extensively for all kinds of motor racing events. Northamptonshire is also home to Santa Podmarker drag racing circuit, venue for the FIA European Drag Racing Championships.

Music

Northampton has had a varied musical history. Its most famous export is Bauhaus, a revered Rock band active between the late-1970s and mid-1980s.

More recently music has flourished around the now closed Soundhaus and Labour Club. The Departure were the most famous recent band. However, New Cassettes, The Retro Spankees, The Weimar Republic, Winston Echo, Columbus and Crewsoe, Kowalski and Magic Skool Bus have prospered here.

Places of interest





Annual events



See also



References

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