My parents moved to Hunsbury in the eighties when it was still a building site, and I’ve grown up in the town. I remember trips to the Oven Door bakery in the Grosvenor centre to buy iced buns and sausage rolls, and staring at the swinging monkey in the shoe shop window on Abington Street.
Even though I’ve stayed living in Northampton my relationship with the town centre has become more distant and I rarely go in anymore. I work in Milton Keynes so if I shop it tends be there. Having said that though, in recent years it’s become obvious that despite its woes of losing a lot of big name shops from its high street, Northampton’s strength is in its independent shops and cafe’s. If the town centre has a reason to visit anymore after losing the likes of BHS, M&S (no doubt Debenhams will follow sooner or later), it’s these shops and they need every bit of support to stop Northampton turning into a total ghost town.
I never knew much about Northampton apart from the Royal and Derngate theatre being there. It’s one of those places you don’t hear much about if you live further afield. The show 60 Miles by Road or Rail was an entertaining insight into the rich history of the place. I can image you could take one section and make a whole branching off story about how the various developments of the town affected individuals and their families. It did make me wonder why I’d never heard any of those stories before. It did make me more curious about exploring the town.
My first knowing visit to Northampton took place when I was a student in London and I wanted to use my new railcard. I have a distinct memory of walking to All Saints’ Church from the station on a rather dull day…
Litlle did I know at the time that my career would bring me back to Northamptonshire and that I would settle there.
Although I don’t live in Northampton, it has always been my preferred destination for shopping, as well as for leisure. I’m also still discovering its fascinating history. Over the many years some things have certainly changed for the better, such as the Cultural Quarter, with the Derngate, not even built when I started living in Northamptonshire.
It’s been sad, however, to see Abington Street metamorphose over the years, with the loss of individual shops with character, such as Gordon Scott, who shod all my children. Beatties and BHS were always handy for a meal or cup of tea, too. Beyond that, Lawrence’s Cafe in St Giles’s Street, always a cosy refuge on shopping trips, has closed, the Chronicle and Echo building has also gone, leaving an empty site, as has the old bus station (which I didn’t have particularly strong feelings about, unlike many).
Perhaps what’s happening with the County Council epitomises the wider evolution; does Northampton know where it’s going, or even where it wants to go – I hope
I feel a bit sad when I see Northampton town centre now compared to how I remember it from when I was a child. I don’t know if it’s just a growing up thing but it used to feel like a really exciting destination (to be fair, I lived in a village at the time) and it would be a ‘proper day out’. Now I tend to avoid the town centre – there’s so many shops shutting and it feels like anything independent and original doesn’t last. There’s not much I’m really interested in coming in for. Just the theatre and maybe the some of the quirky shops on St Giles. Things seem to move in cycles though, so maybe at some point people will start coming back to the town centre and it will get regenerated into the place to be again.
Main thing I remember about the Northampton Development Corporation was their bright green logo everywhere, like acidic lime colour. They had huge billboards all over the eastern side of town, and offices set up in the market square too.
My main memory of Northampton is as a kid going into town shopping on a Saturday with my mum and brother and sister. Getting the bus into Greyfriars and spending a few hours in the Grosvenor centre and diving on the huge pile of cuddly toys in the Disney store. We’d get pick n mix from Woolworths and spend ages going around all the market stalls. Since growing up I don’t really go into town to shop anymore, and my mum certainly doesn’t. It’s just not the same.
I have recently returned home from years of studying (years and years) and how much has changed! The town centre feels like a shell of what it once was but the people are just the same (in a great way).
I have met so many young creatives, new businesses and interesting people – I just wish the centre was more welcoming and exciting.
Can’t believe the council… what a sham. Let’s make this wonderful town better because we deserve better!
My name is David and I was born and raised in Northampton, one of my passions is the history of Northamptonshire as a county and it’s links to the most important war ever to take place in England. I would like to share that history with as many other people as possible.
I have a love of history in general and a particular interest in the English civil war period which has shaped to a large extent the country of my birth.
It’s my belief that not enough visitors to our shores know about the county and what it can offer in terms of the beauty of the countryside and the number and variety of historic houses it has within it’s boundaries.
London, personally I love to visit the city, outside of York it’s probably my favourite English city and its a magnet to visitors from abroad and it’s easy to see why, rich in history, fantastic venues to eat and see shows, world class museums, glorious parks, a melting pot of people, it’s got the lot.
And if your time in the UK is limited a lot people make the decision to see London and not venture elsewhere, which given what I’ve pointed out above is understandable.
London’s success as a place to visit means other less well known destinations lose out and that’s a shame not only for the alternative destination but also the visitor because they are missing the opportunity to experience something equally interesting and stimulating without the hectic pace.
Take my own county Northamptonshire, it’s only an hours travel from London but you could very well be in another world, fantastic countryside, oodles of history ranging from the time of the Saxons, we even had our own great fire in 1675, great architecture such as intriguing follies and historic houses with beautiful gardens, old village pubs (some very old) offering some great beers, forget the image of weak and warm British beer, those days are long gone.
Northamptonshire has produced many talented people who have left an indelible mark on our country and the wider world, Poets, Composers, Scientists, Writers, even a Prime Minister of England, the only one to be assassinated.