Category: sharedstories
This image shows a private housing development set in the Eastern District. There is a grassy area to the front of the image and some young trees. A yellow car sis in a car park in front of a cream house. Three other brown houses are shown as well.

Brookside Community Centre playgroup in the ’70s

This story is from Lynda Austin and her time working at the play group at Brookside Community Centre from 1974 until 1976. The image is of Thorplands Brook private development and is similar to the one Lynda would have moved to.

We moved to Northampton in September 1974 and I had two boys aged 2 and nearly 4. We bought a new house on a small private development at the top of Lings. At the time this was on the edge of the New Town developments. There was Lings Wood behind us and the rest was fields.

My kids had both been at play group before so I was looking for another one for them. We could walk to the Brookside Community Centre by a path between the houses and an underpass beneath Billing Brook Road. No danger at all from traffic. The play group was already running but the women in charge wanted to give up, so I became involved along with another three new people. Of the four of us three were qualified teachers.

At that time, children did not start school until the term before their fifth birthday, so play group ran every morning from 9.30am until 12noon. Children had to be three and a quarter to come but later on we ran an afternoon session for those who were over two and a half.

In each session there were five staff and 30 children, and it cost £1 a session per child. The centre had one very large room that had windows all around so it was bright and airy. There were toilets and a kitchen.

Activities were designed to increase children’s fine and gross motor control and speech, language, confidence and independence before they went to school. There were toys to ride and climb on and small group activities such as cutting and sticking, drawing, painting and model making. Activities were changed half way through the session and they always ended up with a story and singing. Very much what happens in nursey schools these days.

We were lucky in being given may materials such as paper and card by local firms such as Robert Horne. Local health visitors used to ask us to help with children who had particular needs because of their health or development requirements. At times we were also asked if we could help lonely mums who had just moved to Northampton by involving them in the sessions or in fundraising activities.

I think much of what we did has been taken over now by the fact that children start school earlier and most now go to nursery school. I did enjoy my time at play group and made friends there that I still have until today.

This image shows the Lumbertubs Estate when it was newly built. In the foreground is a shop with an orage telephone box and well kept grass between paths. To the rear of the image are rows of houses.

On the beat in the Eastern District

Thanks to Dave for submitting this story. The image is of Lumbertubs estate when it was newly built.

I was a kid growing up in the ‘60s on the Eastfield estate – then on the Eastern edge of town and I have nostalgia for the fields, spinneys and streams between there and Overstone.

As I started work, the Weston Favell Shopping Centre and Lings Forum opened. Does anyone remember the visit by Pan’s People c ‘76? Woo. I found it quite exciting with the tube bridges and the Lumbertubs Way “motorway”- which became the new border between old town and the Eastern Development in my mind.

I wasn’t bothered at the time that the small idyllic (in some eyes) market town was taking the cash to become an overspill town. As some have said, and to be Devil’s advocate, the choice was economic development and progress etc or to stay as a declining, along with the boot and shoe industry, stagnant backwater?

However, my opinion was probably changed somewhat by a decade of policing the town from 1975, mainly on the continually expanding East side. We joked at the time about architects getting prizes for estates of high-density social housing with myriad rat runs and alleys – presumably built as cheaply as possible, before “designing out crime” was a concept.

Most mornings the builders’ compounds and part-built houses seemed to have been pillaged. There appeared to be a lag in infrastructure and resources being provided to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population – one example being reliable police radio coverage: single crewed officers had lots of challenges and sometimes had a very long wait for back up to arrive.

Of course, the majority of incomers were perfectly normal hardworking folk who didn’t deserve any hostility or resentment from NIMBY locals, but cops had more contact with the minority – the imported career criminals and what we now call antisocial types and problem families. I’m not aware of any vetting and barring but imagine some authorities strove to export their problems.

In the early days though, I believe it was routine to check records to see what issues new tenants would bring. That was soon deemed to be “not cricket”, so all arrivals were unknown quantities until their first contact with the constabulary – by which time the bad apples had spoiled others in the barrel and probably filled their boots committing crime. Ultimately these were no different to the homegrown baddies but less familiar and visible, so harder to tackle.

Before Weston Favell Policy Station was opened, I spent some time in the early ’80s working as a Detective and then Beat officer at “The Arbours” or “Burrows Court Section”. A few area beat officers covering the estates and a couple of detectives were housed in a converted barn to be closer to the patch rather than Campbell Square. There were limited opening hours for the public to attend the office for interviews or mundane enquiries like making lost and found property reports, with the beat officers taking turns to staff the counter.

For major incidents, such as murders, sometimes ad hoc incident rooms were set up in vacant houses in the Eastern District and the extra cops involved were fed at the Tesco canteen at the Weston Favell Shopping Centre!

I suppose the majority of new residents came from Greater London, but I believe there were many from Birmingham and further afield eg Newcastle, Glasgow, too? Maybe the numbers arriving, and slow integration did for hometown pride and a sense of community – or maybe that was going anyway.

50 years on I’m not sure whether the Eastern expansion was good or bad for the town overall; we locals with rose tinted specs aren’t the most objective judges…

This shows a map of Northampton and surrounding areas from the 1953 series OS Mapping, before the New Town developments had started.

Teaching at Lings Upper School in the ’70s

Memories from Mr H

I taught in a large new school that opened in 1974 in the development area. Our first year started off with 80 students and by the end of the year we had over 150 students in that same school year.

Each brought their own problems to be integrated into a pecking order. We did marvellous work for which we got very little credit. At times we had the highest initial employment rate for our school leavers of any town Upper School. We had some great students who had some great achievements, but we also had the occasional very bad parenting affecting the students.

The Development Corporation did spend a lot of time cutting the grass and keeping the estates tidy. With Lings Upper, in the early stages, money was found to develop a community involvement. The initial buildings had two public footpaths going through, which were thought to enable the public walking through to be enthused at what was going on and encourage them to come back for day or evening classes. BUT what happened in a very few number of cases was parents/friends would come close to lunchtime and knock on the window where the student was being taught to show them the lunch pack and then sit on the grass awaiting the lesson to end!

Lings, being a community school, had a community office in the school, complete with its own staff team, to organise evening classes and group work around the Eastern district! They also put on Summer School Holidays Daytime Classes (Woodwork, Pottery, Drama etc) for several years, for primary and secondary aged students to pay to attend. Unfortunately, they were not very well attended.

The Community part also organised a Summer Fun Day with activities in the afternoon with an evening of a drama finishing with fireworks. On one of these Saturday evenings a teacher, Willi Gilder, assigned to the Community side of Lings, had to put on a complete water monster outfit and hide unseen in the stream between Lumbertubs and Lings and appear in time for a dramatic episode in the play! Getting out partly submerged in cold water for a specific time proved difficult but he did it! Lings itself had a Lings Player’s drama group which was a mixture of school staff/students and people from the communities it served. Led by teachers from Lings, Mr John Cartwright and Mr V Perry, these productions were of high standards and included a most beautiful local Pantomime each Christmas time. They could rival the best in town at the time!

Unfortunately for Lings and the middle school Emmanuel, they did suffer by being actually joined to the new large shopping centre, Weston Favell Centre. Anyone misbehaving up there was “always” a Lings/Emmanuel student. 90% of the time it wasn’t! Also, at lunch times it became a warm dry playground. But inside the school we had a great staff and great results with students going on to great positions – Doctors, great engineering designers, great parents, nurses, one a brilliant American Wrestling star, great armed forces members, company directors, local service workers, artists and one to become The Director of the Tate and awarded a CBE for her work. 

As a housing development however, it destroyed Northampton and lovely surrounding countryside (see attached Ordnance Survey Map) adding very little positivity to the town. When Lings was being built there were plans for another Upper School to be built somewhere on the Rectory Farm area. Now I presume that they were cancelled possibly because the Wellingborough District Council refused to sell the land to the East of the stream between Ecton and Rectory Farm. Only a presumption.

Map is in the 1953 series OS Mapping

A sign for the Road to Morocco pub, which has a cockerel on the top, set against a sky with the sun setting.


Thank you so much to Richard Lyon for sending us his modern day Northampton banger and this explanation to go with it!

After long spells living in London and Manchester I returned to the Midlands in 2004. With my family I have lived happily in Northampton ever since but still spent most of my time during the week in both London and Manchester for work. Lockdown meant that suddenly I was spending all of my time in Northampton and with the time that freed up through not having to commute I started to make music. This led me to make a new anthem for the town – the first, I think, since the classic ’60 Miles by Road or Rail’ was released back in 1980. The song is a tribute to Northampton, to the market town and a shout to remind our friends in the North, and the South, that the Midlands does exist!

Image of a large walking dragline. The sky is blue and the ground is sand coloured. The dragline has a large body with a white top half and to the right is a large boon arm. The structure is huge.

‘I Wouldn’t Necessarily Start from Here…’

A memory of growing up in Corby from 1962 – 1972, by David Robinson.

I was a teenager in Corby from 1962, when my Dad Keith’s job progression from Cransley Furnaces to Stewarts and Lloyds, via Kettering Iron and Coal, took us to the ‘steel town’; and I stayed there until I married in 1972 (currently living in Peterborough via Market Harborough and Leicester).

Back in 1962, I didn’t want to move towns, and that’s an understatement. Corby Grammar School was co-ed, a prospect which seemed challenging after 18 months at the single-sex Kettering Grammar. More to the point, my Dad’s descriptions of Corby were laced with folklore about ‘rough and dangerous’ streets, citing Studfall Avenue and Occupation Rd, where the inmates were likely to chop up their front doors for firewood’ – and the journey to my new school would take me along those very streets! (I feel compelled to add that I have now walked these roads hundreds of times, still do, and have encountered very little trouble, even when pubs and clubs were spilling out on to the streets at closing time in the 60s).

Dad’s tales had stemmed from an earlier time, and the folklore had been embellished over the years. Construction of the steelworks in the 30s had drawn workers from all over the British Isles, who would have had little to do but quench their ample thirsts on a Friday night. Corby gained a rough-and-ready image, probably exaggerated, which persists even to this day in other towns and cities: this is ironic, as – having been born in Kettering, literally within stone-throwing distance of the fearsomely-iconic ‘Prickett’s gang’ – and then moved to Corby as a teen, I agree with those who maintain that there is little to choose between the neighbouring towns.

Corby is itself legendary for its fair percentage of inhabitants with Scottish ancestry; and, to my ears at least, a ‘Corby Scots accent’ is still detectable, even three generations on, and even among those born and bred in England. On arrival in the 60s, my Dad insisted that my new friend Eddie was from north of the border, even though his father was as English as mine and his mother was Italian! I found the Scots’ loyalty to their homeland commendably dogged, including when attending a teenage party in the late sixties, where they were still repeatedly playing Andy Stewart’s ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?’ from 1961.

Our new home, replete with yellow front door and ‘piped’ television, was in Newark Drive on the Mantlefield Estate – a modern-looking layout with large areas of green where children of a broad range of ages played fairly happily (it saddened me in later decades when the children had all grown up and those areas were empty). We moved into the end of a terraced block, next door to a pleasant ‘flock’ named Lamb, all four of whose daughters would prove good-looking to men slightly younger than I (the youngest, Gillian, would emerge 35 years later as my late Mum Hilda’s hairdresser at Corby’s Glenmoor care home on Rockingham Road). That first January, their late Geordie father introduced us to the art of first-footing (‘keeping New Year’ had been largely unknown to us in Kettering). Bob went on to try a range of jobs, including training as a bus driver. One day, he saw a big cardboard box in the road; as he swerved the vehicle around the obstacle, he was aghast to see a child pop out of the box!

But the first neighbour we met was the late Mrs Delbridge, from two doors down, as I accompanied Mum and my younger brothers, Malcolm (8) and Philip (4), in a search for Greenhill Rise, the ‘local’ shops, which were actually quite a walk away. It was here I reacquainted myself with ‘MAD’, the American humour magazine (1952-present) which I had been forbidden by parents to buy any more of in Kettering. The newsagents had MAD paperbacks reprinting older American articles which re-whetted my appetite. Why do I say all this? Because I went on to write and draw for the British version of MAD from 1978 to its closure in 1994 (all the while holding down a ‘proper’ day job in IT).

The Delbridges hailed from the far northern coast of Scotland, and Mum struggled to understand their strong dialect; what’s more, Mrs Delbridge later revealed that she had the same problem with our accent! Stanley Delbridge was a year older than me and attended the Beanfield secondary school (since sadly demolished). Stan was missing living on the coast and joined the sea cadets. Stan tended towards Elvis, as seen at the local Odeon in ‘Blue Hawaii’, while my slightly-younger taste took me via the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers to America’s Beach Boys and Byrds. When Stan joined me at our school fete in the mid-60s, some girls in my class asked who the ‘hunk in the blue suit’ was! He was keen to join the police, an ambition later also realised by his middle sister Marjorie, whom I once or twice helped with her maths homework. She was later featured in a Daily Mirror headline as ‘WPC Gorgeous’! I lost touch with Stan, but I would bet a tenner that he looks the image of his late dad, as they were ‘like two peas’.

Among the local sights was the ‘walking’ dragline excavator which our family would very occasionally walk out to see on a Sunday afternoon; note how easily pleased we were in those days! We arrived in Corby in time for the traditional Pole Fair, the historic event which, since 1862, has taken place only once every 20 years (the next being due in 2022). The eponymous pole is a greasy, perpendicular one, up which town worthies traditionally clamber in a quest to grab a cash prize at the top. In 1962, I recall that a young lad aged around 11 was the victor, after older men had been trying and failing, all day.

For me, the Francis Frith photo collection of black and white images, where all the vehicles seem like Dinky toys, captures Corby perfectly for that era. The town centre’s distinctive astronomical clock, decorated with moons and stars, appears faithfully in all photos since, rather like the clock in the ‘Back to the Future’ films. Frith’s frontal shot of Corby Grammar School, now sadly demolished and replaced, has become definitive. I was there till 1966, having been part of the small stream that was accelerated to O and A Level GCE (i.e. we missed a year. While I’m not sure this did me any good, I’m not sure another year of messing about would have helped, either).

The definitive headmaster was John William Rolfe Kempe, who had been a fighter pilot during the War – twice mentioned in dispatches – and a high-profile mountaineer, intrinsic in the conquering of Kanchenjunga, the ‘runner-up’ to Everest. Neither of these was evident at the time (in a way, I wish he’d told us, as this would have added flesh to the bones of someone whom I’d regarded as a cultural opposite); although an ‘open air’ approach to education was favoured, gleaned from Gordonstoun school (Prince Charles’s ‘Colditz with kilts’) at which John Kempe had taught maths (and where he would go on in 1967 to become headmaster at the time Princes Andrew and Edward were pupils). Hence Outward Bound, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), canoe-building and weeks in the Peak District (at Derbyshire’s Ilam and Castleton) were highly regarded.

Among our Latin masters was Colin Dexter, who went on to create the Inspector Morse novels. To be honest, he frightened us to death at the time, but many of us agree that he was an excellent teacher. Three of us met up with Colin in Oxford later in the century, and I later sent Colin a short story from which he borrowed the twist-in-the-tail ending for one of his own tales: my name actually appeared in the story (although my friend Eddie Andrews went one better, appearing in one of the Morse novels as a Scene of Crime Officer, his actual job).

As with most of us, ages 12 to 18 were formative years. I would travel with friends on the bus to watch pop and rock acts at Kettering Granada, including the Hollies, the Searchers, The Who and more. Corby itself had strong local groups, some of whose members were at school with me, including Roger Buckby in The Invaders; and Jim Gaffney and John Hemmings (plus Rod Crozier, initially) in the Rising Sons, whose drummer was Rog’s younger brother Pete.

From c1965-67, I was singer-guitarist in a music group named ‘Frequency 209′, whose one gig at the Air Cadets’ Christmas party failed to trouble even specialised local record books, having begun well but foundering by the fourth or fifth number. The rest of the line-up comprised Grammar School lads Dave McAlpine (drums), Dave Bell (bass), Chas Stewart (rhythm and bass), all of whom attended the Covenanters youth group at the Baptist Church on Rowlett Rd – times which I enjoyed, despite having been agnostic for most of the time since. Later Dave Bennett joined us on vocals. We practised at the dark-wooden Air Cadets’ hut next to the so-named ‘old tech’ on Rockingham Road, then in another prefabricated building at the top of West Glebe (neither building seems to have survived the intervening half-century).

This space was secured for us by Dave Sykes, younger son of high-profile Corby councillor Tom Sykes, an unabashed left-winger whose day job was delivering mail for the GPO (Sykes Court, a retirement housing centre in Corby, is named after him); and with whom John Kempe, his political opposite, had a number of run-ins over comprehensive schooling, etc. (When, in her ‘later career’, my Mum worked as a tea-lady and cleaner at the Corby Council offices, she was taken aback by the aftermath of the Christmas parties, observing that the ‘Quiet ones were the worst!’)

Dave’s enterprising approach matched his father’s verve: at school, we produced a ‘pirate’ school newspaper. This publication sprang from the creative efforts of my friend Graham McPhee and I, begun in the third year, and Dave managed to persuade the nearby Smiths factory to donate cartons of crisps as free gifts! The younger Sykes was eventually lured away from Corby by the ‘bright lights’ of Manchester, where he was quickly promoted to social secretary of the university students’ union, booking acts like The Who, Soft Machine and the early Slade. Dave was involved in the south Manchester music industry until his untimely demise due to illness in 2009.

I left school in ’66, rightly or wrongly taking an office job at Stewarts and Lloyds in their computer department, mainly because I passed an aptitude test; I had little interest in the technical side, and ex-colleagues will probably agree that my thoughts were elsewhere, as my time was spent drawing a stream of cartoons, hopefully for their entertainment (one of which was my first published effort in the late, lamented _Wrestler_ magazine: the drawing, which I’m not especially proud of because it was drawn in black biro, is still visible on the web).

In 1967 I started to attend The Stables, a youth club tucked away in a wooden building behind houses on Rockingham Road, a fair number of whose members worked at Chester’s, the printer in the village. The club conformed to the record-player-and-table-tennis norm, but was a fair free facility for the time. Among its benefits, I met Susan, whose elder brother Steve I sort-of-knew from school. Sue and I would marry five years later at the Parish Church, which as one modern author wrote, ‘makes up for all the dumb things I ever did’. We were weekly visitors to the Odeon cinema on Rockingham Road, enjoying ‘The Graduate’, ‘Butch Cassidy’ and other examples of 60s kitsch (although the longest queue I had ever seen was probably for Cliff in ‘Summer Holiday’). The cinema was re-named the Rutland in 1969, with strange offerings including so-so documentaries like ‘Love in Our Time’ and the Swedish ‘I, a Woman’.

To this day, I travel back to Corby to visit in-laws, still passing by the 8-storey office block where I once worked (I use the term loosely), although its ‘brutalist’ design is now threatened with demolition.

Image description and credit:

This picture shows a large walking dragline which operated in the UK between the 1950s and 1980s, similar to the one mentioned in this story. The picture was taken in ~July/August 1986 by Mr D King. For an idea of scale, the photographer’s children, aged around six and ten at the time of capture, can be seen standing in front of the machine towards its rear. This picture is of W1400 N`2 which worked Cowthick quarry oppsite the steelworks next to Weldon. Although similar to Sundew, the boom is 26ft longer and over 200 tons of pig iron ballast were used to balance this legthened boom.

Link to source:

A black and white photo of Auntie Em. She is a white woman wearing a bonnet style hat. Her dark hair curls out from underneath and she is wearing a shirt and a pearl necklace.

Errol Flynn & Auntie Em

Thanks to Kay Medway for submitting this poem recounting her memories of her Auntie Em working in the theatre in Northampton in the ’50s and making a famous friend along the way!

Today how quickly

a conversation calls on your memories & the

family stories long since told

by a Great Aunt both Theatrical and respected.

As if to awaken the unending family curiosities.

As if to pique a young daughter’s interests

in an uncertain time. I listen

as quickly as if the words we will transcribe to pages.

You beam and recall the actor Errol Flynn

was once alongside your great aunt Em

forming a friendship and a bond

in our hometown that now carefully reawakens.

I am there when I listen.

The 1950s and 1960s, with

Great Aunt Em at Northampton’s Royal Theatre

finding her work as an usher and dressmaker.

Before the wondrous years, there was

Her boarding house, her family home,

the portrait of a friendship takes shape.

Auntie Em always well-liked and with the young actor

Errol Flynn as a friend. 

We are back to the start of

An acting career, learning lines, and visiting a home.

A good friend with even a holiday to Scotland.

These stories all rekindle my love of

The Golden Age of Hollywood.

The scenes still etched in my mind with pride. 

And now to learn the familiar, something new

spanning generations, that reassures us

In theatre, we always find our home for all.   

Derek Tompkins is a tall white man standing next to a stone statue of a woman with a dog next to her. He is hugging the statue and kissing its lips. He is wearing a suit and the statue is quite old with one arm missing.

Bauhaus – Memories from the Recording Studio

My name is Mrs Mavis Tompkins and I’m the widow of the late Derek Tompkins, who owned Shield Recording Studios in Kettering, and Beck studios in Wellingborough.

It was my husband who recorded Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosis’s Dead in one take at Beck, and also several of their L.P.’s and singles, both at Beck and Rockfield. We became great friends of the group and I am still in touch with David and Kevin Haskins.

I remember when Derek went to Rockfield Studio’s in Monmouthshire, to engineer several of Bauhaus’s recordings. They liked to think of him as a kind of Guru, mentor, and father figure! We took our caravan, and it was a nightmare to negotiate the long and winding dirt road up to the farmhouse, with a very steep gradient. We dined each night with the boys in the farmhouse, together with much hilarity and wine.

It was here that they decided to buy the hearse, and Derek was not pleased as they were tearing around the countryside in it while they were supposed to be recording. One time at Rockfield, they were sitting in our car, meditating and theorising on life with the help of certain substances, when smoke began to pour from below the seats. They had set fire to the carpet!

I used to sit and sketch the farm buildings and David J was very kind in his criticism of my attempts. I wasn’t present when they recorded Bela, but I gather it was a magical experience; they were thrilled that even if Derek was a ‘father figure’ in his late fifties, and unconventional in his attire, (old carpet slippers and baggy trousers, cigarette butt
stuck to his lips) he was definitely on their page and knew exactly how to interpret their needs.

Many more details of the way Derek was involved with Bauhaus, and later Love and Rockets, can be found in the following books: Bauhaus Undead by Kevin Haskins, Who Killed Mister Moonlight by David J and Bauhaus and Beyond by Ian Shirley. Both David and Kevin have contributed to my recent books Back Street Genius, and about to be printed C-c-c-come ‘an ‘ave a listen.

The photo provided is the original black and white photo I took of Derek, which was subsequently colourised and used  by Love and Rockets – formed by Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins when Bauhaus split up – for the front cover of their 1988 album ‘Lazy’.

I have recently turned 89, but still very much enjoy their music.

This is a picture of Jeanette Muddiman being held as a child by her Mother as she meets the Wombles mascot. They are at Weston Favell Shopping Centre. She is wearing a white top and has red shoes. Her Mum is wearing a navy blue leather mac. They are standing next to the Womble and Jeanette is touching its head with her left hand.

The Wombles at Weston Favell Shopping Centre

I was 18-months old when my Mum took me and my brother to the grand opening of a brand-new shopping centre on the outskirts of Northampton in 1974, Weston Favell Shopping.

My Mum recalls, “The opening of the shopping centre was in the local newspaper and advertised that the Wombles character mascot would be there”. The Wombles were hugely popular at the time with a children’s stop motion animation TV series and the band The Wombles had a 1974 chart-topping hit ‘Remember You’re a Womble’.

My Mum said that we drove to the shopping centre on the opening day and parked in the huge car park at the front of the building. She recalls that she could not believe the scale of this new building. It was like nothing she had seen before in her words: “Back in those days there wasn’t any out-of-town retail parks, so it was very exciting to be able to park up and visit so many shops under one roof”.

My Mum remembers once we were inside the shopping centre looking up at the enormous modern vaulted ceilings and down at the black marbled shiny floor, she said plants and foliage embellished the columns and pillars and it all looked so modern.

She said that a lot of people turned out for the opening and that the atmosphere was wonderful. We queued for some time to have our photograph taken with the Wombles, but it was well worth the wait.

Although I was too young to recall the opening day, I remember lots of other trips to the shopping centre throughout my childhood. It always felt like a big day out, a treat when my Mum would say “We’re going to Weston Favell today”.

Now 47 years on I am proud to say that I work at the shopping centre within the management team and love playing my part in helping this generation of families make happy memories whilst visiting the centre.

Nearly five decades on and Weston Favell Shopping continues to serve its community and host fun club events for local children including meet and greet character mascot days, just not the Wombles!

By Janette Muddiman (Johnson)

A black and white photo of a single deck bus leaving Derngate Bus station in 1971.

Bus journeys in Northampton

Approx. 1970. The memory of catching a double decker bus with my mum, that would drive from the town centre up to the Weston Favell area and drive around the outer roads so that the passengers could view the foundations of the newest build houses. I seem to remember the new roads were part laid too. I was a child at the time and even the foundations looked modern, the outlined gardens seemed massive too.

Even as a child you could tell this was going to be the start of a kind of new phase for Northampton, it just felt modern and as if it was a new start.

But I remember not many people being on those buses.

My second memory is of the Derngate bus station actually situated in Derngate, this was before the Greyfriars bus station replaced it on a new location in 1976. I used to go riding at the Farm which was located where Wootton fields is now, the actual farm house and stables probably would have been where the Wootton Fields shops are located, there is a nursery I think there too now.

Back to the bus station – I liked going there because it was an adventure. My mum and me would get a green bus because we were going into what was the countryside, so green buses were the county ones, red buses were town I believe and green buses would be travelling to the outskirts or into the villages. There seemed a definite divide of town and countryside at that time, before the proposed housing started to be built in the East Hunsbury, Camp Hill, Mereway and Wootton Fields area. These areas were fields and I remember the top of the London road and the Rothersthorpe road being just fields.

Photo Credit: thanks to Northampton Transport Heritage

An Google Earth of a roundabout in Corby, incorporating a layby at the entrance to the old steelworls site.

The Politics of Roundabouts in Corby!

I worked for Northampton Borough Council from 1967-73 when the town was expanding. In 1973 I moved to the County Council in the County Surveyors Depot and one of the design jobs we had was to design a roundabout and link roads into the Corby Steel works from the A427, current image shown above.

At the time we were sworn to secrecy as we were told the Steel Works were to be closed completely, so we had to go along with this, and I had to design the roundabout on the map to include an entrance into the steelworks at the top left of the roundabout. The southern leg of the A43 was designed and built at a later date but was also provided for by the size of the original roundabout.

When the road/roundabout was built, the entrance was also built, and can still be seen and is used as a layby, built to keep the locals happier in assuming the works were continuing without causing any political unrest in the area, but we knew what was about to happen.

A bit of a jigsaw in the life of Corby.

By Neil Farmer

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