Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Status:||Ceremonial & Administrative County|
- Admin. council
- Total (2002 est.)
- Admin. council
270 / km²
|Northamptonshire County Council|
|Members of Parliament|
|Tim Boswell, Tony Clarke, Phil Hope, Sally Keeble, Phil Sawford, Paul Stinchcombe|
Northamptonshire (abbreviated Northants) is a landlocked county in central England with a population of 629,676 (2001 census). It has borders with Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Cambridgeshire (inc. Peterborough), Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire (inc. Milton Keynes), Oxfordshire and England's shortest county boundary (19 metres) with Lincolnshire. The county town is Northampton.
The Soke of Peterborough was historically associated with Northamptonshire. Northamptonshire has often been called the county of "squires and spires" due to its wide variety of historic buildings and country houses.
By the standards of the English Midlands, Northamptonshire is an upland county. It includes the watershed of the Severn and The Wash. Several important rivers have their sources in the north west of the county, these include the River Nene (to The Wash) and the "Warwickshire Avon" (to the Severn). In the 1820s it was boasted that not a single brook, however insignificant, flows into it from any other district".
Northampton is by far the largest town in the county, with a population of 194,122, this is followed by Corby (pop 53,741), Wellingborough (pop 48,428), Kettering (pop 48,025), Rushden (pop 25,849} and Daventry (pop 22,367). The population of the county is concentrated in a north-south central band, including the four largest towns, corresponding to districts 2, 4, 5 & 6 on the map. The west (districts 1 & 3) and east (district 7) are predominately rural with small towns and many villages. It is a long, thin, county (moreso with the Soke of Peterborough), running from the south-west to the north-east.
These are the main settlements in Northamptonshire with a town charter, a population over 5,000, or are for some reason notable. For a complete list of settlements see List of places in Northamptonshire
- Brackley, Braunston, Brixworth,
- Long Buckby
- Naseby, Northampton
- Raunds, Rushden
- Towcester, Thrapston
- Weedon Bec, Wellingborough
Main article History of Northamptonshire
Pre-Celtic and Celtic peoples settled in the region, and there are some traces of Roman settlements and roads. Most notably the Watling Street passed through the county, and there was an important Roman settlement called Lactodorum on the site of modern day Towcester, Roman settlement existed at the site of Northampton, and along the Nene Valley near Raunds.
After the Romans left, the area became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and Northampton functioned as an administrative centre. The area was overrun by the Danes (Vikings) in the 9th century and briefly became part of Danelaw, but later re-claimed by the Saxons.
Later Rockingham Castle was built for William the Conqueror and was used as a Royal fortress until Elizabethan times. The now-ruined Fotheringhay castle was used to imprison Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution.
During the English Civil War Northamptonshire strongly supported the Parliamentarian cause, and the Royalist forces suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Naseby in 1645 in the north of the county. King Charles I was later imprisoned at Holdenby House.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, parts of Northamptonshire became industrialised. Northampton and its surrounding areas, gained a sizeable shoe making and leather industry. And in the north of the county a large ironstone quarrying industry developed. In the 20th century the town of Corby was established in the 1930s as a major centre of the steel industry. Much of Northamptonshire remains largely rural.
Like most English shire counties, Northamptonshire has a two-tier structure of local government. The county has an elected county council based in Northampton, and is also divided into seven districts each with their own district councils. These districts are : Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire, Wellingborough (see map). The district council offices for East Northamptonshire are based in Thrapston, and those for South Northamptonshire are based in Towcester.
The County Council is presently controlled by the Labour Party, whereas the Conservative Party has a majority on most of the District Councils. The County Council uses a leader and cabinet executive system, currently led by Roy Mayhew . The County Council has six area committees - four for Northampton and one each corresponding to the other districts.
Elections for the entire County Council are held every four years - the next are due to be held on May 5, 2005. Each of the 73 electoral division in the county elects a single councillor. Northamptonshire also has a number of civil parishes.
Northamptonshire County Council has been held by the Labour Party since 1993 - before then 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 composition in the urban districts is more mixed. At the 2003 local elections, Labour lost control of Kettering, Northampton, and Wellingborough, retaining only Corby.
Northampton itself is somewhat unusual, it is the most populous urban district in England that is not administered as a unitary authority (and several smaller districts are unitary). During the 1990s local government reform, Northampton Borough Council petitioned strongly for this, which led to fractured relations with the County Council.
Northamptonshire is policed by Northamptonshire Police , and is covered by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service .
Prior to 1974, the Soke of Peterborough was considered part of Northamptonshire for ceremonial purposes, although it had had a separate county council since the 19th century, and separate Quarter Sessions courts before then. It is now usually considered part of Cambridgeshire.
The gap in the hills at Watford Gap meant that many routes passed through Northamptonshire. The Roman Road Watling Street (now part of the A5) passed through here, and later canals, railways and major roads.
Major roads such as the M1 motorway and the A14 provide Northamptonshire with valuable transport links on both North-South and East-West routes. The former steelworks town of Corby is now home to large areas of warehousing and distribution companies.
Two trunk railway routes, the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line traverse the county. At its peak, Northamptonshire had 75 railway stations. It now has only five, at Northampton and Long Buckby (on the WCML), Kettering and Wellingborough (on the Midland Main Line), along with King's Sutton, which is a matter of yards from the boundary with Oxfordshire on the London-Banbury line.
Corby is said to be the largest town in England without a railway station. A railway runs through the town (from Kettering to Oakham in Rutland), but is currently for freight only. The line through Corby was once part of a main line to Nottingham via Melton Mowbray but the Nottingham stretch was closed and the line no longer goes anywhere useful. In the 1980s, an experimental passenger shuttle service was tried between Corby and Kettering, but this proved unsuccessful. A bus link operated by Midland Mainline provides access to Corby from Kettering station.
Before nationalisation of the Railways in 1948 and the creation of British Rail, Northamptonshire was home to 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.
Northamptonshire was hit hard by the Beeching Axe in the 1960s. Of the most notable closures, was the Northampton to Peterborough line which connected Northampton to Wellingborough, Thrapston, Oundle and onwards to Peterborough, its closure left eastern Northamptonshire devoid of railways.
Northamptonshire had its own Channel Tunnel rail link with the creation of the Great Central Railway in 1897, which was intended to connect to a tunnel under the English Channel. Although this project never came to fruition, the link was constructed, and had stations in Northamptonshire at Charwelton, Woodford Halse, Helmdon and Brackley. It became part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923 and later British Railways in 1948 before its closure in 1966.
Rivers and Canals
Two major canals - the Oxford and the Grand Union - join in the county at Braunston. There is a flight of 17 locks on the grand Union at Rothersthorpe, a canal museum at Stoke Bruerne, and a tunnel at Blisworth, which at 3076 yards (2813m) long is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network.
A branch of the Grand Union Canal connects to the River Nene in Northampton and has been upgraded to a "wide canal" in places and is known as the Nene Navigation and is famous for its guillotine locks.
Northamptonshire has a local BBC radio station, BBC Radio Northampton - which broadcasts on two frequencies - 104.2 FM for the south and west of the county (including Northampton and surronding area) and 103.6 FM for the North of the county (including Kettering and Corby). There are three commercial radio stations. Northants 96 (96.6 FM) is part of the GWR Group, whilst Classic Gold (1557 AM) is also part of a national network.
The former Kettering and Corby Broadcasting Company (KCBC) station originally broadcast on 1530 AM (later 1584 AM) before eventually moving to 107.4 FM. Its FM frequency and studios are still in use following a merger with Wellingborough-based Connect FM which now broadcasts on 97.2 and 107.4 FM.
National digital radio is also available in Northamptonshire but coverage is limited. As of 2005 a multiplex for local DAB stations has yet to be set up.
The county is not usually considered as part of the East Midlands for regional television coverage, instead being associated with East Anglia for the BBC East region, and the Anglia television ITV region, the latter having studios adjacent to BBC Radio Northampton in Abington Street, Northampton. These services are broadcast from the Sandy Heath transmitter.
Northamptonshire is home to a number of soccer teams, notably the professional sides Rushden and Diamonds F.C. and Northampton Town F.C., who are both currently in Football League Two. Other teams include Kettering Town F.C., who are in the Conference North, but have been higher.
Northamptonshire is more succesful in rugby union, where Northampton Saints are in the Zurich Premiership (the highest league). Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is presently in Division Two of the County Championship.
Places of interest
- British Grand Prix at Silverstone
- Burghley Horse Trials
- Crick Boat Show
- Hollowell Steam Rally
- Northampton Balloon Festival
- Rothwell Fair
- Fletton House
- Grendon Hall
- Knuston Hall
- Moulton College
- Tresham College
- University College Northampton
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