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Episode 16: Northamptonshire

Where is Northamptonshire?

In our sixteenth episode, we referred to loads of interesting Northamptonshire-based things - and promised links and photos, so here they are:

The Battle of Naseby

The Battle of Naseby was fought on 14 June 1645 during the British Civil Wars. Sir Thomas Fairfax, Captain-General of Parliament's New Model Army, led his troops to victory over King Charles I.

Charles escaped, but the destruction of his forces meant that his ultimate defeat was simply a question of time.

A sombre procession of spectral men has been sighted numerous times, pushing carts down an old drovers’ road on the site.

In one sighting from 1949, a young couple taking a rest from a cycle ride was alarmed by the appearance of a group of dishevelled looking men clothed in leather jerkins and high boots, who disappeared promptly in front of their eyes.

In another incident, the sound of cannon fire was heard at the site, though nothing was to be seen for miles around…

Hunsbury Hill

Hunsbury Iron Age Hill Fort dates back to between the 7th and 4th centuries BC. The internal rampart at Hunsbury appears to have been burnt down and vitrified – such forts are rare in England.

Hunsbury Iron Age hill fort can be found in the middle of Hunsbury Hill Country Park. It is a scheduled monument currently on the “at risk” register.

The writing of a Conservation Management Plan followed by a successful Heritage Lottery bid submitted by the Friends of West Hunsbury Parks means that over the past year events and surveys have been carried out in the hillfort and surrounding parkland.

It is an important archaeological site and two surveys have been carried out in 1998 and 2008 and made recommendations which were never carried out because of a lack of funding.

Rockingham Castle

The earliest records of Rockingham is stated in the Domesday Book in 1066, which states that the site was held by the Saxon lord Bovi.

The Roman colonisers established a mining community, and remains of Roman coins and tiles have been found to the north of the Castle providing evidence for these settlements.

William The Conqueror, the new King of England, set about constructing a large number of stone castles, and recognised the site of Rockingham as a base for administration and hunting.

Originally, the Castle followed a standard Norman pattern with an outer bailey, curtain wall, square towers and a stone keep.

Edward I spent vast sums of money modernising the castle, adding windows and fireplaces into the Great Hall, and building a bedroom into the eaves for Queen Eleanor. He even added the surviving round towers, replacing the original square ones.

Commander Sir Michael Saunders, nephew of Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, arrived in Rockingham in 1971, alongside his wife Georgina and their children.

In 1999, Michael handed over the Castle and Estate to his eldest son James who continues to use it as his family home along with his wife Elizabeth, and their three children Eleanor, Beatrice and Henry.

The Great Fire of Northampton

The Great Fire of Northampton occurred in September 1675 in Northampton in Northamptonshire, England.

The blaze was caused by sparks from an open fire on St. Mary’s Street, near Northampton Castle. The fire devastated the town centre, destroying about 700 of the town's 850 buildings, including All Saints church, in six hours.

Kirby Hall

Kirby Hall, near Gretton in Northamptonshire, was built from Barnack stone between 1570-1575, for Sir Humphrey Stafford, whose motto, ‘Je seray loyal,’ and the date 1572, were to be seen over the porch of the great hall, and on some of the panels of the parapet one noted the inscription, ‘Hum Fre Sta fard.’

It had one-time represented the high-water mark of Renaissance building, before it degenerated into heaviness and over ornamentation.

Canons Ashby House

Canons Ashby was home to the Dryden family for over 400 years and has a rich history.

The name is made up of ‘Ashby’ meaning ‘farmstead’ and ‘Canons’ from the group of canons who founded the Augustinian Priory in the 12th century.

Within Canons Ashby's parkland is a mysterious mound, previously believed to be remains of the medieval village, geophysical surverys suggested there may actually be a great deal more going on.

Archaelogical digs were undertaken in 2014 and there is conjecture the mound could be home to the foundations of a Norman motte and bailey castle, located not far from the site of the medieval village.

The canons who founded the original Augustinian Priory at Canons Ashby, were a small order of no more than 13.

The Augustinians were ordained priests, who worked amongst the lay community with pastoral care part of their ethos.

In 1551, John Dryden from Cumberland married Elizabeth Cope, whose father owned the Canons Ashby estate. John and Elizabeth were given Wylkyn’s Farm by Sir John Cope.

John and Elizabeth built the tower house sometime after 1551 and then eventually joined the farmhouse to the tower house, creating the H-shaped manor house.

Lyveden New Bield

Set in the heart of rural Northamptonshire, Lyveden is a remarkable survivor of the Elizabethan age.

Begun by Sir Thomas Tresham to symbolise his Catholic faith, Lyveden remains incomplete and virtually unaltered since work stopped on his death in 1605.

There are tranquil moats, viewing terraces and an Elizabethan orchard to explore, as well as an enigmatic garden lodge covered in religious symbols. The full extent of Sir Thomas's symbolic design remains unexplained to this day.

Rushton Triangular Lodge

This delightful triangular building was designed by Sir Thomas Tresham (father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters) and constructed between 1593 and 1597.

It is a testament to Tresham’s Roman Catholicism: the number three, symbolising the Holy Trinity, is apparent everywhere.

There are three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side.

On the entrance front is the inscription ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ (‘there are three that give witness’), a Biblical quotation from St John’s Gospel referring to the Trinity.

It is also a pun on Tresham’s name; his wife called him ‘Good Tres’ in her letters.

Apethorpe Palace

Among England's greatest country houses, Apethorpe Palace holds a particularly important place in English history because of its ownership by, and role in, entertaining Tudor and Stuart monarchs.

Elizabeth I once owned the building, which she had inherited from Henry VIII. For a period, Apethorpe was a royal palace lived in regularly by James I and Charles I.

James I so loved Apethorpe that he personally contributed to its extension to make it more suitable for his 'princely recreation' and 'commodious entertainment', particularly for hunting in the nearby royal forest of Rockingham.

The resulting series of state rooms, including the King's Bedchamber and the impressive Long Gallery, is one of the most complete to survive from the Jacobean period.

Apethorpe Palace is a private residence but is open to the public by pre-booked guided tours during July and August.

The Drumming Well at Oundle

The earliest account of the Drumming Well is to be found in a letter of 29 February 1667/8 written from Coventry by Ralph Hope to 'Joseph Williamson Esqr. Secretary to the R'. Honble the Ld Arlington at Whitehall'.

This reads:

"...Here is much discourse of a strange well at Oundle in Northamptonsh: wherein has bene heard by many a kind of Druming in maner of a March for ye most part; and is said to be very Ominous, haveing bene heard heretofore, and always precedes some great accident.

"I wrote toth towne for an account of it, from whence I was informd of ye certaine truth of it, that it beat for about a fortnigh the ktter end oth last moneth and the begining of this, and in the very same maner was heard before the King's death, the Death of Crumwell, the King's coming in, the fire of London; this I had from a good hand, an inhabitant there: ye well is in the yard of one Dobbs..."

The Ruins of St John The Baptist Church

Boughton is a chocolate-boxy village just north of Northampton where for decades the wealthy of that town have chosen to live. Today it is threatened by its remorseless expansion.

But less than a mile to the east everything changes. This is the original site of Boughton and there you will find the ruins of the church of St John.

It has the reputation of being the most haunted site in Northamptonshire.

The Dun Cow's Rib at St Peter's, Stanion

from Wikipedia

Stanion existed before the Norman conquest, carrying the Old English place name of Stanerc – "stone arc."

The village church is dedicated to St Peter. Within the church there is a curious antiquity. This is a 7 ft long bone; tradition avers that it is actually part of the skeleton of a Dun Cow.

This was a fabled beast from English folklore, and according to various versions of the story the Stanion cow was either killed or died of a broken heart after being tricked by a witch.

The Hexham Heads

In February 1971, Colin and Leslie Robson were working in the garden of their family home when they stumbled onto what they thought was a treasure.

Digging in the garden, the boys hit something strange. As they dug around the strange object it appeared to them that it might be some sort of toy.

What they brought up were two, carved stone humanoid heads. Although these objects were small their impact on the family were anything but.

For a comprehensive archive of information about the Hexham Heads, check out James' blog here.

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