Historic Curiosities

Train running through beautiful countryside

Explore the Nene Valley’s curiosities, historical footnotes, niche museums & more!

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Northampton Castle

Northampton Castle was one of the most famous Norman castles in England.  The castle site was outside the western city gate, and defended on three sides by deep trenches. A branch of the River Nene provided a natural barrier on the western side. The castle had extensive grounds and a large keep. The gates were surrounded by bulwarks made of earth, used to mount artillery. All that remains of the castle today is the Postern Gate, near Northampton Railway Station.

Northampton, NN1 1SP

Northampton Castle 

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The Prebendal Manor

Archaeological excavation and documentary investigation has provided a great deal of information about the Prebendal Manor and the village of Nassington. It forms the focus of a group of stone buildings, which includes a 16th century dovecote, a large 18th century tithe barn and a 15th century lodgings building.

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Higham Ferrers Castle

Higham Ferrers Castle was a large, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey).

Higham Ferrers Castle was built by William Peveral shortly after 1066. It was a large stone castle with two baileys and many buildings, defended by a tower, inner and outer gateways, and a deep moat with a drawbridge.  There are no visible remains today.

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Fotheringhay Castle

Fotheringhay Castle is the remains of a large, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

The castle was built in the early 12th century by Simon de Senlis I, the Earl of Northampton who also built Northampton Castle. It strategically overlooks a crossing point on the River Nene and it also acted as a royal palace and a prison from the 13th century.

Richard III was born at Fotheringhay in 1452. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the castle in 1586 and executed there the following year. 

Fotheringhay, Peterborough, PE8 5JF

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Earls Barton Castle

Earls Barton Church is the remains of a medieval motte castle. The castle is unusual because it is so close to a 10th-century church. The castle’s ditch is also Saxon. It is thought to have been the defence for a manor house previously on the site and was re-used in the castle.

Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches by the All Saints Church in Earls Barton.

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The Eleanor Crosses

Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290) was a medieval Queen. When Eleanor died, her husband, King Edward I, ordered a large funeral procession between Lincoln Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. A memorial cross was built at each overnight stop. Three crosses remain today and two are in Northamptonshire.

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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.

Visitors now have a unique opportunity to discover its past and explore the grand rooms through guided tours in July and August. 

Hunting Way, Northamptonshire, PE8 5DJ

Apethorpe Palace

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Chester Farm

Chester Farm includes a Roman walled town with evidence from the Mesolithic, Iron Age and Medieval periods, together with a complex of traditional farm buildings dating back to the 17th century.

At present much of this heritage is buried; the challenge is to bring it to life and tell its stories.

Chester Farm, Higham Road, Little Irchester, NN29 7EZ

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Chichele College

Chichele College is a rare surviving example of a chantry college. It was founded in 1422 by the locally born Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Such colleges, common in England in the 14th and 15th centuries, were groups of priests who shared a communal life which was less strictly controlled than that of a monastery.

College Street, Higham Ferrers, NN10 8DZ

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The Bede House

​The Bede House in Higham Ferrers was set up by Archbishop Henry Chichele in 1428. It was built in the typical Northamptonshire banded limestone, with alternate courses of silver and ochre stone.

The building was designed to house twelve poor, older men (the Bedesmen) and one woman to look after them (the Bedeswoman). Each Bedesmen had a cubicle and locker opening on to the large central hall with its large fireplace.

Higham Ferrers, Rushden, NN10 8DL

St. Mary’s, Higham Ferrers

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The Hind Hotel

The Hind Hotel was built in Wellingborough in the 1640s. It was designed by local architect William Batley and is built from local ironstone. According to legend, Oliver Cromwell stayed at the hotel en route to the Battle of Naseby in 1645 during the English Civil War.

​Sheep Street, Wellingborough, NN8 1BY

The Hind Hotel

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Sessions House Northampton

The Sessions House is Northampton’s former courthouse. It was one of the first buildings to be built after the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675. It is a single-storey, stone building in the classical style of architecture, which was designed by Henry Bell of King’s Lynn in 1676.

Sessions House Country Hall, George Row, Northampton, NN1 1DF

Sessions House

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The Royal Theatre

The Royal Theatre in Northampton opened in 1884. It was designed by the famous theatre architect C J Phipps, who also built the Theatre Royal in Bath and the Savoy Theatre in London.

It has been a ‘producing’ house since 1927 and develops multiple theatre productions a year. It is best known for its decorated safety curtain, which was painted by local artist Henry Bird in 1978.

In 1999, the Royal Theatre merged with the Derngate. Visitors can watch a show or see the theatre on Guildhall Road in Northampton.

19-21 Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP

Royal and Derngate

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The Tithe Barn

​A tithe barn was used to store one tenth of a farm’s produce, known as a tithe, given to the Church as a tax. Wellingborough Tithe Barn was built in the 15th century and is made of limestone and ironstone. It was used by the Monks of Croyland, who lived in the local manor house called Croyland Abbey.

The Tithe Barn

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The Guildhall

The building which was designed by Edward William Godwin] in the Gothic Revival style, was completed in 1864. The original part of the building was symmetrical with three first-floor windows either side of the main entrance.

The building has a statue, designed by Sir Francis Chantrey of Spencer PercevalMember of Parliament for Northampton and the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated, which was unveiled in 1817.

The Guildhall Take a virtual tour

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78 Derngate

​78 Derngate is the only house in England designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is now a multi award-winning visitor attraction offering an unforgettable day out in Northampton. In 2017 we celebrated the Centenary of Mackintosh’s work here and last year was the 150th year since his birth.

82 Derngate, Northampton, NN1 1UH

78 Derngate

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Becket’s Well

​​Becket’s Well in Northampton is named after Thomas Becket and was built on the site of a spring. Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170. 

Becket’s Well

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Flag Fen

​​Flag Fen is famous for being the site of an ancient bronze age causeway, discovered by Time Team’s Francis Pryo. 

The Droveway, Northey Road, Peterborough, PE6 7QJ

Flag Fen

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Longthorpe Tower

Longthorpe Tower displays one of the most complete and important sets of 14th-century domestic wall paintings in northern Europe. This varied ‘spiritual encyclopaedia’ of worldly and religious subjects includes the Wheel of Life, the Nativity and King David.

Thorpe Rd, Peterborough PE3 6LU

Longthorpe Tower

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Southwick Hall

Southwick Hall comprises architecture of many centuries, notably the 14th, 16th, 18th and 19th. Although altered many times, the house still retains much of its original medieval layout, and as the local limestone and Collyweston slates have been used throughout, the various styles blend harmoniously.

Southwick, Peterborough, PE8 5BL 

Southwick Hall

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Northamptonshire’s Heritage

Enjoy browsing through this website which has been designed to help residents and visitors discover the heritage of Northamptonshire. It aims to promote an enhanced sense of place and pride within the county.

Enjoy Northamptonshire’s Heritage