Northampton is a large market town and a local government district in the English East Midlands region. Northampton is situated 67 miles (108 km) north of London on the River Nene, and is the county town of Northamptonshire.
The district has a population of 200,100, whilst the urban area has a population of 189,474. By this measurement, it is the 21st largest settlement in England and is the UK's third largest town without official city status – after Reading and Dudley. Northampton is the most populous district in England not to be a unitary authority, a status it failed to obtain in the 1990s local government reform. Northampton's population has increased greatly since the 1960s, largely due to planned expansion under the New Towns Commission in the early-1960s.
Traditionally Northampton was a major centre of shoemaking and other leather related industries. Shoemaking has almost ceased though the back streets of the town still retain the pattern of small shoe factories surrounded by terraced houses for outworkers. Northampton's main industries now include distribution and finance, and major employers include Barclaycard, Euro Building & Maintenance, Panasonic, Travis Perkins, Coca Cola Schweppes Beverages Ltd, and Carlsberg
Northampton's population has increased greatly since the 1960s, largely due to planned expansion under the New Towns Commission in the early-1960s. Other factors are the rail link and the busy M1 motorway that both lead direct to London. Northampton is within 70 miles of central London, and by train it takes approximately 1 hour to journey between the two. This transport link to the South East has proved attractive, with already high house prices in and around London rising rapidly since the 1990s causing many people to move increasingly further away from the area in order to commute from more reasonably-priced housing.
Most of Northampton's housing expansion has taken place to the east of the town with developments such as Canterbury Court, and on the western outskirts at Upton and to the south adjacent to an improved junction on the M1 at Grange Park, a development of some 1,500 houses actually in South Northants Council area.
Northampton (since 2006) is within one of the government's designated expansion zones and a new wave of development is being overseen by the West Northamptonshire development Corporation (WNDC). Their goal is the development of up to 37,000 new dwellings within the borough of Northampton and the infrastructure and services that will be required to service the increased population.
Expansion has already started with new roads and housing developments in West Northampton at Upton and St Crispins (2007). A lot of the expansion will be on brownfield sites such as Ransome road Far Cotton (an inner suburb) and within the existing borough boundaries. The WNDC will also oversee the redevelopment of Central Northampton into a primary regional centre that will service the expanded population, that will be comparable to UK cities such as Coventry and Nottingham with a population of approx 300,000 by 2018-2021
Transport within the town exists in the form of buses run by two main companies; The Stagecoach Group and The First Group, both of which offer a reasonable service with average wait times of between 10 to 30 minutes.
Bus travel into and out of Northampton is provided by The Stagecoach Group and National Express with Stagecoach providing travel to the outlying villages and towns and National Express covering major routes between urban centres in Britain.
Leisure and Culture
The town is noted for its many parks, which include:
- Abington Park,
- The Racecourse (home to the annual Balloon Festival). This was originally a horse-racing course until 1904, when it was abandoned following a series of accidents. To the far side of the park is the White Elephant public house, aptly named after the closure of the racecourse led to the loss of its main clientele. During WWII the park was ploughed over so that local residents could plant and grow vegetables.
- Delapre Park,
- Bradlaugh Fields,
- Becket's Park (named after Thomas Becket, who also lends his name to the nearby Becket's Well and Thomas a Beckett public house) and *Iron Age hill fort Hunsbury Hill.
- Billing Aquadrome leisure park is situated on the town's outskirts, which incorporates a caravan site, marina and funfair. As well as the 'Marina' bar, the site offers 'The Quays' riverside restaurant and 'The Billing Mill' which was converted from the original water mill, with many of the original workings still in place and visible through gallery windows.
As well as two indoor shopping centres (The Grosvenor Center and Peacock Place), the town also claims to have Britain's largest market square, which dates back to 1235. The square and surrounding shopping streets used to host the annual St Crispin Street Fair, held during the October half-term school holiday from 1993 to 2005. Away from the town centre the main suburban shopping areas are Wellingborough Road and the Weston Favell Centre. There are retail parks at Riverside and Towcester Road. The main leisure area is Sixfields, which includes bowling, restaurants and a cinema.
- Thorntons Park
- Victoria Park
The Derngate and Royal theatres are situated next door to each other in Guildhall Road, opposite Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. They have been recently renovated and reopened to the public in November 2006. The Deco is a theatre/conference centre based on the Grade II listed former Cannon Cinema, in Abington Square. There is a smaller museum in a former mansion within Abington Park.
The old Fishmarket opposite the market square has been renovated by the NAC (Northampton Arts Collective) and now has a large gallery space, retail units, a cafe and art studios. Since its re-opening it has been host to many community events, gigs and exhibitions - including hip hip handmade (arts fair/market), Stitch and Bitch (alternative sewing workshops), MFS (Music For Squares) local magazine launch and an exhibition of the Northampton Carnival costumes. The NAC hope to use the Fishmarket to create a focus for the arts in Northampton.
Until the removal of council funding caused its closure and liquidation, the Northampton Roadmender was a leading venue for art and music in the region. It has since been brought by the Purplehaus group  and recently reopened.Four cinemas are also located in the town: Vue (formerly UCI) at Sol Central, Cineworld (formerly UGC, and before that Virgin Cinema and before that MGM) at Sixfields and the Forum Cinema at Lings Forum.
Every year, Northampton hosts the Balloon Festival
, normally held at Racecourse Park. The festival has been held since 1990.
- Northampton's oldest standing building, the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, is one of the largest and best-preserved round churches in England. It was built in 1100 on the orders of the first Earl of Northampton, Simon de Senlis , who had just returned from the first Crusade. It is based on a plan of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
- The current All Saints' Church was built on the site of a great Norman church, All Hallows, which was almost completely destroyed by the Fire of Northampton in 1675. All that remained was the medieval tower and the fine vaulted crypt, but by 1680 All Saints had been rebuilt, with the help of donations from all over England, including 1,000 tons of timber from King Charles II, whose statue can be seen above the portico. Famously, the poet John Clare liked to sit beneath the portico of the church.
- The Guildhall in Northampton (see picture at top) was constructed mostly in the 1860s in Victorian Gothic architecture, and extended in the 1990s. It is built on the site of the old town hall.
- 78 Derngate contains an interior designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke and is the only major domestic commission outside Scotland. It is open to the public.
- The 127.45 metre tall Express Lift Tower is a dominant feature in the area. Terry Wogan conducted a radio phone-in during the 1980s to come up with a name for it: "Northampton Lighthouse" was suggested as Northampton is one of the furthest places from the sea. It is also known as the "Cobblers' Needle". It was built to facilitate the testing of new lifts at the Express Lifts factory. It is visible from most of the town, but is now redundant. The tower has however been listed as being of architectural importance in the town.
- Northampton Castle (now only remaining as a rebuilt postern gate in a wall outside the railway station and the hill on which it stood) was for many years one of the country's most important castles. The country's parliament sat here many times and Thomas Becket was imprisoned here until he escaped.
- The Carlsberg UK brewery is located in the town.
- Delapre Abbey – former Cluniac nunnery, founded by Simon de Senlis - later the County Records Office and site of the second Battle of Northampton.
- Queen Eleanor's body rested here on its way to London – and the nearby Queen Eleanor's cross commemorates this resting. The Cross is also referred to in Daniel Defoe's a "Tour through the whole island of Great Britain" where he describes the Great Fire of Northampton, "...a townsman being at Queen's Croos upon a hill on the south side of the town, about two miles off, saw the fire at one end of the town then newly begun, and that before he could get to the town it was burning at the remotest end, opposite where he first saw it."
- Northampton Academy - The county's most expensive school, with a state of the art 27 million pound building. Darren Kahan was former head boy.
- Northampton School For Boys – one of the few state-funded single sex school for boys in England.
- The town's Greyfriars Bus Station, built in the 1970s to replace the old Derngate station, was featured on Channel 4's Demolition programme and was cited as the worst transport station in the UK, and it was suggested worthy of demolition.
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