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Northampton Castle: A Millennium of History

Posted by alex on February 19, 2024
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Once a formidable fortress, now a whisper of walls, Northampton Castle’s story is as rich as it is old, stretching back a staggering thousand years. As locals bustle by, few may realise the depth of history beneath their feet, right by the railway station they frequent.

Imagine a time when the very ground you tread was trodden by kings and knights. Northampton Castle, now just a smattering of stones and the iconic Postern Gate, was once a royal residence and a political powerhouse. Its foundations were laid around 1084 by Simon de Senlis I, with whispers of earlier Saxon or Danish strongholds.

King Henry I took the reins by 1130, marking the castle’s royal status. It was here in 1164 that Thomas Becket, the soon-to-be saint, defied a Grand Council of Barons before fleeing to France. King John, too, favoured this castle, holding court and safeguarding his treasury within its walls.

Yet, as Northampton’s star rose, the castle’s crumbled. Not even the English Civil War could save it from decline. Aligned with the Parliamentarians, the castle saw brief refurbishment before Charles II, in a vengeful stroke, ordered its partial destruction in 1662.

The once-mighty castle met its end not by siege, but by industry, as the London & North West Railway Co. razed it for railway expansion in 1879. All that remains is the Postern Gate, a silent sentinel to a bygone era.

But the castle’s legacy endures in literature, immortalised by Shakespeare in ‘King John’. And now, with plans afoot for a heritage park amidst modern developments, Northampton Castle’s tale continues to unfold.

As we envision the future, let’s not forget the layers of history that have shaped the very fabric of our local landscape. Northampton Castle may be a shadow of its former self, but its story is as vibrant and enduring as ever.

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