78 Derngate is a house in Northampton built around 1815. It is known as the ‘Mackintosh house’ for its modernist interior designed by the famous Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It features deep colours and striking patterns. The owner of 78 Derngate, model engineer and businessman Wenman Bassett-Lowke, contracted the work in 1916. It was the last house Rennie Mackintosh designed before he died and his only major work outside Scotland.
The restored 78 Derngate opened to the public in 2003. Visitors can explore the house and museum on Derngate, Northampton.
Image © 78 Derngate
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. He opposed King Henry II over the customs and privileges of the church, and was tried at Northampton Castle in 1164. Thomas fled to France after being convicted and he is meant to have drunk from the spring as he fled the city. A well was later built over the spring and in 1843, a stone wall was added.
Visitors can see Becket’s Well on Bedford Road, Northampton.
Image © Icons of Northamptonshire, published by CPRE Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire County Council - copies are sold in Northamptonshire Libraries
Sisters Dorothy Beckett and Ann Sargeant set up the Beckett and Sargeant’s School for Girls in Northampton in 1738. It clothed and educated 30 girls a year. The new school building was designed by local architect E F Law and built in 1862. It is Lombard Gothic style and features a statue of a student above the door. The school closed down in the mid-20th century.
Visitors can see Beckett and Sargeant’s School for Girls on Kingswell Street, Northampton.
Image © Northamptonshire County Council
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. At the east end, a flight of steps leads up to the chapel area.
The Bedesmen and cubicles have long gone, and the building is now used as a hall and wedding venue. Visitors can find the building in the grounds of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Higham Ferrers.
Image and text © Icons of Northamptonshire, published by CPRE Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire County Council - copies are sold in Northamptonshire Libraries
Almshouses were houses for the poor, ill, or disabled that were paid for through charitable donations. Sir Thomas Crew set up the Brackley almshouses in 1633 to house six old widows. He also donated £24 to support the widows, which the Bishop of Durham added to in 1721.
The almshouses were converted into flats in 1970. Visitors can see them on High Street, Brackley.
Image © Mark Wheaver, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brackley Town Hall was built at the beginning of the 18th century by the Earl of Bridgewater. It was built as a covered market place for the wool and lace trades. It was also built in the middle of Lower and Upper Brackley in the hope of uniting them.
The Town Hall is being restored and is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2018. Visitors can find the building on the Market Place.
Image © Mick Baker(rooster) licenced under a Creative Commons licence
Chester Farm is a nationally important archaeological site with historic farm buildings. Tools have been found from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Iron Age periods. There is also physical evidence of the Roman walled town of Irchester and the deserted, medieval village of Chester by the Water. The farm buildings date back to the 16th century.
Northamptonshire County Council bought Chester Farm in 2004 and plan to open a visitor centre by 2018. The site is open to the public for walking. Visitors can find Chester Farm off the A45 between Wellingborough and Rushden.
Chichele College in Higham Ferrers was founded in the early 15th century by Archbishop Henry Chichele. It is a rare example of a chantry college and is considered nationally-important. Chantry colleges were places where priests lived communally. They were common in 14th- and 15th-century England. Chichele College is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Edward the Confessor, and St Thomas of Canterbury. It housed eight priests, four clerks, and six choristers. King Henry VIII seized the college in 1542 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and it fell into disrepair. It later became an inn, then a farm. The college was restored in the 1950s and is now a heritage site managed by English Heritage and Higham Ferrers Tourism, Business and Community Partnership.
Visitors can see the remaining gatehouse and chapel and explore the recreated medieval garden.
Image © Chichele College and Garden
The Guildhall in Northampton was built in 1864 and added to in 1892. It is a beautiful example of Neo-Gothic architecture and features stone carvings telling the story of the county. The Great Hall has painted panels showing important people and historic events. The town hall once had a court and cells in the basement, but these are now used as meeting rooms. The building houses Northampton Borough Council and serves as the Registry Office.
Visitors can see and explore the Guildhall on St Giles Street, Northampton.
Image © diamond geezer, licenced under a Creative Commons licence
Hazelrigg House is a 16th-century Tudor townhouse in Northampton. The house was named after the Hesilrige family, who owned it for over a century. According to local legend, Oliver Cromwell stopped overnight at Hazelrigg House en route to the Battle of Naseby in 1645 during the English Civil War. Three decades later, it was one of the few buildings in the town that survived the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675.
It is now owned by Northampton Borough Council and is often open to the public on Heritage Open Days. Visitors can see Hazelrigg House on Marefair in Northampton.
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.
The Hind Hotel is still open as a hotel at the west end of Market Place.
Image © Philip Morgan Hurd, all rights reserved
The National Lift tower is a lift testing tower in Northampton built in the early 1980s. It was formerly called the Express Lifts Tower and is also known locally as ‘the Northampton Lighthouse’. The reinforced concrete tower is 127 metres tall and tapers so it is smaller at the top. Inside, there are six shafts that test lifts at different speeds. The tallest one is 100 metres and has a maximum speed of 10 metres per second. The National Lift Tower is the only lift-testing tower in Britain and there is only one other in Europe.
The National Lift Tower is not usually open to the public, but it holds regular abseiling days. It can be seen from various points around Weedon Road, Northampton.
Image © dez1172, licenced under a Creative Commons licence
The Northampton and County Club is a Grade II-listed building on George Row, Northampton, within the All Saints Conservation Area. It was built as a private town house after the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675, which destroyed most of the town. It forms part of a handsome row of listed buildings that also includes the Sessions House. Under the house are medieval vaulted cellars.
In 1744, it became the first town infirmary set up by public donations “for the poor, sick and lame.” When the infirmary moved out in 1792, the house became a private residence again. Then, in 1878, the Northampton Club Company bought the building for a gentlemen’s club. An extension was built to house a dining room and a splendid billiards room.
Visitors can see the Northampton and County Club on George Row, Northampton.
Image © Northampton and County Club
Northampton General Hospital was given its name in 1903, but a hospital has stood on the site since 1793. It replaced the first infirmary on George Row that was set up in 1744. When the second infirmary opened, the staff consisted of a surgeon, apothecary, matron, four nurses, four maids, and a porter. Both the staff and the buildings have expanded hugely since then and now the hospital covers 46 acres.
Image © Northampton General Hospital Trust
Priest’s House, in Easton on the Hill, is a small limestone and ironstone building with a slate roof. It was built in the 15th century by the local Rector, John Stokes. When he died, he left money for a priest to live in the house and pray for his soul. Alterations were made to the building in 1868.
Priest’s House is now a museum managed by the National Trust. Visitors can find it on West Street.
Image © Peter Mattock
The Royal Army Ordnance Depot in Weedon Bec was the 19th-century arms store for the British Army. The Grand Junction Canal (as it was called then) reached Weedon in 1796, the year in which Napoleon defeated Austria. In the coming years there was great fear that England would be invaded. It was realised that the storage of military supplies near to the coast was no longer prudent, and plans were made to set up a depot for the storage of arms and ammunition in the centre of the country. A site in Weedon Bec was chosen due to the proximity of the canal and the turnpike from London. Eight storehouses, 160 feet long and 35 feet wide, were designed to provide armouries. A ninth storehouse was added in 1900.
The army abandoned the depot in 1965. It is now used by local businesses. Visitors can see the buildings off Harmans Way in Weedon Bec.
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.
Image © Jonathan Baker-Bates licenced under a Creative Commons licence
The Saracen’s Head in Towcester was built in the 18th century and has changed very little. Charles Dickens visited the pub in the 19th century and featured it in his first novel, The Pickwick Papers. In the book, the character Sam Weller describes the inn to his master, Mr Pickwick, as, “everything clean and comfortable. Very good little dinner, sir, they can get ready in half an hour — pair of fowls, sir, and a weal cutlet; French beans, 'taters, tart and tidiness.”
The Saracen’s Head pub is still open on Watling Road.
Image © Steven Collis, licenced under a Creative Commons licence
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. The interior plastered ceilings are decorated with royal crests, cherubs, and masks, and took four years to complete. The most famous are a devils mask and an angel on the ceiling in the former courtroom. Supposedly, the devil’s mask had a loose fitting tongue, which would wag each time a lie was told in court.
Trials were held at the Sessions House for over 300 years. Beneath the building are basements with staircase access up into the dock at the centre of each court, which were used as cells for prisoners awaiting trial. When the courts were in session in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a festive atmosphere with people jostling to see the criminal in the dock.
One of the most notorious cases held at the Sessions House was a witchcraft trial. Elinor Shaw and Mary Philips from Oundle were hanged as witches in 1705. They were the last people to be executed for witchcraft in England.
The Sessions House is now the county’s tourist information centre. Visitors can find it on George Row in Northampton.
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 is now a hall owned by the Borough Council of Wellingborough. Visitors can see the building on Tithe Barn Road, Wellingborough.
Image © Dave Bevis licenced under a Creative Commons licence
See things differently.
The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House - 78 Derngate Northampton.
Visit before Christmas: Op… https://t.co/880fBOXJlN
Now on https://t.co/4HfgkSCt52 https://t.co/oNq5yjnxxm
Detail: The Room de Luxe, Willow Tea Rooms. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 1903. https://t.co/SsxjN8HEOe
Illustration. Lucien Pissaro. 1894. https://t.co/Z6N9bdWieE
Detail: Statues at Helsinki Central Station. Eliel Saarinen. 1919. https://t.co/hnlloyYpXs
Detail: “Brighton Pierrots”. Walter Sickert. 1915. https://t.co/NNNBZZSGzU
If you have any comments or corrections, please get in touch:
If your question is research-related, please contact the Northamptonshire Archives.