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Historical figures

  • Adeline Louisa Maria, Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre Adeline Louisa Maria, Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre

    ​Adeline Louisa Maria, Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre (née de Horsey, 1824-1915) was an aristocrat who spent most of her life at Deene Park. She is known for her defiance of Victorian norms and her scandalous memoir.

    Adeline grew up in London and was well educated. She entered the upper class social scene, but gained a reputation for her flirting and brief engagement to a Spanish count.

    In the 1850s, Adeline began a relationship with James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was separated from his wife but still married. They were regularly seen riding together in Hyde Park without a chaperone. This was considered indecent in Victorian England and rumours spread about her morals. However, after the Earl’s wife died, the couple got married in Gibraltar and Adeline became Lady Cardigan. The Earl’s country friends welcomed Adeline, but she was shunned by Queen Victoria and high society.

    When James died in 1858, Adeline took over the estate. She remarried, becoming the Countess of Lancastre, but returned to Deene Park after a few years living with her new husband in Lisbon and Paris.

    Adeline continued to live an unusual life for a Victorian woman. Defying convention, she combined her titles and called herself the Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre. She smoked in public (at a time when it was not acceptable for a woman) and was seen cycling around Deene village in her first husband’s regimental trousers. She also lived in great luxury and was eventually forced to sell some of her belongings. In 1909, Adeline published her memoir, which caused great scandal because it was filled with gossip and did not hide any names.

    Adeline died in 1915 and is buried at Deene Park with her first husband.

    Image: Adeline Louisa Maria (née de Horsey), Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre by Herbert Rose Barraud, published by Eglington & Co. © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • ​Ælfgifu of Northampton ​Ælfgifu of Northampton

    ​Ælfgifu of Northampton (fl. 1006–1036) was a ruler in Viking Britain. She came from an important Midlands family and married King Cnut. Ælfgifu ruled Norway with her eldest son for four years and helped another son Harold Harefoot become King of England.

    Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry © Reading Museum (Reading Borough Council)

  • Alan Moore Alan Moore

    ​Alan Moore (1959- ) is a writer from Northampton, best known for his comic books. He learnt to read when he was four-years-old and became a keen reader after joining his local library. He bought comics from the market and began writing his own after he was expelled from school.

    Alan is widely considered the best graphic novelist in the world. His works include V for Vendetta, From Hell, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. His 1986 bestseller, Watchmen, helped make comics more mainstream and he has dominated the industry since its release.

    Alan has written two novels, both set in Northampton. His 2016 work, Jerusalem, is a 1200 page epic which combines historical and supernatural fiction and explores the town through several characters. It is named after the William Blake poem.

    Alan still lives in Northampton.

    Image: Alan Moore, Cheltenham Science Festival, 2011 © Andy Miah, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Sir Alfred East Sir Alfred East

    ​The son of a boot maker, Sir Alfred East (1844-1913) was a landscape painter from Kettering. He studied in Paris and was inspired by French styles. He is known for his paintings of the English countryside. Alfred was knighted in 1910 and helped found the Alfred East Art Gallery in his home town.

    Image: Self Portrait by Sir Alfred East © Alfred East Art Gallery

  • Anita Neil Anita Neil

    ​Anita Neil (1950- ) is a retired Olympic athlete from Wellingborough. Her father was a Staff Sergeant with the American Army who met her mother in Northamptonshire during the Second World War.

    Anita became an athlete in her teens. She helped set a new world relay record when she was 18 and went on to represent Britain in the 100m and 4 x 100m relay races at the Mexico City (1968) and Munich Olympics (1972). She has also won several medals in British and European championships.

    After her athletics career, Anita held various jobs. She continues to live in Wellingborough.

    Miss Anita Neil by Hubert William Pack © Wellingborough Museum

  • Bill Urquhart Bill Urquhart

    ​Bill Urquhart (1916-2004) was the last head brewer at Phipps' Bridge Street Brewery in Northampton, a position that dated back to 1817. After Phipps closed in May 1974, Bill set up the first microbrewery in a barn behind his house in Litchborough.

    Bill built the new brewing plant himself and used his industry contacts to persuade hop and malt suppliers to sell in smaller amounts. As news of Litchborough Brewery’s success spread, the real ale movement of the late 1970s grew. Many early pioneers came to Bill to learn how to brew, working at his brewery during holidays and weekends. He also became the brewing consultant for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). His travels around the country helping new brewers earned him the title ‘the Godfather of British Microbrewing’.

    The template of today's microbrewery was laid down by Bill at Litchborough. It spread around the world, inspiring the amazing array of independent breweries we have today.

    Image: Bill Urquhart at Litchborough Brewery © public domain

  • Caroline Chisholm Caroline Chisholm

    ​Caroline Chisholm (née Jones, 1808-1877) was a Victorian humanitarian from Northampton. She was known as the ‘emigrant’s friend’ for her work supporting British settlers in Australia.

    Image: Caroline Chisholm (née Jones) by J.B. Hunt © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

  • Cecily Neville Cecily Neville

    ​Cecily Neville (1415-1495) was the duchess of York and the head of an important family. As a child, she was married to Richard, Duke of York, in a political alliance of families. Their claim on the throne was one of the causes of the Wars of the Roses, fought from 1455 to 1485. Although they were not successful, two of their children went on to become kings – Edward IV and Richard III. Richard III and his sister Anne were born at Fotheringhay Castle, which is believed to have been Cecily’s favourite residence. She is buried at the Church of St Mary and All Saints in Fotheringhay with her husband and one of their sons, Edmund.

    Image: Cecily (née Neville), Duchess of York published by Edward Harding © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Charles Bradlaugh Charles Bradlaugh

    Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was a Victorian political activist who fought for atheism, republicanism, and birth control. He served as Liberal MP for Northampton for 11 years, but was unable to pledge the religious 'Oath of Allegiance' to the Queen because he was an atheist.

    Charles Bradlaugh by unknown photographer © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

  • Charles Wicksteed Charles Wicksteed

    ​Charles Wicksteed (1847-1931) was an engineer who founded Wicksteed Park. Originally from Leeds, Charles moved to Kettering in 1871 and married a local woman. He set up an engineering company five years later and became a wealthy businessman. With his new wealth, he bought land and set up Wicksteed Park as a safe play area for children and families. Charles supplied play equipment from his factories and Wicksteed Park officially opened in 1921 as the first amusement park in Britain. By Charles’ death in 1931, it included a lake, a pavilion, a model railway, and the first water chute in the world. The park is still in public use, run by the Wicksteed Village Trust.

    Image © Wicksteed Charitable Trust

  • Sir Christopher Hatton Sir Christopher Hatton

    ​Sir Christopher Hatton (c.1540-1591) was a courtier and politician from Holdenby. He became Lord Chancellor and was Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite advisor. He built Holdenby House in the late 16th century to honour the Queen. He also took over Kirby Hall before its completion and finished it on a larger scale. The Hatton family continued to make changes and added the formal gardens.

    Image: Sir Christopher Hatton by unknown artist © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • David Holding David Holding

    ​David Holding (1968- ) is an athlete from Kettering. He competed in wheelchair races of varying distances in the Paralympic Games from 1992 to 2004. Among other achievements, he broke the world record and won a gold medal in the 100m at Atlanta in 1996. In addition, David is a four-time winner of the London marathon. He still lives in Kettering and still competes in amateur athletics.

    Image: David Holding qualifying in the 100m heats, Athens 2004 Paralympics © George S de Blonsky / Alamy Stock Photo

  • ​Denys ‘BB’ Watkins-Pitchford ​Denys ‘BB’ Watkins-Pitchford

    ​Denys ‘BB’ Watkins-Pitchford (1905-1990) was a writer and illustrator from Northamptonshire. He illustrated dozens of books under his real name and wrote over sixty (mostly for children) under his pen-name ‘BB’.

    BB grew up in Lamport and stayed in the county for most of his life, in Welford and Sudborough. He was a true countryman and his love of nature featured in most of his work. One of his largest passions was saving Purple Emperor butterflies. He cared for eggs he found and released the butterflies to Fermyn Woods, helping keep the species alive in Northamptonshire. BB also enjoyed fishing and hunting – his pen-name BB refers to the size of lead shot he used shooting geese. However, he never killed anything he did not eat.

    In 1942, BB won the Carnegie Medal for Little Grey Men. The book tells the tale of the last gnomes of England and their search for their lost brother. BB always said that he saw a gnome in Lamport when he was a child and he believed in the small creatures for the rest of his life.

    BB received an honorary MA from the University of Leicester in 1986 and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1990. He died shortly after.

    Image © Roseworld Productions

  • Derek Redmond Derek Redmond

    Derek Redmond (1965- ) is a retired Olympic athlete who went to school and now lives in Northamptonshire. He held the British record for the 400m and won gold medals for the 4 x 400m relay in three championships. However, Derek is best known for the 400m semi-final at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. During the race, he tore his hamstring and his dad joined him on the track to help him reach the finish line.

    Image: Derek Redmond. © Champions UK PLC - for any speaking, media or endorsement enquiries for Derek Redmond, please contact Amelia Neate on aneate@championsukplc.com or 07875939071

  • Diana, Princess of Wales Diana, Princess of Wales

    ​Lady Diana Frances Spencer (1961-1997) was born into the Spencer family and spent part of her childhood at Althorp. She became the Princess of Wales when she married Charles, Prince of Wales. Diana is celebrated for her charity work and is often known as the ‘People’s Princess’ due to her worldwide popularity. She was killed in a car accident in Paris in 1997. After the funeral at Westminster Abbey, she was buried on an island in a lake at Althorp.

    Image: Diana, Princess of Wales in an Angloan landmine field in 1997 © REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

  • Edgar Mobbs Edgar Mobbs

    ​Edgar Mobbs (1882-1917) was a rugby player from Northampton who played for England. He captained the Northampton Saints, the Barbarians (an invitational team), and the East Midlands. During his career, he scored 177 tries for Northampton and was considered a ‘living legend’.

    When the First World War broke out, Mobbs formed a sportsmen’s battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment known as 'the Mobbs' Own'. He rose to be a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1916. He was killed in battle in Belgium in 1917.

    There is a memorial to him in Abington Square, Northampton.

    Edgar Mobbs © the Northampton Saints

  • Eleanor of Castile Eleanor of Castile

    ​Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290) was a medieval Queen. She was a patron of the arts and supported English universities. When Eleanor died, King Edward I ordered a large funeral procession between Lincoln Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. A memorial cross was built at each overnight stop. Of the three that remain, two are in Northamptonshire. The Geddington cross is the best-preserved.

    Image: Gilt bronze effigy of Eleanor of Castile on her tomb at Westminster Abbey © Dean and Chapter of Westminster

  • Eleanor Hague Eleanor Hague

    ​Eleanor Hague (c.1900-1984) was a midwife in Northampton known for her hard work and care for patients.

    Eleanor’s first role at the Barratt Maternity Home was as a midwifery tutor. In 1938, she took on the role of Midwife-in-Charge when Sister Mary Thomas resigned.

    At that time, Matron Charlotte Nelson was in charge of nursing at both Northampton General Hospital and the Barratt Maternity Home. When Matron Nelson retired in 1954, Eleanor was given independence and became Matron of the Barratt Home. She stayed involved in teaching, gaining more qualifications as a midwifery tutor and examiner.

    Her dedication was legendary and she worked tirelessly caring for babies, mothers, and staff. Her flat was in the Home and so effectively, she was never off duty. Midwives knew they could call on her day and night for advice and support. She was known to take babies back to her flat if they were not feeding and causing concern. At other times she would go and sit with mothers who were ill and needed extra comfort.

    Eleanor retired in March 1965. She was invited back in 1974 to attend the opening of the Eleanor Hague Ward in the Barratt Maternity Home, a fitting tribute to her. She died in 1984.

    Image © Northampton General Hospital Trust

  • Elizabeth Woodville Elizabeth Woodville

    Elizabeth Woodville (c.1437-1492) was a medieval Queen born in Grafton Regis. Widowed, with no property, and from an unfavoured family, she used her beauty and cunning to marry King Edward IV. She was an important patron of Queens' College Cambridge.

    Image: Elizabeth Woodville by unknown artist © Queens' College, University of Cambridge

  • Francis Crick Francis Crick

    Francis Crick (1916-2004) was a molecular biologist. The son of a bootmaker, he was born in Weston Favell and went to school in Northampton. He is best known for discovering the structure of DNA with James Watson. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in 1962.

    Image: Francis Harry Compton Crick by Godfrey Argent. © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • George Leopold Michel George Leopold Michel

    ​George Leopold Michel (1835-1911) was the founder of the modern Jewish community in Northampton and led the mechanisation of the boot and shoe trade. Originally from Frankfurt in Germany, he set up one of the earliest shoe factories in Northampton in 1858. He also united local Jews and led services from his home. In 1888, he helped establish the Northampton Hebrew Congregation.

    Image: George Leopold Michel © Marcus Roberts / JTrails, with thanks to David Michel

  • Hannah Sparke Hannah Sparke

    ​Hannah Sparke (1678-1785) ran a pub in Wellingborough. She is best known for her heroism during the town’s Great Fire of 1738. When the blaze broke out, she emptied her cellars and covered nearby thatched roofs in beer to stop them catching alight. This saved All Hallows Church and many other buildings. Hannah was in her 60s at the time and lived until 106. When she turned 100, townsfolk paraded her around the square to celebrate.

    Image: Hannah Sparke by Francesco Bartolozzi © Public domain, image supplied by the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

  • Henry Bird Henry Bird

    ​Henry Bird (1909-2000) was an artist from Northampton who studied at the Royal College of Art. He later taught at the University of Northampton. Henry was best known for his murals, many of which are in the county. These include the frescos at St Crispin’s Hospital near Duston and St Margaret’s Church in Denton, as well as the fire curtain at the Royal Theatre in Northampton.

    Image: Henry Bird by Bryan Douglas © Bryan Douglas / Royal and Derngate Archive

  • Henry Chichele Henry Chichele

    ​Henry Chichele (c.1362–1443) was born in Higham Ferrers to a prominent local family. His father was mayor of the town twice. Henry studied at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, before becoming a lawyer and a priest. He went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1414 to 1443. During this time, he founded the Bede House, Chantry Chapel, and Chichele College in Higham Ferrers. He also rebuilt the library at Canterbury Cathedral and set up All Souls’ College, Oxford. He is buried at Canterbury Cathedral.

    Henry Chichele after unknown artist © National Portrait Gallery, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Sir Henry Dryden Sir Henry Dryden

    ​Sir Henry Dryden (1818-1899) was the Victorian squire at Canons Ashby. He was known as ‘the Antiquary’ because of his love for history and archaeology. He drew pictures of and wrote notes on many historic sites, and also helped set up Northampton Museum.

    Image: Sir Henry Edward Leigh Dryden, 4th Bt Dryden of Canons Ashby and 7th Bt Turner of Ambrosden (1818-1899) by Miss Florence N. Street © National Trust Images

  • Hester Chapone Hester Chapone

    ​Hester Chapone (née Mulso, 1727-1801) was a writer from Twywell. She is best known for her published letters on women’s conduct.

    Hester was well educated for a girl of the time and learned four languages. She began writing seriously at 18 years old and by the 1740s, was part of literary circles. She wrote poetry, letters, and prose, in which she argued that women’s lives could be both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. She also thought that women should be able to choose their husbands and marry for love.

    Her book of letters to her niece, Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, was her most celebrated work. It is a manual of conduct in which she advises her niece on educating herself. She particularly recommends history as a subject that will “entertain and improve at the same time,” and “form and strengthen your judgement.”

    Hester was a successful writer and feminist thinker Mary Wollstonecraft praised her Letters. However, society was sometimes hostile to her new ideas about the role of women. She died on Christmas day in 1801 after two years of illness that had made it difficult to write.

    Image: Hester Chapone (née Mulso) by R. Page © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Ignatius Sancho Ignatius Sancho

    ​Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) was born on a slave ship and grew up enslaved in London. The sisters he worked for did not believe in education for slaves. However, Ignatius taught himself to read and write. The Duke of Montagu, who had a house nearby, befriended and helped educate him.

    After the Duke died in 1749, Ignatius fled slavery and became a butler for the Duchess of Montagu at Boughton House. When the Duchess died two years later, she left Ignatius £70 and an annual allowance. He went on to become a grocer and compose music, poetry, and plays.

    He also corresponded with many important people and became known as a man of letters. His letters exposing the horrors of slavery and arguing for abolition were published after his death in 1780. They became a source of inspiration for the abolition movement.

    Image: ​Ignatius Sancho by Francesco Bartolozzi (cropped) © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • James Manfield James Manfield

    ​James Manfield (1857-1925) was a local shoe manufacturer who donated his house and grounds to the town in 1924 to become a children’s hospital.

    Between 1899 and 1902, James had built a Jacobean-style mansion with nineteen acres of grounds. It was named Weston Favell House and was on the Kettering Road in Northampton. James and his wife Louisa put the house up for sale in 1923 for family reasons, but were unable to sell the property. This prompted the editor of the Northampton Independent to suggest using it as a hospital for disabled children. Just two weeks later, the Northampton County Crippled Children’s Fund (NCCCF) received a telegram from James, offering his mansion and grounds as a gift. At the time, the NCCCF cared for 358 children and they accepted the house immediately.

    The Manfield Orthopaedic Hospital opened in 1925. It dramatically improved the treatment of crippling diseases as the children could now be treated as inpatients, on a long term basis.

    Sadly, James Manfield died on 5th July 1925, before the hospital opened.

    Image © Northampton General Hospital Trust

  • Jaswant Singh Bains Jaswant Singh Bains

    ​Jaswant Singh Bains (1927-2003) was a politician and Northampton’s first Asian mayor. Originally from the Punjab in India, he came to Britain in 1948 and was one of the first Sikhs in the county. He became active in local politics while working as a shop keeper.

    Jaswant served as a borough and county councillor, and was mayor of Northampton 1996-1997. His mayor’s charity drive raised £45,000 for a minibus service for the disabled. He also helped found the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara (the Sikh temple) in Northampton and represented the community at the East Midlands Equal Opportunities Forum.

    Image: Jaswant Singh Bains by Ranjeet Singh Grewal © Northamptonshire Sikhs with thanks to Ranjeet Singh Grewal

  • Joan Wake Joan Wake

    ​Joan Wake (1884-1974) was a historian from Courteenhall Estate. She founded the Northamptonshire Record Society and led the campaign to save Delapré Abbey from destruction.

    Joan dedicated her life to preserving historical records and making them available to the public. After founding the Northamptonshire Record Society, she served as its secretary for 43 years. During this time, she collected and saved historic documents and helped create the Northamptonshire Past and Present journal. Joan also published many articles and books on the history of the county.

    The records were housed with the society first at County Hall, then Lamport Hall. However, the increase in collections and Lamport Hall’s rural location led to a search for new premises. Joan helped save Delapré Abbey from destruction by raising £15,000 to restore the building. In May 1959, Delapré Abbey reopened as the Record Office and the headquarters of the Record Society.

    Joan received two honorary degrees and was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1960. She died in Northampton in 1974, a few weeks before her 90th birthday.

    Image © Northamptonshire Archives Service

  • John Clare John Clare

    John Clare (1793-1864) was a poet, naturalist, and farm worker. He is known as the ‘Northamptonshire peasant poet’ for his poetry about the local countryside. John spent the last 23 years of his life at Northampton General Lunatic Asylum (now St Andrew's Hospital) being treated for mental health problems.

    John Clare by William Hilton. © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • John Dryden John Dryden

    ​John Dryden (1631-1700) was a poet, playwright, and translator from Northamptonshire. His great-grandfather built Canons Ashby, but he was born at Aldwincle and grew up in Titchmarsh. He was the first official poet laureate in England.

    John’s first play was staged in 1668 and drama soon became his main form of writing. However, he is best remembered for his poetry. He became first official poet laureate in 1668 and two years later, the royal historian. Later in his career, he translated classics too.

    John supported Oliver Cromwell, but also wrote a poem welcoming the restoration of the monarchy and King Charles II. Some people criticised his changing loyalties, especially when he converted to Catholicism upon the crowning of Catholic King James II. However, he stayed Catholic even when the religion was disliked and mistrusted, losing his role as poet laureate in 1688 because he could not take the oath to the new Protestant monarchs.

    John died in 1700. He was buried the next day, then reburied in Westminster Abbey.

    Image: John Dryden by John Michael Wright © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Lawrence Washington Lawrence Washington

    ​Lawrence Washington (c.1500-1584) was a wool merchant from Lancashire who married a local woman. He was active in Northampton politics and served as Mayor in 1532 and 1545. He also built Sulgrave Manor. One of his descendants, George Washington, became the first President of the United States of America.

    Image: Painted wall hanging in the Guildhall © Steven Collis, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Lilian Bader Lilian Bader

    ​Lilian Bader (née Bailey, 1918-2015) was one of the first black women to serve in the British Armed Forces. She was born in Liverpool to a Carribean migrant father and an English mother raised in Ireland. However, she was raised in a convent from the age of nine after both her parents died. She found it hard to find work because she was black and was even dismissed from a military canteen because her father was from the West Indies.

    In March 1941, Lilian began working for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She was one of the earliest black women to serve in the military and described being amongst a sea of white faces. Lilian became an instrument repairer, ensuring that equipment was in good condition before flights. Less than a year later, she was promoted to Leading Aircraftwoman, then Acting Corporal.

    Lilian married a black British soldier called Ramsay Bader in 1943. Soon after, she became pregnant and her military career was cut short. Lilian was discharged from the WAAF in 1944. Her husband took part in D-Day and she worried for his life, especially as he couldn’t swim. However, Ramsay survived and they moved to Northamptonshire after the war to raise their family.

    As an adult, Lilian completed a degree in London and became a teacher. She died in 2015 at the age of 97.

    Image © IWM (HU 53753), licenced under the IWM Non-Commerical Licence

  • Lucia Joyce Lucia Joyce

    ​Lucia Joyce (1907-1982) was a dancer who spent the last 31 years of her life in St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton. She is best known for being the daughter of Irish writer James Joyce.

    Lucia had a close relationship with her father, but he also worked long hours. The family moved around Europe and Lucia’s education suffered.

    Lucia studied with renowned dancers in Paris and became a professional dancer. One reporter wrote in 1928, “When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter's father.” However, Lucia’s family did not approve of her career. After struggling to move from modern dance to ballet, she gave up dancing.

    In her 20s, Lucia had several relationships with men who eventually rejected her. One was writer Samuel Beckett, who was more interested in her father. She also began to show signs of mental illness and was treated by the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung. After several stays in hospital, she was permanently moved to an institution.

    Lucia moved to St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton in 1951 and spent the rest of her life there. Her mother never visited her in hospital and she was very isolated. She died in 1982 and is buried in Kingsthorpe Cemetery.

    There is a lot of mystery surrounding Lucia’s life, her relationships, and her mental illness because her letters and medical records were destroyed. Some biographers argue that she was put in hospital to let her father write. Lucia’s poetry and one novel had also been lost.

    Image courtesy of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

  • Sir Malcolm Arnold Sir Malcolm Arnold

    ​Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was a composer and trumpet player. The son of a bootmaker, he was born in Northampton and raised a Methodist. He wrote nine symphonies, numerous concertos, and almost 130 film scores. He won an Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai. In his lifetime, he was awarded many honours, including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Northampton and a knighthood.

    Image: Trumpet ​© Mauro Hiroshi Cannas / Flickr, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Margaret Bondfield Margaret Bondfield

    ​Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) was a politician, trade unionist, and women’s rights activist. As an important member of the Trade Union Congress and Labour Party, she fought for women’s rights, such as maternity benefits and full suffrage. Despite rejecting home-making and motherhood herself, she believed that women’s traditional roles deserved respect. Margaret was elected as Labour MP for Northampton in 1923. She later became the first female cabinet member.

    Image: Margaret Grace Bondfield by Bassano Ltd © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Lady Marian Alford Lady Marian Alford

    ​Marianne Margaret Egerton (née Compton, 1817-1888) was an artist, arts patron, and writer from Northamptonshire. She was known as Lady Marian Alford.

    Marian was born in Italy to the 2nd marquess and marchioness of Northampton and she grew up in Rome and at Castle Ashby. After she married, she continued to divide her time between England and Italy.

    Marian enjoyed watercolour painting and embroidering, and became a patron of the arts. She co-founded the Royal School of Needlework, serving as its vice-president. Furthermore, her book Needlework as Art helped get needlework recognised as a serious art form. It is still considered a classic today.

    Marian died in 1888 after having a stroke.

    Image: Marianne Margaret Egerton (née Compton), Viscountess Alford ('Lady Marian Alford') by Camille Silvy © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Mary Anne Hearn Mary Anne Hearn

    ​Mary Anne Hearn (1834-1909) was born into a strict Baptist family in Farningham, Kent. During her life, she was a teacher, lecturer and writer, producing comment, poetry and biography for the popular Christian press. She used the name of her birthplace as her pen-name – Marianne Farningham.

    From 1859, Mary Anne lived in Northampton and worked tirelessly for young people. Having been an infants’ teacher at the British School in Campbell Square, she became an Independent member of the School Board in 1886. She was only the second woman on the Board.  In 1903, she was co-opted onto the Northampton Board of Education and she became a manager (governor) of five schools.

    Mary Anne was known nationally for her writing, and was a household name in Northampton at the end of the 19th century.  Huge crowds attended her funeral in 1909.

    Image © National Portrait Gallery, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Mary Pendered Mary Pendered

    ​Mary Pendered (1858-1940) was an author from Wellingborough. She was also a historian, musical score writer, pianist, playwright, monologue performer, spiritualist, suffragette, and journalist. She was, for many years, a writer for the Wellingborough News using the pen name ‘Redwell’. She also wrote children’s books, plays, poems, essays and articles, non-fiction, and over 100 novels sometimes in her name or using other pen names.

    Wellingborough Library holds a collection of her manuscripts and published works.

    Image: Mary Pendered © Northamptonshire Library Service

  • Mary, Queen of Scots Mary, Queen of Scots

    ​Mary Stewart (1542-1587) became the Queen of Scotland when she was just six days old. Despite her moderate rule, she was an unpopular monarch due to her Catholicism and a series of scandals. In 1567, the Scottish nobility forced Mary to give up the throne. She fled to England to stay with her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. However, Elizabeth viewed her as a threat and imprisoned her. The 16th century was a period of religious division and violence as England shifted between Protestantism and Catholicism. While Mary was imprisoned in England, there were many Catholic plots to make her Queen. In 1586, Mary was caught writing to one of the plotters. Elizabeth imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle and she was executed the following year.

    Mary, Queen of Scots by Nicholas Hilliard © National Portrait Gallery

  • Mick Mannock Mick Mannock

    ​Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock (1887-1918) was a ‘flying ace’ and one of the greatest fighter flights of the First World War. A flying ace was a pilot who destroyed more than five enemy planes. Mick shot down over sixty (the exact number is disputed).

    Mick grew up in England and India. In 1911, he moved to Wellingborough, which he adopted as his home. He was a committed socialist and became chair of the local Independent Labour Party.

    Mick served in the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force) during the First World War. Early on, other pilots believed that Mick was a coward, but he overcame his fears and went on to score numerous victories in the air. He received the Military Cross twice and the Distinguished Service Order three times.

    However, the stress of combat began to take his toll and he struggled with nerves at the end of his service. In July 1918, his plane was shot down after he broke his own golden rule and flew too low over the trenches. His plane caught fire and crashed, and his body was never recovered.

    A year later, Mick was awarded the Victoria Cross. There are several memorials and plaques to him in Wellingborough.

    Image © IWM (Q 73408), licenced under the IWM Non Commercial Licence

  • Peter the Saracen Peter the Saracen

    ​Peter the Saracen was a 13th-century craftsman. He made crossbows for King John. The word ‘Saracen’ was a medieval term used to describe a person of North African, Middle-Eastern, or Muslim origin. Court records that show his service to the King are the first written evidence of a black person in Northamptonshire.

    Image: Medieval crossbow © Public domain

  • Phil Neal Phil Neal

    ​Phil Neal (1951- ) is a retired football player and manager from Irchester. He is one of the most successful English players in football history.

    Phil played for Wellingborough Football Club before starting his professional career at Northampton Town Football Club in 1968. He played almost 200 matches for the Cobblers and covered most positions, including goal keeper. After six years, the Cobblers sold him for £66,000.

    During his eleven years at Liverpool Football Club, Phil became a well-known footballer. He won numerous cups and shields and has more medals than any other Liverpool player. Phil also played for England fifty times, including in the 1982 World Cup. He finished his playing career with the Bolton Wanderers in the 1980s.

    Phil went on to manage Machester City, Coventry, and Bolton.

    Image © Pete Norton

  • Philip Doddridge Philip Doddridge

    Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was a nonconformist minister in Northampton in the 18th century. He is also known for writing hymns, running a religious academy, and doing charitable work.

    Image:  Philip Doddridge by George Vertue, after Andrea Soldi © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • King Richard III King Richard III

    ​King Richard III (1452-1485) was a medieval king born at Fotheringhay Castle. He is infamous for supposedly murdering his nephews (the Princes in the Tower) in order to take the throne. Richard was the last king from the House of York and his death ended the Wars of the Roses, fought from 1455 to 1485. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and his body was buried quietly in Leicester. After centuries of being lost, his skeleton was excavated from a car park in 2012.

    King Richard III by unknown artist © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Richard Alfred Hacon Richard Alfred Hacon

    ​Richard Alfred Hacon (c.1843-1871) was a surgeon in Victorian Higham Ferrers. He is remembered for his hard work treating local people during the 1870-71 outbreak of typhoid.

    Born in Norfolk, Richard moved to Higham Ferrers in the 1860s. At the time, the town was growing but its utilities were still basic. People got their water from wells and sewage ran along the main street into open ditches.

    Typhoid, caused by dirty water or food, was a common disease in Victorian England, and in 1870 there was an outbreak in Higham Ferrers. Recent bad harvests caused by poor weather made people weaker and this outbreak particularly deadly.

    Richard stayed in the town and worked hard to treat people. However, he died of typhoid fever himself in August 1871, aged 29 years. 1157 people, mostly working class, donated money to honour Richard. The memorial is dedicated, “in grateful acknowledgement of the careful skill, and unremitting zeal in the discharge of the laborious duties of his calling.”

    Image © Friends of St Mary’s Church, Higham Ferrers

  • Simon de Senlis I Simon de Senlis I

    ​Simon de Senlis I (or Senliz or St Liz) (c.1068-1111) was the first Earl of Northampton. He is credited with building Northampton Castle and the town walls. He also built All Saints Church and St Andrew’s Priory in Northampton and inspired the construction of the Holy Sepulchre round church.

    Image: Simon de Senlis I © Northamptonshire Archives Service

  • Spencer Perceval Spencer Perceval

    ​Spencer Perceval (1762-1812) was a prime minister and Tory MP for Northampton. He was shot dead in the House of Commons in 1812, making him the only British prime minister to have been assassinated.

    Image: ​Spencer Perceval by George Francis Joseph © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Violet Gibson Violet Gibson

    ​Violet Gibson (1876-1956) was an Irish noble who tried to kill Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. She was declared insane and spent the rest of her life in St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton.

    Violet’s father was a lawyer and politician, and she had a privileged childhood in Dublin and London. As an adult, she tried several religions, before converting to Catholicism. Violet moved around Europe and became increasingly religious and obsessive. She was convinced that God wanted her to kill someone.

    On 7 April 1926, Violet shot Mussolini in Rome. However, the first bullet grazed his nose and the second jammed in her gun. Mussolini was surprised that his shooter was female. He said that he did not want to be killed by an “old, ugly, repulsive woman.” Mussolini survived with just a minor injury and tried to calm the crowd by telling them it was “a mere trifle.”

    The crowd mobbed and beat Violet, but she was saved by the police. Before 1935, British leaders admired Mussolini and had close relations with Italy. Violet’s family wrote an apology and politicians tried to smooth over the situation. After Mussolini pardoned her, London doctors declared Violet insane and sent her to St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton.

    Violet spent the rest of her life in the hospital. She died in 1956 and is buried in Kingsthorpe Cemetery.

    Image © public domain

  • Walter Tull Walter Tull

    ​Walter Tull (1888-1918) was one of the earliest black professional football players in Britain and became the first black officer in the British Army during the First World War. He played for Northampton Town Football Club for four years.

    Image: Walter Tull in uniform ​© Northampton Town Football Club

  • Wenman Bassett-Lowke Wenman Bassett-Lowke

    ​Wenman Bassett-Lowke (1877-1953) was a model engineer and businessman from Northampton. He made model railways, engines, and ships. During the Second World War, he made models to help with military planning. He was also a patron of the arts and architecture. In 1916, he contracted famous architect Charles Rennie-Mackintosh to redesign his marital home, 78 Derngate.

    Image: Wenman Bassett-Lowke ​© 78 Derngate

  • William Barratt William Barratt

    ​Arthur William Barratt (1877-1939) was a shoemaker and seller from Northampton. Always known as William, he started selling shoes with his brother in 1902. In 1913, he opened the Footshape factory in Northampton and the business gradually became a major retail chain under the ‘Walk the Barratt Way’ slogan.

    William came from a working class background and had strong socialist beliefs. When he became president of the Northampton Town Boot and Shoe Manufacturers Association in 1933, he pushed for a shorter working week for workers. He was also very charitable.

    In 1934, William and his wife Alice offered Northampton General Hospital £20,000 to build a maternity home. William stipulated that he wanted to be closely involved in the planning, design, and furnishings of the building. In 1938, the Barratts donated a further £20,000 for the gynaecological block.

    William died in St Andrew’s Hospital on 8th December 1939 after having a nervous breakdown two weeks before.

    Image © Northampton General Hospital Trust

  • Dr William Kerr Dr William Kerr

    ​Dr William Kerr (c.1737-1824) was appointed as a surgeon to Northampton’s first infirmary in George Row in 1763. He had a reputation for getting things done and he had many pupil doctors, whose fees went to the infirmary. He also had a monopoly on the practice of medicine in the town. Other local doctors could not compete and had to leave the area.

    In 1790, William started a campaign to build a new infirmary and he raised almost £10,000 within a year. The new infirmary opened in 1793 (later being renamed Northampton General Hospital).

    In the same year, the Anglo-French War started and he raised a corps of volunteer cavalry. He commanded the corps until it was disbanded in 1823.

    William continued to work well into his 80s and in 1812, his portrait was commissioned. Thomas Phillips R.A. was chosen as the artist and the cost of 250 guineas was raised by subscriptions. It now hangs in the Board Room of the hospital.

    William died on 24th September 1824 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church also has a monument dedicated to him.

    Image © Northampton General Hospital Trust

  • William Knibb William Knibb

    ​William Knibb (1803-1845) was a missionary from Kettering who fought against slavery. He taught slaves in Jamaica in the 1820s, against the will of local slave owners. On his visits to Britain, he toured the country speaking against slavery.

    Image: William Knibb by George Baxter. © National Portrait Gallery, London, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • William Rhodes-Moorhouse William Rhodes-Moorhouse

    ​William Rhodes-Moorhouse (1887-1915) was born in London, but lived in Northamptonshire for 20 years. He was an aviation pioneer in the early 20th century and caused a sensation in 1911 when he landed his monoplane on the Racecourse in Northampton. Most people had never seen a flying machine before.

    William joined the Royal Flying Corps as soon as the First World War started. In April 1915, he was fatally wounded during a successful mission to bomb enemy railway lines and died the next day. He was the first airman ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

    Image © Spratton Local History Society

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