Northamptonshire (/nɔːrˈθæmptənʃɪər, -ʃər/; abbreviated Northants.), archaically known as the County of Northampton, is a county in the East Midlands of England. In 2015 it had a population of 723,000. The county is administered by two unitary authority councils. It is known as “The Rose of the Shires”.
Covering an area of 2,364 square kilometres (913 sq mi), Northamptonshire is landlocked between eight other counties: Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the south-east, Buckinghamshire to the south, Oxfordshire to the south-west and Lincolnshire to the north-east – England’s shortest administrative county boundary at 20 yards (19 metres), although this was not the case with the historic county boundary. Northamptonshire is the southernmost county in the East Midlands region.
Apart from the county town of Northampton, other major population centres include Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough, Rushden and Daventry. Northamptonshire’s county flower is the cowslip. The Soke of Peterborough falls within the historic boundaries of the county, but its area has been part of the ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire since 1974.
Much of Northamptonshire’s countryside appears to have remained somewhat intractable with regards to early human occupation, resulting in an apparently sparse population and relatively few finds from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. In about 500 BC the Iron Age was introduced into the area by a continental people in the form of the Hallstatt culture, and over the next century a series of hill-forts were constructed at Arbury Camp, Rainsborough camp, Borough Hill, Castle Dykes, Guilsborough, Irthlingborough, and most notably of all, Hunsbury Hill. There are two more possible hill-forts at Arbury Hill (Badby) and Thenford.
In the 1st century BC, most of what later became Northamptonshire became part of the territory of the Catuvellauni, a Belgic tribe, the Northamptonshire area forming their most northerly possession. The Catuvellauni were in turn conquered by the Romans in 43 AD.
The Roman road of Watling Street passed through the county, and an important Roman settlement, Lactodurum, stood on the site of modern-day Towcester. There were other Roman settlements at Northampton, Kettering and along the Nene Valley near Raunds. A large fort was built at Longthorpe.
After the Romans left, the area eventually became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and Northampton functioned as an administrative centre. The Mercians converted to Christianity in 654 AD with the death of the pagan king Penda. From about 889 the area was conquered by the Danes (as at one point almost all of England was, except for Athelney marsh in Somerset) and became part of the Danelaw – with Watling Street serving as the boundary – until being recaptured by the English under the Wessex king Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, in 917. Northamptonshire was conquered again in 940, this time by the Vikings of York, who devastated the area, only for the county to be retaken by the English in 942. Consequently, it is one of the few counties in England to have both Saxon and Danish town-names and settlements.
The county was first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1011), as Hamtunscire: the scire (shire) of Hamtun (the homestead). The “North” was added to distinguish Northampton from the other important Hamtun further south: Southampton – though the origins of the two names are in fact different.
Rockingham Castle was built for William the Conqueror and was used as a Royal fortress until Elizabethan times. In 1460, during the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Northampton took place and King Henry VI was captured. The now-ruined Fotheringhay Castle was used to imprison Mary, Queen of Scots, before her execution.
George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, was born into the Washington family who had migrated to America from Northamptonshire in 1656. George Washington‘s ancestor, Lawrence Washington, was Mayor of Northampton on several occasions and it was he who bought Sulgrave Manor from Henry VIII in 1539. It was George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington, who emigrated in 1656 from Northants to Virginia. Before Washington’s ancestors moved to Sulgrave, they lived in Warton, Lancashire.
Northamptonshire is a landlocked county located in the southern part of the East Midlands region which is sometimes known as the South Midlands. The county contains the watershed between the River Severn and The Wash while several important rivers have their sources in the north-west of the county, including the River Nene, which flows north-eastwards to The Wash, and the “Warwickshire Avon“, which flows south-west to the Severn. In 1830 it was boasted that “not a single brook, however insignificant, flows into it from any other district”. The highest point in the county is Arbury Hill at 225 metres (738 ft).
There are several towns in the county with Northampton being the largest and most populous. At the time of the 2011 census, a population of 691,952 lived in the county with 212,069 living in Northampton. The table below shows all towns with over 10,000 inhabitants.
Historically, Northamptonshire’s main industry was manufacturing of boots and shoes. Many of the manufacturers closed down in the Thatcher era which in turn left many county people unemployed. Although R Griggs and Co Ltd, the manufacturer of Dr. Martens, still has its UK base in Wollaston near Wellingborough, the shoe industry in the county is now nearly gone. Large employers include the breakfast cereal manufacturers Weetabix, in Burton Latimer, the Carlsberg brewery in Northampton, Avon Products, Siemens, Barclaycard, Saxby Bros Ltd and Golden Wonder. In the west of the county is the Daventry International Railfreight Terminal; which is a major rail freight terminal located on the West Coast Main Line near Rugby. Wellingborough also has a smaller railfreight depot on Finedon Road, called Nelisons sidings.
This is a chart of trend of the regional gross value added of Northamptonshire at current basic prices in millions of British Pounds Sterling (correct on 21 December 2005):
Regional Gross Value Added
The region of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and the South Midlands has been described as “Motorsport Valley… a global hub” for the motor sport industry. The Mercedes GP and Force India Formula One teams have their bases at Brackley and Silverstone respectively, while Cosworth and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines are also in the county at Northampton and Brixworth.
International motor racing takes place at Silverstone Circuit and Rockingham Motor Speedway; Santa Pod Raceway is just over the border in Bedfordshire but has a Northants postcode. A study commissioned by Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd (NEL) reported that Northamptonshire’s motorsport sites attract more than 2.1 million visitors per year who spend a total of more than £131 million within the county.
Milton Keynes and South Midlands Growth area
Northamptonshire forms part of the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Growth area which also includes Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale and Bedfordshire. This area has been identified as an area which is due to have tens of thousands additional homes built between 2010 and 2020. In North Northamptonshire (Boroughs of Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants), over 52,000 homes are planned or newly built and 47,000 new jobs are also planned. In West Northamptonshire (boroughs of Northampton, Daventry and South Northants), over 48,000 homes are planned or newly built and 37,000 new jobs are planned. To oversee the planned developments, two urban regeneration companies have been created: North Northants Development Company (NNDC) and the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation. The NNDC launched a controversial campaign called North Londonshire to attract people from London to the county. There is also a county-wide tourism campaign with the slogan Northamptonshire, Let yourself grow.
Northamptonshire County Council operates a complete comprehensive system with 42 state secondary schools. The county’s music and performing arts trust provides peripatetic music teaching to schools. It also supports 15 local Saturday morning music and performing arts centres around the county and provides a range of county-level music groups.
There are seven colleges across the county, with the Tresham College of Further and Higher Education having four campuses in three towns: Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough. Tresham, which was taken over by Bedford College in 2017 due to failed Ofsted inspections, provides further education and offers vocational courses and re-sit GCSEs. It also offers Higher Education options in conjunction with several universities. Other colleges in the county are: Fletton House, Knuston Hall, Moulton College, Northampton College, Northampton New College and The East Northamptonshire College.
Northamptonshire has many rugby union clubs. Its premier team Northampton Saints, competes in the Aviva Premiership and won the European championship in 2000 by defeating Munster for the Heineken Cup, 9–8. Saints are based at the 15,249 capacity  Franklin's Gardens ground. In 2014 the club won the Aviva Premiership as well as the Challenge Cup. For the 2014/15 campaign the team finished top of the table for the first time in the premiership, eventually losing 24–29 to Saracens in the playoff semi-final.
Northamptonshire County Cricket Club (also known as The Steelbacks) is in Division Two of the County Championship, and play their home games at the County Cricket Ground, Northampton. They finished as runners-up in the Championship on four occasions in the period before it split into two divisions. In 2013 the club won the Friends Life t20, beating Surrey in the final. Appearing in their 3rd final in 4 years, the Steelbacks to beat Durham by 4 wickets at Edgbaston in 2016 to lift the Natwest t20 Blast trophy for the second time. It also won the NatWest Trophy on two occasions and the Benson & Hedges Cup once.
Silverstone is a major motor racing circuit, most notably used for the British Grand Prix. There is also a dedicated radio station for the circuit which broadcasts on 87.7 FM or 1602 MW when events are taking place. However, part of the circuit is across the border in Buckinghamshire. Rockingham Speedway, located near Corby, was one of the largest motor sport venues in the United Kingdom with 52,000 seats until it was closed permanently in 2018 to make way for a logistics hub for the automotive industry, hosting its last race in November of that year. It was a US-style elliptical racing circuit (the largest of its kind outside of the United States), and is used extensively for all kinds of motor racing events. The Santa Pod drag racing circuit, venue for the FIA European Drag Racing Championships is just across the border in Bedfordshire but has a NN postcode. Cosworth, the high-performance engineering company, is based in Northampton.
Two Formula One teams are based in Northamptonshire, with Mercedes at Brackley and Racing Point in Silverstone. Racing Point also have a secondary facility in Brackley, while Mercedes build engines for themselves, Racing Point and Williams at Brixworth.