Market town and administrative headquarters of Northamptonshire, central England, on the River Nene, 108 km/67 mi northwest of London; population (2001) 194,450. The major employers are public administration, financial services, and the distribution trade. The manufacture of boots and shoes was historically important, but engineering has taken over as the key industry; other industries include food processing, brewing, and the manufacture of shoe machinery, cosmetics, leather goods, and car accessories.
Northampton was designated a new town in 1968 and is still growing rapidly. The Development Corporation was wound up in the 1980s. The town's Riverside Park is to house a National Fairground Museum.
History Northampton was held by the Danes at the beginning of the 10th century, and was burned by them in 1010. After the Norman Conquest Simon de Senlis, 1st Earl of Northampton, built a castle here (now destroyed) which became a favourite resort of the Norman and Angevin kings. The town became important for shoe- and bootmaking during the Civil War, when it provided boots for Parliamentary troops. Many of Northampton's buildings were destroyed in a fire of 1675. The town expanded greatly in the 19th century with the development of road and rail links and with the growth of the shoe and boot industry.
Features St Peter's church is a fine example of late Norman work, and the church of St Sepulchre, dating from the 12th century, is one of four surviving round churches in England. All Saints church was rebuilt following the fire of 1675 and has an Ionic portico with a statue of Charles II wearing Roman costume. The Central Museum and Art Gallery traces the town's industrial history and includes a large collection of shoes. Other features include the County Hall (1682), the Victorian Gothic Guildhall (1864), and the Roman Catholic Cathedral, designed by Augustus Pugin.