County of central England.
Area 2,370 sq km/915 sq mi
Towns and citiesNorthampton (administrative headquarters), Kettering, Corby, Daventry, Wellingborough
Physical rivers Avon, Cherwell, Leam, Nene, Ouse, and Welland
Features Althorp Park, Spencer family home and burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales; Canons Ashby, Tudor house, home of the Drydens for 400 years; churches with broached spires (an octagonal spire on a square tower)
Agriculture cereals (wheat and barley), sugar beet, sheep and cattle rearing, especially in the Nene and Welland valleys, where there is rich pasture
Industries transport and distribution, tourism, banking, engineering, food processing, printing, shoemaking, leather trade
Population (2001) 629,700
Famous people Robert Browne (founder of Brownist separatist church movement), John Dryden (dramatist), Charles Kingsley (author and Christian Scientist), Richard III; the family of George Washington, first president of the USA, originated at Sulgrave Manor
Topography Northamptonshire is bounded on the north by Rutland and Leicestershire; on the east by Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, and Milton Keynes; on the south by Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; and on the west by Warwickshire. The surface of the county is mainly level, with occasional low hills and woodland. The Grand Union Canal crosses the county. The climate is mild.
History At Draughton there is evidence of occupation in the early Iron Age. Prehistoric and Roman remains have been found, and Watling Street and Ermine Street both cross the county. Northamptonshire was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and in the 11th century was part of the earldom of Tostig. In 1215 the barons besieged Northampton Castle, held by King John, and in 1264 the castle was taken from Simon de Montfort, leader of the baronial opposition to the king, by Henry III. Henry VI was defeated at Northampton during the Wars of the Roses. The Battle of Naseby, the decisive battle of the English Civil War in 1645, in which Oliver Cromwell defeated the Royalists, was fought at Naseby 32 km/20 mi south of Leicester.
Resources Ironstone is quarried in large quantities, especially near Kettering and Wellingborough. Weldon stone (a type of building stone),
limestone and clay are also quarried. Iron ore was quarried at Corby from 1933, but the town's steel works closed in 1979.
Historic buildings Northamptonshire has few monastic remains, but there are Norman churches. There are market crosses at Brigstock, Helpston, Higham Ferrers, and Irthlingborough, and at Hardingstone and Geddington are two of the crosses built by Edward I in memory of his wife, Queen Eleanor. The ruins of Fotheringhay Castle (12th century), where Mary Queen of Scots was executed, are also in the county. Mansions include Althorp Park, Rushton Hall (16th century), Castle Ashby (1574), Deene Park (16th century), and the ruined Elizabethan Kirby Hall.
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