Group hopes to boost popularity of Northampton Castle by finding Thomas Becket’s trial site

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A GROUP of historians who hope to return Northampton’s castle to national prominence believe they may be able to find the exact room where Thomas Becket was tried by King Henry II.

Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury when he was tried at Northampton Castle in 1164.

The castle was then slighted in 1662 by Charles II and completely demolished in the 1870s to make way for the railway.

But now, the Friends of Northampton Castle believe they have traced significant remains of the castle building underground, including the very room where Thomas Becket was tried.

Group member, Marie Dickie, said: “We think the foundations of the castle’s great hall are still buried underground and possibly the castle’s private apartments too.

“We think these private apartments where were Thomas Becket was tried. So if their foundations are still there, that is very significant.”

The group has put together a series of proposals to boost the town’s appreciation of the castle, as well as other medieval buildings around the Marefair area.

The proposals suggest “community archaeological digs” could be carried out at the castle site to find the remains of the old building.

They also suggest Hazelrigg House, near Sol Central, could be used as a medieval heritage centre and a vacant office block close to St Peter’s Church could be demolished to create a new plaza where people could sit and look at the remains of the castle.

Mrs Dickie agreed the plan was ambitious but insisted it set out a clear vision for a new “heritage gateway” to the town.

She said: “We feel the vision has to be ambitious. And it is possible to do a lot of this in small pieces, building it up like a jigsaw.

“We’re not assuming everything will happen at once, but there has to be a big plan.”

The group is now holding talks with Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council and the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation about its vision.

To see details of the group’s plans visit www.northamptoncastle.com