Landmark gateway could be built out of castle remnants

An internationally-renowned artist has given his impression of what a landmark entrance to Northampton should look like.

Northamptonshire artist Chris Fiddes, 75, has designed a monumental gate which he believes could be built close to Northampton's railway station as a reminder of the 12th Century castle which once stood on the site.

And the design has won the backing of many of the town's civic dignitaries, who have said it would reflect the town's history far better than the failed Needle project, which was scrapped in 2008 following a public backlash.

Historian and politician, Councillor Jean Hawkins (Ind, Eastfield) is one of the main backers of the gate plan.

She said: "Ever since the whole Needle debacle, people have been thinking how we should celebrate the gateway to the town and I think this is visionary.

"It respects the town's heritage and the idea is parts of it could be built from the old castle stones, which are currently sitting in the museum's basement,

"It could be a real feature for the town, much better than having something characterless which could be from any other town."

Northampton Castle was once used as a seat of Parliament. It was partially demolished in 1662 under the orders of King Charles II because of Northampton's support for the Parliamentarians during the Civil War.

The site was fully cleared in 1859 when the Victorians chose the area for the home of the railway station.

There are currently only a few pieces of castle wall on display at the town's museum, but several hundred sections are in the museum's stores.

The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Brian Hoare (Lib Dem, Abington) said he personally liked the gate plan much more than the Needle sculpture, but insisted the public would have to be asked their views.

He said: "I think there will be a lot of different reactions to it, but it's excellent people are coming forward with ideas like this, because the site of the old castle is extremely important."

Mr Fiddes accepted the decorative gate may not be to everybody's taste, but defended it, adding: "Northampton has aspirations to be a city, but it lacks a certain magnificence, that's why I came up with this idea.

"There's no point having something small. This is the main approach to Northampton and if you have something small and petty that's what people will think the town is like."