Northampton Castle remains revealed in pictures

One of the 19th century images of Northampton Castle. Pictures used courtesy of the Northamptonshire Libraries and Information Service.
One of the 19th century images of Northampton Castle. Pictures used courtesy of the Northamptonshire Libraries and Information Service.

While some cities across Britain may still boast the grandiose ramparts of centuries-old fortresses, little now remains of Northampton’s own castle.

The lack of many visible remains could even lead some locals and visitors to think that a castle never existed in Northampton.

But for some time now, the Friends of Northampton Castle have been campaigning to raise awareness of the town’s important medieval heritage.

And their latest move has been to publish a gallery of 19th century photos on their website – – showing some of the last images of the Castle remnants before they were demolished to allow the construction of Northampton station in 1879.

The photos were sourced from Northamptonshire’s Central Library, where they are archived as a record of physical remains that existed of the castle in the not-so-distant past.

Jon-Paul Carr, Northamptonshire Studies Manager for Northamptonshire Libraries, said: “Northamptonshire Libraries hold around 100,000 images of old Northamptonshire. The main collection is held at the ‘Discover’ area of Northampton Central Library, where the photographs of the castle are presently housed.

“We were delighted to work with the Friends of Northampton Castle to make the photographs more accessible to a wider audience, as they show fantastic images of the castle during the 1870s, shortly before many of the remaining walls were pulled down.”

The images show people either relaxing by the remains of features such as the Postern Gate or looking like they are working at the site. One photo would appear to show soil being removed from the area by horses.

The Postern Gate is believed to have been demolished in 1881 and re-erected in a wall edging the station site.

The photos reveal a little of exactly how much of Northampton’s heritage was destroyed in the name of progress at the end of the 19th century.

Built towards the end of the 11th century, it is widely believed that most of the Castle was destroyed by Charles II in revenge for Northampton’s support of the Parliamentarians during the Civil War.

But a lot of the Castle remained after this bout of destruction in the 17th century.

Marie Dickie, who chairs FONC, said: “The walls were slighted so it wouldn’t be able to defend itself. Charles II made sure that Northampton Castle couldn’t be used against the Crown again. It couldn’t be used as a fortress. But in the middle of the 19th century there was still quite an interesting set of ruins in place.”

Marie explained the photos form part of the information the group’s researchers have found to inform future redevelopment at the site.

She said: “In a sense, although I used to think the Victorians were all vandals, there was clearly a battle going on between the vandals and people like us; people who thought history was important and knew that even if we are making changes we need some understanding of what we are doing.”

An archaeological investigation is due to be carried out early this year ahead of the new station construction, scheduled to start this spring.