One of Northampton’s oldest pubs purchased by borough council to kickstart regeneration

One of Northampton’s oldest pubs has been bought by Northampton Borough Council in a bid to finally regenerate it.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 4:15 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 12:04 pm
The Old Black Lion on Mare Fair is thought to be the oldest pub in Northampton
The Old Black Lion on Mare Fair is thought to be the oldest pub in Northampton

The grade II listed Old Black Lion, on Mare Fair, has now been purchased by the authority following agreement to do so in a behind-closed-doors cabinet meeting lasting 20 minutes last August.

A sum of £400,000 has been used from the council’s capital funds – money reserved for building and infrastructure projects – in order to bring the closed down venue into the authority’s hands.

Cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, Councillor Tim Hadland, said in his latest council report: “We are pleased to confirm the purchase is now complete which is the first stage in delivering our regeneration plans.”

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The pub is thought to date back to the early 1700s, with the earliest definitive mention of the pub coming from 1717 according to Dave Knibb, who wrote 'Last Orders' - a book on the history of Northampton's pubs. The pub was renamed the 'Old' Black Lion in the 1800s to distinguish it from another pub called the Black Lion on St Giles' Street, which is now known as the Wig & Pen.

In 2013 it was announced that the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded a £156,000 sum to the Churches Conservation Trust, which owns the neighbouring St Peter's Church, to spend on a 'development phase' for the site including the Old Black Lion. It has since been spent on business plans and feasibility studies. A second sum of £1.6 million was then awarded in order to redevelop the church and the pub.

It had been reported as part of the original grant that the pub’s outbuildings would become a heritage centre, while the pub itself would become a pub-restaurant. The pub has since closed, and the council is staying tight-lipped over its current regeneration plans for the site.

It did say, however, in cabinet papers that it would be working in ‘partnership’ with the Churches Conservation Trust and the project would ‘strengthen the sense of place in the historic landscape of the Heritage Gateway area’.