Story Hunt brings Northampton history to life for one weekend only

Story Hunt walking tour of Northampton starting at The Royal and Derngate. Written and performed by Daniel Bye. NNL-140629-233908005
Story Hunt walking tour of Northampton starting at The Royal and Derngate. Written and performed by Daniel Bye. NNL-140629-233908005

Groups of all ages braved the rain and traffic congestion in Northampton this weekend to take part in Story Hunt tours through the town.

The project, by actors and amateur historians, Daniel Bye and Sarah Punshon, compiled memories from Northampton locals and historical facts from town archives, which the pair then presented as a walking journey through the ages.

Beginning at the Royal & Derngate theatre on Saturday afternoon, they handed out luminous yellow umbrellas to one dozen-strong group and led them through the town centre; from County Hall to Market Square, down Gold Street and back to All Saints Church.

The tour, guided by Mr Bye, who wore a jaunty blue trilby hat and a retro knitted jumper, skipped between eras of Northampton’s history, all held together through the perspective of a fictional future child which the group named, Rosie.

Mr Bye told tales of the landmark hanging of Elizabeth Pinckard for murder in 1852, to Charles Bradlaugh’s electoral defeat, to the fury of townspeople, in Market Square in 1874.

He evoked the image of fires tearing through Gold Street to men queuing for the last show at the soon-to-be-closed risqué underground theatre.

He stood in front of All Saints Church to mark the spot where, in 1844, the institutionalised John Clare scribbled poems on the floor and where, decades later in 2000, hundreds gathered to mourn the death of Eddie “Smiler” White.

Speaking after the tour, Mr Bye, originally from Middlesborough, said: “It’s been great that we had a full group, even despite the rain - everyone today showed a real Dunkirk spirit.

“We’ve been in the town for a couple of weeks and have found stories everywhere we go and from everyone we meet.

“What has interested us most about Northampton is this amazing spirit that the people have for standing up for change and regeneration and yet, at the same time, there is a sort of fatalism where people don’t seem convinced it will happen anyway.

“I have quite a lot of family history in Northampton but this time leaving will be even more sentimental.”

Guests on the tour, Val Sudlow and Jennu Hollins, said: “This has been an excellent event - we are always supportive of Royal & Derngate but this is just something so different.

“It’s very clever how Daniel has pulled it all together and providing umbrellas was an extra touch of genius.”

The tour was performed for one weekend only as Mr Bye and Miss Punshon prepare to start their new tour in Middlesborough. The project in Northampton was commissioned as part of Jonbar Archaeology, currently running in Northampton’s NN Gallery.