20 September 2018 Life in the Boroughs
Speaker: Kate Wills
An historical area of Northampton known as The Boroughs was brought back to life by Kate Wills relating memories of those who lived there and photographic records of the area.
Kate was a researcher on the Living Memory group, set up in 1982 to document the areas history using archival material, photographs and interviews with it’s last inhabitants, and is author of In Living Memory, published in 1987.
The area of the Boroughs was at the heart of medieval Northampton, built on the old Saxon site, and dominated by the Norman castle built by Simon de Senlis.
A wall was built around the Norman part of the town-Castle Hill, The Mounts, St Giles and the old Saxon borough. Much of the castle was demolished the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660’s.
Until the early 1800’s there was a lovely area called Elysian Fields (now Semilong) consisting of priories and orchards. In the mid 1800’s the railway came, despite objections, resulting in the demolition of castle ruins. However, it created new jobs for the increasing population.
In 1858 the world’s first shoe factory (now demolished) was built on the Mounts. Many women worked in the shoe industry, and Northampton was very much a thriving town with much owner occupancy of houses.
Very little now remains of The Boroughs now apart from a few buildings in Horsemarket and Scarletwell Street, with the rest of the area being demolished in the 60’s and 70’s to make way for so-called improvements, typical of the time. Although by then much of the housing was undeniably slum housing, many architecturally significant building were lost in order to create new housing estates largely for people moving to Northampton from London.
What was also lost was a strong sense of community and green spaces. The Boroughs had 82 pubs in 11/2 sq mile, and a shop on every corner. Neighbours talked over the garden wall and looked out for each other, young and old. Employment was high and there was no homelessness; a very different picture compared to today.