Visitors to Northamptonshire can walk the grounds of the ‘English Versailles’, marvel at the best preserved of the impressive Eleanor crosses at Geddington, and step inside the Tudor home of George Washington’s ancestors.
We’ve collected some of the best of Northamptonshire’s historic sites below, ranging from enchanting follies to memorable local museums.
1. Althorp House and Estate
Althorp House and Estate in Northamptonshire has for over 500 years been the home of the Spencer family, one of Britain’s well-known aristocratic dynasties and the family of Diana, Princess of Wales. Today the stunning house and the history of its past occupants may be explored, alongside its extraordinary grounds.
Althorp House first became the seat of the Spencer family in 1508, when Sir John Spencer purchased the land with money from his successful sheep-rearing business. Over the years Althorp has passed through 19 generations of Spencer. Kings from Charles I to Edward VII have been welcomed in its halls.
2. Delapré Abbey
Delapré Abbey is a mansion and landscape in Northamptonshire, recently restored as a visitor attraction. It features five “storytelling zones” in its Stable Block and the main house, including interactive displays which explore aspects of the Abbey’s history acros some 900 years.
Delapré Abbey’s surrounding grounds were the site of the Battle of Northampton, which took place in 1460 during the the Wars of the Roses.
3. Boughton House
Boughton House is a remarkable French-influenced 17th-century English country mansion in Northamptonshire, whose stunning state rooms and picturesque gardens are now periodically open for visitors to explore.
Though a monastic building existed on the site of Boughton House in the Middle Ages, most of what can be seen today was constructed in the late 17th century by Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu. Having served as the English ambassador to France, his influence on the house was to recall the styles of great French palaces such as Versailles. As such, Boughton House has often been dubbed ‘The English Versailles’.
4. Fotheringhay Castle
Fotheringhay Castle (also known as Fotheringay Castle) was a High Middle Age Normal Motte-and-Bailey castle around three miles north of the market town of Oundle, Northamptonshire, England.
Birthplace of Richard III and site of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this Norman motte and bailey castle is now a ruin. Fotheringhay Castle is easily accessible during daylight hours, and should delight those interested in medieval history, the Wars of the Roses, and Elizabethan politics.
5. Edgecote Moor Battlefield
Edgecote Moor Battlefield is the site of a battle fought during the Wars of the Roses, that resulted in the capture of Edward IV by the Earl of Warwick.
The Battle of Edgecote Moor was fought on 26 July 1469, and pitched the Yorkist forces under the Earl of Pembroke, against the Lancastrians, under the leadership of ‘Robin of Redesdale’. This was almost certainly a pseudonym for one of the Northern lords who, encouraged by the Earl of Warwick, had stirred a rebellion against the rule of Edward IV.
The current accepted location the battlefield is easily accessible over rights of way, and has an information board detailing its history.
6. Canons Ashby House
Canons Ashby House is an Elizabethan manor house located in Northamptonshire, that was the home of the Dryden family for over 400 years. Largely preserved in its 1710 state, Canons Ashby House provides a collection of fascinating artwork and history perfect for lovers of the era and casual tourists alike.
7. Geddington Cross
The death of his wife Eleanor of Castile brought Edward I to his knees. The royal entourage, who were based in Lincoln at the time, spent the dark days of December 1290 returning the body of the queen to Westminster Abbey. To mark this procession – the longest in English history – Edward ordered 12 crosses of golden stones to be erected along the route.
The cross at Geddington is the best preserved of the surviving crosses. Probably built in 1294 or 1295, the cross stands at the centre of the village and is unique in having a triangular plan and slender profile, covered with rosette diapering.
8. Rushton Triangular Lodge
In the 1590s, Sir Thomas Tresham, built the intriguing Rushton Triangular Lodge. Built in alternating bands of limestone and ironstone ashlar, with a Collyweston stone slate roof, the folly is actually a protestation of Tresham’s Roman Catholicism, having been imprisoned for 15 years for refusing to become a Protestant.
9. The Canal Museum
The Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire, provides an overview of Britain’s canal history and is housed on two floors of a historic corn mill. Since 1963, the Canal Museum has offered an insight into Stoke Bruerne’s past and also that of the Grand Union Canal it overlooks.
10. Sulgrave Manor
Sulgrave Manor is a 16th century Tudor hall house in Sulgrave, Nothamptonshire, which once belonged to the ancestors of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Lawrence Washington, the President’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, built the hall, but it passed from the hands of the Washington family in the 17th century.
In the 20th century, the manor was restored from its use as a farmhouse and is now administered as a Grade I listed building, advertising itself as the “original home of the Special Relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom.