We packed a rucksack today with waterproofs, and a couple of apples, and headed back to the bus stop for Northampton.
We started by following the Northampton Heritage Trail which begins at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church dates from 1103 and is the oldest building in Northampton and the largest and best preserved of four remaining round churches in the country. Sadly the church was locked and so we were unable to view the interior.
We should have followed the trail through the Market Square and past two sculptures; one commissioned to represent the town’s shoe and boot industrial heritage and the other to commemorate the life of Francis Crick, who with James D Watson discovered the structure of DNA. We saw these yesterday though and instead took a detour along Upper Mounts where we passed the fire station and the public baths. Hopefully these two buildings will be included in some future heritage trail that celebrates fine examples of 30’s architecture.
We rejoined the trail at Lutyens War Memorial that commemorates Northampton’s 23000 fallen from WW1 and only about 200 from WW2.
From there we continued on to St Giles Church which was also locked meaning that we couldn’t appreciate its stunning Victorian glass from inside – the external grills protected the glass from vandalism and from viewing!
We visited Beckett’s Well which legend suggests was visited by Thomas A Beckett as he fled his trial at the Castle in 1164.
After that we crossed the road to 78 Derngate, a house remodelled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This is his only major work outside of Scotland. We paid to look round and learnt that he was commissioned by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke, the founder of a prosperous model-making business in the town. Bassett-Lowke is said to be one of Mackintosh’s most demanding, knowledgeable and progressive patrons who had quite advanced ideas of his own. Money was obviously no object and in the early 1900’s Bassett-Lowke had arranged for both electric lighting and power to be installed in the house (lighting and power were supplied by two different companies at that time).
Mackintosh never visited the house, although he did see the results of his designs from photographs taken by Bassett-Lowke and these photos provide a fascinating archive today and show that little has changed in the intervening century.
Mackinstosh is known for his style over function whereas as Bassett-Lowke had a keen eye for function and one can imagine that there may have been some heated discussions before the final designs were agreed. Mrs Bassett-Lowke was a traditional lady and wasn’t keen on Mackintosh’s modern designs although she recognised the value of what her husband had commissioned and about ten years after his death she gifted most of the furniture to various museums.
This house is a real gem and love it or hate it it is a must to visit.
By now we were starting to feel a bit foot sore and paused for a coffee before heading off to the Museum and Art Gallery to view the town’s famous collection of boots and shoes (the largest in the World). The lighting here was really subdued to protect the exhibits and it took a while for our eyes to acclimatise. We would have loved to have been able to take photographs as there were some truly amazing designs.
After a while we had to admit defeat and abandon both the museum and the Trail as we’d only completed about half of them and time was marching on. We still had to go and collect the computer and we needed to get back to the boat to see Max. We will definitely revisit Northampton some other time and finish what we started.