Contractors unearth Northampton's past

Work in Northampton’s Market Square and some of the finds

Main contractor Stepnell and its subcontractor Danaher & Walsh started work in February on an 18-month scheme to reconfigure Northampton’s Market Square for West Northamptonshire Council.

A team from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been keeping a watching brief as excavation work takes place for new paving and drainage.

Over the past few months, the contractors and archaeologists together have uncovered treasures that help to shed more light on the town’s history.

Finds have included fragments of medieval shoes, textiles, pottery dating from 1200 to 1350, animal bones and wood – as well as the remnants of several structures.

A fine stone building was found in the centre of the Market Square and seems to be later than most of the medieval layers,” said MOLA senior project manager Mark Roberts. “It may be a previously unknown market hall.”

He continued: “We have found a stone building in the southwest dated perhaps to 1100 to 1150 and may predate the first use of area as a market in 1236.

“Other buildings, perhaps those seen on John Speed’s later map of 1610, have been found in the west of the site. There is also another wall at the north of the Market Square.

“We have also identified the Great Conduit of Northampton at the south of the Market Square, thought to have been built by Edward IV and documented as being repaired in 1509 – it gives its name to Conduit Lane.”

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The Great Conduit and Little Conduit were constructed to deliver water to Northampton Castle which was situated nearby.

A large medieval wooden post has also been discovered.

“While its exact purpose remains speculative, some have suggested it may have served as the documented whipping post, providing insight into the justice system of the time,” Mark Roberts said.

The structures, once recorded and catalogued, will be covered over again before Market Square is resurfaced, and the smaller finds will remain in the Northamptonshire collection.

Most of the necessary surface water and drainage improvements have now been completed, alongside repairs to the Victorian brick sewer system. Root cells for the new trees, water feature installation, and new paving in the northeast corner of the square are now under way.

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