Now you know I wax lyrical about the beauty of Northamptonshires countryside, but unlike some lets say more official sites that cover the town I'm not going to just show the positives,
There are some lovely buildings in the town centre but it doesn't take long to see how the town has been spoilt and neglected over the years, in many cases the good has been torn down and replaced with the bad.
There is no one culprit to blame although I think most people could give you their views on that, and to be fair that's a whole new conversation.
There are exceptions to that though and they are the redeeming features of the towns architecture.
Lets start with the good, Northamptons Town Hall or The Guildhall is a magnificent building, when you step back and take the time to look at it properly, it's full of detail and a delight to look at.
The history of the building is interesting and I'll let you look further into that if you want to, if you get time or are in Northampton take a wander along and take a look inside.
The inside matches the exterior for beauty, stanied glass windows and other stuff well worth seeing, worth taking time out definitely.
Now Northampton has had a market for hundreds of years, over 800, obviously with such a long history many things have changed, including how it is used and who uses it,
Old Northamptonians like me will tell you it's lost much if its character, the fountain that used to grace the middle of the market was pulled down in the 1960's, the cobblestones were pulled up and replaced with block paving.
Certainly it's not used anywhere near as much as it was, and that obviously has an effect on the atmosphere of the place, but then this is largely true of the town centre itself.
Some pretty momentous events have taken place there, one being a riot involving 7,00o supporters of Charles Bradlaugh the famous Northampton Politician who I have mentioned in the radical Northampton section of this site.
Above the north end of the market in the 1950's, with the Emporium Arcade where Boots now stands.
Above the market as it appears today, in the background you can just make out the ugly monstosity of a 1970's multi storey car park.
The buildings surrounding the Market are a hotch potch of the old and newer, some visually appealing and some to be frank an eyesore.
The picture below illustrates my point, whatever were they thinking of when they built the square grey box below ? It's ugly, very ugly, reminiscent of eastern bloc architecture in the 1970's, contrast that to the building to the right.
Now I understand that places evolve over time but surely some thought should be put into how a new building will integrate with what's already there?. It can be done and it has been done very sucessfully elsewhere.
Below is Welsh House, the oldest building on the market square, it's had many uses over time but is a still fine looking building,
This heraldic sign on Welsh House which in Welsh reads "Without God, Without-everything, with God enough".
Welsh House was one the the few buildings to survive the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675,
Above is the north end of the market, the building surrounded by scaffolding has a long history, it was once the Corn Exchange, in more recent time it was Chicago's nightclub.
The sign attached to the scaffolding is for a roofing company and that got me to thinking that if they are refurbing the roof there must be something more going to happen.
I chatted to an old boy on the market and asked him if he knew anything about what was going on, he told me he'd heard it was going to be developed into retail units and flats, the interior of this builing is enormous.
I'd seen somewhere that Northampton Borough Council had a consulation document which lays out several idea's for improvements to the town centre which they have designated as comprising several specific area's.
The market square area is one such area and the proposals within the docment are -
"Upgrade market square public realm"
"New indoor food hall as a catalyst project"
"Rejuvenate active frontage around market square"
"Redefine existing pedestrian links"
"Improve Drapery environment and public realm".
OK, the first one "Upgrade market square public realm", what does that actually mean ?,
Firstly I seem to remember the new fountain which cost £50,000 to put in and has added nothing visually as it's rarely seen working, so a lot of thought has to be put into any upgrades proposed.
Hopefully the consulation which get a good response and and the council and others involved will take note of what people say, but it needs people to engage in the process, put scepticism aside and let the powers that be know what they want.
The new indoor food hall, this maybe a good idea, the market covers quite a large area and not all of it is utilised, why not have small units selling foods from all over the world as we are now a town with many different nationalities.
Rejuvenating the frontage, not really sure how that would work, but there must be some inventive types in the town that could input their idea's. Could be a project for students at Northampton UNI ?.
Redefine the existing pedestrain links, needs some thought, really dependent on if residential development happens, and if it does how will that exist alongside commercial activity.
The Drapery could be improved straight away by just removing the buses, which being diesel pump filth into the air shoppers have to breathe.
Personally I'm very aware now about dirty air and if the centre could be made cleaner that would definitely be a plus for me, I'm not sure if everybody feels the same but just as a point of public health it must be a priority.
There are proposals for many other parts of the town centre some of which sound positive and some which I'm not so sure about, lets hope I'm able to write about some improvements in the near future.
For me priorities would be making the place a pleasant and safe place to visit, with definite reasons to want to go there.
One thing I noticed when I went into town to take the pictures on here was idling taxis pumping out diesel fumes, I contacted the Council about that and will let you know their response.
Newer buidings can be added in sympathy with what is already in place as seen above when the Guildhall was extended.
St Giles Street is probably the best shopping street left in the town centre, it has some nice cafes, some decent shops, and was recently repaved, if the rest of the town could match this ?.
There's no doubt the town could be vastly improved in many ways, footfall has fallen and as a result businesses have suffered, and with Marks and Sparks closing there is yet another empty unit in the main shopping street.
A lot of the proposals in the consultation document are positive, introducing more housing within the centre would in my opinion be a step forward, as long as it is affordable and not just luxury flats.
A building like the old Corn Exchange should not be standing empty and hopefully this will be developed and add somwhere for people to live and some decent shops, it's important that the town is clean and attractive, at the moment that's not the case.
A decent transport strategy needs to be put into place, it's ironic that the town centre used to be served by a Tram system, replaced by buses, but we need to move away from polluting vehicles in town centres.
I'm not an evangelist on this subject as I own a diesel vehicle myself but I wouldn't drive it into town, it just seems to be common sense when so many vehicles are on our roads.
Northampton has many rivals for people to go shopping so something urgently needs to happen, I love this place and I would hate to see it turn into a ghost town.
A tent in All Saints church yard, surely in the our supposedly rich economy we shouldn't be seeing this ?. I know the causes are complicated and central government squeezing councils funding haven't helped but this has got to be wrong.
I know the church has asked others who were camped in the same place to move because they wouldn't interact with people trying to help them, so those that did move are now camped on the land in front of the Mayorhold car park.
The cost to society of homelessness is high but more important is the the cost to the homeless, we have already had people die on the streets, some quite young, this is not a third world country, There are people out there helping and I'll write about that in a future post.
There is much to think about and much to do but I'd like to think that in years to come hopefully sooner we won't be seeing this, people need to be put first.
If you have taken the time to read this thank you, if you have any thoughts feel free to comment.
Have a good Summer :)