Spreading north from the banks of the River Nene, NORTHAMPTON is a workaday town whose modern appearance largely belies its ancient past. Throughout the Middle Ages, this was one of central England’s most important towns, a flourishing commercial hub whose now demolished castle was a popular stopping-off point for travelling royalty. A fire in 1675 burnt most of the medieval city to a cinder, and the Georgian town that grew up in its stead was itself swamped by the Industrial Revolution, when Northampton swarmed with boot- and shoemakers, whose products shod almost everyone in the British Empire. Errol Flynn kitted himself out with several pairs of Northampton shoes and boots when he was in repertory here in 1933, but he annoyed the city’s tailors no end by hightailing it out of town after a year, leaving a whopping tailors’ debt behind him.

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