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Even the first census of 1801 divided the population into those 'chiefly employed in agriculture', those 'chiefly employed in trade, manufacturers or handicraft', and others. From 1841 onwards, information was gathered on each person's occupation and this formed the basis for very detailed tables. The 1841 occupational tables, used here, listed over 3,000 different occupational titles. This was partly because no advance plans had been made for dealing with the enormous range of job titles people gave, but by 1881 the more organised classification used in the county level tables covered 414 categories. Unfortunately, because of the need to reorganise these statistics into different areas, for 1971 to 1991 we must work with data for over 10,000 wards, and only a very simple industrial classification is available for these. We therefore present long-run industrial change using just six broad sectors.
In general, early census reports applied just one classification to occupations, which led to three separate issues getting mixed up: social status, what the individual worker did, and what their employer's business was. Modern censuses have separate tables for each of these. NB our 1841 data are geographically crude, which results in some districts in the same county having identical figures.
Northampton began as a Saxon village. It was called Hamm tun, which means the village by the well-watered meadow. Later it was called North Hamm tun, probably to distinguish it from Southampton. Gradually the name changed to Northampton.
When they occupied Eastern England in the late 9th century the Danes turned Northampton into a stronghold called a burh. They dug a ditch around the settlement and erected an earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top. However Northampton was not just a stronghold it was also a place of trade where craftsmen worked and where goods were bought and sold at a market.
Despite the fact that it was a fortified settlement Northampton was captured and burned by the Danes in 1010. However Northampton soon recovered from this disaster and by the time of the Domesday Book (1086) it probably had a population of about 1,500. That seems tiny to us but settlements were very small in those days.
NORTHAMPTON IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Northampton grew in size in the 12th and 13th centuries and may have reached a population of 2,500 or 3,000 by 1300. Early in the 12th century the first Earl of Northampton built the Church of the Sepulchre when he returned home from the crusades. This was supposed to be a copy of a church in Jerusalem. He also fortified Northampton by building stone walls around it. The Earl also built a castle to safeguard the town.
Northampton gained its first charter in 1189. (A charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Richard I gave the charter in return for money. In 1215 Northampton was given its first mayor.
In the Middle Ages Northampton had weekly markets. By the early 13th century they were held in the present Market Place. There were also fairs in Northampton. In the Middle Ages a fair was like a market but it was held only once a year for a few days and it would attract buyers and sellers from all over the Midlands.
The main industry in Medieval Northampton was making wool. It was woven and dyed in Northampton. The importance of the wool industry is shown by street names such Mercers Row (a mercer was a dealer in fine cloth), The Drapery and Woolmonger Street. The first shoemaker was mentioned in the early 13th century but there were shoemakers in all Medieval towns. There is no evidence that shoemaking was a major industry in Northampton till much later.
St Andrews Priory (a small abbey) was built about 1100 in Broad Street. Delamere Abbey was built in 1145. In the 13th century friars arrived in Northampton. Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. There were several orders of friars in Northampton. The Franciscans were called grey friars because of their grey costumes. There were also Dominicans or black friars in Northampton and Austin friars. There was also a hospital dedicated to St Thomas. In it monks looked after the poor and sick as best they could.
However in 1264 there was a rebellion against the king. At first the rebels held Northampton but a royalist army captured the town and sacked it. Soon afterwards Northampton suffered a decline. By the 14th century there were reports that many parts of the town were in ruins. This may have been because high taxes were charged on people within the walls and so men moved to suburbs outside the town.
Northampton also suffered severely from the Black Death, which may have killed half the population. However Northampton soon recovered from this disaster.
Northampton suffered a severe fire in 1516 when many of the houses were destroyed. Fire was a constant hazard when most buildings were made of wood with thatched roofs. On the other hand if they burned these buildings could be easily replaced. Like all Tudor towns Northampton also suffered outbreaks of plague. However Northampton continued to grow in size and prosperity.
The Welsh house was built in 1595. It got its name from the Welshmen who drove cattle to Northampton fairs.
By the 17th century Northampton was noted for shoemaking. Indeed shoemaking was taking over from the traditional industry of wool (this was carried on as late as the 18th century).
In 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. Northampton staunchly supported parliament. The walls of the town were repaired in 1642-43 but they were never needed. However in 1660 Charles II ordered the destruction of the walls, remembering how the people of Northampton had opposed his father.
Then in 1675 disaster stuck Northampton. On September 20th a fire began in St Marys Street and it soon spread through the town. About 600 houses, half the total number in Northampton were destroyed as well as many public buildings. Yet the phoenix rose from the ashes. Many rich people, including the king donated money to help the people of Northampton. The town was rebuilt. This time it was far more neat and elegant than it had been before the fire.
In the 18th century Northampton had a reputation for being an attractive, well-built town. A survey in the mid-18th century showed it had a population of over 5,000. It would seem very small to us but by the standards of the time it was a fair sized market town. A County Hospital was built in Northampton in 1744.
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