Hardingstone - Historical Overview

There has been a settlement here on the ridge above the Nene valley since at least the Iron Age, and probably from prehistoric times. Evidence has been found of the Celts, and further along the ridge is their great hill fort at Hunsbury. The Romans’ presence is witnessed by a kiln, whose site was unearthed during excavations for the new primary school, a dig with which one of our members assisted.

That the Saxons were the founders of our village is revealed by its name. The Normans developed that farming community into a manorial demesne the second of their Earls of Northampton founding the nunnery of St. Mary-de-la-pre on what would then have been a remote and fen-like setting, in the valley below. The mediaeval church has a dedication to the Dark Age, Anglian, King and Martyr, St. Edmund.

A splendid cross commemorates the resting of Queen Eleanor of Castille’s cortege at the nunnery, and there are some local historians who are convinced that the 1460 Battle of Northampton was fought, not west to east in the valley, but south to north, thereby placing the Yorkist position on our part of the ridge.

With the Dissolution of the monasteries and the metamorphosis of the monastic buildings by the Tate family into the country seat that that would become the Delapre Abbey that we know today, the manorial orientation altered and Hardingstone settled into its role as the Estate village. A number of ironstone farms, including a magnificent range of barns in the William-and-Mary style and accommodation for estate workers and house servants, are all testimony to nearly four centuries of stability, peaking with the philanthropy of Colonel Bouverie in the 1860’s building elementary schools here and in neighbouring Far Cotton (then, like the Abbey, in this parish). However, gradual impoverishment and the ultimate lack of a valid heir after war-time requisitioning of the Abbey, led to the total selling off and breaking up of the Estate after1945.

In the village, development begun in the 1930’s on previously sold-off Bouverie land, escalated in the 1950’s and 60’s, culminating in the cataclysmic ending of Hardingstone’s peaceful, agrarian, rural idyll with the construction in the 1970’s of infrastructure to service the expansion of Northampton. The vast (now called) Queen Eleanor Interchange was constructed on corn fields to the west of the village, a ring road for the town sliced across Port Lane that used to go towards the town centre through our woods and fields to the north-east of the village, and several farms became smothered with the construction of the Brackmills Industrial Estate.

Village life has been maintained, albeit in a diminished and isolated way, until the present day (2017). A parish council, a church within an extended rural benefice, village bodies and village people, alongside still productive farmland on our one side still open to the countryside, have all preserved the agricultural, rural identity.

However, this too is soon to disappear, as a consequence of national government’s determination to allow the building of over one thousand houses on these last remaining fields. This will seal the last remaining gap in an arc of sprawling housing estates to the south of Northampton, from Upton in the west to Brackmills Industrial Estate to the town’s south-east. Swallowed and encircled, Hardingstone’s village identity will become essentially nominal and historic.


It is the aim of the History Society to preserve the historical knowledge of our community that we already do have, and, as far as is possible by gathering such evidences, photographs and reminiscences, to record what we have in the village, while we still have it. The Society’s concerns may be with the past and the present that so relentlessly becomes the past, but its dedication is to the future.