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Historical finds on Market Square present new mysteries

Northampton Market

07 September 2023

Images of findings during the renovation of the market square, courtesy of MOLA
Some of the findings during the regeneration of the Market Square, Images courtesy of MOLA

Experts from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have uncovered some curious and exciting finds while surveying the regeneration of Northampton’s historic Market Square.

West Northamptonshire Council is working closely with construction partnership Stepnell Ltd on the Government-funded project to breathe new life into the space, and into the wider town centre.

As part of the work, MOLA has been commissioned to keep a watching brief as excavation work takes place for the new paving and drainage.

Throughout the past few months, the project has uncovered a wealth of archaeological treasures that will help to shed more light on the town's rich history.

Among the many medieval Market Square surfaces were fragments of medieval shoes, textiles, pottery dating from 1200 to 1350, animal bones and wood, archaeologists have also uncovered 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. It may be a previously unknown market hall.

We have found a stone building in the south-west 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.
Mark Roberts, Senior Project Manager with MOLA

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, Senior Project Manager with MOLA

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

We have quite a collection of fascinating artifacts which are still being studied by MOLA’s historical experts in a bid to shed even more light on the heritage of our Market Square.

We are intrigued to see if they manage to uncover anything else during the excavations, which are being carried out to bring a new and energised public space to Northampton town centre.
Cllr Dan Lister, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Town Centre Regeneration and Growth

Most of the necessary surface water and drainage improvements have now been completed, alongside essential repairs to the Victorian brick sewer system.

Root cells for the new trees, water feature installation, and new paving in the north-east corner are well under way. 

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