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Notable figures commemorated with blue plaques

Culture and tourism

08 February 2023

People gathered for the unveiling of the blue plaque at The Barratt Maternity Home

Four notable figures from Northampton’s past are now commemorated with blue plaques, located at sites associated with them, to honour their contributions to the town.

William Barratt, Joseph Gurney, Peter the Saracen and Rose Scott and were chosen by a panel of local historians, from a total of 69 public nominations received by the council.

William Barratt was a self-made Northampton shoe manufacturer who donated funds to build the town’s maternity home in 1934, greatly improving the safety of childbirth. He was nationally known in the shoe industry for his progressive ideas, and many will remember the Barratt stores on high streets across the country. His plaque is located on the original entrance of the Barratt Maternity Home, off Cheyne Walk.

Hospital staff, midwives, members of the blue plaque project team and members of William Barratt’s family gathered at the maternity home on Monday, 6th February to officially unveil the Barratt blue plaque, alongside the Chairman and Deputy Leader of West Northamptonshire Council.

It is a real privilege to have been included in the blue plaque scheme and see some of our hospital's history recognised by the public.

Our hospital has played a huge part in the history of the town and William Barratt especially is a household name. Thanks to the work of local historians and in particular our hospital archive team, we have been so proud to share the story of William and his wife Alice to colleagues and our local community.

The legacy they built in funding the Barratt Maternity Home lives on today and it fills us with pride that the legacy of Barratt babies continues into the present day.
Heidi Smoult, Chief Executive of Northampton General Hospital

Born in 1814, Joseph Gurney was a town councillor, Mayor, and leading radical, who supported parliamentary reforms. He founded the Northampton Freehold Land Society, allowing working men to own their homes. This was a predecessor of the Nationwide Building Society. His plaque is located on a private residence on the corner of Elysium Terrace and Freehold Street, NN2 6EN.

Peter the Saracen was employed by King John in 1205 as a crossbow maker in Northampton and was probably one of the first Muslims and skilled African craftsmen to be recorded in England. It is thought that he came to England after the Third Crusade of 1189. His plaque is located in in the Chalk Lane carpark, close to the Northampton Castle mound, NN1 2RW.

A lifelong anti-poverty campaigner, Rose Scott served on the Northampton Board of Guardians for 17 years, supporting the unemployed, widowed men and unmarried mothers. She was also a national speaker for the Labour Movement, a supporter of adult suffrage, and Northampton’s first female councillor in 1919. Her plaque is located on a private residence on Birchfield Road, by the Collingwood Road junction, NN2 6EN.

The plaques are a fitting way to promote the area’s rich heritage and celebrate the significant contributions these four individuals made to the town’s reputation and its residents’ welfare.

Joseph Gurney was a pioneer of the modern-day building society, and Peter the Saracen’s presence in Northampton gives us a fascinating insight to Medieval life.

Rose Scott is an inspiring example of an independent-minded woman in public life, who campaigned for the welfare of residents for many years, and William Barratt’s legacy is still very much alive today.
Councillor Adam Brown, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Culture

The council is exploring the possibility of developing a wider blue plaque scheme covering West Northamptonshire as part of a Arts Council England-funded project at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

More information about the life and work of each plaque holder can be found on our Blue Plaques page

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