St Giles Church and the surrounding area
ST GILES CONSERVATION AREA
St Giles Church sits in the heart of a conservation area which lies within the mediaeval walled area of Northampton's historic town core.
In the 12th century, only London and Lincoln were bigger towns than Northampton. St Giles Church dates from this time but was largely rebuilt in 1616 following the collapse of the tower.
The line of St Giles Street, St Giles Terrace and Spring Gardens are all older than the earliest map of 1610. Cheyne Walk and York Road were laid out in the early 19th Century, following the line of the town wall. The wall was demolished in 1662 by order of King Charles II as a punishment for supporting the Roundheads in the Civil War.
A conservation area is defined as 'an area of special architectural or historic interest'.
ST GILES CHURCH
St Giles church was originally outside the town walls. It was used for centuries for meetings of the Common Assembly and the election of Mayors and Bailiffs and until the reign of Henry VII, it was the centre of municipal life of the town.
From an architectural point of view the church is interesting, having parts with Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The tower dates from the 17th century but has Norman foundations. In 2020 the church celebrated it’s 900th year.
Most of the chancel is 700 years old and the transepts and chapels 600. The church was substantially enlarged in the 1850's.
The surviving early Norman doorway is beautiful and even has a little Norman knights head over it. It has been described as ‘a precious medieval relic’ and is similar to the style used in Caen Cathedral, Normandy.
ROBERT BROWNE & THE AMERICAN CONNECTION
Since the time of King Richard II, Northamptonshire was a major centre for religious dissidents, first the Lollards and then Puritans, Presbyterians, Baptists and Quakers.
Robert Browne was born in the 1550's in Rutland. He became a rector and published influential works which set out the theory of Congregational independence. His followers became known as Brownists.
In 1620 an English ship The Mayflower sailed to the New World with 102 passengers aboard. Most of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower 1620 were Brownists and he became known as "The Father of the Pilgrims" .
In 1633 aged 83 Browne was involved in a dispute with his godson who was a constable, which ended in blows. Browne was arrested and was so insolent to the judge during his trial that he was put in prison.
He became ill and died soon afterwards in Northampton Jail. He was buried in the graveyard at St Giles.
We are trying to raise money for repairs to the monument.
In 1630 a man was pressed to death in New Pastures - now Spencer Parade. This was the punishment for refusing to plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty' in a trial. The prisoner is laid on his back and then weight applied until they either plead or die by being crushed. This is the only recorded example of this punishment being applied in Northampton
Coming soon - the stories behind some of the most interesting headstones in the church yard.