Meeting Report January 2013

The first meeting of the New Year had many interesting developments to discuss. Including, the publication of the archaeological evaluation on the exploratory dig in Castle station carpark in October; the Heritage Gateway feasibility study; and archive pictures of the Castle on our website.

Everyone was welcomed to the meeting and wished a Happy New Year by Marie.

Following the news that Brian Binley M.P. a staunch supporter of our group’s aims was to receive treatment for cancer, everyone at the meeting was asked to sign a card expressing best wishes for a fully successful and speedy recovery.

WEST NORTHAMPTON DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (WNDC)

Duncan Harper the WNDC project manager of the railway redevelopment and Ian Andrews from its communication department made a welcomed return visit to our group. Primarily, to discuss the archaeological evaluation report on the exploratory dig in Castle station carpark last October; which is available to read on the WNDC website.

Duncan reported that the dig had generated much interest. This was especially so, given the evidence and finds, which included a late Saxon brooch, uncovered in such a small area. He had met with the County Archaeologist and representatives from Northampton County Council (NCC), Network Rail and London Midland before Christmas to discuss the way forward. It had been decided that the next course of action would be the fencing off of the whole of the short-stay carpark in February for a further exploratory dig; whilst still keeping open the access road round that area for taxis and drop off vehicles. This would enable the appointed contractor as well as the archaeology team to assess what was under the ground in this area before redevelopment starts. The NCC was keen to explore the footprint of the whole area and then, depending upon the evidence found there, to carry out further investigation during Stage 2 of the redevelopment. Accordingly, the NCC wished to monitor the redevelopment work.

Ian also reported that the appointment of a contractor for the redevelopment of the station was midway through the process which came with a preferred design option. The design would be in the public domain by early February; hopefully, including a temporary exhibit in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. This design would be similar in detail to the initial design and would not show the heritage footprint. However, Duncan stressed that Network Rail were very keen to reflect the heritage of the site in the final design and were hoping to talk with the consultants of the Heritage Gateway feasibility study during the process.

Jon, FONC’s expert archaeologist on the Castle site, said the County Archaeology team should be congratulated for producing such a fine report. Julia thanked Duncan and Ian for their support in releasing the report into the public domain and ensuring that the report was readily available to view on their website. Howard was concerned about the construction of the multi-storey carpark in Stage 2 of the redevelopment given this area is where the inner bailey would have been located. Ian said that the phasing of work was important. When funding was available for Stage 2 the same stringent process of assessing the site would be carried out as for Stage 1.

Marie raised the query as to ownership of the finds from the site. There was general agreement among those present that Network Rail as owners of the site would have first claim of ownership. Ian would ascertain whether this was indeed the case. There then followed a discussion as to the desirability of displaying any finds in the new station rather than the town museum and also, once ownership clarified, whether replicas of finds such as the Saxon brooch, could be produced to sell as tourist items in suitable town locations perhaps in the museum shop and the library.

Sanaa wondered if it was actually feasible for any suitably located exposed ground level evidence to be exhibited through a glass floor as, given the station would be on three levels with the main public area on the second level, few would notice it. Ian was of the opinion that as the entrance into the station from the carpark would be at ground level, and especially once the multi-storey carpark was built, there would be more people entering the station at this level than the main street entrance on level two.

Marie summed up the discussion then thanked Duncan and Ian for coming to the meeting and looked forward to them coming again in February to discuss the detailed design work for the station building in the context of the Heritage Gateway.

Heritage Gateway

Marie informed the meeting that Focus Consultants had won the contract for the Heritage Gateway feasibility study. It was hoped that someone from Focus Consultants would attend our meeting either next month or in March.

Howard had prepared a comprehensive statement to express the aims of FONC in the design of the redevelopment of the station area; which he had classified under two headings: – ‘Information’ and ‘Celebration’. In summary, FONC’s primary aim was the recognition of Northampton Castle and to ensure that the new station building recognised and celebrated the castle. By finding out about the archaeology; publicising new and existing information on the castle; along with celebrating it on and near the actual site this under-exploited medieval heritage could be turned into an asset for the immediate and future benefit of the town. Howard was thanked for drafting the statement and it was agreed that, after consultation regarding exact detail, it would be put on the web-site.

John suggested that nearer the time of the official opening of the new station building that a poster in the style of pre-war tourist railway posters could be commissioned either by a local artist or a publically held competition.

Spring Lane Dig Follow-Up

Jon had completed the Dig Report and it was about to go on the web-site. Everyone who took part in the Dig would be sent, where possible, a copy by e-mail. The Mayor, who opened the Dig with the first turn of soil, and Brian Binley MP, who also visited the site, would also receive a copy. Jon presented a detailed account; in which he had calculated that of the 113 copies required, 45 would need to be printed and then posted. The estimated cost for printing and posting amounted to £149.50. He was given the go-ahead to print and send the necessary copies; and as he already had some cash in hand from the Dig, he was given a cheque at the meeting for the residual cost he would incur.

Joe had made inquiries about renting a Council owned garage for storing the tools used in the Dig that at present are stored in the school. The local Housing Officer was unsure whether any garages were available. However, Joe believes that some are available and will keep chasing up.

Summer Big Dig

Further to ideas suggested at the last meeting, John put forward the proposal that it might be possible for FONC to advertise the Big Dig in a joint Community Courtyard /UNISON project that involved mailing every household in the local area.

A community centre or somewhere nearby would be needed as a collection point for the finds. As many lived in housing that did not have a garden, the only alternative place to dig were communal gardens. It was agreed that John would talk to the Borough Council and that John would liaise with him.

Photo Gallery

An exciting addition to the web-site is a photo gallery showing archive photographs of the ruins of the castle. Northamptonshire Libraries and Information Service were warmly thanked for kindly allowing FONC the use of the photographs from the collection held at Northampton Central Library.

VIP Mailing List

A recent promotional New Year greeting message to key persons in the town had resulted in an offer from the business development adviser for the Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness of our group’s aims across the Chamber’s membership. This offer had been readily taken up.

Following on from the compilation of the VIP list, it was agreed that a master mailing list would be collated by Julia of contacts and members so that information could be distributed to all interested parties when necessary. Anyone with a mailing list was requested to forward it to Julia for cross referencing.

Community Courtyard Project

Members had been asked to view the outline of the triptych mural currently being created by Gerald Porter, before the start of the meeting, and give any comments to Lynne who would pass them on to Gerald. Howard reported that following last month’s appeal for volunteers to assist Gerald there had been a few offers of help received via Facebook.

Membership

Joe invited those members who have not already paid their subscription for 2013 to do so as soon as possible. He also asked those present at the meeting to supply their e-mail address so that he could update his membership records.

Community First Funding

There was a discussion on how best to use the money, still available for a limited time, from the Community First Fund. Some would be used as rent if a place for storing the tools, as discussed earlier, was found. A suggestion about a promotional mailing to Heads of Humanities and History teachers in the town’s secondary schools was expanded upon during discussion and resulted in the agreed following course of action. That Jon, Julia, Shane and John would put together a tutorial programme on Northampton Castle that teachers could use as part of the GCSE history module concerning castles. An invite would be sent to all the secondary schools’ humanities department for interested teachers to attend a Saturday seminar on the castle in which they would be shown the tutorial programme and weather permitting a tour of the castle trail. The seminar would be held at the Castle Hill Church and refreshments would be provided. Community First Funds would be used to produce the tutorial; mailing of schools; cost of hiring venue and refreshments; and any other costs incurred in the event.

Old Black Lion

Andy reported that work had commenced on repairs to the Old Black Lion Pub and that volunteers at St. Peter’s would be alert for further news on the building’s future.

Future Meetings/Diary Dates

Our monthly held meetings, which are open to all, usually take place on the second Friday of the month. Accordingly, dates for the next three meetings are 8th February, 8th March and 12th April.

Date and Venue of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held at 6pm on Friday 8th February at Castle Hill United Reform Church, Doddridge Street, Northampton.

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