Chairman’s Report 2017

Chairman’s Address to FONC AGM – covering the year 2017. Events and Activity: Friends of the Castle have remained active and committed to making Northampton’s past part of its future during 2017. We have had a presence at a variety of events, including the Spring Festival, Children’s Workshops at both Towcester library and Abington Park Museum, Heritage Open Days and the Northampton Heritage Fair, in 2017 held at Castle Hill URC. We have been able to work in partnership with other local organisations including the Looking Glass Theatre, whose Ghost Walks around the Castle site have become very popular. Northampton Borough Council has become a key partner in a number of activities. With the Council we have been able to introduce a new app to our Virtual Reality experiences of the Castle, instigate a GPR and Drone investigation of the inner bailey area, as well as to continue our Castles in the Air project. Northampton Partnership Homes, which is now the landlord of estate of Spring Boroughs, has shown a real interest in supporting our work. They have been cooperative in ensuring archaeological oversight of their refurbishment work in the area. More importantly still, they have been keen to support our attempts to make the area around Castle Mound more attractive. Though this work has not yet come to fruition we look forward very shortly to the installation of new plaques and the creation of a trail designed to make the inner bailey the attractive green space it deserves to be. Campaigns and Frustrations: We have had a busy year attempting to bring the County Council in particular back to its promise of creating a Heritage Park. Central to that campaign was the presentation of a petition of over 750 signatures, including the signatures of the Mayor and Mayoress of Northampton, to the County Council. Spring Boroughs Voice the local planning forum has joined with us in arguing for a park. Sadly despite our efforts the Council has continued until recently to insist that it would seek planning permission for an estate of 30 plus dwellings on the Castle House site. What is now clear is that the Council’s failure to manage its finances is leading to external investigations. In the light of this we will need to make new efforts and additional allies who will help us defend this once in a lifetime chance to make the most of our Castle heritage. New Opportunities: While our VR apps have been downloaded by thousands, there is now the opportunity to make them part of a regular package for schools. We are keen to use the knowledge we have gained in children’s workshops so that the package is both suitable for younger and older children. The final stages of the archaeological survey of the inner bailey site will bring opportunities to seek funding and to make more of our tours. We have yet to explore many aspects of the history of the Castle. For example, the Castle was used as a Court for many years. Its famous and even infamous prisoners, its judges and trials may well be the next phase of research. Thank you to the valiant members of Friends of Northampton Castle: As chairman, once again I would like to thank members of FONC for their cheerful willingness to make Northampton proud of its history. Well done! Dr Marie Dickie OBE

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