Review of the year
The Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” might well have applied to FONC this year. In last year’s address I was able to point to a number of products of our lobbying of the local authorities – to the Castle exhibition at Hazelrigg House, for example and the still recent clearing of the Castle House site and to the “temporary “ purple hoarding that now surrounded it. Since then it has become clear that the County Council has withdrawn from the leadership of the Heritage Gateway project. Instead we have a smaller more focussed group working with the Borough Council to make what progress we can incrementally. We have remain committed to that overall vision for a heritage park linking the main listed buildings and significant archaeological sites in the area , but we cannot pretend that progress is how we would wish it to be.
New neighbours, contacts and activity
We have new neighbours – at Hazelrigg House , the Looking Glass Theatre company – and the wooden knights which now patrol the edge of the earthworks and inner bailey of the Castle. We can pat ourselves on the back because neither of these new neighbours would have been here without our lobbying. We have maintained a strong public presence at events – delivering both tours and workshops for children as well as for adults, demonstrating our developing Great Hall animation at Medieval Mayhem in Abington Park in a heat wave and at the Spring Boroughs Community festival in the rain!! The theme for the year – Magna Carta – was much harder to project than for Thomas Becket in 2014. We were able to work with Mike Ingram of the Battlefield Trust and with Prof. Vincent of UEA – but the lack of preparation and effort from the local authorities around what should have been an opportunity to put Northampton on the national stage was frankly deplorable. New contacts have, however been made which should prove useful in future. Not least has been the opening up of a dialogue with Northampton University about its ancient forebear and its future in the town centre. Hopefully, this together with our recent decision to join both the Northamptonshire Archaeology Society and the Northamptonshire Record Society, will enable us to make the case and rally the person power, for a much better research base around the history of the Northampton Castle and indeed, the medieval town. We continue to enjoy a good working relationship with local organisations with some common interests to ourselves – Castle Hill Church, Friends of St Peters and the Neighbourhood Planning forum, Spring Boroughs Voice.
On line and on the ground
Our website and our face book presence continues to provide us with a much greater reach than we could maintain by simply holding meetings. It is vitally important that we edit and update frequently to keep that interest going. In that respect we will very much miss the Yeend family when they depart for Shropshire, but know they will keep in touch on line. There is a growing category of honorary or corresponding members of FONC to which they will add further distinction.
Next year we will translate our “Castles in the Air” into reality, providing local children with a chance to create their own. We will introduce yet more people to Great Hall of the Castle, via animation and geo phys on the ground, and if all goes well we may yet see the last of the purple hoarding!