Meeting Report December 2012

This month we have exciting news to end the year on about the Heritage Gateway; plus much more to look forward to in 2013 for this busy working group.

Apologies were received from Paul and Elaine and also Ian.
Members present at the meeting were informed that Tom Welsh, a founding member of FONC, was in the throes of moving to Chester. He would continue to take a keen interest in the group albeit as a correspondence member. There was unanimous agreement that he would be sorely missed. He was wished happiness and much success in his new abode. He will be kept fully informed and it is hoped that he may visit for key events.

Northampton Borough Council (NBC) commitment to the Heritage Gateway has been shown in that they are paying for a feasibility study to start in the New Year and be finished by the end of March. Their scoping brief for developing the Northampton ‘Heritage Gateway’, to be found on the Source Northamptonshire website, states the following:-
‘There is a shared aspiration to ensure that the current development and regeneration of Northampton’s Town Centre is fully informed by and reflects the town’s unique heritage offer. Specifically, there are aspirations around the development of a ‘heritage gateway’ into the town.

The purpose of this feasibility and options appraisal is to explore the potential around the site of the former Northampton Castle and also taking advantage of existing heritage assets in this area as a focus for celebration of the Borough’s past, and specifically how an offer can be developed for an area known as ‘Castle Hill’ taking into account its heritage significance and setting, as part of the wider ‘heritage gateway’.

Friends of Northampton Castle are listed as one of the Key Stakeholders. This exciting development in making the Heritage gateway a reality was great news to finish a busy year on for the members.

Following on from this NBC’s Leader together with some officers have planned a trip on the 29th January to Bedford for a fact-finding tour of the Bedford Mound site. Two members of FONC have been invited to be included in this party and it was agreed that Marie and Jon would go.

At the May Castle Revels plans to paint a wall mural in the Chalk Lane carpark was postponed due to the bad weather. Gerald Porter presented to the meeting an outline of his proposed triptych of murals which he wanted to be a validation of the area’s history and heritage. Based on historical representations, St. Thomas Becket was portrayed in the first panel and Henry II in the third panel. The middle panel consisted of an outline of the castle and the town seal headed with the title Northampton Castle in the style of FONC’s title on its website. The mural will have a protective covering when in situ on the carpark wall. Gerald is keen for art teachers and their art students to volunteer during the next few weeks to come along to the Castle Hill Church to assist in creating the mural. Gerald can be contacted on and members were asked to pass on his details as a matter of urgency to anyone whom they thought might be interested in helping in this worthy project. Gerald was thanked for all his hard work so far.

An invitation has been received from the leader of NBC for FONC reps. to attend a meeting, which he is hosting on Tuesday 22nd January 2013 for interested parties, to discuss plans for celebrating the 850th Anniversary of St. Thomas Becket’s trial at Northampton Castle. It was proposed that Marie and Paul should attend on behalf of FONC.

The Community First Funding was granted for the community dig at Spring Lane School last July. Joe informed members that money was still available. Members were asked to suggest at the next meeting how best to use this funding.

Tom had been a member of the Northampton Rail Users Association and thus represented FONC’s interest on the group. John will volunteer to join this group to maintain FONC’s link.

Also, before leaving Northampton, Tom had given Jon a copy of a pamphlet about the history of Norwich Castle; a form of which could be incorporated in a similar booklet on Northampton Castle that Jon is planning.

Joe reminded members that at a previous meeting it had been agreed that the £10 membership subscription would be due at the start of each calendar year. Accordingly, he was happy to accept payment of 2013 subs. with immediate effect.

Howard suggested and it was agreed that an e-mailing list be drawn up of current members so any news or information could be circulated swiftly.

Jon has completed an informative and lively eight page Community Excavation Newsletter detailing the Dig and the finds. A copy will be circulated to interested parties and everyone who took part in the New Year.

The finds and also the tools are still being kept at the school. It was suggested that the Community First Fund money could be used to rent a lockup in the area and if funds are available buy some more tools. Joe will look into the possibility of renting one of the unused council owned garages.

It is hoped to carry out a ‘Big Dig’ in 2013. This dig would involve those residents that wish to take part digging a one metre square hole in their garden or community area and seeing what they unearth. We would then visit and record what was found. The aim of this dig is to assist in understanding the development of the area and the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

It was agreed that future monthly meetings in 2013 would take place on the second Friday of the month. It is hoped that there will be an update from WNDC at the next meeting to be held on January 11th. There will be reports on the trip to Bedford Mound and the Becket Anniversary Interested Parties gathering at the February 8th meeting.

Work has started on pulling down the old Fishmarket and preparing the site for building the new bus station. Jon is lobbying for the Northants Archaeology Unit to investigate the site for any remaining evidence of the medieval synagogue. He is of the opinion that the synagogue was built in the Germanic gothic style which, if evidence is found, would attract international interest and foreign tourists to the town. He requested that members support calls for a preliminary investigation. Howard will put an awareness alert on the web-site and also on Facebook.

Using Sanaa’s ‘ghost of the castle’ image, Howard and Julia had designed an e-mail season’s greeting to be sent to a drawn up list of VIP supporters before Christmas. A further list would be drawn up in the New Year of potential sponsors and members are asked to give Julia names and contact details of any organisation that might support FONC’s aims and specifically the Becket Anniversary celebrations.

John raised the possibility of the Friends of St. Peter’s (FOSP) and FONC merging given the mutual aims; the close proximity to one another; and a number of FONC members also being members of FOSP. FOSP was bound by a constitution which would need to be unravelled before the two groups could merge. John also gave details of the Prince of Wales Rattlers alternative Christmas taking place on Sunday 23rd December at 7.30pm to which all were welcome.

The next meeting will be at 6pm on Friday 11th January 2013 at Castle Hill United Reform Church, Doddridge Street, Northampton.

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