Meeting Report February 2013

With the updated plans for the new railway station being put on public show, we welcomed back for a consecutive month both Duncan Harper the WNDC project manager of the railway redevelopment and Ian Andrews from its communication department to brief our group about the latest plans for the redevelopment of Castle Station. Plus news of exciting events and developments were also discussed by this busy working group.

Apologies were received from Marie, Sanaa and Joe.
In the absence of Marie, Jon chaired the meeting.

West Northampton Development Corporation (WNDC)

Ian and Duncan showed images and talked through the detailed plans for the station site. Images are available on the station website and also WNDC’s website which includes a Castle Railway Station photostream. Although still to be refined the building design, twice the size of the existing station, would try to make effective use of space and aesthetics of the site; the building colours being in harmony with the surroundings and the adjacent, soon to be built, Innovation Centre. Comprising of three levels, the ground floor would be for operational needs and access from the carpark; and the smaller mezzanine third floor for management. The main entrance and facilities would be on the middle floor and include the ticket office, toilets, retail units, and of particular interest to our group the waiting area and cafe would be situated on the side of the castle site. The access arrangements had been subject to many comments and were still under review. The Buckingham Group had been appointed for construction and careyjones chapmantolcher (CJCT) were the appointed architects. Network Rail would own the building.

There then followed a discussion during which FONC members expressed:-

a) That FONC meet with the architects to emphasise and ensure the heritage is reflected in the final design.

b) That the registered station name and all name signs include the word ‘Castle’.

c) The desire for the waiting area and cafe to reflect the castle heritage. Ideas put forward included the cafe being appropriately named and themed; permanent display of archaeological finds; a displayed model of the castle; a media screen with a scrolling package of archive photos and informative video; etchings in the glass windows; murals painted by local artists on the walls; and, depending on feasibility, a glass viewing floor of archaeological evidence in situ.

Duncan envisaged that FONC would be consulted when the conversation between the architects, the Heritage Gateway consultants and WNDC commenced. He said that the inclusion of ‘Castle’ in the name of the station was being worked on. The final interior decor would need to take into consideration the corporate style of the franchised owners of the cafe once appointed and the displaying of archaeological evidence, especially the glass floor, could not be considered until investigation of the site for evidence was concluded.

The next stage in the redevelopment would be the permanent closing of the short-stay carpark at the end of this month for exploration work by the contractor and archaeology team to assess what was under the ground before redevelopment commences. A group of FONC members would be invited to visit the site, at a prearranged date and time, as they were during the initial exploratory trench dig in October last year.

Duncan and Ian were thanked for taking the time to come to the meeting and it was arranged that they would brief a future meeting once the exploratory work was complete.

St. Thomas Becket Anniversary Celebration
Paul reported on the meeting hosted by the leader of NBC that he and Marie had attended in January for interested groups to discuss plans for celebrating the 850th Anniversary of St Thomas Becket’s trial at Northampton Castle. This celebration will now be part of a town event promoting ‘2014 – A vintage year for Northampton’ marking a number of significant local and national anniversaries and will run from February to November. Other anniversaries include the 825th of the charter being granted to the Borough Council; the 750th of the first Battle of Northampton; as well as the centenary of the start of the 1st World War and the 70th of the D Day landings. Given St. Thomas Becket’s national historical status, his local celebrations would attract national interest and thereby promote Northampton. The old Charter Seal will be the logo for the celebrations. This meeting was the preliminary meeting of the 2014 Celebration steering group; whose role is to suggest ideas for the celebrations.

FONC had originally starting planning a celebration of Becket’s trial last autumn to promote recognition of the castle and Northampton’s medieval heritage and had begun to plan with the Masque Theatre the possibility of staging open-air scenes from the Anouilh play, Becket. At this meeting Masque Theatre was offered the use of the Guildhall to stage the play and now is planning a four day run of performances in October 2014 to mark the anniversary month of the trial.

Other interested parties represented on the steering group at this stage included The Borough and County Councils; The Royal British Legion and Royal & Derngate theatres. Funding will be sought from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council. The Borough council has a dedicated web-site for the celebrations to promote and invite suggestions. The next meeting of this group is to be held on Wednesday 27th March, when further ideas on how to celebrate the respective anniversaries will be aired.

Bedford Castle Visit
Jon and Marie, as representatives of FONC, had accompanied local authority leaders and officials on a recent fact-finding tour of the Bedford Castle Mound site to see an example of how another local authority embraced its heritage. He circulated photographs and described the features seen. Some could be incorporated into the Heritage Gateway project. He particularly liked the use of flags and information flagstones.

Northampton Alive
John informed the meeting that Marie has been asked to give a presentation on our Heritage Gateway project to local business and other key organisations at the next Northampton Alive meeting to be held on 22nd February. Northampton Alive showcases regeneration projects taking place in Northampton to shape the future of the town.

Summer Big Dig
Following on from ideas discussed at last month’s meeting a proposed framework for the Dig was presented. The Dig would take place in Castle Ward during July and August. Residents would be encouraged to dig a metre trench in their garden (if a home owner) or garden (with landlord’s agreement) or communal garden grassland (if permission granted by Council/Housing Assoc.) and then on a prearranged Saturday in August bring any finds to a central location for evaluation by the team of experts that Jon was assembling. St. Peter’s church was hopefully available to be this location and would also be the venue for an information meeting for residents; which would take place on a Saturday during Archaeology ‘week’ this year running from Saturday 13th to Sunday 28th July. The ‘Finds Saturday’ would be two /three weeks later. A promotional mail-shot to residents, would hopefully be included with the Community Courtyard/ Unite union project blanket area mailing package, giving advanced details and advising to check the FONC website or listen to local media nearer the time for more information. The Borough Council would be approached for permission regarding digging on communal land.

Education Package
The meeting was informed that the compilation of a Castle tutorial programme for Secondary schools by FONC and the accompanying proposed presentation seminar for interested history teachers had been put on hold as the County Council’s Education Department wished to undertake the compilation of an education package introducing Northampton Castle into both Primary and Secondary school work to coincide with the St. Thomas Becket anniversary in 2014. Whilst it was good news that this task had been taken on by the NCC, it was stressed that FONC would be pressing to be consulted over the accuracy of content and be recognised in the material sent to schools.

Castle Project Talks/Tours
In recent weeks there had been a growing number of requests to members and via the web-site for a member of FONC to give a talk to a local group. It was proposed and agreed that a response along the following lines would be given to any such requests:

The group would be thanked for their interest. That FONC is a small working group and, due to commitments and time constraints by members, as a general rule did not give talks to groups. However, their request had been referred to a possible speaker who would contact them. The group may be interested in, and would be most welcome, to join a Castle Heritage Project Talk and Walk tour; date details being advertised in advance via our web-site and the local media.

It was arranged that Howard and Jon would liaise regarding setting up a system for speaker referrals.

Details of the proposed ‘Castle Heritage Project Talk and Walk’ tours where discussed. The tours would take place in the late Spring and Summer (Bank Holiday weekends being a suggestion) and the format would be based on the popular tours given during last year’s Heritage Weekend. Starting in St. Peter’s church with an introductory talk, followed by a guided walk round the Castle Heritage area and finishing at the Holy Sepulchre Church where the tour group would be handed over to a St. Sep’s volunteer for a talk/tour there. John would inquire at St. Peter’s about date availability and Jon would liaise with St. Sep’s.

The cost of a projector for PowerPoint presentations and display boards would be obtained, with a view to purchasing, for use by members to aid delivery of talks and special presentations.

Young Diggers Club
John was looking into the possibility of FONC starting a Young Archaeology Club. The nearest group seemed to be in Leicester. Jon had enquired at the museum and although there is not one set up there the museum would give support to such a club. The list of last summer’s diggers includes under 18’s; which could be a starting point for recruiting junior members.

Promotional Material
Howard brought to the meeting a new supply of FONC business cards updated with the new FONC castle logo that he had designed. The group was shown his e-mail/letter-heading design which was approved of as being clear and eye-catching. He would liaise with Julia on use of the design.

With a number of public events being planned for the summer the purchase of FONC identity items such as lanyards and T-Shirts was raised by Julia. She advised that members leading tours or stewarding should be easily identified not only to promote FONC but also as good safeguarding practice when children were present. Other promotional items bearing the FONC logo, such as pens; pencils; badges; stickers and balloons could be useful advertising. John suggested that T-shirts could be year related and include topical slogans to promote events. Julia would look into suitable suppliers and costing.

Umbrella Fair Organisation
Ian informed the meeting that he had been approached and offered on behalf of FONC a stand in the Umbrella Fair Organisation‘s local history marquee at their two day annual summer free community music & arts festival held on the Racecourse; which this year will be the weekend 17th/18th August. It was agreed that it would be an ideal opportunity for promoting FONC aims and Ian was thanked and asked to confirm details.

Date and Venue of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held at 6pm on Friday 8th March at Castle Hill United Reform Church, Doddridge Street, Northampton.

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