Meeting Report October 2012

There were many new exciting proposals plus ongoing projects for discussion this month.


The Masque Theatre had been approached to see if it was interested in the possibility of putting on an open-space scene about St. Thomas Becket to coincide with the 850th anniversary in 2014 of his trial at Northampton Castle.

Rob Kendall, representing the Masque Theatre, was welcomed to the meeting. He gave a brief synopsis of the 80 year history of the Masque Theatre; the current structure of four to five productions a year; the youth theatre and its past productions pertinent to the group; namely, Murder in the Cathedral and Shakespeare’s King John given King John’s association with the Castle and that the 800th anniversary of him signing the first Magna Carta will be in 2015.

A number of possible scenarios were discussed: – rolling or static open-air production; using the Castle mound site or Chalk Lane carpark or St. Peter’s Church and the green space beyond. It was noted that the carpark might not be feasible due to it being used by rail users during the redevelopment of the rail station. Rob suggested an edited version of the Anouilh play would be more appropriate than Murder in the Cathedral. In the run-up to 2014, perhaps selected scenes could be staged as part of the May Revels being held probably on the later May Bank holiday. Rob stressed that the Masque Theatre planned productions 12-18 months ahead with their summer production taking priority; it being the main source of income for the Theatre. Therefore, any possible production would depend on Masque Theatre’s existing commitments. He also raised the question of costing. It was agreed that if Masque Theatre could provide a feasible production outline and costing then FoNC would explore funding and sponsorship.

Rob Kendall was thanked for his attendance on behalf of the Masque Theatre and his interesting proposal. He then left the meeting.

It was agreed that future collaboration would need someone from FoNC to act as lead liaison with the Masque Theatre. It was agreed to ask Paul and Elaine whether they could take on this role. A volunteer to approach businesses for sponsorship will be needed by the next meeting.


Sanaa and Howard were thanked for all their hard work on the new audio extended version of the animated castle video which is now available to view on the web-site.

West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC) has requested permission to use the video on its web-site. It was agreed that WNDC may do so; provided that it clearly showed full accreditation and that there was a link to the FoNC web-site.

How to further maximise use of the video for publicity was discussed. One possibility raised was for the video being entered for a short animation award and will be looked into further. Sanaa would also contact creativenorthants for ideas and advice.


It was proposed and accepted that just before Christmas there would be a VIP mailing of the notelets with an enclosure card promoting awareness of FoNC and its aims; thus providing a double chance of publicity.


Howard presented to the meeting copies of business cards that he had manage to have printed for free. Displaying the 3D Image and the Northampton minted coin logo on the front side; and online contact addresses plus the words ‘The Friends of Northampton Castle – Aiming for Northampton’s past to play a part in our future’ on the flip-side; the card is eye-catching. Howard was thanked by members.


As reported last month, follow-up work is still ongoing with John D. giving an address to a Spring Lane school assembly on the 23rd October and the Finds being sorted during the half-term break. Jon will advise members of the sorting date and when/where they can help.

Jon and Tom were requested to draw up a list of sites they had identified as possible areas for subsequent Digs.


Joe reported that the Alison Weir Event would hopefully break even. £150 had been spent on publicity and £30 given to the Castle Hill Church for expenses. £143 had been collected on the night and there were still some outstanding cheques, that it was believed had been sent to Ellen, which needed to be banked. It was remarked that Waterstones had benefitted from the event; selling most of the available Alison Weir books at its bookstand on the night. The signed copies Alison had kindly donated will be held until the best option to maximise income from them is decided at a future meeting.

Joe agreed to investigate a possible e-bay sale of the signed copies. Alternatively an auction might be held.

Joe also reported on the number of paid up members of FoNC.

Jon presented £34 to FoNC funds; which he had been given after recently leading a Heritage Trail Tour for the 50+ Club.


Marie gave details of a letter that she had received from WNDC which acknowledged FoNC’s interest in the redevelopment of Northampton Castle Station. Accordingly, twelve members of FoNC were invited to take part in a site visit to the station and the first archaeological trench to be dug for the station redevelopment on Wednesday 24th October; one party of six to visit at 10.00am and another party of six at 11.00am. The letter also included an offer for the WNDC project manager of the redevelopment to come to our November meeting. This offer was readily accepted.

Marie will advise members who have volunteered which slot they have been given.

Marie had also attended earlier in the day a meeting which included the leaders of the Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, Brian Binley MP and the Chair of WNDC. How to proceed with the development of FoNC’s Project Proposal was discussed. Work is planned to be in three stages with the first stage to be during the redevelopment of Castle Station. This would be on Castle Mound and would include ‘footprinting’ the Queen’s apartments in a similar fashion to the restored Bury Mount at Towcester. Future stages involving Chalk Lane carpark would be after completion of the station redevelopment. It was also envisaged that the glass frontage of the new station would include an etching of the Castle and a view beyond to Castle Mound. There would be monthly meetings of the group present at this meeting to discuss progress.

Additionally, at the same meeting, Marie was told that the Borough Council wanted to be active in celebrating the 850th Anniversary of St. Thomas Becket’s trial in 2014 and welcomed FoNC’s ideas and involvement.

Members present thanked Marie. All were excited about how much had been achieved, in recognising the importance and potential of the Castle in the town’s future, in such a short time span.


Tom had been contacted by the University’s History Department about the possibility of students putting together, as part of their first year heritage module, a mobile exhibition on St. Thomas Becket. Also, two second year students could be seconded to do a project on the Castle; which he would supervise.

He had also been advised that students were encouraged to be active as volunteers in heritage projects. This was welcome news to members who are also Friends of St. Peter’s as extra help is needed. It was also proposed that some students could be trained to act as guides for the Heritage Weekend Castle Trail Walks next year.


It was reported that Peter Ayres of the Churches Conservation Trust had contacted the BBC Dragon’s Den team and was receiving advice on the business plan for work with the Old Black Lion public house.

A suggestion was made that perhaps the businesses along the Marefair should be made aware of the development proposals. Also, that the Ibis Hotel is approached to see if the Castle Image notelets may be made available to buy at its reception desk.


John D. proposed that members get together for a meal at a local restaurant just before Christmas to celebrate all the work that has been done during the year. This was agreed and that John would circulate possible dates and make necessary arrangements.


The next meeting will be at 6pm on Friday 9th November at Castle Hill United Reformed Church, Doddridge Street, Northampton.

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