Northampton /nɔːrˈθæmptən/ (About this sound listen) is the county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of England. It lies on the River Nene, about 60 miles (97 km) north-west of London and 45 miles (72 km) south-east of Birmingham as the crow flies. One of the largest towns in the UK, Northampton had a population of 212,100 in the 2011 census.
Much of Northamptonshire's countryside appears to have remained somewhat intractable with regards to early human occupation, resulting in an apparently sparse population and relatively few finds from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. In about 500 BC the Iron Age was introduced into the area by a continental people in the form of the Hallstatt culture, and over the next century a series of hill-forts were constructe at Arbury Camp, Rainsborough camp, Borough Hill, Castle Dykes, Guilsborough, Irthlingborough, and most notably of all, Hunsbury Hill. There are two more possible hill-forts at Arbury Hill (Badby) and Thenford.
Northampton grew in size in the 12th and 13th centuries and may have reached a population of 2,500 or 3,000 by 1300. Early in the 12th century the first Earl of Northampton built the Church of the Sepulchre when he returned home from the crusades. This was supposed to be a copy of a church in Jerusalem. He also fortified Northampton by building stone walls around it. The Earl also built a castle to safeguard the town. Northampton gained its first charter in 1189. (A charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Richard I gave the charter in return for money. In 1215 Northampton was given its first mayor. Medieval Northampton had weekly markets. By the early 13th century they were held in the present Market Place. There were also fairs in Northampton. In the Middle Ages a fair was like a market but it was held only once a year for a few days and it would attract buyers and sellers from all over the Midlands. The main industry in Medieval Northampton was making wool. It was woven and dyed in Northampton. The importance of the wool industry is shown by street names such Mercers Row (a mercer was a dealer in fine cloth), The Drapery and Woolmonger Street. The first shoemaker was mentioned in the early 13th century but there were shoemakers in all Medieval towns. There is no evidence that shoe making was a major industry in Northampton till much later.