History of town centre churchyard revealed with new signage

The history of a long-forgotten churchyard in Northampton town centre is now revealed through new signs placed within its former grounds.

St Katharine’s* Churchyard, which was located in St Katherine’s Gardens until around 1945, has a long and varied past, beginning in the late 1450s when a chapel was built to commemorate victims of the plague.

The signs, funded through a National Lottery grant obtained by Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID), describe how victims of later plagues were also buried in the churchyard, with a new church built on the site of the chapel in the 1800s.

Northampton Town Council undertook research to inform the content of the signs, and local history enthusiasts Avril and Michael Sharp and Don Kennedy provided some additional information and photos.

The signs explain that the church was demolished to make way for a memorial square created in 1951, complete with an ornamental wall that still stands today. Further explanation is also given about the remains of an ornamental pond and the current location of its unique centrepiece sculpture, entitled ‘Woman with Fish.’

Northampton Town Council’s heritage champion Cllr Bob Purser, said: “St Katherine’s Gardens has a fascinating history, which was largely untold before the installation of these new signs.

“Thanks to recent renovation works, the garden provides a peaceful green space in the town centre, and I hope that people enjoy learning more about its past when they next visit.”

The signs are the latest stage of a restoration project delivered by the town council and the BID, that began in May 2023 as part of ‘The Big Help Out’ campaign for the King’s Coronation weekend, with a £10,000 National Lottery grant obtained by the BID to fund the work.

The gardens were transformed by staff from both organisations, along with volunteers from the town council’s Environmental Services Committee, the Royal British Legion, the University of Northampton, Northampton College and local businesses, who helped to create new wildflower beds, sustainable planters and a wellbeing inspired mural, along with upcycling benches, bins and railings.

Mark Mullen, operations manager for Northampton Town Centre BID, said: “Seeing St Katherine’s Gardens revitalised has been one of the undoubted highlights of the past year and we are looking forward to continuing that work in 2024.

“The BID has secured permission to install additional seating areas and will also be commissioning artists to work on further murals on the surrounding perimeter walls.”

Photo credit: Avril Sharp (William Branson’s Granddaughter)

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