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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

Tuesday, 2nd April, 2002 - 11:00 GMT, 12:00 BST
Tour of Towcester
Towcester montage
Towcester is the oldest town in the county.
'All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?' - The Life of Brian


South Northamptonshire Council

BBC History

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What are your memories of Towcester? Have you lived in the town?

Have your say, e-mail northamptonshire

Read a history of Towcester

Towcester & District Local History Society
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Err, Towcester Reg?

Press to launch pop-up tour of Towcester.

Situated in the South Northamptonshire countryside, Towcester is the oldest town in the county and can be traced back to the middle stone age.

As a result, many of the buildings on Watling Street, the town’s main road, are grade two listed buildings and central Towcester is a designated conservation area.

Maybe it’s because of this extensive history that the town's inhabitants have developed a strong sense of community with many clubs, groups and societies based in the town.


The Romans had a huge impact on Towcester establishing the town and naming it Lactodorum.

The garrison town was surrounded by a huge wall strengthened at particular points by brick towers.

The remains of one of these towers lasted right up to the 1960s.

The Romans left Towcester in the 5th Century and control of the town changed hands many times over during the ensuing years.

The road to Ireland

A more settled community in the 18th and 19th Century, and the British public’s desire to travel, put Towcester on the map.

Towcester People
Samuel Stone and Thomas Lord - founders of Hartford, Connecticut U.S.A. Lived in Towcester in the 1630s
Richard Empson - Henry VII’s tax collector.
Thomas Shepard - born in the early 1600s fled to New England and in 1636 organised the first permanent church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was also instrumental in bringing Harvard College to Cambridge that year.
The Fermor-Hesketh family - their linage has been present in Towcester since the 1500s.

The age of the stage coach brought great prosperity to the town.

Watling Street was one of the main roads from London to Liverpool, Manchester and Holyhead - the port to Dublin.

Countless travellers passed through the town including Charles Dickens, and Towcester welcomed them with inns and ale houses.

In fact, Dickens mentions the Saracens Head, still in the town today, in his novel The Pickwick Papers.

Change, trains and automobiles

The railway saw the stage coach trade die over night and with it went Towcester’s main source of income.

But during the Victorian period Towcester wasn’t completely down and out.

Buildings appeared, including the town hall on Watling Street, churches and a brewery, and Towcester carried on as a market town.

Press to launch pop-up tour of Towcester.

The arrival and popularity of the car brought people back to the town in the 20th Century.

But Towcester is now awaiting a relief road to help congestion on Watling Street (A5).

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