Towcester (/ˈtoʊstər/ TOH-stər), the Roman town of Lactodorum, is
an affluent market town in south Northamptonshire, England.
3 Demography and expansion
7.1 Prehistoric and Roman periods
7.2 Saxon period and Medieval age
7.3 Georgian and Victorian periods
7.4 20th century and beyond
8 Notable people from Towcester
10 External links
Towcester comes from the
Old English Tōfeceaster. Tōfe refers to
the River Tove; Bosworth and Toller compare it to the "Scandinavian
proper names" Tófi and Tófa. The
Old English ceaster comes from
the Latin castra ("camp") and was "often applied to places in Britain
which had been Roman encampments." Thus,
Towcester means "Camp on
the (river) Tove."
The town is approximately 11 miles (17.7 km) south-west of
Northampton and about 7 miles (11.3 km) north-west of Milton
Keynes, the nearest main towns. Oxford is about 20 miles
(32.2 km) south-west via the A43 road,
M40 motorway and A34 road.
The A43 now bypasses the town to the north but the A5 road still
passes through the town centre. This still carries much traffic in the
north-south direction which may be bypassed to the west with the
possibility of expansion of the town.
Demography and expansion
The population was 2,743 at the time of the 1961 Census and this had
grown to 9,252 by the 2011 census – a growth rate of about 3% per
year. It has since rapidly expanded and there are plans to expand
still further with another 3,300 houses equating to an appx
8,250 increase in population. With normal growth this could see the
total population rise to around 20,000 people by 2020 (based on the
current multiplier of 2.5 persons per average household). The
expansion will include an A5 north-south bypass west of the town.
Improvements to the links to the A43 and
Watling Street roundabout
took place in the first half of 2015 and including traffic light
The town has its own
Town Council, with limited powers, and is also
the administrative headquarters of the South
council. The town is in the
Northamptonshire County Council
Towcester used to be within the parliamentary constituency of
Daventry. However, since the 2010 general election it forms part of
The town has good shopping facilities with the four major supermarket
chains of Waitrose, Tesco, Co-op and
Aldi also B & M Stores and
Poundstretcher have recently opened branches. There is also a range of
smaller shops and numerous restaurants of various cuisines and
national chains such as Costa and McDonald's. All the major British
banks are present (except HSBC, which closed September 2015 &
NatWest which closed September 2017) and Nationwide Building Society
are present, as is a main post office.
St. Lawrence's C of E Church, stands in the middle of the town. It has
a 12th-century Norman transitional ground plan and foundation,
probably laid over a Saxon 10th century stone building. Its
ecclesiastical heritage may well relate back to Roman times as St
Lawrence was patron saint of the Roman legions. The building was
reconstructed in the perpendicular style 1480–85 when the church
tower was added. Permission to quarry stone for this restoration from
Whittlewood Forest was granted by Edward IV and later confirmed by
Richard III on his way towards
Leicestershire and his death at the
Battle of Bosworth Field.
The church contains a "Treacle" Bible, a table tomb and cadaver of
Archdeacon Sponne, Rector 1422–1448. The Archdeacon started the
second oldest grammar school in
Northamptonshire but the oldest one in
the United Kingdom, which was merged with the old secondary modern
Towcester to produce Sponne School. It is also claimed
Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII was a rector of the church before his
elevation to the position of pope. The church tower contains more
bells than probably any other parish church in the land: a fine peal
of 12 bells and a chime of 9 bells which ring the hours and chime
tunes at frequent intervals.
When the Phipps family brewed its final batch of beer from the
Towcester brewery back at the end of the 19th century, no one thought
Towcester would ever see brewing in the town again. However, over
a hundred years later the smell of malt and hops can once more be
experienced if you happen to be around the old grade 2 listed
Towcester Mill Brewery in Chantry Lane. Although the mill was recorded
Domesday Book (1086), the oldest part of the building is just
over two hundred years old. The mill’s working gear was powered by
water, and was used to grind corn into flour and to mix animal feed,
and is believed to be the only water mill in
Northamptonshire with a
The town has an Air Cadet squadron, 1875 (Towcester) Sqn ATC located
Sponne School and the 1st
Towcester scouts and guides group.
Towcester Museum has exhibits tracing the community's prehistory
The town has a wetland park, two pocket parks & a main park called
The Recreation Ground but known locally as “The Rec”. The
Recreation Ground is used for major town events, most notably for
Towcester’s Celebrations for Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
on 3rd June 2012.
Towcester is famous for its racecourse, originally part of the Easton
Neston estate on the east side of the town. Many important national
horse racing events are held there. Greyhound racing is also regularly
held at the same venue. In 2010 the World Hovercraft Championship was
held on the racecourse with participants from England, Scotland,
Wales, Australia, the United States, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany,
Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Slovakia.
Nearby is the Silverstone motor racing circuit, currently home to the
British Grand Prix. In fiction the "Saracen's Head Inn" in Towcester
features in Charles Dickens's novel
The Pickwick Papers
The Pickwick Papers as one of Mr
Pickwick's stopping places along what is now the A5 trunk road.
Towcester is also home to Towcestrians RFC, a rugby club founded in
1933. Towcestrians play in the
National League 3 Midlands
National League 3 Midlands and are
affiliated to the RFU,
East Midlands Rugby Union and the Northants
Rugby Alliance. Towcestrians Mini & Junior Section caters for
young players from the ages of 6 up to 17 playing Sundays for both
boys and girls Mini & Juniors.
Since 2010, Towcestrians RFC has hosted the
Towcester Beer Festival,
marrying a festival of guest ales and ciders with rugby and live
music. In 2011 the festival took place on 29–30 April, the weekend
of the royal wedding. In 2012, the festival took place over the first
May bank holiday weekend - 4–6 May.
Towcester's cycling club, the A5 Rangers, was founded in 1948 and aims
to cater for all aspects of racing, touring, MTB and social events
associated with cycling.
Prehistoric and Roman periods
Main article: Lactodurum
Towcester lays claim to being the oldest town in
possibly, because of the antiquity of recent Iron Age finds in the
town, to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in
the country. There is evidence that it was settled by humans since the
Mesolithic era (middle stone age). There is also evidence of Iron Age
burials in the area.
In Roman Britain, Watling Street, now the A5 road, was built through
the area and a garrison town called
Lactodurum established on the site
of the present-day town. Two candidate sites for the Battle of Watling
Street, fought in 61AD, are located close to the town, these are
Church Stowe which is located 4 1⁄3 miles (7.0 km) to the
Paulerspury which is 3 miles (4.8 km) to the
south. A stone female head, that mixes Celtic and Roman styles,
was found on
Watling Street outside the town and was given to the
British Museum in 1903.
Saxon period and Medieval age
When the Romans left in the 5th century, the area was settled by
Saxons. In the 9th century, the
Watling Street became the frontier
between the kingdom of
Wessex and the Danelaw, and thus Towcester
became a frontier town.
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder fortified
Towcester in 917. In the 11th century, the
Normans built a motte and
bailey castle on the site.
Bury Mount are the remains of the
fortification and is a scheduled ancient monument. It was renovated in
2008 with an access ramp added and explanatory plaques added.
Georgian and Victorian periods
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, in the heyday of the stagecoach
and the mail coach,
Watling Street became a major coaching road
London and Holyhead, and
Towcester flourished, becoming a
major stopping point. Many coaching inns and stabling facilities were
provided for travellers in Towcester, many of which remain.
The coaching trade came to an abrupt halt in September 1838 when the
London and Birmingham Railway was opened, which bypassed
passed through Blisworth; four miles away but enough to result in
Towcester quickly reverting to being a quiet market town. By 1866
Towcester was linked to the national rail network by the
first of several routes which came together to form the Stratford and
Midland Junction Railway, known as the "SMJ". Eventually, from
Towcester railway station
Towcester railway station it was possible to travel four different
ways out of the town: to
Blisworth (opened May 1866); to Banbury
(opened June 1872); to
Stratford-upon-Avon (opened July 1873); and
finally Olney (for access to Bedford, opened December 1892). The
latter line however was an early casualty, closing to passengers in
March 1893 although it continued to be used by race specials up until
the outbreak of the Second World War. The
Banbury line closed to
passengers in July 1951 and the rest in April 1952. Goods traffic
lingered on until final axing in February 1964 as part of the Beeching
cuts. The site of
Towcester railway station
Towcester railway station is now a Tesco
Towcester might have gained a second station on a branch line of the
Great Central Railway
Great Central Railway from its main line at
Brackley to Northampton,
but this branch was never built.
20th century and beyond
Second World War
Second World War
Towcester received many Evacuees from
London as the Government felt the town was far enough away from any
major towns & cities that could be a target. The town escaped any
major aerial attacks, but did get bombed on two occasions, as planes
passed over after bombing Rugby one plane dropped its last two bombs.
A few months later a German Plane did a drop & run attack &
dropped four bombs on the town.
The motor age brought new life to the town. Although now bypassed by
the A43, the A5 trunk traffic still passes directly through the
historic market town centre causing traffic jams at some times of the
day. The resulting pollution has led to the town centre being
designated an air quality management area. An A5 north-south
bypass is likely with plans for expansion of the town being planned by
Northamptonshire Development Corporation.
Notable people from Towcester
William James Dawson (1854–1928), clergyman, author, born in the
Edward Grubb (1740–1816), stonemason, sculptor; first fine art
sculptor to work in Birmingham. Born,
James Hutchings, publisher of Hutchings' California Magazine; born in
John Meyrick, agriculturalist, rower who competed for Great Britain in
the 1948 Summer Olympics. Born in Towcester
Elliot Parish, born in the town 1990 - professional footballer
Edward Rooker, engraver, draughtsman and actor. Born in
David Sharp, FRS born in the town
Thomas Shepard (1605 - 1649), American
Graeme Swann (b. 24 March 1979), English cricketer
Joshua Steele[better source needed] born 1989, DJ
Towcester (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key
Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics.
Retrieved 19 January 2015.
^ a b
Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, "Tófe-ceaster." An
Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1882. 997. (Online version)
^ Flavell Edmunds. "Towcester." Traces of History in the Names of
Places. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1869. 272.
^ "Chester." Oxford English Dictionary. oed.com
^ a b
Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit – Draft Emerging Core
Strategy, pp 9 and 51. NB May be superseded by more recent publication
^ a b 2011 expansion plans – Pre-Submission Joint Core Strategy,
Committee Version, 31 January 2011
Town Council". Retrieved 5 June 2008.
^ "(SNC)". Retrieved 5 June 2008.
Northamptonshire County Council". Retrieved 6 June 2008.
^ Wilcock, David. "
Pope Boniface VIII".
^ Rogers, Byron (2003-10-11). "UK: The original Iron Lady rides
again". The Daily Telegraph. London.
British Museum Highlights
^ "Stratford and Midland Junction Railway (SMJ)". Retrieved 5 June
^ "BBC -
Northamptonshire - Features: Northants' air pollution".
^ "Sandra Barnes, Leader of South Northants Council, says "This is
putting a mark down for future generations and they're not going to
thank us for just putting 3,000 houses down" (17 December 2007)".
Retrieved 13 October 2008.
^ Flux Pavilion
Towcester and District Loc