Walk 67: Brackley Town Centre: Elvis is alive & well…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: About 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: You can run round this walk in about 30 mins,  but Brackley’s worth a more leisurely look & there’s lots of individual shops etc to explore

Difficulty: Easy & all on hard footpaths

Parking: This walk starts opposite the allotments in Hinton Road & there’s plenty of on-road places

Public toilets: Several in pubs etc around the town

Map of the route: @ southnorthants.gov.uk

mapBrackley, given its location, is probably one of the most overlooked market towns in Northamptonshire & there’s no reason why it should be – we hope this walk persuades you to go & have a look around – we really recommend you do!

It’s got a very diverse historical past. Originally known as Brachelai, or Brackele, the town was held in 1086 by Earl Alberic. After this it passed to the Earl of Leicester & to the families of De Quincy & Roland

In the 11th & 12th centuries it was in the Hundred of Odboldistow & the Manor of Halse. Richard I (The Lionheart) named five official sites in the country where Royal Tournaments could be held & Brackley was one of these. The tournament site is believed to have been to the south of the castle where the A422 now passes

Henry III attacked & destroyed the castle in 1173

The town was the site of an important meeting between the barons & representatives of the King in 1215, the year of Magna Carta. Magna Carta required King John to proclaim rights, respect laws & accept that the King’s wishes were subject to law. It explicitly protected certain rights of the King’s subjects, whether freemen, serfs, slaves or prisoners — most notably allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment

King John & the barons were to have signed Magna Carta at Brackley Castle, but they eventually did at Runnymede – that could have helped Northamptonshire’s history!

In 1597 the town was incorporated by Elizabeth I. It had a mayor, 6 aldermen & 26 burgesses

Today it sits close to the home of British Formula One Racing, Silverstone & the town has several of the teams’ homes located within it

Phew that’s a quick look at the history so now let’s go have a look at the town itself…

Let’s Walk!

1. We’ve parked up on the southern edge of town opposite some allotments in Hinton Road. This is the site of where Brackley Castle once stood

On the other side of the road is the entrance into the rather lovely St James’ Lake park…

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Brackley Castle was built by the Normans in a motte & bailey style soon after 1086. Its earthwork remains lie between Hinton Road & Tesco, which we’ll see shortly. It comprised a motte mound 10 feet high & approximately 44 yards in diameter with an outer bailey to the east. Archaeological excavation has revealed evidence of a ditch defining the perimeter of the bailey. Two fishponds originally lay outside the ditch, but have subsequently been filled in

2. Let’s have a quick walk round St James’ Lake…

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The lake was created in 1977 & is set in a 5 acre park. It was built to prevent the whole area becoming housing. The path goes all the way round…

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…& there’s a variety of wildlife to spot…

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Including some that you wouldn’t expect!

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3. Well that was a nice start, but now let’s go & have a look at the town itself. Head back out of the park the same way & turn left, following the road to the junction with Bridge Street…

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On the right’s a mound which is all that remains of the earthworks of Brackley Castle…

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4. On reaching the junction across the road’s the fire station…

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…& it’s good to see they were ‘ready’

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5. Head up the hill towards the town centre…

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On the left’s an interesting pub / cafe & outside are a couple of old cars…

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This is because on the 1st Sunday of each month the Locomotive hosts a Classic Car meeting in the car park…

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6. At the top of the road proceed straight across into Market Place…

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Ahead’s the splendid Town Hall…

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Brackley Town Hall dates back to 1707 & cost £2000 to build. It was financed by Scroop Egerton, 4th Earl & later 1st Duke of Bridgewater

It reminds us very much of Poole Town Hall, both of which, like many Town Halls originally had open ground levels where trading took place. In Brackley’s case it was used as a wool market, something that the town became wealthy from

Once the wool trade declined it became a corn exchange. The upper room was used for more formal occasions such as a court, council meetings & elections. In 1784 the renowned Methodist preacher, John Wesley spoke outside the building, but allegedly said he ‘might as well have spoken in Greek as no one understood what he said!’

7. We’re going to head up the left side of the street & back down the right but, if you wanted to be controversial you could head up the right side & back down the left 😉

The first building of note is The Crown Hotel

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Like London, but lesser known there was ‘The Great Fire of Brackley’. This was in 1649,  slightly before The Great Fire of London in 1666. It started here, in The Crown Hotel & spread down the High Street, destroying most of the properties in its path

You can also tell coaching towns by the road that runs through them & Brackley was a major one in the 18th century. Although it had over 30 inns, The Crown was the most important, also being an excise office

8. The street’s really eclectic which we love. Next door to The Crown’s a really good butchers shop, Brackley Butchers. It’s a little cracker & when we were there they also had some amazing new-season asparagus from Westbury Asparagus…

IMG_1314…but next door…

9. It’s Elvis!!!!

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This is a superb full size statue & it stands outside Cincinnati Joe’s Diner

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10. It’s all coming thick & fast now as next on the left is a fantastic bookshop known as ‘The Old Hall Bookshop’ – go in & have a browse!

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…then next door to that’s Brackley’s Traditional Family Bakery…love a town with proper shops & not a charity one in sight

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11. It’s not just all shops though, there’s plenty more history to see so keep heading up the street…

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…& the next buildings we come to are known as the Hunting Lodges…

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The railway came to Brackley in 1850 & wealthy families would use the train to travel there to enjoy the hunting. They built the hunting lodges above with large stables at the rear. Many of the doorways have curved red bricks lining the sides as they were originally the doors to each horse’s stall & the bricks were smoothed & curved to prevent any damage to a horse going in or out

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12. Slightly further on’s another impressive property known as The Bell Tower – unfortunately we can’t find much information regards it…

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13. Head across the road & the next place you’ll arrive at is the Methodist Chapel…

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The present chapel opened in 1905 & could seat 400 worshippers. A decision was made to develop the church in 1974. The Sunday School rooms, ex-Caretaker’s cottage & old church building were all sold & the proceeds used to help finance the alterations

14. Carry on up the street past ‘Blooms’…

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…to arrive at one of Brackley’s most impressive buildings – Winchester House

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Winchester House School was once a 17th century Brackley Manor House. In 1875–78 the Earl of Ellesmere rebuilt it in the same style, but keeping only the doorway & one window of the original building. These days it’s a co-educational preparatory school for children aged from 3-13

15. We’re getting towards the outskirts of the town now & it’s getting leafier…

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The next buildings we come to are Brackley’s magnificent Almshouses…

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The Almshouses were founded in 1633 by Sir Thomas Crewe of Steane. They were originally six houses, but by 1973 had been converted into four apartments

16. Cross over the road down Church Road, passing between two pubs. On the left’s the Bell Inn

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…& on the right The Greyhound which dates back to the 1600’s

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17. If you’ve resisted head down Church Road & there’s some lovely properties along here…

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…but where we’re really heading for is the beautiful St Peter’s Church

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18. St Peter’s has been here since the 7th century, although there’s evidence of a place of worship on the site since Saxon times & then built upon by the Normans

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Check out the split tree on the path…

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19. Leaving the church follow the road round to the left pass Golden Well…a site the town could promote better!

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20. Follow the road round to the right & up the hill…

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…at the top of which on the right’s Brackley’s Cottage Hospital…

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21. Eventually we meet the main street once more…

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…turning left to explore the other side of the road we recently walked up

22. There’s an interesting park which alludes to the National Trust…

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Brackley Town Park is owned by the National Trust. However, Brackley Town Council own the lease & manage the park & it’s facilities

23. You know what? There’s just as much interest on this side of the street as on the other…gotta love Brackley!

So…the next building we come to has some fascinating murals on it

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This is the Old Fire Station & how fab it is…

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24. And then another great pub..The Plough

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25. Crossing over the junction is another impressive property …The Master’s House…

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This building is the home of the Master of Magdalen College School which we’ll pass shortly. What many people don’t know is that in 1740 it was the scene of a murder!!

The Rev Dr Littleton Burton sacked one of his servants, Henry Kerwood who then hid in a barn. When the Rev discovered Kerwood he killed him & fled…he was never captured!

26. It’s all coming thick & fast again as next is the Castle Church of St James…

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This church was originally situated across from the castle & was built around 1100. It’s been demolished & rebuilt several times until finishing up in its current location

27. There’s lots of school kids milling around & the reason is that the properties along here are part of Magdalen College School

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Magdalen College School, Brackley, is one of three “ancient” Magdalen College Schools, the others being its sister colleges in Oxford & Wainfleet. The school is on two sites & has approximately 1,500 students

Previously a boys’ grammar school & then a voluntary controlled comprehensive school, it converted to academy status in January 2013. The St John’s site is still owned by Magdalen College, Oxford

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28. Now we’re back near the Town Hall & there’s a small market on in front of it…

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The historic weekly general market dates back to the early 1700’s when it was considered an important centre where the Town Crier announced any news or information. Although its form has changed over the years, it is still a meeting place for many people

29. Pass down the left side past The Red Lion

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30. So that’s it…just head back down the road, turn right into Hinton Road to find our way back to where we parked

Well…we never knew that Brackley had so much to offer! When we talk about Northamptonshire we say Northampton, Kettering, Corby & Wellingborough.

For some reason Brackley seems to get forgotten & that’s a shame as there’s lots to see & places to browse…

Go Walk!

 

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