Walk 24: Rothwell town centre…”the place of the red well”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 1.5 miles (2.41km)

Time to walk: We were surprised by Rothwell, as we hadn’t been there for many years. We were delighted to find a thriving lovely little market town full of independent shops, cafes & restaurants. So although this is only a very short walk there’s plenty to meander over

All on hard paths/road & flat

Parking: We just parked for free in one of the side streets in the centre

Public toilets: Pubs, cafes & restaurants, but this walk’s so short so hang on!!

Map of the route: None, but Rothwell’s a really small town so if you get lost it’s easy to pick up

So…before we get started what can we tell you about Rothwell…

Rothwell’s a small market town in Northamptonshire. It’s seen many changes over the years through the Bronze Age, Danish eras etc.

The Danes founded the settlement of “Rodewell” or “place of the red well”, presumably so-called because of the area’s many freshwater springs coloured red by iron and other minerals.

In AD 1204 King John permitted a weekly market and annual fair.

John, by the grace of God King, be it known that we have granted, and by this our present charter do confirm to our beloved and faithful Richard – Earl of Clare and his heirs that they may have their market of Rowell on Monday, with all the liberties and free customs to that market belonging as it was formerly [held] on Sunday, so that nevertheless it be not the hurt of neighbouring markets. Besides which we grant and by this our charter we have confirmed to the same Earl Richard and his heirs, that they may have yearly, a fair at Rowell at the feast of the Holy Trinity for and during the five days, that is to say on the eve of the Holy Trinity and on that day and on three following days, so nevertheless that such fair will not be to the hurt of neighbouring fairs. Wherefore we will and firmly declare that the aforesaid Earl Richard and his heirs may and hold the aforesaid market and the aforesaid fair of us and our heirs in perpetuity well and in peace, freely and quietly, rightly, fully and with honour, with all the liberties and free customs as aforesaid. Witness the Lord H. Archbishop of Canterbury, J Norwich and W. London Bishops etc.

The granting of the charter is celebrated annually by the week-long Rowell Fair. The fair is opened on the first Monday after Trinity Sunday each year by the Proclamation, which in 2012 will take place on 4 June. Starting at 6am at the west door of Holy Trinity church, the bailiff of the Lord of the Manor rides through the town and the Rowell Fair Society Band. At each public house he pauses to read aloud the charter. At the conclusion of each reading the crowd cheers “God save the Queen and the Lord of the Manor” and the band plays the National Anthem. The proprietor of the public house then serves the bailiff and his guards with drinks including the traditional Rowell Fair rum and milk. The local townspeople then attempt to disarm the halberdiers before the party moves on to the next public house.

Pubs in the town traditionally remain open after the proclamation, and so much merriment is to be had all through the morning. It has been suggested, however that the traditional route for the fair should be moved to avoid town-centre traffic congestion.

Anyway…you ready for a quick guide? Then let’s get going…

1. We decided to start our walk outside the lovely church of Holy Trinity in Rothwell. Another amazing Northamptonshire Norman Church probably dating back to the 13th century.

Now thanks to our Twitter followers, especially Samuel who told us about the Ossuary here, which is the bone crypt…a remarkable place containing the remains of some 1500 people. Click here for the link re opening times etc.

Wow…what an amazing start to our short walk!

2. Come on then…there’s more to see in this lovely town..

Away from the front of the church & down the slope on the right is the Manor House

A great mid 18th century building

3. We keep heading down the lane towards the war memorial…

…it’s well worth a look at…

4. Let’s turn left & walk around the corner passing Fox Street before crossing the road & heading up Meeting Lane. On the right up here is the Reformed Church which was built in 1735. The interior is in a stunningly sophisticated classical style. The history of Non-Conformity in Rothwell goes back to 1655, making it the birthplace of the movement in the Midlands.


5. Now we turn right up Evison Road & then right into Fox Street before joining the main road again.

We’re now heading back into the centre & on the corner is the famous Rowell Charter Inn

6. We keep going up the hill. On the left is Rothwell’s answer to America’s seat of power…

…& maybe Buckingham Palace…

7. Keeping left up Desborough Road on the left side we come to ‘The Nunnery’.

Although dating from around 1660 not much is known about the priory’s history. The last recorded Prioress before its dissolution was Margaret Loftus in 1543. “The Nunnery” is thought to incorporate sections of the old priory buildings.

8. Let’s cross over the road & go & have a look at the centre of this town. On the left is an old Bank which has now been turned into an excellent Turkish Restaurant…The Old Bank

9. Turn left into Bridge Street which leads us into the hub of Rothwell…it’s great to see a market town with so many independent shops & that’s obviously thriving. But before we head into the town centre it’s worth a quick diversion up School Lane to have a look at The Old Fire Station

What a lovely building

What a lovely building

10. Ok so now back to the main street…

…there’s some great old buildings round here…

11. On the opposite side of the road the new still appears to blend with the old…

12. And on the left we find the Rothwell Arts & Heritage Centre…unfortunately the hours are random…Monday, Thursday, Friday & Sat 10.30am – 1pm. So don’t have a lay in…

…fancy a quick refreshment? Well  The Red Lion can help…shame there’s no website

13. Right now we’re coming to the real historic part of this town.  On the right is the Market House designed by William Gumbold for Sir Thomas Tresham. This property is an example of Tresham’s Catholic beliefs & idealisms &, as he couldn’t practice his faith, many of the encoded symbols are built into his buildings (go & visit Lyveden New Bield)


14. History lesson over it’s time for some refreshment & there’s a couple of good pubs we can recommend along here. So either….The Bluebell

…or The Woolpack

15. Okay refreshed? Not far to go now… Let’s head into the Square & there’s lots of history here…

16. It’s a great square so follow it round & up a slight slope with an intriguing name…

…& then in the corner we come across Jesus Hospital which is an Elizabethan Alms House.  It was founded in 1586 by local benefactor Owen Ragsdale for the purpose of accommodating elderly people – a function it serves to this day.

Have a peep inside…it’s great!

17. Come back out after your sneaking around & let’s turn left & through the church gates to the finish of our walk

So that’s our stroll around Rothwell finished & what a surprise that was. Our recommendation is go, eat, drink & explore. It’s good to see some of our Northamptonshire towns are still flourishing with their own identity.

We loved Rothwell

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