On the Borough Hill that overlooks the town, remains have been found of an Iron Age hill fort – one of the largest found in Britain. Remains have also been found on the hill of a Roman villa. Danetre was a Viking Settlement made by the Danish Vikings invading England, which is how its name derived, albeit based on an earlier Brythonic name, see below. These Vikings were led by Ivar the Boneless; all of Eastern Anglia was eventually taken over. Danetre, as it was known then, was a Viking stronghold. People in Daventry still claim Viking descent.
Daventry began as a small Anglo-Saxon village in around 920 and by the 12th century had become home to a priory. In 1255 Daventry was granted a charter to become a market town. In 1576 Queen Elizabeth I granted Daventry borough status.
The town was mentioned by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part I, which refers to "the red-nosed innkeeper of Daintree".
The earliest form of the name of Daventry, the Celtic dwy-afon-tre, "the town of two avons,"(i.e. "the town of two rivers"), describes its geographical situation between the nearby sources of the River Leam, which flows west, and the River Nene which flows east. The "Daintree" Shakespeare wrote about, the name persisting to this day, spelt Danetre, grew from a tradition that Danish settlers planted an oak tree on the summit of Borough Hill to mark the centre of England. This part of the town's history is reflected in the town's seal of a Viking/Saxon axeman and an oak tree. The town appears as Dauentre on the Christopher Saxton map of 1637.
English Civil War
During the English Civil War, the army of King Charles I stayed at Daventry in 1645 after storming the Parliamentary garrison at Leicester and on its way to relieve the siege of Oxford. The Royalist army, made up of 5,000 foot and as many horse, camped on Borough Hill (then spelt Burrow Hill) while Charles went hunting in the nearby forests.
According to local legend, it was during his stay at the Wheatsheaf Inn in Daventry that Charles was twice visited by the ghost of his former adviser and friend, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, who advised him to keep heading north and warned him that he would not win through force of arms.
However, Parliament's newly formed New Model Army, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax, was marching north from besieging Oxford after being instructed to engage the king's main army. Fairfax's leading detachments of horse clashed with Royalist outposts near Daventry on the 12th of June, alerting the king to the presence of the Parliamentary army. The Royalists made for their reinforcements at Newark-on-Trent but after reaching Market Harborough turned to fight, which resulted in the decisive Battle of Naseby. The village of Naseby is approximately northeast of Daventry.
Stagnation and decline 1840–1960
The main roads from London to Holyhead passed through Daventry and the town for centuries flourished as a coaching town. There were many coaching inns in the town of which only the Dun Cow, Saracens Head and the Coach and Horses remain as inns.
But when the London and Birmingham Railway was opened in 1838 the coaching trade slumped and the town entered a long period of stagnation and decline which lasted for over a century. The Industrial Revolution largely passed Daventry by owing to its poor transport links. The canals passed around Daventry, although the Grand Junction Canal (now Grand Union) passed a few miles north. A branch from the Grand Union Canal to Daventry was proposed but was never built.
The railways did not connect Daventry until quite late in the 19th century. Although the town was only a few miles from the main London to Birmingham line it took until 1888 before a branch line was built from Weedon to Daventry railway station. In 1895 the line was extended to Leamington Spa, although being only a branch line this failed to spur much growth. Daventry's economy remained largely rural, with shoemaking as the main industry.
The parish church
Holy Cross is the parish church of Daventry. It has been the only Church of England church in the town, except when there was a daughter church of St James. In 1839 a Commissioners' church was built, architect Hugh Smith, and stood on the east side of St James Street. It was demolished in 1962. Holy Cross is the only 18th-century town church in Northamptonshire. It was built between 1752 and 1758 by David Hiorne and is constructed of the local ironstone. The western elevation is broad with large pilasters at the angles and the angles of the centre bay. The entrance porch was added in 1951. The tower rises from the centre bay and is square ending with an obelisk spire rising above. Inside, the church has three wooden galleried aisles, to the north, south and west elevations. The pulpit is decorated with marquetry and fretwork and has a staircase with twisted balusters. Above the altar at the eastern elevation is a three-bayed Venetian stained glass window. There is heraldic glass in the two upper west windows. There are C18 and C19 grey and white marble wall monuments in the chancel, finely carved gallery monument of 1707, 1800 gallery monument by Cox, and 1741 by B Palmer.
The Heritage at Risk Register for 2012 states that "Holy Cross is clearly well cared for and well maintained. However, some high level ironstone blocks and limestone balusters have weathered badly. Parapet and balustrade masonry is of particular concern. Some masonry fragments have already fallen. A grant was offered in December 2011" .. and, with locally raised funds and a large anonymous donation, work was carried out between May and October 2013.
Some time after 1550 a new Gothic church was erected, and in 1700 Bridges records the inscriptions of the five bells then hanging in the tower, some of which bore the name of the Watts foundry of Leicester. They are also shown by North in his Church Bells of Northamptonshire (1877). In 1738, these five, together with three other bells formerly hanging in the tower of Catesby Priory, were recast by Thomas Eayre, of Kettering, into a fine ring of eight with a 16+ cwt. tenor. They were rehung in the new tower in 1754, and with the exception of the 6th, which was recast by Joseph Eayre at St. Neots in 1764, they survived intact until 1908, when the tenor, having become badly cracked, was recast with added metal by John Taylor & Co. In 1915 the 7th fell in two pieces during service ringing one Sunday and this, too, was recast at Loughborough. By 1938 the bells were badly in need of rehanging, and the old oak frame was strengthened and the bells hung on cast iron headstocks and ball-bearings. Another bell, the 3rd, became cracked in 1951 and was recast. Inspection by Frederick Sharpe in 1960 and later by Taylors revealed that the frame was once again moving considerably, and the bells were consequently not always easy to ring—particularly the tenor. The cause was found to be the ends of the massive supporting beams which had rotted in the walls. The enthusiasm of the local ringers led to the decision to install a frame for ten and to add two new trebles; at the same time it was thought advisable to recast the old treble, 2nd and 4th—the ringers undertaking to pay for two of them. The dedication of the newly restored bells coincided with the visit of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to Northampton in 1965, and it is not merely local pride to say that they are among the very finest light rings of ten bells to be found anywhere.
After 50 years of continual use, a survey by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough recommended a series of jobs needed on the installation to bring it back to 'as new' condition, all of which are to be put in hand during early 2015.
Practice night is Tuesdays 7.30pm to 9pm and the bells are rung from 8.50am for the 9.30am service every Sunday. Full details of the bell installation can be found here and further ringing details can be found here.
The single bell removed from St James' Church, when it was demolished in 1962, is kept in the ringing room of Holy Cross. It has the inscription 'Thomas Mears Founder London 1839', diameter 22 7/16 in. and weighs 2cwt 2qrs.
The Moot Hall
The Moot Hall stands on the north side of the market square next to the Plume of Feathers inn. It was built in 1769 from ironstone and has had various uses over the years, including town council building, a women’s prison, the mayor's parlour, town museum and tourist information office, an Indian restaurant and an antiques centre.
It is of two and a half storeys, and has three bays of windows. The main entrance and its porch is on the western elevation where the building is connected to a house built in 1806. The original staircase from the Moot Hall is now installed at Welton Manor House.
It is currently in use as the head office of the Daventry based communications group, The Neale Agency
In 1925 the newly created BBC constructed a broadcasting station on Borough Hill just outside the town. Daventry was chosen because it was the point of maximum contact with the land mass of England and Wales. From 1932 the BBC Empire Service (now the BBC World Service) was broadcast from there. The radio announcement of "Daventry calling" made Daventry well-known across the world. It was the BBC's use of the literal pronunciation in this call-sign that resulted in the widespread displacement of the historical pronunciation "Daintree", though the latter is still used in some circumstances locally, as in the name of Danetre Hospital.
On the early morning of Tuesday 26 February 1935 the radio station at Daventry (Borough Hill) was used for the first-ever practical demonstration of radar, by its inventor Robert Watson-Watt and Arnold Frederic Wilkins, who used a radio receiver installed in a trailer at Stowe Nine Churches (just off the A5 about three miles (5 km) south of Weedon Bec and in the Daventry district) to receive signals bounced off a metal-clad Handley Page Heyford bomber flying across the radio transmissions. The interference picked up from the aircraft allowed its approximate navigational position to be estimated.
75 Years to the day (26 February 2010) Teams from the Coventry Amateur Radio Society & The Northhampton Radio Club re-enacted the 'Daventry Experiment'. Signals from GB75RDF at Borough Hill, reflected from aircraft all of which were flown by radio hams, were detected in a receiving set housed in a replica Morris van. The receiving station set up in the field that is the home to The Birth of RADAR memorial at Litchborough. The report of this to be found at http://www.andrewphotographic.co.uk/g8gmu9c.htm The team was led by Brian Leathley - Andrew G8GMU
See also Borough Hill Roman villa.
The modern growth of Daventry occurred from the 1960s onwards as part of a planned expansion of the town.
Daventry remained a small rural town until the 1950s; in 1950 it had a population of around 4,000. Real growth started in 1955 when the tapered roller bearing manufacturer British Timken located a large factory in the town (the factory closed in 1993 although the distribution Centre stayed open until 2000).
In the early 1960s, Daventry was designated as an 'overspill' to house people and industry moved from Birmingham; a planned expansion was carried out as part of an agreement with Birmingham City Council. The first phase of this expansion was constructed on the south-east slopes of Borough Hill and was named the Southbrook Estate. It was designed and laid out by the architect J A Maudsley for City of Birmingham Architects Department. This was began in 1966. and is designed with short terraces of dwellings grouped around a series of cul-de-sacs grouped around a large looped access road around the edge of the hill. There is a central focal point which has schools for children form early years to senior level. There are several service shops and originally there was an estate public house but that was demolished in the mid 1990s. There is also a community centre.
The towns plan did not, however, live up to expectations. The target population was 36,000 by 1981, but actual growth was much slower than this; nevertheless, by 1981 the population had climbed to 16,178; by 2001 it was 22,367 and by 2011 it was 25,026. More recently, a new wave of development has been proposed which could take the town's population to about 40,000 by 2021.
In 1974, the old borough of Daventry was abolished and merged into the new Daventry district, which also included a large rural area and had a population of 71,838 in 2001, rising to 77,843 in 2011. In 2003, Daventry gained its own Town Council when it became a civil parish. The mayor of Daventry is elected annually.
In 2006, the outdoor pool – which had been built and funded by Daventry residents in the 1950s following the drowning of three children in the local reservoir – was closed due to funding difficulties. In 2007, Daventry began plans to modernise the town with a futuristic personal rapid transit system that would link outer estates to the town centre, and a canal arm with marina next to the former site of the outdoor pool.
In November 2012 it was announced by ITV studios that a series of the popular Channel 4 show "Come Dine With Me" will be filmed in Daventry and surrounding villages.