Earls Barton is a village and civil parish in Northamptonshire, notable for its Anglo-Saxon church and shoe-making heritage. The village is in the Borough of Wellingborough. At the time of the 2011 census, the population was 5,387. Earls Barton is renowned for its remarkable Anglo-Saxon heritage.
The first Anglo-Saxon settlement at Earls Barton was one of various settlements built on a spring-line on the northern bank of the River Nene. The site is on a spur above the flood plain. Originally (i.e. before 600 AD) the Anglo-Saxon village was known as Bere-tun - which means "a place for growing Barley." Following the Norman invasion, the Domesday Book records the village as being called Buarton(e), with Countess Judith, the King's niece is listed as both the land and mill owner. She married Waltheof, son of Siward, Earl of Northumbria who in 1065 AD became Earl of Northampton - it was from these links and with another Earl - the Earl of Huntingdon, that gave the village its prefix "Erles" from 1261 AD.
In The King's England: Northamptonshire, edited by Arthur Mee, it notes that:
It was here when The Conqueror gave these lands to his niece the Countess Judith, and except for the clock and the battlements it looks today as it looked then... It is called Earls Barton because it was the Earl of Huntingdon's barley farm; his house stood where the church stands and the remains of its moat can be seen.
Nikolaus Pevsner however, seems to disagree with this assessment and describes it as:
...a conspicuous and quite unmistakable Norman castle-motte. It is so close to the church that it stands partly in the church-yard; on this side it appears to have been cut back to make more room. To the N it is protected by a particularly fine ditch.
He goes on to argue that the castle was founded at the time of the Norman conquest of England and its builder ignored the then existing church, leaving it in its bailey, for a later demolition that never happened.
In the 14th and 15th centuries a major change took place in the local economy, when sheep rearing gave prominence to the manufacture of woollen cloth, which remained a major cottage industry until the shift to the newly industrialised north several centuries later.
Another change took place in the 13th century when shoes began to be made from leather bought in nearby Northampton. At this time the village had its own tanyard, which remained in operation until 1984. The census of 1801 shows that the population had by then grown to 729. By 1850 the population had trebled.
Barker have been making shoes in Earls Barton since 1880; Barkers built a new factory and offices in 1986 in the centre of the village.
Between 1913 and 1921 ironstone was quarried locally with the ore being removed by train and by an aerial ropeway.There were two quarries. The first opened in 1913 and was to the north of Doddington Road. The second was opened in 1916.It was to the west of Wellingborough Road and south of what is now the A4500. A 3 foot gauge tramway connected both quarries with the northern terminal of the aerial ropeway where the wagonloads of ore were loaded into ropeway buckets which took the ore to be loaded into railway wagons at Castle Ashby and Earls Barton station (which was on the other side of the River Nene.) At first the tramway was worked by horses but in 1914 a steam locomotive was bought to haul the wagons. The ropeway was operated by a gas engine.The quarrying was at first done by hand with the aid of explosives but steam diggers were used from 1918. In 1925 the original quarry was reopened, not for iron ore, but for the obtaining of gannister(white silica sand). A new 2 foot gauge tramway was used to take the sand to Wellingborough Road where it was loaded into lorries for dispatch. This tramway used a small diesel locomotive. It is not clear how long gannister was quarried but the quarry still appears to have been in use in 1949 and a rusty quarry machine was in situ in the 1970s. The quarried area has mostly been built on but some traces of the system remain including part of a final gullet north of Doddington Road and the remains of a bridge in that road. The remains of the tipping point from the tramway to the ropeway can be seen from Dowthorpe Hill and Milbury.
The Church of England parish church of All Saints has been a feature of the village for many centuries. Its Anglo-Saxon tower dates to ca 970 AD. Pevsner says that the church tower as built was not originally followed by a nave, but a chancel. He also describes the tower's bell openings as being very unusual - having five narrow arches each on turned balusters.
All Saints' underwent two phases of Norman enlargement, one at either end of the 12th century.
Other notable features include:
- a Norman or Anglo-Saxon door and arcading on the western end of the building - this was the original entrance to the church,
- a medieval rood screen,
- a Victorian font and pews, and
- a modern 20th-century inner porch and windows
Apart from the Saxon tower, the church is mainly built from Northamptonshire ironstone and limestone, while the tower was constructed from Barnack stone and infilled with local limestone.
Another feature is that every century from the 10th century onwards is represented in either the fabric or the fittings of the church building. It is decorated with the work of the local artist Henry Bird.
There are three other churches in Earls Barton: Methodist, Baptist and Roman Catholic. Another Anglo-Saxon church can be found nearby in Brixworth. The Methodist Church is on Broad Street; the church building is over 200 years old and is home to many village groups including the 1st Earls Barton Boy's Brigade, badminton club and wives group.
The village was the inspiration for the film Kinky Boots and part of the film was shot here. It is based on the true story of a local boot factory which turned from DMs, their own Provider brand and traditional boots to producing fetish footwear in order to save the ailing family business and the jobs of his workers. The village has a history of ingenious industry including the Barker's shoe factory, a woven label company, and the White & Co factory that produced Tredair and DM boots until 2003.
In the village's small market square there's a pharmacy run by a member of the Jeyes the chemists family, who invented and manufactured Jeyes Fluid and the Philadelphus Jeyes chemist chain and who lived nearby at Holly Lodge in Boughton.
Earls Barton is renowned for its 'Dr Fright's Night' halloween shows hosted at White's farm and is popular with neighbouring villages and towns.
In snowy conditions Kensit's field becomes a popular attraction for sledgers due to its steep hill.
The village has a cricket team. The exact date that this club was established is unknown however there has been cricket in Earls Barton since the late 19th century. The club at present has three teams that play in the Northamptonshire Cricket League on Saturdays and a friendly team that plays on Sundays. It also has Kwik Cricket, U11's, U13's, U15 & U17's teams.
The local football team, Earls Barton FC was formed in the late 19th century - with the exact date now not known. When Northampton Town FC (The Cobblers) was first formed in 1897, their first game was against Earls Barton United (EBU) on 18 September 1897. The final score Cobblers 4 - EBU 1. Currently Earls Barton United Football Club compete in the Premier Division of the Northants Combination, which is at Step 7 of the English non-league pyramid.
Earls Barton Stadium was a greyhound racing and speedway stadium on Station Road just south of the village. It operated from the 1940s until the 1970s and also hosted Go Karting and Banger racing.
A Project Group made up of local residents, elected members and a project manager with experience of planning was formed and meets monthly. Following an appropriate framework, the group is working with the village residents to produce a Plan, which will be adopted or otherwise after an appropriate referendum is held.
The plan was submitted to the Borough Council of Wellingborough for examination  and a local referendum overwhelmingly supported the plan and its adoption. This led to the Borough Council of Wellingborough integrating the Plan into planning consideration for the next twenty years.
Commerce and Trade
In April 2017, the closure of the last branch of a bank or building society within the village was announced.
Market Harborough Building Society (MHBS) wrote to customers announcing the closure of the branch located in Jeyes of Earls Barton, stating the new 'local' branches are in Kettering or Rothwell. MHBS cited lack of footfall and transactions as people undertake more banking online as the main reason for the branch closure.
In 2016 the Post Office in the village, a local sorting office and main Post Office, closed and a small branch counter opened in the Premier store on Station Road. Any collection of mail moved to the Northampton main sorting office from the branch .
The closure or significant change of these branches presented the end of an era for Earls Barton; in recent history the village was home to the Nationwide Building Society, Midland Bank, Barclays Bank and Lloyds Bank.
In the run-up before Christmas 2016, The Old Swan closed for refurbishment and was re-opened by a local landlord; around the same period, the Saxon Tavern opened in the old Lloyds bank branch next to E Lee Butchers on The Square. Whilst these two establishments have grown and attracted more customers, The Stag on Wellingborough Road temporarily closed and as of April 2016 has a temporary manager in place.
- 1st Earls Barton Boys Brigade
- Badminton Club
- Earls Barton Fire Station
- Earls Barton Historical Society
- Earls Barton Junior School
- Earls Barton Library
- Earls Barton Museum of Village Life
- Earls Barton Music
- Earls Barton Parish Council
- Earls Barton Police Station.
- Earls Barton Tennis Club
- Earls Barton Youth Club
- Saxon Pre-School
- Starfruit Youth Theatre Company
- Under The Tower - Drama Group
- Office for National Statistics: Earls Barton CP: Parish headcounts Retrieved 16 July 2015.
- Tonks, Eric (1989). The Ironstone Quarries of the Midlands: Part 3 The Northampton Area. Cheltenham: Runpast. pp. 140–9. ISBN 1-870754-03-4.
- Times (29 April 2000) Henry Bird, Obituary The Times
- "OS Plan 1966-1970". old-maps.co.uk.
- Barnes, Julia (1988). Daily Mirror Greyhound Fact File. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-15-5.
- Furby, R (1968). Independent Greyhound Racing. New Dominion House. p. 54.
- "Earls Barton Stadium and its Speedway track". National Speedway Museum.
- Palmer, Joyce. Earls Barton: The history of a Northamptonshire Parish. ISBN 0-300-09632-1.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (revision) (1973) . The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 195–196. ISBN 0-14-071022-1.
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