Daventry (/ˈdævəntri/ (historically /ˈdeɪntri/) is a market town in Northamptonshire, England, with a population of 22,367 (2001 census).
The town is also the administrative centre of the larger Daventry district, which has a population of 71,838. The town is 77 miles (124 km) north-northwest of London, 13.9 miles (22.4 km) west of Northampton and 10.2 miles (16.4 km) southeast of Rugby. Daventry is near the M1 motorway with access to two junctions to the northeast and southeast of the town. The town is also served by the A45 and the A361. The nearest railway station is at Long Buckby where access is gained to the London Midland services to Birmingham New Street and Northampton, on the Northampton loop of the West Coast Main Line. Inter-city services (Virgin Trains) can be accessed from Rugby railway station. The nearest major international airport is at Birmingham International.
Daventry now has a lot of estates, which include: Drayton, Middlemore Farm, Lang Farm, Ashby Fields, Royal Oak, Timken, Stefan Hill, The Grange, the Headlands and the Southbrook and Borough Hill.
The town comprises a historic market centre surrounded by much modern housing and light industrial development. On the edge of the town centre is the popular Daventry Country Park and reservoir, just east of the A425.
A street market is held every Tuesday and Friday in High Street, although its original site was on the aptly named Market Square. On the first Saturday of each month a farmers’ market is held in High Street.
The town once had a railway station on the former LNWR branch-line from Weedon to Leamington Spa, but it was closed in September 1958. The local weekly newspaper, the Daventry Express, is nicknamed ‘The Gusher’, after the steam engine that used to serve the town.
Nearby places to Daventry include: Rugby, Southam, Banbury, Northampton and Coventry. The town is twinned with Westerburg, Germany.
On the 653-foot (199 m)-high 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.
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.
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 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Daventry.
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.