Daventry was a market town, one of several local centres of trade and administration in the county. It was in Fawsley Hundred and later the Union Workhouse was built there. This still stands. For a time it was Daventry Cottage hospital. Daventry had 292 houses and about 1600 inhabitants in 1720, 2582 in 1800, 3326 people in 1821, 4565 in 1841 and 4124 in 1861. It is very close to the Warwickshire border.
Charles I slept in the Wheatsheaf Inn in Daventry the night before the Battle of Naseby - which he decisively lost. Certainly his troops were milling around the area that week.
In 1830 its position on the main road artery to Ireland and the North-West meant that 180 coaches a week stopped in the town: 82 to London, 56 to Birmingham,19 to Liverpool, 7 each to Shrewsbury and Holyhead (Irish packet) 4 to Cambridge, 3 to Rugby and 1 to Northampton. There were also numerous local carriers picking up goods for nearby villages. Weedon, about 4 miles away, had a massive barracks and was a major troopship transit point for Ireland. It was on the canal, and in 1824 a convoy of 28 boats of soldiers passed through.
In 1851 half the inhabitants of Daventry were under 25. There were 5 times as many in the 0-9 age group as in the 60-69 group.The oldest was 91. Half were born in Daventry, 600 in nearby villages, and 85% in Northants or Warwickshire. The incomers were mostly English, and professional, but included 36 Irish, 21 Scots and 5 Welsh. 550 people (1 in 10 over 10 years old) were in shoemaking and 214 in domestic service.
Daventry had a full range of traders but the big growth in population was associated with the shoe and boot trade, and with the mechanisation of that trade in the mid 19th century.
Weedon was on the railway line. A spur to Daventry from Weedon opened 1 March 1888 with 6 trains each way per day. The trip took 10 minutes compared with 30 minutes by horse bus and the fare was 8 pence return.
There was an annual Mop Fair on the Market Place the 1st Wednesday in October, also the following Wednesday but this was much quieter and was the day for hiring people. (Kelly's Directory says "3rd Wednesday following Old Michaelmas Day".) There were 13 horse and cattle fairs a year, held on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and 27th October. There was also a Cheese Fair on the 2nd Tuesday of April and October.
The 1900 'Memories' says: The Winter Hunt met in the Market Place. Winter had the Muffin Man. A Horse drawn fire- engine was kept in the Moot Hall in the Market Place. A water cart came round on hot summer days, down Sheaf Street and up High Street spraying water on the dusty roads. Figs were eaten on Palm Sunday, warm Hot Cross Buns for breakfast on Good Friday and Easter Sunday saw coloured hard boiled eggs - pink, blue or yellow - and chocolate eggs. Oranges were a Xmas treat.
There were 3 boot and shoe factories - Stead & Simpsons in Church Walk, Rodhouses in Oxford Street and Mountain and Daniels in Warwick Street. Women would fetch the pieces of leather from the factories, sew them together into shoe uppers at home, (mostly by machine by 1900) and return the made uppers to the factory. 1911-12 all school children to Badby House & Park for the afternoon. There was also horse-racing on Borough Hill.
In 1925 Daventry became home to BBC Radio and one of its engineers left this recollection: "the most suprising things can cause transmitter breakdowns. Mice are especially fond of the insulation of cables. They like the taste of the wax, but when they have eaten through to the wire the result may be a sudden termination of both programme and mouse. In a case like this the tiny saboteur gives its own form of assistance to the engineer trying to spot the trouble. A strong smell of cooking mouse pervades the transmitter concerned and the searcher has only to trace the scent to its source."
Today the old town has a centre of about eight streets, surrounded by a large area of Victorian housing, and then ringed by dual carriageways, with a mass of postwar building for housing and commerce - Ford had one of its factories here. There is a modern shopping mall, small and pushed through to the High Street. It is still the only town in that part of the county, and a local centre, but nowadays most of the traffic is on the M1 about 4 miles NW.
The above description was compiled by Heather Cotton from "Memories of Daventry, early 1900" and "Kelly's Directories", various dates, held in the Local Studies Section of the library in Daventry.