This midland county, though it has no mountains and no very high hills, is not a dead level like parts of the eastern counties. It is bordered by hills on the northeast and south. Indeed, gentle hills, cultivated to the top, valleys full of rich crops and watered by streams, with here and there a wood, are to be seen from any height in the western half of the county; from the hill upon which Naseby village stands, for instance. This hill is the highest in several counties round, and four rivers take their rise in it, the Welland, the Nen, the Swift, and the famous Warwickshire Avon. These all flow in different directions, and thereby prove that Naseby is the highest land in the neighbourhood.
On this height of Naseby was fought the last great fight of the Civil War, which ended "fatally for the royal cause," as says the pillar which has been raised on the spot in memory of the battle. The Parliament forces were upon the hill and held the village; the king's army advanced up the rising ground to attack and dislodge them. The heat of the battle was on the rise of the hill, towards the trees; Cromwell concealed his men behind the trees and the little rises of the hill; thus they took the king's friends by surprise, and easily drove them back with great loss. Before the fight was over about 800 men were killed on each side; but the Parliamentary forces took besides thousands of prisoners and all the guns.
The narrow north-east corner of the county is fen, the great Feterborongh Fen, from the midst of which rises the beautiful cathedraL Bockinghain Forest borders the Fens, and is all that is left of the -vast forest in which Hereward and his men hid when they were driven ont of Ely.
Northamptonshire is not altogether a farming county; most of the land is laid ont in farms, and very fine cattle are fed on the pastures by the sides of the rivers and in the fens. But this county is bordered on the east by manufacturing shires, and the towns here are busy places, where more people live by making shoes, stockings, and lace than live in the villages by farm-work.
The chief shoemaking places are Northampton, Daventry, Towcester, Kettering, and Wellingborough, with the villages near them. Lace is made at several of the same towns,—Daventry, Wellingborough, Towcester, Higham Ferrers, and Brackley; and the women in the neighbouring villages work hard at theif pillows. Stockings are made at Daventry.
The eastern half of the county is almost shut in between the rivers Welland and Nen. The old county town, Northampton, with the ruins of a castle, stands on the Nen; it is a rather handsome town, built of stone; and most of the people are employed in making boots and shoes.
The chief ornament of Northampton is the Queen Eleanor's Cross, which stands about a mile from the town on rising ground at the side of the road, backed by trees. There are four statues of the Queen in the Cross, all with the same gentle, calm, sweet face, and all graceful and dignified, and like a queen. To Fotheringay Castle, upon the Nen, close by the town of Oundle, belongs the end of the sad story of another queen, the beautiful Mary of Scotland. After nineteen weary years of imprisonment, she was tried before forty-seven noblemen in Fotheringay Castle, and condemned to die because she had helped to plot against the life of the Queen Elizabeth of England.