The very ordinary town that was once capital of England and buzzing Viking hub

Nowadays, this very average town’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of a few British celebrities. It was also once the shoe-making capital of the world — but it had an even greater status many years earlier.

Northampton was the capital of the Vikings’ kingdom in England. Known as Mercia, it covered much of what we know as the Midlands today.

The Vikings’ Mercia rule started in the late 800s but ended in the early 900s when the Wessex (now Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset) Kingdom, under Alfred the Great, defeated them to reestablish Anglo-Saxon rule there.

At the height of Viking rule, their territory — known as Danelaw — covered much of London, East Anglia and the North of England.

It is claimed they even got quite far into Wessex, which was the only other kingdom of equal power in England during the Medieval ages.

READ MORE: The beautiful northern city the Vikings made their capital of England

If this was the case, it could well be claimed that Northampton was briefly the capital of England itself, assuming that Wessex was subordinate to Mercia during those fleeting years.

During these glory years for the Vikings, Northampton was their centre for administrative and military purposes.

Today, Northampton is best known for its shoe industry which also holds a rich line of history. During World War One, the shoemakers in Northamptonshire supplied over two-thirds of the 70 million pairs of footwear required, due to the thriving tanning industry in the area.

Tourist attractions also include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the largest and best-preserved round churches in England, and The Parish Church Of All Saints.

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Northampton isn’t the only seemingly innocuous town in England to have been a capital at some stage.

Colchester is widely regarded as the first capital of England. It was given the honour by the Romans, who purposely built the city as a hub for its traders, merchants and retired soldiers. 

It became a strong city and a place where the Romans could disseminate their culture from

Tamworth, meanwhile, was the capital of Mercia before Northampton’s stint. This was during the original days of Anglo-Saxon rule in the kingdom, and even today you can see parts of the largest collection of Saxon gold ever found at Tamworth Castle.

Winchester was Alfred the Great’s beloved capital of Wessex. When Alfred united England by defeating the Vikings in Mercia, Winchester undoubtedly became the most important city in the country.

The little village of Malmesbury in Wiltshire was also briefly capital when Alfred the Great’s son took charge. 

In face, he liked it so much that he instantly replaced Winchester with Malmesbury as his capital city.

Meanwhile, London’s role as capital city began in 1066 with the Norman Conquest, under William the Conqueror’s rule.

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