Northampton Castle was one of the most famous Norman castles in England. It was built under the stewardship of Simon de Senlis, the first Earl of Northampton, in 1084. It took several years to complete, as there is no mention of it in the Domesday Book, a great survey of England completed in 1086. The castle site was outside the western city gate, and defended on three sides by deep trenches. A branch of the River Nene provided a natural barrier on the western side. The castle had extensive grounds and a large keep. The gates were surrounded by bulwarks made of earth, used to mount artillery. The castle was 'obliterated' by the arrival of a railway branch of what is now the West Coast Main Line in the 19th century, the station of which was built on the castle site and the construction of the original Northampton Castle railway station. All that remains of the castle today is the Postern Gate, near Northampton Railway Station.
In the reign of Henry II, the castle was in the hands of the Crown. In the civil wars between King John and his barons, the latter used it as a stronghold. When the King prevailed, the castle was entrusted to Fawkes de Breaute, whom the King admired for his courage during the war.
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