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Althorp, Northamptonshire

Historical Description

Althorp, formerly an extra-parochial tract, now a parish in Northamptonshire, 6 miles NW of Northampton. It gives the title of Viscount to Earl Spencer, and Althorp park here is the Earl's seat. " The domain of Althorp," says Dibdin, " has been possessed by the Spencer family upwards of three centuries; but the exact period of the erection of the house seems to be unknown. There is, however, no question of its having received its principal improvements during the time of the first Earl of Sunderland (1636-43), who was the son of the second Baron Spencer. The lady of this earl (daughter of Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, and better known as the Saccharissa of Waller the poet) erected and covered in the great staircase, which had been formerly an interior courtyard, in the fashion of the times. From that period to the present, both the house and park have continued to receive improvements. The family of the Spencers became possessed of the park at Althorp about the year 1512. This originated in a license from the king to John Spencer, afterwards Sir John Spencer. At that time the park is described as containing 300 acres of land, 100 acres of wood, and 40 acres of water in 'Oldthorpe;' but this seems to have been only an extension of some property previously acquired there, for it is certain that Althorp, so called, was purchased by Sir John Spencer as early as the year 1508. The great attraction of Althorp House was formerly its noble library, which was one of the finest collections of books in the world. It was purchased in 1892 by Mrs Rylands, and presented to the city of Manchester as a memorial of her husband. The collection of pictures is very rich. The queen and son of James I., when on their journey from Scotland to London in 1603, rested some days at Althorp; and a mask, composed by Ben Jonson, was exhibited for their entertainment. The mansion underwent extensive alterations in 1877. Area of the parish 808 acres; population, 110. Post town, Northampton;' money order and telegraph office, Great Brington.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyNorthamptonshire 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with the Northamptonshire Record Office, have images of the Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts for Northamptonshire online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Althorp from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Northamptonshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Althorp are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Northamptonshire papers online: