Less than a hundred miles from London, the county of Northamptonshire has become a commuting area for the UK capital, thanks to the West Coast Main Line's modernisation and the arrival of the M1 motorway in 1959. Even so, it is a mainly rural county with pockets of urbanity around Northampton, Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough. At one time, it was the boot and shoe manufacturing capital of the world. Today, distribution, logistics and food processing forms the mainstay of the county's industries.
Needless to say, the county's road and rail links, and proximity to Greater London, makes for a most attractive conference venue location. The county is bisected by three motorways (M1, M40, M45) and the A14 dual carriageway to Cambridge and Ipswich. Kettering, Wellingborough and Northampton are served by regular trains to the London stations of St. Pancras International and Euston.
The county town of Northampton is the cultural centre of the county. The boot and shoe industries put the town firmly on the map. Though the manufacture of footwear was dwindling, it saw great expansion in the late 1960s when designated 'New Town' status, with its population doubling by 2005. Live entertainment takes place at the Royal and Derngate theatre complex, which is a 900 seat theatre and conference venue. The town's museum and art gallery has a collection of historical footwear - some 13,000 examples. It also has its own university.
Also designated 'New Town' status, in 1950, was Corby. It expanded in the 1930s thanks to steel, when Stewart and Lloyds built a large integrated ironstone and steel works. Workers from the west of Scotland moved over to what was then a village. From 1950 onwards, it would become a car friendly town with areas of open space. Today, though the steelworks have long closed, Corby became a popular manufacturing base, owing to its central location.
A short distance south is Kettering. Like Northampton, it too prospered from the footwear industries. Today, it is better known for being home to a popular breakfast cereal and lorries rather than loafers dominate. Playground equipment is also manufactured in nearby Wicksteed Park, which also has its own amusement park. A little further south is the market town of Wellingborough. Attractions include a museum and The Castle Theatre. The latter has community facilities with variable seats. Both Kettering and Wellingborough are connected to London via the Midland Main Line.
Other places include Daventry and Brackley. From the M6 motorway, Daventry was at one time dominated by a number of masts and its transmitting station. It was chosen by the BBC owing to its point of maximum contact with the rest of England and Wales. Today, warehouses rather than radio masts dominate the view. In the south east of Northamptonshire, Brackley is a small market town, historically based on wool and lace making. It is also the closest major centre to the Silverstone race circuit and home to the German F1 team Mercedes AMG Petronas.
Sports fanatics will be happy with the amount of activities in the county. Motorsports fanatics are catered for at Rockingham Motor Speedway and Silverstone racing tracks. Drag racing takes place at the former, whereas Silverstone is home to the British Grand Prix and has hosted numerous Formula One race meetings since 1948.
One of the UK's leading rugby union sides, Northampton Saints is based here, whereas devotees of association football can follow the mighty Cobblers of Northampton Town at the Sixfields Stadium. Their former home, the County Ground, is home to Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. Non-league footballing sides in the county include Corby Town and Brackley Town. Horse racing takes place in Towcester, a course popular with fanatics who swear by its uphill final gallop and tight bends.
Other attractions in the county include Wicksteed Park, believed to be one of the oldest amusement parks in England. Numerous outdoor events take place at Billing Aquadrome leisure park, which also includes a caravan site, marina and funfair. These include an annual Northampton Balloon Festival and the world's largest annual Land Rover show.
Northamptonshire's proximity to London and its mainly rural setting makes for a suitable conference venue. Especially so where distance is a factor.