North By Northamptonshire*


In recent years whenever Mrs Weir has enquired as to my preferred holiday destination I have usually offered up the Northamptonshire town of Corby as my first choice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she has failed to take me up on the suggestion. And to be entirely honest I’ve not always been disappointed by that. After all according to the Office for National Statistics people in Corby “are the unhappiest in the country”, the people at MoneySuperMarket tell us it’s “the debt capital of Britain” and whilst it did manage to avoid the top spot it was still named as the third worst place in Britain for women to live by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

I’m sure the town does have a number of redeeming features, however the few hours I spent visiting for the first time last Monday did suggest that it’s a place that needs plenty of love and even greater quantities of money.

One particularly sad sight was what remained of a sculpture originally installed in the town back in 1974 called The Spirit of Corby. The (sadly unnamed) artist’s interpretation of “molten steel coiling down and flowing over limestone into water” (as a homage to the local steel industry) had been relocated having been hidden away in storage for many years, before then being “bent double by the severe weather in 1997” whilst sited on one of the town’s many roundabouts. When the spirit of the town is literally broken by the elements you have to sense that it’s probably not a good omen.

In fact, reading around what’s happened in the town in the intervening years does suggest that not everything progresses as smoothly as would be hoped. The Corby Cube for instance (which the Borough Council’s website insists is ‘iconic’) seems to have had a particularly problematic history given that it was only opened in 2010 – with various reports telling of its ‘dangerous design’, police investigations into the finances surrounding the funding of the building and a continuing story of ongoing repairs.

That said perhaps Corby’s future is brighter than I imagine, given that late last year it won the Great Town category in the 2018 Urbanism Awards, which commented that although only just over half-way through its thirty year growth plan the town is “an excellent example of what can be achieved by following through a shared vision and co-ordinated regeneration framework”. 

I hope that Corby’s star is in the ascendence and I’ll return at some point to investigate further (with or more probably without Mrs Weir) because if nothing else it’s probably the only town in Northampton I’ll visit that’s twinned with a Chinese megacity.

*With apologies to Katherine Jakeaways.

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