Northampton – the home of tournaments

Did you know that the earliest record of a tournament being held in England, is in an 1120 charter of Osbert of Arden, a Warwickshire knight of English descent, which reveals that he traveled to Northampton and London but also crossed the Channel to join in events in France. Before 1154, the other sites were London, York and Worcester. Tournaments were then banned until 1194 when Richard I only licensed Brackley, Salisbury, Kenilworth, Stamford and Blyth to hold them. However by 1218 Northampton was once again considered the premier tournament site in England.Source : Tournament, Volume 4 By David Crouch, Bloomsbury 3PL; New edition (2006)

Where the tournament field was in Northampton is unclear. It may have been the St. James area where a great fair was held every year, but could have also been in the area of the modern racecourse or even Harlestone Heath.  This was one of the earliest if not the earliest place for formal horse racing in England and it is recorded that in 1632 the corporation of Northampton covenanted to make an annual gift of a silver-gilt covered cup of the value of £16.

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