On the 30 December 1830 a meeting took place at the White Horse Inn in Towcester.
Those attending included some of Northampton’s landed gentry and clergy who vehemently opposed the idea of a railway, led by the influential Duke of Grafton. The meeting passed three resolutions, which stated in effect that the said railway would do great harm to their estates, and in any case, the daily coaches and canals provided more than adequate means of transport. Initially, there was also a measure of opposition in the town of Northampton, but this quickly evaporated.
Robert Stephenson, the engineer in charge of the proposed London to Birmingham railway line, wished to avoid parks and pleasure grounds, and was concerned that the line through Northampton would also pass close to the Althorpe Estate, the seat of Earl Spencer, whose son was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was also aware that a route via Northampton would involve steep gradients because of the Nene Valley, and the inadequate locomotives then available might not have been able to cope with the inclines.
So, there were sound political and geographical reasons why the route should by-pass the town. He therefore recommended a line four and a half miles to the west.
Despite the attitude of hostile landowners in February 1832, The London and Birmingham Railway (LBR) sought parliamentary approval for their line, but the bill was defeated and the company had to rethink the scheme again. They resolved to persuade their opponents that their fears were unfounded and offered generous compensation.
They eventually won the grudging support of their critics and the bill received Royal assent in May 1833. Stephenson’s route was approved and Northampton was destined to be served by a short branch line from Blisworth, this opening in May 1845.
Some years later, there was considerable agitation in Northampton for an improved railway connection, and in 1859 a public meeting in the town chaired by the Mayor, demanded faster through trains to London. So in 1875 the LNWR, successors to the LBR, obtained powers to quadruple the existing main line northwards from Bletchley.
It was proposed that the two new tracks would diverge from the main line just north of Roade and continue to Rugby via Northampton and the Althorpe valley.
The new line joined the Market Harborough branch at Castle Station in Northampton by means of a very tight curve and diverged at Kingsthorpe. Castle Station was rebuilt; the river was diverted for half a mile, while the castle ruins were demolished to make room for the goods shed!
The route opened throughout on the 3 of April 1882, and at long last Northampton obtained a decent main line service.
The original main line threaded a 1.5 mile long 65-foot deep cutting north of Roade. It is said that over one million cubic yards of spoil were removed by navies, retaining walls more than two feet thick were required.
In 1875 the LNWR deepened the cutting to accommodate the new line and lengthened the retaining walls, but there was a bad land slip in November 1891 following heavy rain, so iron girders were then placed across the Northampton line to hold back the walls and prevent a recurrence. This structure was given the suitable nickname of The Birdcage.