Fotheringhay is a sleepy Northamptonshire riverside village with a magnificent stone church and the earthworks of an ancient castle, which have long since been forgotten.
Fotheringhay Church © Travel About Britain
The village and its demolished castle hide a grim secret. It was here on 8th February 1587 that Mary Queen of Scots was executed, on the orders of Elizabeth I. The Queen’s body was initially buried in Peterborough Cathedral but was later exhumed by her son James l, and laid to rest in Westminster Abbey next to her cousins Elizabeth l and Mary Tudor.
Just fifty years later the castle was totally dismantled and all that remains today is a low grassy mound by the river. The castle stonework was sold off for local building material and parts of it can be found in buildings all around the county, including the Talbot Inn at Oundle.
Fotheringhay Castle Mound © Travel About Britain
The original fortification was established in the 12th-c by Simon de Senlis, Earl of Northampton. It was rebuilt and extended in the 14th-c by the son of Edward III. Richard III, the last Plantagenet and Yorkist king of England, was born there in 1452. So little of the castle remains today that unless you know where to look you would be hard pressed to believe that it ever stood here. The thistles that grow on the mound are said to have sprung from seeds scattered by Mary Queen of Scots during her stay.
The road to village runs through the beautiful rolling Northamptonshire countryside and crosses an 18th-c stone bridge, spanning the River Nene near the castle mound. The main village street is lined with quaint stone and thatch cottages. Many of the dwellings have very low doorways, indicating their antiquity. Several old inns still remain, including the old Falcon Inn, just behind the church.
The jewel in Fotheringhay's crown is the magnificent church of St Mary and All Saints. Founded as part of a college in 1411, it was partially demolished after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. All that now remains is the nave, aisles and the west tower. Despite its reduction the church is still an impressive sight with massive arc flying buttresses. The octagonal lantern tower is topped by a golden falcon, the emblem of the House of York.