This seat covers the Northamptonshire hills at the Midlands watershed, with a thriving population of wind turbines. The headwaters of the rivers Leam and Avon flow west to the Bristol Channel, the Nene and Welland east to the Wash, the Cherwell south to the Thames, and just over the border in Leicestershire, the Anker and Soar to the Trent and Humber. The seat is based on Daventry District which has an electorate of 64,000, just over a quarter of which is in Daventry town. This was a small market town until after the second world war, with a prominent hill fort to its east, when it became one of a number of Midlands towns to be expanded, primarily from Birmingham, who built most of the new estates. As a result there is a lot of renting in the town, with only 60% owner-occupation, and only 30% in managerial jobs, with nearly 40% in routine and semi-routine jobs, and only 20% with degrees. The town’s central location close to motorways has kept the economy in good order, although the town never grew in the same way as other Birmingham overspill. Daventry unsurprisingly forms the only real Labour strength in the constituency, with Labour generally winning 2 of its 4 wards in local elections.
The rest of Daventry district consists of sparsely populated rolling countryside, full of small sleepy villages. The north is in the hinterland of Market Harborough, and contains the famous civil war Naseby battle site. Barby and Kilsby in the north-west are effectively suburbs of Rugby, Moulton in the east has been absorbed by the Northampton suburbs. There are two small towns with a population just over 5000 - Brixworth, with its anglo-saxon church, close to the giant Pitsford Water reservoir, a nature reserve, and Long Buckby. The Northamptonshire highlands are bisected by a deep valley through which runs the M1, the west coast main line, the Grand Union canal, and in ancient times Watling Street, which formed the boundary with the Danelaw in anglo-saxon times. In the middle of this valley (often known as the Watford Gap after the village at its northern end) sits Long Buckby, with the only railway station in the constituency. This whole area is very solidly Conservative, although there is some Liberal Democrat activity adjoining their stronghold in south-east Rugby.
Daventry District is not quite large enough for a seat of its own. The seat originally covered the whole of west Northamptonshire, but in 2010 a new seat of South Northamptonshire was created, based on the district of the same name, with the towns of Brackley and Towcester. Two wards on the western edge of Northampton were left behind, and this area with an electorate of some 7000, based on the villages of Harpole and Bugbrooke, has more the characteristic of commuter villages, like Moulton to the north. Like all commuter villages it is even more Conservative than the countryside, with Conservatives elected unopposed in one of the wards the last time elections were permitted in Northamptonshire.
Lastly to make the numbers up, the small town of Earls Barton between Northampton and Wellingborough, and part of the latter district, was added to the seat. This is a fine old market town, with little modern development and an anglo-saxon history, and actually the second largest settlement in the constituency, despite having little over 5000 population. Earls Barton is a little down market from the countryside, and does have a few Labour votes, although not enough to win the ward. With Northamptonshire being divided into two unitaries when elections are finally permitted, the town will fall in North Northamptonshire, while Daventry and South Northamptonshire will be merged with Northampton.
Northamptonshire is now entitled to an extra half seat, so a cross-county seat will be required. Although the new West Northamptonshire will be entitled to exactly 4 seats, it may be that Daventry constituency will be split in two, the northern half being linked with Harborough or Lutterworth in Leicestershire. When first created in its present form in 2010 this was the 15th safest Conservative seat in the country. It has slid down the list a little, more through developments elsewhere than any change here, where the Conservative majority remains a comfortable 40% or so. The MP here since 2010 is Chris Heaton-Harris, a former London businessman, MEP, and leading member of the European Research Group, and currently a junior minister.
Census data: owner-occupied 74% (111/573 in England & Wales), private rented 12% (443rd), social rented 13% (361st). :White 97%, Black 0.5%, South Asian 1%, Mixed 1%, Other 0.5% : Managerial & professional 39% (173rd), Routine & Semi-routine 26% (394th) : Degree level 29%(201st), No qualifications 34%(359th)
I would like to day that, insofar as I have any authority, or responsibility for this online Almanac project, the above entry (Daventry by John Chanin) is a model of the way I see this board developing.
It is to be noted that in addition to the historical and psephological analysis, John has
a/ discussed the possible impact of forthcoming boundary changes b/ included a selection of relevant demographic variables
I would suggest that these be added to all threads, not necessarily by the original contributors. I am guessing that some of us will again have available time over the next few months.
I intend to put a separate entry to this effect on a newly created general Almanac thread, for full discussion, all comments to be welcome.