Northampton began as a Saxon village. It was called Hamm tun, which means the village by the well-watered meadow. Later it was called North Hamm tun, probably to distinguish it from Southampton. Gradually the name changed to Northampton.
When they occupied Eastern England in the late 9th century the Danes turned Northampton into a stronghold called a burh. They dug a ditch around the settlement and erected an earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top. However Northampton was not just a stronghold it was also a place of trade where craftsmen worked and where goods were bought and sold at a market.
Despite the fact that it was a fortified settlement Northampton was captured and burned by the Danes in 1010. However Northampton soon recovered from this disaster and by the time of the Domesday Book (1086) it probably had a population of about 1,500. That seems tiny to us but settlements were very small in those days.