Northamptonshire lies close to the centre of England. It is essentially rural although it lies between London and the West Midlands conurbation. The main towns are Northampton, Kettering, Wellingborough and Corby (the largest town in England without a railway station). Although in recent years the important footwear industry has declined, the economy of the county has thrived due to its proximity to London and the South East. The good roads and infrastructure in the county means it has become an important centre for the distribution trade. The county town is Northampton, home of the county council, and the county is divided into seven districts.

"Northamptonshire, (or Northampton), south-midland county of England, bounded N. by Leicestershire, Rutland, and Lincolnshire, E. by Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, and Bedfordshire, S. by Bucks and Oxfordshire, and W. by Warwickshire; greatest length, NE. to SW., about 70 miles; greatest breadth, E. to W., about 26 miles; area, 629,912 acres, population 272,555. Although the surface appearance of the county is generally hilly there are no elevations of considerable altitude, the highest being near Daventry, where Arbury Hill reaches 804 ft. The NE. part of the county belongs to the Fen district. In some localities, particularly the W. and SW., the scenery is especially attractive; while here and there throughout the county rich woods and well-watered vales afford pleasing aspects. The chief rivers are the Nen and the Welland; the Avon forms a part of the N. boundary of the Co., the Cherwell of the SW. boundary, and the Leam of the W. boundary; the Ouse has its rise near Brackley in the S. . . Throughout the whole county, farming is successfully prosecuted, all kinds of cereal and green crops being raised; while upon the splendid pastures large numbers of cattle are reared, principally for the London market. Northampton is celebrated for its ash trees, old oaks, and elm avenues. . . Iron is largely found, and although worked as early as the time of the Roman occupation, its modern manufacture dates only from 1850. . . Apart from ironworkng, the great industry of the county is centred in the manufacture of boots and shoes in the town of Northampton and the towns of the middle of the county." [Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]