January 31, 2017
Long one of the heavyweights of English club rugby, Northampton Saints have been a mainstay of the English Premiership for all but one season – 2007-08 – and have frequently been among the challengers for top honours over the years. The Saints claimed the Premiership title for the first time in 2013-14 – the same season they also won a second European Challenge Cup – having finished domestic runners-up the previous year.
The club was founded in 1880 and for the vast majority of its history, the Saints’ home has been Franklin’s Gardens. As the name suggests, the site was once home to diverse zoological gardens once described as ‘the Champs-Elysees of Northampton’. While little of that former grandeur remains, Franklin’s Gardens is today a rugged and raw rugby venue – just the place to watch some rough and ready action on the pitch.
If you’re planning to head to Franklin’s Gardens to catch the rugby, don’t do anything until you’ve read our useful guide to it.
With a capacity of just over 15,500, Franklin’s Gardens has four stands – the Tetley’s Stand, the Burrda Stand, the Church’s Stand and the Barwell Stand. The Tetley’s Stand and the Church’s Stand both run along the length of the pitch. Along the front of the Tetley’s Stand is the Gordon Terrace, a covered standing area. The Church’s Stand is all-seater, and was opened in 2002 to replace the old Members’ Stand which had stood on the site since the 1920s.
The Burrda Stand offers covered seating as well as hospitality boxes, while the Barwell Stand – which houses a members’ bar, corporate facilities and holds about 2,000 spectators – was opened in 2015 to replace the Sturtridge Pavilion.
Getting to Franklin’s Gardens
Transport links to Franklin’s Gardens are good, so you shouldn’t have much trouble getting there whether you’re travelling by car or public transport. Here’s how.
From the north, leave the M1 at junction 16 and take the A45 towards Northampton. Then turn right at the Cineworld roundabout, left at the TGI Fridays roundabout and then straight on at the following roundabout. From the south, exit the M1 at junction 15a and then head towards Sixfields. Take a right at the aforementioned TGI Fridays roundabout and then go straight on at the next roundabout.
Car parks should be well signposted from both directions – there are six car parks in total, all within walking distance of the stadium, providing around 2,000 spaces between them. Traffic around the ground can get snarled up after matches, however, as some surrounding roads may be closed. It’s worth taking this into account when planning your return journey.
A number of buses run to Franklin’s Gardens. There’s the number 22 bus, which runs between the railway station and the stadium. Services run approximately every 20 minutes. There’s also the 6, 9/9A and D1/2/3 buses which stop outside the nearby Beacon Bingo hall.
Northampton railway station is about 20 minutes away from Franklin’s Gardens on foot and, as noted just above, the number 22 bus will take you straight to the stadium from the station. Direct trains connect London to London Euston and Birmingham New Street. Trains to London take about 55 minutes, while Birmingham trains take around 65 minutes.
Turn right on leaving the train station if you’re heading towards Franklin’s Gardens, and left if you’re going to Northampton town centre.
There are three airports all within about 50 miles of Northampton – Birmingham, London Luton and East Midlands Airport. Birmingham is the closest of the three, with rail services taking you direct to Northampton in around an hour. Bus services run from London Luton to Northampton, with a journey time of just over an hour. Getting from East Midlands Airport to Northampton via public transport involves taking a bus to Derby and catching a train before taking a connecting service to Northampton.
Around the ground
Eating and Drinking
Franklin’s Gardens isn’t too far out of Northampton town centre, so if you want to grab some pre- or post-match refreshments there are plenty of options. Here are some we’d recommend.
Pubs and restaurants near Franklin’s Gardens
- Albion Brewery Bar – as any seasoned Northampton drinker will tell you, Phipps Northampton Brewery Company is one of the town’s legendary names. The heritage brewery was revived in 2008 and once again occupies the Albion Brewery just off Bridge Street – reopened 40 years after Phipps was last brewed in Northampton. It is also home to a brewery tap bar serving a diverse range of ales, lagers, spirits and wines.
- The Wig & Pen – The Wig and Pen on St Giles Street is a historical pub offering great quality food in the heart of Northampton. A proud supporter of the Saints, this pub is a perfect watering hole for rugby fans on game day.
- The Malt Shovel Tavern – Inside this pub you will find award winning real ales, as well as a selection of single malt whiskies, Belgian bottled beers and continental lagers that will keep any rugby fan happy no matter what the result.
Eating and drinking inside Franklin’s Gardens
There are various food and drink options at the stadium itself, so make sure you check them out while you’re there.
- There’s a big marquee just behind the Burrda Stand. There are indoor and outdoor seating areas and the marquee is now about 50% bigger than it was in previous years.
- Next to the beer tent is the supporters’ village, where a variety of hot food options are available including burgers, pies, pasties and more.
- The Rodber Suite – named after Saints legend Tim Rodber – is located in the middle of the Tetley’s Stand. As well as a long bar, the Rodber Suite is also equipped with numerous TVs on which you can watch the latest action.
- At the southern end of the Tetley’s Stand is the Heroes’ Bar, where you can also grab some hot food. There are also TVs here for you to watch live sport on.
- The West Stand Bar is situated in the Church’s Stand.
- Club members and season ticket holders can also visit the Members’ Bar, while the Captains’ Bar (at the north end of the Tetley’s Stand) is primarily reserved for VIP guests.
Places to stay
There’s a number of hotels in Northampton town centre, and as it’s only a short journey from the stadium your best bet is to stay at one of them if you intend to make it an overnight trip. The local Ibis and Travelodge hotels are close to the railway station, while there’s also a Park Inn.
Other local attractions
While you’re in Northampton, consider taking a wander around Abington Park, where you’ll find lakes, cafes and lots of other facilities. You might also want to stop off at the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, or take in a show at the Royal & Derngate Theatre. The local nightlife, meanwhile, centres around Bridge Street. The local churches and the imposing Guildhall are also worth a look if you appreciate your architecture.