Northampton is the county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands and lies on the River Nene. Archaeological evidence in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. During the Middle Ages, the town saw the establishment of Northampton Castle, an occasional used royal residence that regularly hosted the Parliament of England. Rebuilt after the devastating Great Fire of Northampton in 1675, Northamptonshire's county town was one of the prettiest in the Midlands before WWII bombers and then post-war urban planners wreaked architectural havoc. However, the heart of the town retains some grand buildings that emphasise its significant role in England’s Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War. After the creation of the Grand Union Canal and the railway in the 19th century, Northampton became internationally famous for manufacturing fine quality leather footwear. Unsuccessfully applying for unitary status in 1996 and city status later in 2000, the town continues to expand, undergoing large-scale urban renewal.