|When twenty-seven houses in the Higham Ferrers High-street were offered to their tenants for purchase 32 years ago, they fought shy of the idea, but a recent repeat of the offer was soon taken advantage of by all the tenants at £300 per house.
The houses concerned are those on either side of the road between Messrs. Colton Brothers’ shoe shop and the ‘Swan’ Inn. They were built by the Hon. Wentworth Fitzwilliam, of Milton Hall, Peterborough, to replace thatched cottages destroyed by the “great fire” in March 1882.
High Street from Nene Road looking south to Rushden
The “repeat” offer was confined to the tenants pf the houses, their sons or daughters, for the houses have for the most part remained in the occupation of the same families throughout the years.
Too Old Then
One tenant who said he was “too old” to buy a houses on the first occasion has lived to buy it today!
When the 27 houses were built to replace those lost in the fire, the old stones were used for the back walls with white faced bricks for the front.
They were well constructed, with three bedrooms, parlour, living room, kitchen, workshop, barn, and a good garden.
A singular feature about all the houses is that the widows were fitted into place from insidea method not ised nowadays.
The putty inside is in as good condition today as it was then. We are told that not one of the houses has required a new slate in the 32 years and not one penny has been lost in rent owing.
The Hon. W. Fitzwilliam, in whose family yhe property had been for years, sold it in 1905 to Earl Fitzwilliam, who then sold the whole of his Higham Ferrers estate in 1914 giving the tenants first choice privately. In May 1914, the “balance” was sold by public auction.
Ald. Frank Walker and the late Mr. A. E. Walker bought the 27 houses concerned and as committee members of the Higham Ferrers Freehold Land and Building Society summoned the tenants together for discussion.
The President (the late Mr. Owen Parker) advised the tenants to purchase by paying a deposit as low as £10, the balance to be spread over 18 years, and the Society to lend the money.
This would only have meant an increase of 1s. 6d. in the amount paid each week, but Building Societies were not so well established in those days, and with only five or six tenants prepared to buy, the scheme fell through.
Last July it was decided to sell the property, and the tenants were told that the Higham Ferrers Co-operative Society would lend them the money at a low rate of interest.
All were prepared to buy this time and lost no time in coming to the decision.
There have been few changes in tenancy during the 32 yearsin a number of instances sons and daughter have followed their parents. Twelve are old age pensioners.
The transfer of ownership was completed last week. It necessitated only £30 “down” for each purchaser and repayments only a little above the old rental.
Mr. A. E. Walker died a few days after he knew the tenants were willing to purchase. Mr. Frank Walker claims that he and his brother were the first in the district to adjust rents so that none need be paid during holiday weeks.
Mr. Walker tells us that four fifths of the property in Higham Ferrers belonged for generations to the Fitzwilliam family who also had a lease on all the Duchy of Lancaster’s property in the borough for 100 years.
They would not sell, and this meant that the town could not develop. Within 48 hours of the lease expiring about 56 years ago, some of the Duchy’s land was put for auction.
On the whole, Mr. Walker thinks the hold-up was of benefit to the town, as there was no town planning in those days and the old borough might have been spoilt by uncontrolled development.