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Evening Telegraph, 5th August 1986, written by by Carolyn Underwood, transcribed by Kay Collins
Alfred Street School
Field of Victory

YOUNGSTERS at Rushden Alfred Street School are set to get their own grass play area after years of council wrangling over the land. Workmen are now preparing the site next to the school, which was previously used for public car parking. It is hoped to seed it this autumn.

Several years of dispute over the future of the land between Alfred Street and Duck Street ended with a public inquiry, which came out in favour of extending the school's playing facilities. The county education authority wanted the site for a grassed play area for the pupils, while East Northants Council wanted to retain it for car parking.

Bulldozers recently moved on to the site and the ground is now being prepared for seeding. County council officials hope the area will be fully operational by summer 1988.

Preparing for the new play area
Preparing for the new play area

A spokesman said: "There will be a 2,100 square metre Tarmac area and 2,500 square metres of grass. The area will also be landscaped with trees and shrubs to make it look attractive."

In the past, pupils at the school have had just a small concrete playground, and have had to walk through the town to use playing fields at Denfield Park Junior School.

Although the new grassed area will not be large enough to provide a full-sized football pitch, it will give youngsters an opportunity to practice their skills and play other games.

Fresh pastures

A BREAK-TIME game on the school playing field is one aspect of school life most pupils take for granted.

But for youngsters at Rushden Alfred Street Junior School the experience is a novelty. For boisterous games often ended in grazed knees on the school's only play surface — concrete.

Ball games on the grass
Ball games on the grass
Head Master David Clarke
Head Master David Clarke

Age Range 7 – 11

270 Pupils
11 Teachers

But headmaster David Clarke and his staff saw their dreams turn into reality when neighbouring land was bought and the school given its first sight of greenery - other than the carefully planted patio tubs.

Car park

The acquisition did not come easily. The issue went to a public inquiry before the county council was given permission to use the adjoining land for a green play area. It was previously a car park.

Mr Clarke said: "It is unfortunate that there was such an issue made of it but we are absolutely delighted with the outcome. The pupils can now get up a good head of steam from one end to the other and there is room for a 75 metre track."

And to celebrate, the youngsters and staff held a "Yah Hoo" day. The pupils have also, been able to stage their country dancing display for the first time on home territory.

During the Queen's Silver Jubilee they staged the country dancing for the first time and it proved so popular with pupils, staff and parents that it was decided to make it an annual event. The youngsters previously had to parade to the town's Hall Park grounds for the event.

Budding athletes also had a trek across the town's main streets to Denfield Park Junior School to "borrow" the playing field for their annual sports day.

Practise

Although young footballers from Alfred Street still have to walk to Denfield Park for matches because their new play area is not large enough to accommodate a full pitch, but the youngsters are now able to practise the skills of the game at home.

Despite the years of grazed knees the youngsters amazed their opponents with their success in local sporting events. Pupils have snatched the area school's top football trophy, and the district junior schools sports challenge shield — at present on display in the- school hall — is also frequently on the Alfred Street shelf.

The new playing field — now well-stocked with shrubs and trees — also includes a low wall feature which has been specially provided so the youngsters can sit down and chat, and the former area enclosed with high wire netting and dubbed the "monkey cage" by children and staff alike, is now a thing of the past.

Back to those good old days

THE classrooms were erected in 1879 in the heart of the town — and the fascinating head teachers' log books from those early years give an insight into the lives of past generations.

The importance of Rushden Feast warranted a day off school and one headmaster recorded in his notes that the day was so cold children were allowed to come to the fire to warm their hands.

Former headmaster Ron Lawrence, who died earlier this year aged 80, used the log books as a basis for many popular talks to local organisations.

George Hustwaite, the head of Alfred Street's forerunner, a school housed in a Temperance Hall, reflected the impact of extreme weather conditions on his pupils.

In July 1872 he wrote: "The heat has been intense throughout the week. This being the case it has been a matter of great difficulty to keep the children in working order. Most of them would have preferred sleep. Watered the floor and sent for water to drink every day."

The winter brought just as severe problems. In January, 1873 he wrote: "The weather, which has hitherto been remarkably mild, is now very keen, consequently the children can with difficulty keep warm. Allowed them to go in turns to the fires during the writing lesson."

In 1877 William Wood became headmaster and was still head when Alfred Street — the successor Board School — was opened.

In his log of October 10, 1879, he recorded how the children had given "three hearty cheers" and marched into their new school where they were provided with tea.

"On dispersing, each child had some fruit and sweets given, and a card commemorating the opening of the schools."



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