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Mrs Margaret Matthews (nee Underwood)
Memories of Tennyson Road Nursery

Tennyson Road Nursery class in 1944
Believed to be 1946

Due to the home I was born in, in Roberts Street, Rushden, being bombed on 19th November 1940, I went to live for a time with an aunt, uncle and cousin in Rose Avenue. I went to Tennyson Road Nursery in the early 1940s.

In the afternoons we had to have a sleep on wooden framed and canvas beds. If we wanted an egg at mealtimes we had to take our own. Like most other people, we kept hens; some eggs were preserved in isinglass.

My aunt used to clean at the nursery and was given bacon rind to take home for the hens. I always offered to carry this and would eat the crunchy bits!

I remember a lady at the nursery who was dressed similarly to a matron/nurse. She would bath us in a big sink; we called her “nan” and she was very nice.

I believe the late Mrs Espin (Ivor’s wife) also worked there.

Extract from Northamptonshire County Council
Annual Reports of the Medical Officer of Health
A Wartime Nursery — Highfield Nursery Centre, Tennyson Road, was opened on 21st July 1942 with provision for 40 children.

In 1944 there was an average of 26 children over the year. During 1946 the average had risen to 37. It closed December 1956.

Jane Neville emails to tell us :
The Staff in 1946 were:
Nanny Baker (in charge) who had her hair drawn back into a bun, Cynthia Marshall, Cynthia Wright, Irene Espin and Marjorie Austin.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 24th July, 1942, transcribed by Gill Hollis

While Mother is at Work
Children Cared for at New Rushden Nursery
America’s Help

Warm and gaily coloured quilts received as gifts from America will protect tiny Rushden children during sleepy-time at the Rushden War-time Day Nursery, which opened on Tuesday.

Built near the Tennyson-road Infant School, the nursery has been provided by the Health Department of the County Council and is the first in the area though not in the county. It will care for children from two to five years of age whose mothers are doing war work and find it difficult to look after the little ones.

Not many mothers who saw this bright place for little people would hesitate to leave their children there during working hours. Everything is designed for health and happiness, and a well-chosen staff has been engaged. Mrs. O. B. Lean (wife of Dr. Lean) is the matron – fully qualified as a State Registered Nurse – and has as assistants a nursery-trained lady and two others who have taken courses. It is hoped that in time a teacher may be added to the staff.

Meals and Play

Though the daily routine could not be settled in every detail before the nursery opened, it was decided that the children should receive a light lunch of milk etc., dinner and tea. Early morning arrangements will be based on experience, and it would be quite possible to prepare breakfasts if necessary, the establishment having a small kitchen. The dinners come from the school canteen in Portland-road.

The toddlers should be happy in the two airy nursery rooms, where the low tables, at each of which ten kiddies can sit in tiny chairs, are heaped with pleasing toys – supplemented by wooden engines and the other rolling stock of the floor.

Each child has its own tooth mug, towel, face flannel, brush and comb and tooth brush. These outfits have their own distinctive markings in the form of animals and birds, and the staff has been very busy applying the figures to 200 articles. The mugs ranged in rows make a bright splash of colour.

Warm Bye-Byes

America’s kindly gifts are seen in the room where the children snuggle to bye-byes for two hours – perhaps more – each afternoon. They cover low-built cots, and each has a tab revealing the place of origin. One day the U.S. Red Cross ladies will receive interesting messages from this nursery.

The other arrangements, including the wash-basins with hot and cold water supplies, are on the miniature scale which makes the whole place look so interesting. Two air raid shelters are also provided.

On Monday the nursery was open for public inspection. On Tuesday the children already on roll settled down to their new mode of life while mothers were helping to win the war. It is hoped that within a short time the company will grow until about 40 little ones – none under two and none over five – are in the fold.

Nursery at Tennyson Road, Rushden 1950/51

Includes: Mary Alice Turner, Judith Smith, Jackie King, Anthony Higgins.

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