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Evening Telegraph, Thursday, April 11, 1974
Transcribed by Greville Watson, October 2009
Dream falls on hard times
by Bob Stonebridge

The Historic Hunting Lodge
The historic hunting lodge - and "fairy castle" of Mrs Freestone's dreams

A fairy castle is slowly losing it pride and its character in a desolate corner of Rushden. It stands empty and lonely in the grounds where royal huntsmen once chased deer for the aristocracy.

It's not really a castle, but it was once in the eyes of housewife, Mrs Gwen Freestone, who used to play near the building when she was a girl. "It's falling to pieces and I think that's deplorable and a wicked, crying shame," said Mrs Freestone.

The castle she once worshipped from afar as a youngster is the ancient Hunting Lodge at Higham Park, just off Rushden's Avenue Road.


The history of the park, once a part of Higham Ferrers Castle's estate, stretches back 800 years.

The Herefordshire company, Velcourt Ltd., have farmed the land for over a year while they searched for a buyer. Their aim is for the buyer to occupy the lodge and rent the land back to Velcourt to farm. They have had inquiries but so far no one has been interested enough to hand over the money for the lodge or its 350 acres. Meanwhile the Hunting Lodge stands and waits alone with its memories.

Mrs Freestone said windows have been broken and the front door is open for anyone to walk in. Farmworkers have left behind bottles of sour milk and empty food boxes and packets. "One of the ceilings has completely collapsed," said Mrs Freestone. "It's going to rack and ruin. It does seem such a shame because there are so few historical buildings in this area."

Mrs Freestone, of Avenue Road, can see the Hunting Lodge from her kitchen window. Every day she takes her labrador for a walk along Higham Park Road.

The latest chapter in its history began when farmer William Holt sold the lodge - his farmhouse - and land to a large farming company.


"When we were kids it was like a fairy castle. I wish I could afford to buy it," she said. Mrs Freestone wished there was some way to raise money to buy the lodge so that it could benefit the town.

Velcourt are expecting in the region of £800 an acre for the property, which would make the total cost £280,000. Mr Tim King, a director of Velcourt, does not agree with Mrs Freestone on the condition of the building, which he described as "fair". He said there was some outside damage by youngsters and his company were in the process of boarding up windows.


"It's a very old house and to be restored it would need money spending on it. Not the whole house was lived in," he said. "We are naturally taking every precaution that the building does not deteriorate."

When Mr Howard Iliffe, of Avenue Road, described the building's condition he said: "It's rather bad at the moment. Everything's falling to bits." Mr Iliffe, who runs a butcher's and grocer's in Moor Road [Rushden], is another who uses the park to take his dogs for a walk. "I don't like to see anything deteriorate, but it's a question of economics. Who's going to foot the bill to restore it?" he said.

In the past there have been suggestions that the land could be used for a golf course or some other kind of leisure centre.


But not everyone is worried about the future of Rushden's ancient Hunting Lodge and its grounds.

Mrs Helen Donald, of Avenue Road, said: "I couldn't care less what happens to it. It's a dog lane, that's all it's used for."

Dr Paul Wix, a Rushden county councillor who lives near Higham Park, has written to his council's planning department to ask them to assess the building for its historical value. Dr Wix, of Bedford Road, has also written to the Department of the Environment on the issue. He hopes to have the Hunting Lodge listed as a building of historical interest.

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