Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
The Rushden Echo and Argus, 1st July 1955, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Part of the ‘Spotlight on Rushden’ series
Bricklayers ride in luxury to help build boom towns

Rock Estate work
The contribution to Midland housing and industry made by Rushden building workers who go out of town is in the article, but here is a reminder that a good deal of building is going on in the town itself. Here is work in progress on the latest batch of
56 council houses on the “Old Rock” estate.
People like Romulas, who began the walls of Rome, Noah who did a good deal of overtime carpentry work on the Ark, and the fellows who threw up the Pyramids, would find a good many kindred spirits in Rushden.

For Rushden is not only a town of bootmakers. It is a town of builders too.

Rushden has had a building tradition for years. It grew so fast as a shoemaking centre that a school of building craftsmen was a natural development.

They were needed to erect houses and factories, and when these schemes were finished Rushden builders looked outside the town to find other outlets for their skill.

So began a tradition that continues today, when Rushden building workers are famous across the Midlands and beyond.

Out of Town Jobs

Should you be in Rushden around six or seven in the morning, you can see coaches and vans owned by building firms whisking bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and plasterers to all points of the compass to start work. Gone are the days of open lorry travelling.

Some go to jobs in Rushden, but many more are taken out of town to work. Some travel so far that they are away from home for 12 hours a day.

Altogether they are helping with building at three of the midland “boom towns” – fast growing Corby, the Overspill town of Bletchley and the “Vauxopolis” of Luton.

Their jobs include houses at Bletchley New Town, Northampton, Dunstable, Luton, Finedon, Kettering and Wellingborough, a factory and schools at Northampton, Air Ministry work at Alconbury, Thurleigh and Twin Woods, schools and police station and a new phone exchange at Corby.

800 in Trade

Is it surprising that Rushden building craftsmen go so far afield? Hardly for Rushden firms and workers have built up an enviable reputation.

“The town is well-known for building,” says Mr. Henry Harrison, local secretary of the Bricklayers’ Union, who says that there are in the town about 120 bricklayers, 120 carpenters, 120 painters, 300-350 labourers, between 40 and 50 plumbers, and twenty plasterers.

He smiles at the sort of criticism of building workers that was common a year or two ago. “We had a lot of trainees with us just after the war, but now the majority have turned out really good craftsmen,” he says.

Mr. Harrison feels that the present-day bricklayer lays more than his pre-war counterpart. On internal brickwork the present-day bricklayer can average 900 to 1,100 bricks a day, and on facing work 400 to 500.

The excellence of local building labour has led to one special job at present in-hand-work on Council houses at Luton.

Luton is a boom town, with car and other factories crying out for labour. Many Luton building workers have left their craft to join factory payrolls, and there is a shortage of labour in the building trade.

Magnetic Luton

At the same time there is a good deal of urgent building in hand there, notably on houses for workers needed in the factories, and Luton has become a magnet attracting building workers from as far away as Saffron Walden, Henlow, Bedford and Rushden.

They travel each day by road –the 25 Rushden workers in a former Blackpool Corporation bus.

Rates of pay for this work are high, and according to Mr. Tom Duff, 33, Handcross Way, Rushden, foreman in charge of the Rushden men, labourers have been averaging £15 a week, bricklayers £17, and some carpenters over £20 on roofing and joisting.

Those in charge are very pleased with the high standard of Rushden workers, he adds.

Record Speed

Meanwhile in Leicester, a Rushden firm – Robert Marriott, Ltd, who have a payroll of 400 – have built an 11,000square feet bakery in 14 weeks. This is less then half the time normally required, and the firm were also a fortnight ahead of their own schedule.

Typical of the achievements of local firms is the fact that Marriotts have completed 1,400 houses since the war.

One of the firm’s present jobs is the new grammar school at Corby, which opens on September 17.

Says Lt-Col, J. R. Marriott, secretary of the firm: “We started serious work on March 1, which means that £100,000 worth of work will be done in seven months.

“Who says the building trade can’t work fast? Building is good fun, too.”

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the History index
Click here to e-mail us