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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 12th December, 1952
The Talk of Rushden and Higham Ferrers
(By Mr. Cobbler)

About Time

The advantage to be gained from the public having an advance knowledge of questions coming up for decision by Rushden Urban Council has seldom been illustrated with greater force than in the case of St. Mary’s Church clock.

Rushden enjoys no such advantage. Appeals have been made by letter and in print, but the reigning authorities at Rushden, whether Conservative, Labour or piebald, are all alike in a particular dislike. They want to be the big shots. They want to have their committee minutes to themselves until the final decisions are made.

Rising (and writing) in wrath before the Council’s December meeting, I feel convinced that the Finance Committee has made a ghastly mistake in recommending that, because the ecclesiastical architects do not favour illuminated clock dials for St. Mary’s, the Council should not provide a second dial (on the north wall of the tower) at all.

Before making any such decision (if it does), the Council should definitely hear what the town has to say, because here is a case where Rushden, almost to a man, has shown devoted enthusiasm for the whole idea of restoring the church, and equal favour for the Council’s own proposal to bear the cost of work on the clock and the provision of a second dial.

Now – unless the Council bucks – bang goes the only visible part of Rushden’s permanent Coronation memento.

Nor is this the first time that old-fashioned procedure has pushed the public nose out of reckoning. It allowed a public Coronation meeting to go uninformed, and waste a lot of breath, on the very eve of the Council’s decision to link the clock with the Coronation programme.

It seems to me that the Children of Israel weren’t the only ones. And that the fog isn’t all in London.

Light and Dark

The committee meeting which recommended “that the proposal for the provision of an additional dial for the church clock be abandoned “ was attended by Messrs. C. G. Faulkner, J. Allen, F. E. Brown, W. Brown, W. E. Higham and E. A. Sugars. Three other members sent apologies for absence.

The view of this depleted meeting, after hearing that a new dial – but not an illuminated one – would be welcomed by the Church Council, was that no useful purpose would be served by a non-illuminated dial.

Well, I don’t think this will be the view of the town.

Wouldn’t the dial be of service to Rushden people coming down Newton Road, up Church Street, and northward out of High Street? Wouldn’t the number of these be three times, or perhaps six times, the number passing the present dial?

And when are Rushden people out and about? Mainly in the daytime, surely. Even the Chamber of Trade doesn’t want them prowling about after dark.

Why all the emphasis on illumination? It would be extremely useful, and also a lively advertisement for the town, but it is far from being the only consideration.

If the Council agrees with the committee, the town should raise its voice – or there will be no new dial in the next fifty years. Even if the motion is defeated or adjourned, the moral of the situation should be taken to heart.

Day Out

Apart from minor adventures Rushden and Higham Ferrers lived peacefully through the early freeze-up, but the boom in weekend outings led to trouble for some of the bolder spirits. A bright and shining party, I hear, set out for London last Saturday morning. They had tickets for the Arsenal football match, but when they grovelled to Highbury in the fog there was no play. They fancied a cinema, but before accepting their money the manager said: “You had better come inside and look.” All they saw inside the cinema was fog.

In the evening they longed for home, but it was impossible to get the coach out of London. The driver groped his way to an hotel and got most of his charges fixed up for the night, the others electing to sleep in the coach. There must have been some more sad details on Sunday morning but all I know – and it is surely enough – is that the adventurers got back to Rushden in the early afternoon.

Miss Mavis Ward, producer for Rushden Operatic Society, could not get through for a rehearsal on Sunday evening. She was in charge of a production at the Scala Theatre on Saturday evening and her company played to a pall of fog.

Unable to get out of London on Sunday Miss Ward queued-up for a tube ride to a district where she had friends. Duly delivered to the station, she found herself alone and bewildered in a dark and strangely silent world. About to knock the door of the nearest house, she found evidence that she was in the right street. Feeling her way in the desired direction, she heard a piano and thought “My friends often play the piano; this may be it.” It was.


The Rushden Echo and Argus, 19th December, 1952

What a week! One day you see a white Englishman with red on his cheeks. Another day you meet a coloured American with snow on his eyelashes. The very path you tread changes from slab-grey to white, from white to brown, and from brown to slopping water before you know where you are.

I think you must have recognised the blushing Englishman. He is, of course, a member of Rushden Council’s finance committee, and he takes us back in a flash to our liverish tirade of last week in which we more or less hung him among the turkeys in front of the poulterer’s.

If every man associated with that church clock report had blushed with remorse, as he ought to have done, we should have had enough illuminated dials to satisfy every demand.

Well, the danger is over. The rest of the Council came down on the report like a ton of bricks. St. Mary’s will get its second dial (plain) and the wish of the town is correctly interpreted.

We forgive the erring few. We admit that the greatest of men have their moments of indiscretion. We wish them a merry Christmas and a balanced Budget.

But we shall not forget that urban district councils need to be watched.

Now here’s a change. By special request we switch over to Rushden High Street on a Sunday morning, very early. Too early, in fact, because we have our own comfortable ideas about Sunday before breakfast – and after breakfast too.

It appears, however, that if we went shivering out at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning we should see one big litter. There would be fish-and-chip papers and similar garbage everywhere. The Council’s men would be toiling to clear the street, but their labours would be painful and disheartening.

The townsman who came specially to tell me of this had every sympathy with the workmen. “I wonder,” he said, “that they have the patience to do it.” I was so impressed by his description and by his plea that with a few simple strokes of the pen I should cure Rushden of a bad Saturday night habit that I said I might get up early one Sunday and view the desolate scene. So I might – perhaps after Christmas or after the Coronation.

In the meantime, do be more thoughtful.

The funny thing is, though, that when I discussed this with a Rushden housewife she went up like a balloon.

“What!” she said. “Fish and chips on a Saturday evening? I came home from Northampton last Saturday, cold and hungry, and wanted nothing so much as some nice hot fish and chips. I went to four shops, and not one of them was frying. You don’t know where you are with them nowadays. Why can’t they give the public some service, as they used to do?”

I didn’t know, but if any King of Sizzle cares to supply the answer I shall be pleased to publish it.

Even with snow in close attendance, Higham Ferrers seems very happy about its Coronation Week programme and takes pleasure in pointing out that no worries arise in the matter of civic economy.

The borough is certainly to be congratulated on its ability to take all reasonable steps and so maintain a deep-rooted reputation for letting itself go on national occasions.

I am told that the souvenir book promised by the Mayor will be a book in the real sense of the word, and that its preparation will keep quite a number of people busy from now until the Coronation. Nothing so ambitious would have been possible out of the public purse.

Higham is also doing itself well in the sphere of permanent open-air amenities. It may seem rather sad that one part of the scheme means goodbye to the last remnant of the monks’ old fishing place, but by a happy chance the pleasant name associated with this spot is now to be bestowed upon the lane nearby, giving “Saffron” in place of an undignified assortment of titles.

I must say I like the simplicity of this transformation. A lady just wrote in with the suggestion, and the Town Council complied in no time.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 15th May, 1953, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Clock face installed
Final feature of the restoration scheme at St. Mary’s, Rushden, an additional clock face matching the one on the west side has now been installed on the north wall of the tower.

Looking into High Street it will obviously be of great value to the town. Its gleaming hands and figures have attracted much admiring notice during the last few days.

The hands now point to 12 o’clock and will not be set in motion until the dedication on May 30.

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