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Article and photos by Paul Wright, 2017
Farrier Court
& memories of High Street South
Farrier Court
Farrier Court in 2017

Fuel for thought, the previous use of Farrier Court was by the petrol station of Alan Pond, and many years earlier it was "Ginns" (later Jimmy Guinee's) blacksmith's shop.

Building teams from Bedford company Parrot moved on to the site, opposite the Wheatsheaf hotel, on the week starting the 26th September, 2016.

This was after several years of it standing empty and run down, the land as we mentioned was the former Alan Pond filling station.

Site clearance had been going on for a couple of weeks, and the week starting 24th October 2016 saw lorry loads of concrete being pumped in to the site during dry conditions, as a form of rafting.

Of course long before all the goings on as a petrol filling station the area around the site was used by several varied long established companies which we will mention now.

Moving along from the bottom of Griffith Street towards Skinners Hill we had "Florence Simpson" the high class ladies outfitters, it may seem odd to say, but I cannot ever remember seeing any customers attend the shop over the decades!

Next door was the park keeper's cottage, and not just any old park keeper, he was called "Tom", and you knew better than to mess around in Hall Park. But if you did fancy your chances you were pushing your luck.

dabbling in the brook
left to right: Mick Smith, Robb Bass, Pete Wright,
Keith Shearer and Terry Harper
We can enjoy a photo to prove that point, taken in Hall Park by the brook in the 1950's of my cousin Pete Wright.

Pete told me that this was taken playing with their boats in the brook near to the former Townsend's garage, and it was the lads that had that sinking feeling, and not their boats?

The lads were caught red handed by Tom on his regular patrol of the park, needless to say he dished out the "regulation" clip around the ear. We never dared tell our parents if we were given any form of corporal punishment, as this would be greeted with - "well you must have deserved it," and you got another one off of your dad.

In these days of council cutbacks it is perhaps unthinkable that years ago we had such posts as a "park keeper," yes that's right, a man to look after the park. 

Ron & Grace Wright
Ron & Grace Wright celebrating
their wedding anniversary
Pete and Brian's father, Ron (Ockin) Wright was also a "park keeper" in Rushden, he worked down at Spencer Park circa the 1960's and 70's, and lived at 127 Washbrook Road, with his wife Grace.

And now one of their grand children lives in the same house. Prior to this Ockin was grafting hard as a plasterer working for F. R. Windsor the builders, they were based at Newton Road at number 42. At the time this was opposite the old "Rushden Fire Station", that building is now used as a hair and beauty salon. When Ron and Grace retired they moved up to Kilburn place, and they had many happy years together there, until Ron passed away, and then Grace moved in to Imperial court in Duck Street for the remainder of her 90 plus years.

Back to the former shops, and the ladies kept their crowning glory in shape as we move along to 16 High Street South to "Betty's" hair stylists, they were to the right of the Hall Park gates. I remember one of the former staff telling me that she was apprenticed at Betty's, and she had to shampoo the hair of a "well-to-do" lady; all was going well until she saw some head lice on the woman's head. According to her tale it did occur sometime previously in her career, and this was the final straw. And she dashed home and told her dad that she could not stand the hairdressing job anymore! She went on to have a change of direction after that.

Next door was "Robinson's Garage", and I can remember filling up my car in 1967 for less than £5, and you would normally use the odd old pennies in your change for some shots of "Red X" upper cylinder lubricant. This was charged at 1d a shot, and the man filling your tank was called "George"- he was always dressed in a pair of brown overalls. As we do this article in the Autumn of 2017, he is working part time at "Park Road Motors" in Rushden, and is still living over at Melchbourne in the cottage that his mum occupied for many years.

To the right of the garage was "Ginns" the blacksmiths, we used to love to stand and watch "Jim Ginns" shoeing the horses that stood there patiently while he expertly placed their hoofs on his long leather protective apron, and then nailed on their shoes.

He used to put the fan motor on to blow the flames from his coke brazier, and then work the shoes to fit perfectly, each time dipping the shoes into the cold water in a burst and hiss of steam.

When he was not making horse shoes he would be using his electric arc welding rods to make wrought iron gates etc. and he always told us kids not to look at the arc without the goggles that he was equipped with, we used to cheat and peep through our closed fingers to admire his work. And it is rather fitting that this block of 9 flats was named after Jim's trade, so the Farrier will live on in spirit.

At the top of Skinners Hill we could buy our meat from "Coopers" the butchers, incidentally Mr Cooper and his brother used to run the 31st Beds Scout Troop at Wymington; assisting the brothers was Jim Grant from Podington. Jim was in the police force at the time, and was later on special duty at Barnwell manor near Oundle, guarding Princess Alice.

We had many a happy hour working for the scout badges, and a bit of rough stuff to end the evening of scouting when we were treated to a game called "British Bulldog."

When "Coopers" the butchers ceased trading circa the early 1970's, the building became the home of "Osborne and Mason" the dental surgeons. Before that of course older readers will no doubt have their own graphic tales to tell of going to see "North and Scholes" (dentists) and their colleagues when they were based above "Boots" the chemists in the High Street. You climbed the stairs, turned to the right and there was a little office that served as the reception point, when you checked in you filed off to the waiting room to wait for what seems like an eternity for your appointment time.

The whole place above Boots was several surgeries situated along these corridors, and I was never over keen in sitting in the old fashioned dentist chair (and who was?).

In the early 1960's my dentist was a Mr Cunningham accompanied by his dental nurse in a crisp white uniform, also there was a Mr Harvey, later on Alistair McGregor from Harrold was also seeing patients.

On one occasion as I sat in that intimidating waiting room I heard a lady let out a blood curdling scream from the surgery, needless to say I decided to make my exit before it was my turn!

My mother Grace along with myself used this practice, but my late father Jack Wright went to a Mr Straube, they were on the left hand side at the bottom of Queen Street, later it was Hobson's dental surgery, this was located next to "Espin's" cycles.

Nowadays dentistry is a totally more humane practice than it used to be, and the techniques and equipment are far superior.

Back to the building work, after the concrete had been placed in to the ground, concrete rafts were put into place in readiness for the placement of the base for the ground floor. This was achieved in January 2017, and scaffolding was erected at the rear of the site at the same time, this was then completed by the start of Monday 6th February 2017.

Ground work starts
Building work begins

By midweek a massive yellow crane with a telescopic arm arrived on site, to lift into place the wooden panels which would form the skin of the building. This was on Wednesday 8th February.

Moving on to the later stages of the month and things are coming together with the wooden panels being nearly completed. This is despite having a bad storm hit the town on the Thursday 23rd February, this was named storm "Doris" and wind gusts of between 50-60 mph were recorded, and caused heavy damage in other parts of the country.

almost finished
Work well under way
Better weather was to follow as we moved into springtime, and by the end of March work was started on the tiling of the roof.

Mid-summer and in July we noticed that the scaffolders were taking down their poles, to complete their part of the job.

August arrives and the site is now looking as though it is moving in to the latter stages of its project, and as we move in to autumn, the landscaping looks like the finished article.

Rushden Feast is in town again, this started on the Friday evening of 15th September, so you know what the weather is like now, most days have been chilly and pretty wet. October was a pretty good spell of sunny days, with some days hitting 22C, so this gave the decorators some good weather to carry out the painting. November came around and the weather was still kind, and the sun gave us some limited warmth, with high's of 15C.

After just over 12 months all of the work is now done to a high standard, and the nine 2-bedroomed flats are ready to be filled by Rockingham Forest housing residents, this is a part of Grand Union housing group.

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