|Councillor J. Allen gave an interesting address to the Rushden Men's Adult School on Sunday morning on "Know Your Own Town," Mr. T. Surridge presiding. Mr. L Clark rendered two appreciated solos, Mr Arnold Pack, of Higham Ferrers, being the pianist. In the course of his address Mr Allen said:
To know your own town it is necessary to know the history of the immediate neighbourhood or county as well as what might be termed purely local history. It is also necessary, for a correct understanding of your town's growth, to understand the geographical factors governing such growth. It is interesting to note that Northamptonshire has two great Roman roads passing through it, Watling Street passing through Towcester, to the west of Northampton, and on to Chester, and the other being Ermine Street, passing through Castor and through the Soke of Peterborough. It is important that the influence of these two great highways on the history of Northamptonshire should not be underestimated.
After the Saxon invasion the Saxon settlements, or villages, were not as a rule along the great Roman highways, but followed the water-courses, so that communication was more easy for a race like the old Vikings, who took to the sea and rivers. This accounts for the distribution of population in villages with names of Saxon endings such as "-ham," "-borough," "-ton," "-den," etc., and the Scandinavian endings. The name "Rushden" first occurs in the Doomsday Book compiled by William the Conqueror, and is there spelt as "Risdene." Evidence as to the size of settlements appears in (1) the Doomsday Book, (2) Hundred Rolls documents of Saxon Hundred Courts, and (3) valuation of the parishes of Henry VIII.
Perhaps the buildings of greatest antiquity are St. Mary's Church, Rushden Hall, and the Old Manor Farm. In all probability Rushden Hall was built upon the site of a house or hall belonging to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and father of King Henry IV., and that
Duck-Street is a Corruption
of Duke-street, which may have been a road leading to John of Gaunt's hunting-box or house. Reverting to communications, all traffic from London to the North and North-West must have passed through the county, so that the dialect spoken was the best known and most easily understood. Hence Chaucer wrote his poetry in this dialect. Caxton encountered the greatest difficulty when translating and printing his books into English; therefore he adopted the East Midlands dialect. The Authorised version of the Bible was also published in this dialect, which eventually became the national tongue.
The question of communication and intercourse has a great deal of influence on the intelligence and initiative of the inhabitants of any place. Hence, in regard to the progress of any ancient or modern industry, it is a most important factor. Population increase at Rushden is shown as follows: 1801, 818; 1861, 1,748; 1871, 2,122; 1891, 7,442; 1901, 12,447. In examining these figures it is seen that the greatest increase in population was from 1871 to 1891, an increase in 20 years of over 300 per cent. From 1891 to 1901 the increase in population was 171 per cent. From 1901, when the population was 12,447, to 1921, when it was 13,511, and to 1926, when it was estimated to be 14,584, there has been but a slight increase compared with former periods mentioned.
What are precisely the main factors contributing to this rapid growth? They may be the intelligence and initiative of Rushden men and of the people who flocked in from neighbouring towns and villages. The progress made from the past to now, even in the life-time of many living to-day who have lived to see Rushden grow from a small village to a thriving town, has been achieved by the industry of the many linked with the foresight and hard work of the public men of the past.