Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Northamptonshire Life, September 1987
Rushden in the 1930s
By Dorothy Rollings

We lived in a densely populated part of Rushden known as 'The Rock'. I don't know why it was called that as it bore no resemblance to Gibraltar. When I say 'densely populated' I mean rows of terraced houses built so closely together that three or four paces out of one backdoor brought you into your neighbour's facing kitchen! Big families were raised in these pokey little houses rented for several shillings, paid weekly to the rent collector. The landlords spent very little on the property and it was left to householders to keep their homes as comfortable as they could.

Dotted amongst these little streets were many small bakehouses. There was Mr Cook, Mr Lenton, Mr Harris and Mr Britten to name a few. They worked from early morning to late at night Very late in the case of Mr Harris who was known as the 'midnight baker' by his customers in Wymington because of the late hour he delivered his bread.

They had no vans, all deliveries were made to the doorstep by horse and cart There were steamed loaves, tin loaves, cottage loaves, plaits and many more all baked daily to a lovely crisp golden brown, the smell was heavenly. To say the bread was baked daily is not altogether true - Sunday was a rest day but even then the ovens were stoked up and kept hot and most families took their Sunday dinner of Yorkshire pudding and meat to be cooked for them for the princely sum of one old halfpenny.

It was 1931 and I remember the date because my sister had just made her arrival into the world and Mother was quite ill in hospital. I was six and a half years old and left at home with Father. As the only female in the house I was entrusted with the task of taking our Sunday Yorkshire pudding and joint to the bakehouse. What a responsibility it was!

I was a small, thin girl, always being dosed with things like brimstone and treacle and Dr Somebody's Pink Pills for Pale People, but to no avail. I remained small and thin so you can imagine the baking tin with its precious burden of meat and pudding seemed to weigh a ton as I set out. Hardly daring to take my eyes from the golden batter lapping gently against the sides of the tin, my imagination ran riot. What if I should drop the whole thing in the street? I pictured the red meat lying on the path with batter spattered about like pools of golden blood. Gritting my teeth I carried on and arrived safely at the bakehouse where the puddings were arranged in rows on scrubbed benches ready to be thrust into the hot oven. Half the journey was complete.

All journeys hopefully have a return so an hour or so later I was making my way back again to pick up the tin of beautifully risen pudding splendidly suffocating the meat in the centre.

The burden, though hot and heavy, was not so hazardous this time. A firm grip with a thick, clean cloth, a steady walk and I was home, mission completed.

With a warm smile and praise from Father I felt elated. It was my first really grown-up task and I had completed it successfully. I had been truly scared to take the responsibility of the Yorkshire pudding on my skinny shoulders and I had won! That journey is as clear to me now as it was all those years ago.

Note: Mr Billingham and James Harold Cook's was at 47 Newton Road, and
Mr Lenton's bakehouse was at 36 Pratt Road and
- but we have no pictures or information.

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