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The Hall

Sketch by Grace Pashler
Sketch of Rushden Hall by Grace Pashler c1935 (taken from a photocopy)

Rushden Echo and Argus, from an undated news clip (c1930), transcribed by Kay Collins

The Old Hall of Risdene
Some Families, Facts and Fiction
John O'Gaunt Legend and the Mythical Guy Fawkes Lantern
A Treasure That Rushden Might Have Kept

Rushden Hall, historic home of the town’s most famous families, stands empty and silent, awaiting decisions that may rekindle the flames an its broad and noble hearths, or throw walls and woodland into the path of a "progress" that might destroy the old to create the new. The auctioneer's hammer has sounded; the treasures of panelled rooms are scattered far and wide. The story of seven hundred years comes to a chapter's end.

At the moment of tension comes Mr. J. Enos Smith, keeper of a thousand and one references to the Risdene of old, with timely and interesting notes on "a very antient House of the Duke of Lancaster," and a few correctives for mistaken notions concerning the founder and subsequent occupants of the Hall. He suggests, among other things, that a spinet made in the 17th century would have made a worthy gift for a Rushden museum.

It is supposed that there has been a "Hall" on that site for about seven hundred years. The present one is an Elizabethan erection, but the back part of the Hall seems to be much older, especially the octagonal chimney, the walls being similar to those of the North Transept of St. Mary's Church.

John O'Gaunt

It is thought that the older portion of the Hall was built by John O'Gaunt, but this I doubt. I have been told that I know nothing about architecture, and I never said that I did, but I know what I do know, and what I can prove. I have searched John O'Gaunt's own records, and searched on purpose to find that out, but have failed to find any mention of the Hall, though there were several notes about Higham Ferrers.

The late Rev. W. J. B. Kerr, of Irchester, a great antiquarian, was of the same opinion. He said that he knew the names of the occupants of the Hall for 600 years or more, but not John O'Gaunt.

The Pembertons were there about 200 years, the last, Sir Lewis Pemberton, dying in l640. They were a Lancashire family.

Pembertons and Fletchers

Nordon in MDCX, says after speaking of Irchester: "In a myle therof is Rusheen (Rushden), parcel also of the saide Duchye, whearin theare hath bine a very antient House of the Duke of Lancaster, but greatly decayed, and whearin yet dwelleth one Mr. Pemberton, a Gentleman interested thearin by His Majestie."

I have names of two or three who lived there before the Fletchers. The latter were there a long time, the last of them being John Fletcher, who after leaving the Hall lived in High-street, somewhere near the site of Messrs. Boots, the chemists. Then he went to Bedford, died in an alms house, and was buried in the Pemberton Chapel of Rushden Church in 1860. This John Fletcher was the father of the noted Eliza Fletcher, who was born at the Hall but only lived there about two years, as she was adopted by the Duchess of Gordon, of Huntley Lodge, and sent to school by her. Eliza became a great traveller, lived in Scotland, and paid two visits to the Holy Land. She died about 1882, and on her very lofty monument at Glasgow it reads: "Eliza Fletcher, born at Rushden Hall, Northamptonshire." This monument was erected by Mary Ann Clarke, a lady Miss Fletcher lived with. Eliza came to Rushden only once, on a short visit to see her old home.

Thomas Williams’ Family

After the Fletchers, Thomas Williams lived there for about 20 years, marrying for his second wife (his first is buried in the Pemberton Chapel) a lady from Jamaica, who lived at Hargrave. There were nineteen children in the family. After his residence at the Hall Mr. Williams went abroad. He is buried at Windsor.

Mr. Frederick Urban Sartoris bought the estate in 1840 but, I think, lived in London a year or two, as a Mr. Barrington Brown lived at the Hall about that time, and I think it was Mr. Brown who made a great alteration to the house. In 1811, as can be seen from an engraving, the house was in its old state. Later the present front was added, and, old Mr. William Clayton, who was a boy gardener at the Hall at that time, told me that Barrington Brown built the front.

The Errors of Coles

Coles in his local history, made a few mistakes, one of which was the statement that the Feast was held on the Sunday after the 8th day of September. He failed to notice the alteration in the calendar in 1752.

He erred in saying that Guy Fawkes' lantern was at the Hall, Mr. F. U. Sartoris told me it was never there.

Coles was also wrong in supposing that Lord George Germain had lived there. I wrote to Mr. Stopford Sackville, of Drayton House—Lord George was one of the family—-and he replied that Lord George never lived at Rushden, but at Drayton House, where had a fine painting of him.

Nature’s Portent

Last week's sale and disposal of the chattels of the Hall took place in an appropriate setting with a suitable prelude. On the inspection day, Monday the 11th of November, the leaves of the magnificent trees, especially the fine beeches, looked very beautiful in their autumn colouring, but a gale arose and even the tent erected for the sale bowed down before its blast. Tuesday, however, was calm.

Many people seemed interested in the old Hall—many who had never seen it before. The fine old doorknocker was missing, but the old refectory table was there, and the spinet

The Old Spinet

The Hitchcocks were noted makers of spinets in London in the first three quarters of the 17th century. The instrument at the Hall would have made a splendid gift to a Rushden museum. It has a compass of five octaves; the keys are of ebony, having ivory fronts, and the flats und sharps are inlaid with narrow slips of ivory. The tone is produced by a crow's quill.

The Sartoris family were very musical. Mr. F. U. Sartoris and Mr. Maitland Sartoris often used to have a tune on the Church organ in my early years here. Mr. Herbert Sartoris was a good cornet player and assisted at my concerts. Mrs. Craven and Miss E. Sartoris were good pianists.

By the way, did the old mill-stone belong to the King's Mill mentioned in Domesday? It might have done.

J. Enos Smith

Extracts typed from J E Smith's notebooks
Rev Hawksley of Rushden (before Rev Downe) - Mrs Cox told me she remembered him, but of course she said she knew Mr Downe better, also that Captain Brown & his two sisters lived at the 'Hall' before Mr Sartoris & that Rev Hawksleys’ son was Chaplain at 'Ale Asylum’ - he was born Rushden Rectory. Mrs Corby’s husband was keeper at the Asylum & knew Rev Hawksley well, but said he had been dead about 9 years.

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