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Origins of Rushden Street Names

The Argus, 25th August 1916, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden’s “Old Cross Roads”

“Mr. Cobbler,—As you well know, from the bottom of Church-street to ‘Sanders’ Lodge’ is called the ‘Wellingborough-road.’ The spinney along the Irchester-road (next to where Mr. Chettle lives) is properly ‘Higham-lane Spinney,’ and the road from there to the Oakley Inn ‘Higham Ferrers-lane.’ From the Oakley Inn to the Rushden Turnpike (north end) is Washbrook-road. The old name for ‘Sanders’ Lodge’ is ‘Hill’s Hovels.’

“From the latter place, under the Midland Railway, over ‘Skew Brig’ and ‘Sidney Brook’ to Higham Ferrers is the Wellingborough-Kimbolton Turnpike. From Mr. John Mason’s down past North-end Schools, to the foot of old Bancroft Hill is ‘Hayway,’ and has been so named for at least 90 years. The roads above mentioned (except to Higham and to Knuston) encircled the old ‘Moors,’ which has retained that name more than 400 years. I suppose the Oakley Hunt met there 60 or 70 years (the last time perhaps about 20 or 25 years ago).

“The roads also surround the Recreation Ground. This is interest to me, as the parish or town purchased what ought to have belonged to them, as it is the very land which was left towards the lighting of the Parish Church 380 years ago. Why was it lost? All who went to a place of worship in those days went to the Parish Church, the only building. There were no chapels then, so I say the ground was left entirely to the town for the Church. I repeat the name of the brook which runs through the Recreation Ground if ‘Sidney Brook’ (I do not know how it got that name), and those old willows are something to be proud of, especially being about the only spot where one can find a little shade on a hot, bright summer day in the Spencer Park.

“It matters little, I suppose, what a ‘brook,’ ‘road,’ or ‘wood’ is called but let us keep the names, at anyrate those which have been handed down a hundred years or more. The wood close by has always been called ‘The Moors.’ It is a pity the Recreation Ground is not central. I should like to see one for the young people up Southende.

J Enos Smith
22 Church-street

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 18th October, 1940, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Some of Them Spring From Local History

Adult School Address
A rather unusual subject, “The Origin of the Street Names of Rushden” was taken by Mr. W. A. E. Sherwood at the Rushden Men’s Adult School on Sunday morning. It proved of great interest and led at the conclusion of the address to a full discussion.

The speaker at the outset mentioned that the word Rushden was probably of Anglo-Saxon origin, and was derived from “rise,” a rush, and “den” or “dene,” a small wooded valley. In the Domesday Book Rushden was referred to as Risedene, which was also mentioned in the following terms: In Risdene six hides (a hide, in old England law, was a certain area of land from 60 to 100 acres). There is land for 12 ploughs; 19 socmen (tenants) have these there, and there is a mill rendering 10 shillings, and 30 acres of meadow.

The origin of the name, the “Crispin” Estate, was next dealt with. This appeared to be a particularly appropriate name, for St. Crispin was the patron saint of shoemakers. What more apt name could be used for a district of Rushden, the majority of whose inhabitants were engaged in the manufacture of boots and shoes?

St. Crispin
According to legend St. Crispin, whose festival falls on October 25, was one of two brothers who in the Third Century travelled from Rome to Soissons preaching the Gospel. As he did not wish to be a burden on those with whom he stayed, he preached during the daytime and made shoes at night. The leather, it was said, was obtained in a miraculous fashion – “brought by angels,” some said; “stolen,” others said. At any rate, he made his shoes and sold them cheaply to the poor.

Dealing next with the actual street names, Mr. Sherwood said it was rather difficult to classify them, as they did not seem, with the exception of one or two examples, to follow any definite plan, but were simply made in a hap-hazard manner. However, the names fell roughly into four categories :-

1 Those names according to places to which they led. This was a very common method nomenclature in all towns.
2 Those names according to some local historical association.
3 Those named according to some local distinctive feature.
4 Those named after persons.

With regard to those in the first group it was not difficult to understand why Newton-road, Bedford-road, Irchester-road, Wymington-road and Wellingborough-road bore their respective names.

Regarding those with some local historical association, such highways as Sartoris-road, Pemberton-street, Hayway and Washbrook-road could be mentioned.

Pemberton Family
The Pemberton family and the Sartoris family were for many years resident at Rushden Hall and no doubt were regarded as squires of the “village.” According to records, the Pemberton family came to Rushden just after the conclusion of the Wars of the Roses in 1485 and for a period of 200 years or so occupied the Hall. The most prominent member of the family appeared to be Robert Pemberton, who was gentleman usher to Queen Elizabeth. He died in 1608 and a monument to him and his wife could be seen in the Pemberton Chapel in St. Mary’s Church.

Hayway had no specific person connected with it, but its name brought forth the explanation that it was along this way that the hay was brought from the fertile valley of the Nene to the town, no doubt to be used later for the coaching horses at the establishment near the Hall gates.

Washbrook-road explained itself. In the good old days it no doubt was the scene where the sheep were washed in the brook.

Rushden had always been noted for its interest and active participation in most forms of sport. The names of Denton, Claridge, Knight and many others were known far and wide. What more appropriate names could be found for roads near the Town Cricket Ground, the scene of many thrilling encounters, than Oval-road, Trafford-road, Headingley-road, and Hove-road, named after the famous Surrey headquarters, Old Trafford, in Manchester, Headingley, the renowned Yorkshire ground, and Hove, the pretty Sussex ground, respectively?

Hunting Names
In the latter days of the 19th century in every probability many of the inhabitants followed the hounds, mostly on foot, and as this district bordered the hunting preserves of two well-known packs, four roads branching off the Washbrook-road were given the names Oakley-road, Pytchley-road, Quorn-road, and Woodland-road. Whether Fitzwilliam-street was named after the pack of hounds of after some person it was not clear.

One of the old landmarks of the town was the windmill near the present site of the Windmill Club, and it gave its name to Windmill-road.

Not many of the Rushden streets were named after persons, but Carnegie-street for a certainty commemorated the name of one of the town’s benefactors, Andrew Carnegie, who in 1905 contributed £2,500 towards the provision of a library, which was now a decided acquisition to the town.

One of the most uncommon names was found in Pightles-terrace. Pightles, according to the dictionary, was a small enclosure, or a croft, a small piece of arable land adjoining a dwelling. Perhaps a small farmer of previous days had his abode near this rather secluded road.

Rushden churchgoers in early days would wend their way to the beautiful St. Mary’s Church along the narrow Church-street, and leading from the church was the path to the Rectory now designated Rectory-road. The old church’s name was also seen in one of the newest roads, St. Mary’s-avenue, and at the western end of the town was found another avenue named after St. Peter’s.

New Estate
The names of the roads of the new housing estate appeared with one or two exceptions to have their origin in local features of that particular district.

Highfield-road passed through a field previously known as High Bank field. Spinney-road, on account of its nearness to an oft-frequented spinney, and Boundary-avenue, close to the boundary between the Rushden and Irchester parishes, seemed to be quite apt names, as did Coronation-avenue, named to commemorate the crowning of the present King and Queen. Westfield-avenue apparently bore that designation as it was constructed through one of the west fields of the town.

The points of the compass were represented in North-street, in the north of the town and stretching in a northerly direction, West-street, facing westwards, East-grove, meeting the rising sun, and South-terrace, situated in the southern district of the town.

Other street names were dealt with, and it was noted in the subsequent discussion that there were no Rushden streets bearing really ugly names, although some of the unofficial names could perhaps hardly be described as complimentary.

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