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Rushden Hall - future?

The Hall Grounds wall and gate being moved back
Courtesy of the late Colin Bryant's Collection
The Rushden Echo, 8th July 1966, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Hall future in the balance

Rushden Hall, a place of charm worth repair at the expense of ratepayers, a crumbling relic which should be completely demolished, or a useful centrepiece to the park which could be partly renovated and partly demolished.

These were some of the views which were put forward by the people of the town at a public meeting called this week by the Rushden Urban Council, which is pondering the fate of the three hundred year old building.

The most popular solution to the problem was put forward by the chairman of the Parks Committee, Mr. R. R. Griffiths, who suggested partial restoration and partial demolition.

Mr. Griffiths said that he thought the front of the hall could well be retained and the interior restored to provide suitable accommodation for the existing occupiers, the Rushden Pensioners’ Parliament and the park superintendent’s office. The café and existing flats could also be retained.

Mr. Griffiths suggested that the parts which were in the worst state of repair, and would be the most expensive to renovate – the rear and the east side – should be demolished.

The views of the members of the public at the meeting were noted for councillors’ reference but it was emphasised by the chairman of the council, Mrs. Audrey Perkins, at the outset of the meeting that the final decision on the subject rested with the council itself.

A number of people who have had first-hand experience of the difficulty of life in the hall in the past were present at the meeting and gave their views on its future.

Mr. Leonard Irons, treasurer of the Rushden Pensioners’ Parliament, said that the parliament had lost a number of members at meetings because they would not go into a room which was in such bad condition. He added that sometimes disinfectant was put down to control dust.

Mrs. D. Brown said that the building was “terribly difficult” to keep clean.

Mr. W. J. A. Peck said he thought the question boiled down to consideration of economics against tradition. He also recommended that the rooms used by the Pensioners’ Parliament should be put in order.

Finance was also discussed and Mr. A. J. George considered that an extra 2d or 3d rate would be well worth while for the preservation of the hall. He felt that with the exception of pensioners practically everyone in the town could afford such an increase.

There were members of the public at the meeting who felt that the hall should be demolished and the money saved put towards a new community centre.

Mrs. W. M. King thought it wrong to be sentimental about the building and the money could well be used to provide additional amenities for Rushden.


Suggestions on how to raise the money included moving the council offices from the corner of Newton Road to the hall, and selling the existing site of the council buildings, selling a corner of the Hall Park for housing development, and selling Jubilee Park.

Representing the younger generation at the meeting, Miss J. Brown said that she thought the mullion bay windows on the east side of the hall were beautiful and should not be destroyed. She pointed out that she was not at the moment a ratepayer, but in a few years she would regard it as a privilege to be able to contribute to the upkeep of part of our heritage.

The Rushden Echo, 5th August 1966, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Fate of Rushden Hall Still in the Balance

The fate of Rushden Hall, a building which was described at a recent meeting as “a diamond with a heart of glass” is still in the balance.

An attempt to get the building demolished and the site cleared was defeated after a long, and at times quite heated, argument at last week’s Rushden Urban Council meeting.

The proposal to demolish the hall and clear the site was made by Mr. D. Savory and seconded by Mr. G. Penness, but it was defeated by six votes to ten.

Instead the council accepted the Parks Committee report to consult a specialist architect for a “report with a plan, an estimate of the probable cost, on a suggestion that it might be possible to arrange for the restoration and preservation of the front of the building (facing the park) including one bay window at the end, and also the wing which has already been converted into flats.”

Mr. Savory said there were only two alternatives, total demolition or total restoration.


Mr. Penness said he had been astounded to hear the chairman of the parks committee, Mr. R. R. Griffiths put forward the suggestion at the public meeting that the hall might be partially restored. He understood the architect had already said it could not be done.

He said it would be a waste of the architect’s time and the council’s money to hear the same answer.

Mr. R. D. Gilhooley advocated leaving the hall as it was. He said restoring the hall would be a shot in the dark. Until the work was started there would be no way of knowing what the final cost would be.

“I think it is wrong to gamble with ratepayers’ money,” he said.


Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Gilhooley to withdraw the word “Gamble” and substitute it with another word. He said he was not a gambler and the word gave him personal offence.

After being asked a second time to withdraw the word. Mr. Gilhooley still refused.

Mr. Griffiths said there was no gambling in it. Money was not involved, advice only was being sought.

The parks committee received support from several councillors including Mr. A. Allebone, who said he did notthink there were only two alternatives, and Mr. R. H. S. Greenwood, who said posterity would thank the council if the hall, or part of it, was kept.

The Rushden Echo, 28th October 1966, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Fight goes on to save Rushden Hall - The fight for Rushden Hall continues

Despite a council decision to demolish part of the 17th century building, local residents will continue to bring pressure to bear with the Ministry of Housing.

Mr. A. J. George, who organised a petition that was presented to the council at Wednesday’s meeting, said yesterday that to demolish part of the hall, as is the council’s intention, would make Rushden Hall into a “lop-sided horror.”

Speaking of the petition, Mr. George said: “Of the 526 people who signed, 225 were under 21. They are townspeople of the future, and they want the hall to stand as it is.”

“Since the petition’s presentation, I have secured another 75 names. I have also had a letter from Mr. Duncan Sandys, who has been assured by the Ministry of Housing that a close watch is being kept on all developments,” said Mr. George.

On Wednesday the council accepted the Parks Committee recommendation to approve a scheme in principal, which will retain the front of the hall, looking from the bandstand, the flats, the café, proper provision for pensioners’ parliament, the WVS room and the superintendent’s office, basically it will leave the building L-shaped.

The committee was also given permission to consult further with the architect, to develop the proposal laid down in his scheme.

A move to get the matter referred back by Mr. G. Penness and Mr. D. Savory was heavily defeated.


Mr. Savory described the hall as a white elephant and challenged a claim that the public meeting, held earlier in the year, had given the council a mandate for partial restoration.

He said now they had a plan for restoring part of the hall, which was going to cost almost as much as the estimate for total restoration -- £18,000.

“This money is not being spent on restoration, but in knocking down parts of the hall. I cannot see how this can please any side.

“If and when the council gets sanction to spend the money on this, how much will it cost then? I think the council is being asked to sign a blank cheque,” Mr. Savory said.

Mr. Penness agreed, and said they did not know what was going to happen until work started.

Chairman of the parks committee, Mr. R. P. Griffiths, said it was not true that the public meeting had given the council a mandate. It had been made clear that the full responsibility rested with the council.

Nor was it true to say they were going to knock down half the hall, and that the council was being asked to sign a blank cheque.

The Committee was not asking for any money at this stage, it wanted to consult further with the architect to develop the proposals. Once the committee had satisfied itself that it had done that, it would come back to the council with more details.


Mr. Griffiths said he had received a petition that night, signed by 526 people, supporting the continuance of Rushden Hall as they knew it. Earlier in the week he had received a similar petition from 34 members of the Cosmopolitan Club, Rushden. He said both petitions would receive the committee’s attention.

He said he had looked at newspaper cuttings on the hall going back over the last 35 years. They had been supplied by the widow of Mr. Len Elliott (for many years Mr. Elliott was in charge of the Rushden Echo Office).

At the public meeting the general feeling had been that the hall should be preserved in some way. During the last month he had received letters, postcards, telephone calls and personal visits. Everybody had shown great interest and had put forward various ideas. Even Earl Spencer had looked round to see what was being done.

However, he said he had not received any lobbying for demolishing the hall.


Mr. Griffiths said there were limitations to what could be done because of the neglect in the past. If some of the work had been done thirty years ago they would not be in the position they found themselves today. But whatever the council did they would not be able to please everybody.

He said he had taken a round figure for restoration of £15,000. This might sound a lot, but when the cost was related to the cost per household, taking an average rateable value of £80, over the next twenty years, they had something less than 1½ per week – including existing loan charges.


Mr. J. E. Wills said he supported the committee in the hope that even more than was envisaged would be saved. In his mind the hall and the grounds were inseparable.

He said it was one of Rushden’s few links with the past to preserve, and something more than money was involved.

Mr. A. Allebone said he thought they should retain as much as they could possibly afford. In fact, as a council, he did not think they could afford not to save as much of the building as they could.

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