|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.