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Rushden Hall - Ideas 1931

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 14th August 1931, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Wanted Some Bright Ideas

A word to the wise – and to the unwise also – is opportune now that the Urban District Council of Rushden has decided definitely to approach that most difficult of problems, the future of Rushden Hall. It will have been noticed that the Parks, Baths and Hall Committee has selected four members whose combined sagacity, it is hoped, will supply the Council with the idea for which it has been waiting. One suggestion only has been presented to these gentlemen – the use of the Hall as a museum and art gallery.

The names of the members of this sub-committee are known; the editorial address of the “Echo and Argus” is equally well-known. We have therefore to suggest that all townsmen who have formed notions of their own concerning the use to which the mansion could be put should unfold their schemes now, or forever hold their peace. They may speak, write, or use the telephone, but by whatever route they may be received their messages will be welcomed.

Because of sentiment, and because of the joy which already has sprung from public access to Rushden’s beautiful old garden-park, no major scheme or policy in relation to those grounds is easy to decide. There is always the past to bear in mind, and always the future to consider. In the Council Buildings at this moment hang plans of a bandstand over which Councillors shake their heads in perplexity and doubt. One is a “period” design; another bows less definitely to the throne of Elizabethan architecture. For any other locale a choice could have been made months ago; for the Hall it is different. Every man desires to do his best, and fears to do wrong.

Even greater is the respect with which we approach the “interior” problem, for the Hall is the date-mark of the whole estate. There is also the fear that a commonplace idea may be adopted and a brilliant one go undiscovered. No-one doubts, of course, that the establishment of a museum and collection of art works would be an achievement of the right kind, but the committee has first to discover whether the materials are at hand, and whether the owners of interesting objects bearing upon the history of Rushden or reflecting the talent of the district are willing to present or loan them for the public good. It may be that such matters of detail will decide the larger question of policy.

So this is a word to the wise. They are very wise indeed, and we have heard them discuss in private a thousand schemes for making the Hall a practical as well as a sentimental asset to the town. Let them not be beaten by a foolish person to whom is given the wisdom to conceive one useful idea and to pass it on.


Afraid of the Hall

Some of us had wondered why no refreshments other than the plebeian ice cream cornet were on sale at Rushden Hall. Now we know. The Council, as we all remember, invited tradesmen to tender for the right of catering up there, and it was reasonable to expect that some person or firm would pick up the gauntlet – and perhaps a bit of profit. This week, after an interval of mysterious silence, it was disclosed that not a single tender was received. This just reveals, I fancy, what people really do think about the weather. They appear to have given it up as hopeless. I have also a shrewd suspicion that local caterers will not forget in a hurry what happened at Spencer Park after the Council’s fiercely eloquent and long-drawn-out debate on the ethics of Sunday refreshments. You remember, of course, those pretty verbal pictures of tired mothers feeding their off springs in the Park to save the exertion of spreading the tablecloth at home, and how dangerous it seemed to tempt people with bananas and buns when they ought to be on their way to church. But when the caterer was nicely installed, filling the jam dishes and shooing off the wasps, the tired mothers seemed much too tired to reach the refreshment hut, and the people who ought to have gone to church presumably went to church! Still, I should have thought the Hall presented a better proposition than Spencer Park. Someone really ought to have a shot next year.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 21st August 1931

First Batch of Bright Ideas
Hall Controversy Begins!
“Pull It Down” Says Correspondent No.1

What shall we do with Rushden Hall? Our leading article last week urged that readers who have pondered upon this knotty problem should make their views known while the time is opportune – that is, while the special sub-committee appointed by the Urban Council is grappling with the question.

The appeal was not in vain. It has led this week to the first batch of Bright Ideas, and, we think, to the prospect of a lively and profitable discussion. Here is a selection from the opening bunch of suggestions about the Hall:

1. Pull it down ! ! !

2. Use it as a Library for storing local historical books and documents.

3. Make it a Home of Rest on Hampton Court lines.

4. Establish a Museum recalling the early days of the boot industry.

The revolutionary gentleman responsible for No.1 prefers to approach his fellow townsmen under the cloak of a pen-name. His vigour of thought takes him even beyond the demolished Hall of his dreams, and this is what he says:


I presume you will be receiving many responses to your invitation given in last week’s issue of the “Echo and Argus,” re Rushden Hall. You ask for some bright ideas from the “wise” and “unwise,” so I need not make any excuse for what I now write.

My suggestion is that the Hall be pulled down, the old stones, tiles and other rubbish to be used to fill in the dark and dingy underground rooms. Any small holes left might be filled up by the use of the small gravel kicked about from between the roads and pavements in certain parts of the town for the roadman to sweep up daily.

When levelled, this would make a good elevated site on which to erect a covered band-stand. Any old oak beams might be used for supporting the roof, these, if not altogether elegant, would have the advantage of not shrinking or warping like some of the wood used in the construction of Council houses.

With regard to the old carvings, these might be placed in a smaller building near by, provided with sufficient lighting for anyone to view them properly. This could be looked upon as the museum, and hanging upon the walls should be the portraits of the four Councillors appointed to act as “martyrs” in finding a satisfactory use for the Hall.

This leads me to make a comment upon the interesting business of the Council as reported last week particularly regarding the Council Houses Inspection Puzzle. My view is that the Surveyor could use any spare time that he and his assistant have, in seeing that owners and tenants of property having trees overhanging pavements, “thereby causing a nuisance” (particularly in wet weather), should have them properly lopped, the chairman of the Council to insist upon the Surveyor starting at the residence of a certain prominent gentleman whose house is on a corner site. This should have a fine moral effect upon other offenders.

Instead of the Surveyor having the extra duties of inspection of the new houses, why not the Council follow the fashion adopted by manufacturers of the town, and advertise for an intelligent boy just leaving school? The wages would be less, of course.

Further, there is the question of new industries for the town.

Could not the Council find some “brainy” man to initiate and carry out the manufacture of wallpaper of sufficient strength to hold the plaster to the walls and ceilings of the houses in question, and any that may be built in the future? What a fine scope there is here, in the opinion of

Yours respectfully,

After that we have a thoughtful letter from the Rector of Rushden, who hopes that his ideas, whether acceptable or not, will encourage others to give their opinions:

Dear Sir,

It is exceedingly difficult to know what to do with such a building as Rushden Hall. We certainly ought to have a museum, where all things of historic interest to those in this important town could be tabulated and open for inspection. I think also that we ought to have a Library, where books connected with this part of England could be obtained. When I was trying to read up the history of Rushden I had to pay many visits to the archives of the excellent Public Library in Northampton.

I have the manuscripts, containing much useful information on local affairs, gathered with infinite patience by the late Mr. Enos Smith, and I cannot help feeling that a Rectory is not the best place in which to store those, for even Rectories in these days are apt to disappear. They ought to be safely kept in some central public place for the information of some future historian.

Again, I think we might utilise the Hall as a sort of Convalescent Home, but more for tired mothers than for sick people. I often come across poor weary folk who are not ill, and who badly need a change, but who cannot afford a visit to the seaside. Why not a Home of Rest for such as these? Or the Hall might in time develop into a sort of Hampton Court where old folk who have little money of their own, and who shrink from the thought of the Infirmary, could be housed and cared for in their declining years.

I am afraid I have not thought out all the implications and difficulties in the way, and I know there are many; but you asked for suggestions and I send them on to you for what they are worth. Perhaps they may even do good by stirring up other people to make better ones.

Yours faithfully,

Then we take from the “Shoe and Leather Record” of to-day’s date a pertinent suggestion by the Rushden correspondent:

“The use of Rushden Hall, a fine Elizabethan mansion recently acquired by the town, as a museum and art gallery is to be considered by a special committee of the Urban District Council. Suggestions and offers made now would be of special value, and I am wondering whether local manufacturers have any boots, tools, equipment or documents that would recall the early history of the shoe and leather industries of this district. A collection of the kind exists at Northampton. Cannot Rushden produce something to correspond?”

Surely we have in these items a sufficient stimulant. Shall we have the Hall demolished? Could we make it a Home of Rest? Can we find the equipment for a Museum? Again we proclaim:


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