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Transcribed by Gill Hollis, 2008
Rushden Hall in 1929

Several articles appeared in the Rushden Echo and Argus about the Hall, prior to the sale.

Rushden Hall in 1935 - photo by Reg Glenn

The Rushden Echo & Argus, 22nd November 1929.

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 on its broad and noble hearths, or throw walls and woodland into the path of a “progress” that must 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 ancient 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 1640. They were a Lancashire family.

Pembertons & Fletchers

Norden in MDCX, says after speaking of Irchester : “In a myle therof is Rutheen (Rushden), parcel also of the saide Duchye, whearin there hath bine a very auntient 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 William 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. William went abroad. He is buried at Windsor.

Mr. Frederick Urban Sartoris bought the estate in 1810 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 they 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 and 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 door-knocker was missing, but the old refectory table was there, and the spinet made by Thomas Hitchcock.

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 and 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 Doomsday? It might have done.


The Rushden Echo & Argus, 6th December 1929

Home of Many Notable Families - Rushden Hall to Come Under The Hammer Next Week

Rushden Hall and the large surrounding estate are to be offered by auction at Rushden next Friday, and the sale will call for the attention of “lovers of the antique, speculators, and builders.” It is one of the most important sales held at Rushden for many years, and may to a large extent determine the development of the southern portion of the town.

The Hall is for the most part an Elizabethan structure, but it is fairly certain that a house has stood on the site for about 700 years. The front has been much altered since 1811, when the above engraving of the house was published.

Rich in panellings and tapestries, the Hall has been the home of several noted families, among them the Pembertons (whose occupation lasted 200 years) and the Fletchers. When the above engraving of the Hall was published in 1811, it was stated to be the seat of T. Fletcher Esq.

The Sartoris family acquired the estate in 1840 and remained in residence until the present year, when Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Sartoris moved to Bedford. Much of the furniture was disposed of at a recent sale.

According to the popular stories the Hall was built by John O’ Gaunt, and contained the lantern used by Guy Fawkes, but both stories are discredited by well informed antiquarians.

The Rushden Echo & Argus, 20th December 1929

Rushden Hall Estate - Historic House Fails To Find A Purchaser - A Place of Dignity

Rushden Hall, the old home of the Pemberton’s and later of the Sartoris’s came under the auctioneer’s hammer at the Queen Victoria Hotel, on Friday.

Before placing the estate in the market, Mr. Jackson Stops, the auctioneer, said there was no need to give any description of Rushden Hall. “We are proud in Northamptonshire,” he said, “to have such a house. To-day it is a relic of the past, but it will stand when all the modern houses have gone to oblivion, as it has stood since the Elizabethan period.”

They were averse to selling the panelling and tapestries separately. They could have sold the tapestries – how valuable, they hardly knew – and which were increasing in value every day. They had an estate before them which, if purchased at a reasonable price, would increase in value as time went on. There had been a financial crisis when things were down, not only on the Stock Exchange and in securities. If they bought to-day they must see the appreciation in value. The land must improve in value, with the pressure outwards, increasing population, and the fact that people would not live in slums.

Mr. Stops added: “I remember when the Agricultural Show was held at Rushden, when I went up to see Mr. Sartoris, how I was amazed at the dignity of the house. I only hope that some public-spirited man will buy it or that the Rushden Urban Council will buy it for public purposes, so that it will be available to the public for ever. It is a beautiful structure and anybody might be proud to follow the line of Sartoris there.”

Bidding for the Hall, with 31 acres of land, commenced at £5,000, rose by 500’s to £8,500 and then by 250’s to £9,500, when bidding ceased and the property was withdrawn.

A cottage, No. 6, High-street South, including blacksmith’s shop, two forges and shoeing shed, let to Mr. H. Lewis, was sold to Mr. F. J. Barker for £300. Eight cottages, Nos. 1 to 8, fronting the Bedford-road, and bringing in a gross yearly rental of £134 2s. 4d., were knocked down to Mr. Morris for £805, and a close of pasture land of four acres, with access to the Bedford-road, were sold to the same purchaser for £80. At the instructions of Mr. Morris, eight houses were again put in the market, but after the first two had failed to find a purchaser were withdrawn.

Nine acres of allotment gardens on the Bedford-road, let to the Rushden Allotment Association, were purchased by the Association for £445.

With the exception of four lots sold prior to the day of sale the remaining lots were withdrawn.

A house and garage, No. 16 High-street South, let to Mr. A. Okins, reached £825 before being withdrawn, and a shop and house, No. 22 High-street South, occupied by Mrs. A. Simpson, was withheld at £650. Three cottages, Nos. 40, 42, and 43 High-street South, let to Messrs. J. Underwood, J. Sinfield, and Mrs. Lewis failed to find a purchaser at £575, and No. 46 High-street South, let to Mr. A. J. Sturgess, was retained at £175. Shop and house adjoining, let to Mr. G. R. Clayton, was kept back at £575, and No. 50, High-street South, a detached cottage let to Mr. J. A. Wrighton, was withdrawn without being offered. Bidding for No. 54, High-street South reached £675 before the property was withdrawn.

A number of lots on the Wymington-road went unsold. A corner site with a frontage of 200 feet to the Wymington-road, and a close of pasture land of 3 acres 3 roods, with a frontage of 390 feet on the same road were offered together and withdrawn at £775, and the latter lot on being offered separately, was again withheld at £520. Two pasture fields of 9 acres with a frontage of 660 feet to the Wymington-road, were retained at £1,200, and two similar closes of 6 acres were withdrawn at £650. A pasture field of 90 acres with a frontage of 615 feet to the Wymington-road, was withheld at £625, and the remaining holding of 44 acres, with a frontage of 480 feet, failed to sell at £950.

Five acres of pasture land adjoining Rushden Hall and fronting Wellingborough-road, were retained at £950, and 15 acres of building land with a frontage of 550 feet to the Wellingborough-road were passed over at £2,400. Thirteen acres of arable land adjoining, and “Home Farm,” comprising over 136 acres, with dairy and stock farm, were offered together, but bidding went no further than £2,750. A house on the Wellingborough-road, let to Mrs. Bailey, was withdrawn at £275, and six cottages in Duck-street, Nos. 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 were retained at £650. Six other cottages in the same street failed to sell at £850, and 33 acres of meadow land with a frontage of 620 feet to the Kimbolton-road, were withdrawn at £975.

The lots sold previously were :-

House and butcher’s shop, No. 2, High-street South, let to Mr. H. Skinner; three cottages with black-smith’s shop, let to Mr. H. Bozet, Mrs. Bailey and Mr. W. H. Ginns; No. 28, Wellingborough-road, let to Miss Bailey; 33 acres of meadow land fronting Kimbolton-road.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 27th December, 1929

The Hall’s History - A Sartoris Supplies New Details - The Destruction By Fire

Further details of Rushden Hall’s history comes from Mr. J. E. Smith, whose recent article on the house resulted in an informative letter from a member of the Sartoris family.

The early house, it seems, was burnt down in Elizabeth’s reign and re-built by the Gentleman Usher, a Pemberton, hence the Tudor window on the garden and terrace front.

Years ago a cess-pool was being made near the smoking room, and a good deal of charred brick was found.

Mr. Thomas Williams altered the house a good deal doing away with the hall and inserting two rooms, one over the other. It is believed that Sir Gilbert Scott was the architect for the alteration.

Captain Brown, a brother of a Bishop of Winchester, was there for two or three years only, and sold the hall to Mr. F.U. Sartoris in 1843 – the year of Mr. Sartoris’s marriage.

The old spinet which has been mentioned was purchased by Mr. Maitland Sartoris in a shop at Thrapston and was so covered in dust that even the journey to Rushden did not dislodge its dirty coat.

The letter received by Mr. Smith, goes on to say that the writer could not realise now that all is gone and the treasures scattered “but I must try only to think of my happy life there.”

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 24th January, 1930

Rushden Hall For Demolition? - “Likely” Fate of Elizabethan Residence - New High Street Building Frontage?

Almost before the interest aroused by the offer in public auction of Rushden Hall has subsided, comes an announcement that it is “likely to be demolished.”

The following appeared in “The Times” on Friday –

“Rushden Hall, near Wellingborough, is likely to be demolished. Messrs. Jackson Stops have orders to sell the property early next month, jointly with Mr. John Mason (Rushden). Norden, the famous old topographer, says that John of Gaunt had a house on the site of that which is to be pulled down.

“Architectural glories of Northants have been described by Mr. J. Alfred Gotch and other authorities, and it is regrettable that the county seems destined to see the end of Rushden Hall.

“It contains splendid panelling, fine staircases, and carved Elizabethan work in wood and stone, and it is a house with a history.”

The whole estate, it will be remembered, was recently offered for sale in numerous lots which comprised dwelling houses and business premises in different parts of Rushden, large and small plots of land, etc.

There were bids for the Hall, but as they did not reach an undisclosed reserve, that “lot” was not sold. Numerous other lots also failed to attract buyers.

Shortly after the public sale the auctioneers advertised unsold lots for disposal by private treaty. From the above announcement it is clear that no one came forward privately to purchase the Hall.

Much has been said of the “advisability” of securing the Hall for public purposes. It would undoubtedly add to the advantages of Rushden – and form some sort of counter-attraction to Swanspool, Wellingborough – if Rushden Hall and grounds could be for the free use of the inhabitants and visitors. But the price is utterly beyond the capacity of the town to afford. Nor would the Hall be a paying proposition as a hospital or convalescent home.

The Hall has been so widely advertised that any seekers after such residences for historical or antiquarian values must have known of it. The one fate now seems to be that it is likely to be demolished. Then the lover of Elizabethan carvings etc., will have his chance of pickings. From a utilitarian point of view no doubt much good building material is contained in the actual structure of the Hall, but the beautiful lay-out of the grounds, shrubberies, etc., would be lost without the existence of the Hall. With the Hall demolished it would seem that the only thing would be to open up the High-street frontage for business premises or houses. Meantime, however, nothing definite is settled.

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