|Article and photographs by Paul Wright, with additional photos from Mervyn Wood
A couple of yellow painted CAT diggers moved on to the former site of Cyril Freeman’s garage down Station Road in Rushden on Monday 8th May, 2017. The Luton based earth movers were from "Thomas Brothers Ltd".
The former garage was run by two brothers Cyril was the elder and he was ably assisted by his younger brother Dick, and eventually at the time of closure the garage was run by Cyril's son Robert.
In the second week of work a machine that was like a giant "corkscrew" was boring numerous holes up and down the site for piling work to be carried out.
This machine had left the site as the Bank Holiday was with us once again, and this was the week commencing 29th May.
Into the 8th month of August, and the work begins on shuttering up the banks around the site, this was to allow the concrete to be poured, and give support to the surrounding clay banks.
After about a week the shuttering was taken down, and work continued. This being in the form of the bricklaying gangs going about their craft.
The bottom end of the site next door to the former ambulance station was used by the garage for mechanical repair work at Cyril Freemans.
Next door to this was the paint spray shop, and what is now an amusing story, although when it occurred in the mid 1980's it did not make me laugh very much at all.
I worked for over 20 years at Totectors, and spent those happy years working in what was their Direct Vulcanising department (DV) in Station road. This site is now demolished, and as of 2019 when this article is completed, it is still looking like a bomb site.
And when I went to drive home one lunchtime I saw that it was covered in a layer of spray dust.
My parking place was about 10 yards from the extractor fan that was emitting the dust and fumes that I am sure had landed up on my own paintwork.
This dust was white and stood out like a sore thumb. I went straight around to Cyril's garage to complain, and they denied any knowledge of covering a wine coloured car with white paint dust!
I think I had to spend quite a bit of time and lots of elbow grease removing this so called "mystery" dust with T cut.
The DV department was situated next door to the old open air swimming baths, and next door to the pool was the St John's ambulance rooms.
The railway dray horse stables that were used at the railway station until the arrival of mechanised vehicles were situated on the corner of Station Road and the High Street.
And opposite the bottom of Station Approach, as I just mentioned was Cyril Freeman’s garage (this was knocked down in 2008) it was built some time back in the 1950s.
As we went into October 2017, the gangs of "block layers" and "brick layers" made rapid headway as the gang of about a dozen men made it up to the first lift by the end of the week.
Despite heavy snow falling on the Sunday morning of the 10th December, 2017, the workmen were laying the flooring sections again on the Monday.
The snow started falling in Rushden just before 05.00 on Sunday, and kept on coming down until 16.00, this amounted to at least 4 inches, which was enough to prevent some stores opening at Rushden Lakes!
Over the Christmas period the site was obviously closed for the holiday's, but come Wednesday 27th December, 2017 we had a slight dusting of snow again here in Rushden.
Although things were not so good on the A14 in the county, with Northamptonshire police reporting numerous accidents causing motorists problems near Kettering. This resulted in motorists being stuck on the A14 for up to 5 hours.
Further East in Essex, Stansted airport fell casualty of the snow, and was shut for several hours in the morning.
In the West Midlands electricity supplies were decimated, with over 120,000 homes without power.
But all of this is only a slight glitch, when you consider that 181 years ago to that day, Sussex was hit by an avalanche at Lewes killing 8 people in 1836. This was the worst in England, to this day, and a pub in commemoration of that event very aptly called "The Snowdrop" stands on the site.
Moving along into the new year of 2018 and through the night of Wednesday 3rd January, thousands of homes were without power, and travel had been disrupted after Storm Eleanor swept across the UK. Locally we had gusts of well over 50 mph, and some branches were blown off of trees. And the storms were not done for this year just yet, when storm Georgina made her way Eastwards at the end of January, 2018.
Building work came to a temporary halt in the last week of February, 2018, as the whole country was caught in a snowy and icy blast.
This was a really cold front coming from Siberia, and was dubbed "the beast from the east". This was all compounded with arrival of yet another storm, this time in the shape of storm "Emma". Daytime temperatures stayed sub zero, meanwhile the night time lows were down to minus 7C locally.
Just when the cold weather began to take its toll, consumers were warned on Thursday 1st March, 2018, that the National grid may not have enough gas to keep up with the high demand. In the end there were no such problems, and yet another case of scare mongering. This was meant to be the start of the metrological spring, but no one had informed the weather conditions that it was.
Sadly we had not seen the back of the white stuff, because the weekend of 17th March, 2018, the snow returned on the Saturday, made even more Siberian by a bitterly cold wind blasting away.
Moving towards the Easter holidays, and the roof trusses were all in place, and tiling is taking place.
No sign of any cold weather as we moved in to mid April, the mercury hit 28C on Thursday 19th, 2018 by midday, which was a record breaking high for this time of the year, breaking the previous sizzler from 1949!
To put that in to context, our current prime minister is conservative Theresa May, back in 1949 it was Clement Attlee for the labour party.
We moved in to May 2018 when the window profiles were gradually being fitted to both of the blocks of flats.
It ended up being the end of the line for the annual Rushden Cavalcade, an event that had run for forty years, at several hosting show grounds, and given many hours of pleasure to big crowds.
This wet weather was not to last, and we had one of the hottest summers on record, some days it was nudging in the mid 30's C.
During July the scaffolding was being taken down and removed, and the electricians were going about their tasks. Mid September and the estate agent's signs went up, announcing the flats are now available, with a starting price from £132,500 for the two bedroomed dwelling.
This was being done by a Bedford based company called "Taylor made".
Stormy weather was back with us in late September, with the tail end of storms Ali and Bronagh giving us a good old blow.
2019 arrived, and William H Brown of 52 High Street, Rushden were marketing the thirty one luxury apartments at Freeman Court for £187,500
At the back end of January, 2019, the public paths were being surfaced with tarmac, and in to February plants and shrubs were placed into the landscape, making it look ready for the new occupants.
And finally spring 2019 had come and the first person moved in to her downstairs flat, she told me how lovely it was and was really happy to be there. This lady’s father had previously worked at Cyril Freeman’s garage, so it’s a small world!