The Rushden Echo & Argus, 14th March 1930, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
Discussion at Council Meeting - Critic of Schemes
At the meeting of the whole Council in committee held on Wednesday, March 5th, when there were present Dr. D.G. Greenfield, Messrs. G.W. Coles, A. Allebone, J. Allen, C. Claridge, F. Green, J. Hornsby, C.W. Horrell, F. Knight, L. Perkins, T.F.B. Newberry, J.T. Richardson, J. Roe, J. Spencer, T. Swindall, A. Wilmott, and T. Wilmott, consideration was given to an opportunity to acquire Rushden Hall for the town.
The chairman of the finance committee reported that the committee had been in touch with the present owner of the Rushden Hall estate (Mr. Moriss Wheeler, of Bexley, Kent) who had made an offer to the committee to sell to the Council the remainder of the estate for £5,000.
The portion proposed to be sold consisted of the Hall and Park, with the pleasure grounds adjoining, including the gardener’s house at the rear of the kitchen gardens with the rights of way (a) through the main entrance, (b) at the rear via the gardener’s cottage, (c) through the yard of the property formerly occupied by Mr. J. A. Wrighton, and (d) from the Wymington-road.
The porter’s lodge at the front gate had unfortunately been sold by the previous owner of the estate to another purchaser. The finance committee had however been in communication with the purchaser and it was hoped that no difficulty would prevent the Council acquiring this small property if they decided to purchase the Hall.
The whole matter was very carefully considered by the committee, practically the whole of the members expressing an opinion favourable to the purchase of the property, and it was ultimately resolved, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Health, that the offer of Mr. Wheeler be accepted, and further, that the finance committee be authorised to negotiate for the purchase of the Porter’s Lodge.
The committee expressed a strong opinion that the Park should be retained in its present condition and used as such and not be converted into a ground for sports and games and hoped that any future Council having control would as far as possible observe this rule, having regard to the fact that it was on this understanding that the present Council made the purchase.
It was also resolved that application be made forthwith to the Ministry of Health for sanction to the raising by the Council of a loan of sufficient amount to purchase the estate in question with all necessary expenses.
When the above report was presented on Wednesday, some interesting discussion took place, from which it appeared that the purchase had a critic.
Dr. Greenfield said that as Chairman of the Council he formally moved the recommendation of the Council in committee. All the members were fully aware of the business. Negotiations had taken place with regard to the suggested purchase of Rushden Hall. Proceeding, the doctor said : “I am very strongly in favour of the action which the Council have decided upon, practically every member having been in favour. I feel that in purchasing Rushden Hall and setting it aside for posterity as a public park, and not as a recreation ground, we shall be doing one of the best things we possibly could for the town. We have open spaces, but we have no spaces such as could be used well for mothers of children, and for little children themselves to play in, also for people to walk about with pleasure on Sunday afternoons. I venture to say that if we get the sanction for the purchase of this estate, we shall have one of the finest parks of any town in the country. (Hear, hear). I feel that, although it will cost us money and some expense, we cannot do better at the present time than purchase this place. Without it, Rushden would be a very different place from what it must be when the public have free access to the Hall grounds. I venture to suggest it will improve our town beyond recognition, and I believe that future generations will rise and bless us for what we have done, although that will not make much difference to us then.” (Laughter). In conclusion the doctor said he was fully in favour of the proposal.
Mr. Horrell said he would like to confirm all that the chairman had said and he seconded the motion.
Mr. Knight asked whether that was the time to inquire about the porter’s lodge.
The Chairman assured Mr. Knight that the chairman of the finance committee, Mr. Roe, would be able to answer that question privately.
“Not Altogether Suitable”
Criticism came from Mr. Claridge, who said that the public would want to know something of the cost. He did not know to what use they could put the Hall. The whole scheme would be a very considerable expense to the town. He quite agreed that it was a very nice place as a private residence, but he did not think it was altogether suitable for the purpose for which they were proposing to purchase it. The public would want to know how much they would have to pay. A penny rate brought in only about £230. The purchase price would mean a 2d. rate, and the upkeep would mean anything from a 4d. to a 5d. rate, so that they would have to be prepared for a rate of 7d. or 8d. Rushden was not a place to buy something without putting it in thorough-going repair, and that would mean additional expense on the rates. He might be somewhat pessimistic about it, but he really thought the public should know. They must discuss ways and means before they decided on the expense. The town had two parks already, and that would mean additional and recurring expense that should be known before they did what he supposed they were going to do, namely, purchase the estate.
Mr. Tysoe said he should like to say how much he appreciated the idea of purchasing the estate. As regarded the Hall, he was not so much concerned about that as with the park. They had had the opportunity of a lifetime to purchase the park, and he agreed with the chairman that whilst the present generation might curse them for spending money, a future generation would, he thought, bless them and think that, at all events, they had shown a little bit of future outlook. They must not look at things from the pessimistic view. For the moment things did look bad industrially and they ought not to spend money perhaps, but it was just one of those opportunities that came in a lifetime which the Council should grasp and not lose. He fully supported them.
“Little Increase in Rate”
Mr. Roe said that Mr. Claridge had referred to what it would cost to keep the place up. The finance committee had fully considered it and he believed that Mr. Claridge was a “long way wrong” when he said it would cost from 7d. to 8d. in rates. If they acquired it as a public park, it would cost money, but the finance committee thought it could be done very reasonably for a rate of 4d. or 5d. He did not think the ordinary ratepayers would notice any increase in their amounts on that account, because the Council would probably save money in other directions. The County Council were taking over the main roads, and there would be labour to divert in that respect. If they acquired the park it would cost about a 2d. rate for the purchase price and the upkeep would cost another 2d. rate, so that for a total 4d. rate all the cost would be covered. They knew that the Hall would need upkeep, and there was no use for it at present, but it was a valuable addition to the park, and they would make use of it in the future. He was sure that Mr. Claridge could dismiss from his mind the fear of a 7d. or 8d. rate.
Mr. Claridge : “I do not.”
Mr. Perkins said he did not think anyone need be alarmed at the upkeep. They as a Council would only lay themselves open to the charge of about 6 per cent, on £5,000, and that would repay the whole cost of the Hall and grounds in 50 years. That itself would mean about a 1½d rate, and as to the upkeep, it was merely a question of letting one or two men spend their time in the park. A great deal could be saved in that respect by the public who went into the park if they used it carefully. He hoped they would do so, and take an interest in it as if it were their own property, or some rich uncle would leave it to them. (Hear, hear). He thought they could safely say that the rate required would be very slight indeed. Rushden was a growing town, and he did not suppose that many of them would be on that Council in 25 years’ time, but the town would by then be much bigger, and the rateable value would have increased. Although it might appear to the outside people that their rates were high, the value in the town to set against that would be very great. He could not see that it would be necessary to go beyond a 4d. rate. For the average cottage-dweller the cost would be about ¾ d. a week, and if he could take his children in to the park a few times each week he would find it worth it. People had their own gardens, but they could not enjoy them as they could the Hall grounds. From a health point of view alone he did not think anyone would begrudge the money they were spending in that direction.
Mr. Swindall, supporting, said that for several months the estate had been before the public, and he had hoped that some wealthy man would wish to have his name handed down to posterity by buying the place and handing it over to the town. That not having been done the Council had done the right thing to acquire it, and they would have been very lax had they not done so. If a vote of the town were taken he was sure that a big majority would be seen in favour of it.
Mr. Tom Wilmott said that after the 1½d. rate for the purchase, he did not think they would find much difference in the expense they usually met. If they put seats and a band-stand in the new park instead of in Spencer Park, it would retard the expense on the other two parks. He failed to see how it could cost more than a 4d. rate, unless they went in for spending money purposely. In future people would be very thankful; in fact the whole town was very thankful indeed now.
Mr. Claridge : “They are not !”
Mr. Spencer said he hoped they would not fail to purchase the Hall, because of the expense. At present the only thing was to secure the park. They had never been a wasteful Council. Any expense they had incurred had always been wise, and that now being considered was one of the best.
Mr. Allebone said that the Surveyor and he had been through the question of the labour respecting the park which they expected would be bought through, perhaps, a unanimous vote. There would be a “reshuffling” of labour through the County Council taking over the roads and it was fairly clear that with their own employees they would be able to keep the park in proper and respectable order without employing additional labour. (Hear, hear).
Mr. Green supported the resolution and asked whether the Council would be able to make a charge for entry to the park on the occasion of fetes held there. If they were barred from charging, it would be rather a pity.
The Clerk said that the Council would be able to close the park to the public on certain days, and they could make a charge in that way.
Mr. A. Wilmott said he was glad that the band-stand had been mentioned. He said that the cost of the ground was cheap and he wondered whether they could get their band-stand through the generosity of some millionaire purchasing one for them, and if they could get it up by Whitsuntide. (Laughter).
Mr. Tysoe suggested that Mr. Wilmott make a start with a contribution.
Mr. Wilmott : “I do not want to play second fiddle to you.” (Laughter).
Summing up the discussion, the Chairman said that on the question of what they proposed to do with the Hall, they had no idea at the present moment. To be quite frank, they could not see what to do with it. They had the park, and the only thing was they had to take that offer then if at all. Timber on the estate was already marked for cutting down, and everywhere proceedings were taken to develop the estate. They were faced with the position whether to purchase or not.
Put to the vote, practically all the members voted in favour, but Mr. Claridge refrained from voting.