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From an interview with Ray Drage on 18th April, 2013. Transcribed by Jacky Lawrence.
Alan Clark

I’m bringing up memories of what I class as my Uncle Tom who was Park Keeper at Rushden Hall Park. He had a wife called Kate and later in life a son called David. He lived in the cottage which was the entrance to the main Hall Park on High Street South. The cottage was built into the wall and you had an entrance from High Street South where you used to step down into the cottage and opening entrance to go into the park.

The Gatehouse which stood next to the Coach and Horses.
The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse after The Coach & Horses
was demolished
The Gatehouse from inside the park

They lived there for many years and Tom used to do the parkkeeping and looking after the Hall Park although he wasn’t working sort of thing, he just used to do the walking around and the locking of the gates at night. He also used to lock the gates up in Jubilee Park where he used to go up and lock them up as well. He also, when the band concerts were used to be played in the Hall Park many years ago, we used to have deck chairs where they used to sit all the way round the bandstand and he used to go round collecting money which I think in those days was 2d for every deck chair you used to sit there, because many people used to sit there.

Hall Park bandstand in the 1950s

The only thing physical work I think he did was when he used to do the bandstand. He never used to cut the grass or anything like that, he just used to, perhaps, put the deck chairs out. But I don’t think he was involved in the maintaining side of the park, I think he was only just employed as a Park Keeper.

We’re talking in the 1950s, ’52, ’53, up to 1962 when I left school sort of thing. I often used to take my auntie, who I lived with, down to see her because Kate’s brother was my auntie’s husband. And Kate had three sisters and one brother. One was Michael, one was Fred and one was like Kate, and we had one in Australia who I can’t remember her name.

Also at the park I used to have one of my uncles, because we were a big family of eleven, and we used to have greenhouses up the Hall Park where they used to make the flower beds for the War Memorial and all the other parts. And they used to make, well used to grow all the plants, but then that was my Uncle Bernard, Bernard Clark who lives down Spencer Road.

Oh, we used to play in the Hall Park in ‘50s and ‘60s. We used to play in the stream, what we classed as a stream. And if we used to see the Park Keeper come, Tom coming, we used to all scatter out, because he used to get on to us, shouting at us so. And that’s how we, but he was a very strict man. And he always wore a uniform what always had a Park Keeper’s, like a busman’s hat on. And he used to have the old Park Keeper’s sign over the top of it, and we always used to keep out of his way because we knew if he’d get on to us if we were into any trouble, climbing trees all that sort of thing.

After many years the cottage got demolished due to the roof leaking and they moved up to the main Hall where three flats had been made and he was in the first flat overlooking the Hall Park. And he stayed there for a few years until his wife, Kate, had a slight stroke and they moved off from Hall Park and moved to Trafford Road. And after Trafford Road he moved to Risdene where he later in life died. I’ve got no idea when he retired, I can’t remember that sort of date.           

Note: the cottage was demolished in 1964
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