|Rushden Echo, Friday, April 20, 1906|
Eleven of the Oldest Residents of Rushden
We have pleasure in publishing a remarkable photographic group of eleven of Rushden's oldest inhabitants, whose united ages total no less than 965 years or nearly ten centuries.
The veterans assembled a few mornings ago at Mr. William Desborough's, High-street, and were photographed by Mr. Cyril W. Desborough. A representative of the "Rushden Echo" was present, and he interviewed the veterans.
Mr. George Skinner, father of Mr. G. H. Skinner and Mr. W. Banks Skinner, had also promised to form one of the group, but unfortunately he did not feel well enough to attend at the time fixed.
The following brief sketches of the veterans, written by our representative will be read with interest:
MR.WILLIAM BRIGGS, aged 89, has been living at Rushden for about six years. He came from Woodford, near Thrapston. Born at Woolwich, he was a sailor. Among other voyages he went to America and, after an absence of three years, he arrived in England on the morning that George IV died.
MR.WILLIAM CAMPION, who is in his 86th year, was born in Rushden and has lived in the place all his life. In the year of his birth there were 38 boys born in Rushden, and he is the only one left. He has 50 grand-children and 14 great grand-children living.
He has two sons and three daughters living, whose ages amount in all to 294 years. Adding his own age we get a total of 380 years.
MR.JOHN COOK, who resides in the auction van on the Green, Rushden, is probably the oldest licensed travelling auctioneer in England. He was born on July 21, 1817, and was baptised on July 28 that year.
Mr. Cook remembers very distinctly the dry summer of 1826, when men had to go up the trees with ladders to cut off the young leaves for the cattle, and whenever they saw a man with a ladder the stock would follow him, panting for the moist leaves.
MR.WILLIAM COX, was 90 years of age on November 15 last, and he has lived in Rushden since 1854. He was born at Ditchford toll gate. He can remember the old mail coach. One Christmas there was an extra deep fall of snow, and the mail coach got right off the road into the fields, and had to be pulled out by 12 horses.
MR.JAMES FOSTER, who has been living in Rushden for the last 13 months with Mr.and Mrs. Spavins, Harboro'-road comes from Great Barford. He was 87 years of age last birthday.
He has 40 grand-children and 21 great grand-children.
A excellent testimony to his character is the fact that he was in one situation for no less than 40 years. For 60 years he lived in one house. "It was the landlord's when I went in," he says, "and after paying rent for 60 years it did not belong to me. It belonged to my first landlord's daughter."
MR.CHARLES LEWIS is 85 years of age. He was born at Isham, and has lived in Rushden for 62 years. He was a blacksmith, and can well remember the old coaching days when the coaches ran through Rushden.
"Of all the dirty places," he says, "Rushden was the worst at one time. There were deep ruts right in the middle of High-street." Before coming to live in Rushden, he used to visit Higham Ferrers from Isham.
MR.GEORGE PERKINS was born at Wymington, and has lived in Rushden for over 60 years. He is 86 years of age. He used to be the village shoemaker for Rushden and the district. When he was 2½ years of age his mother died, and six months later his father passed away.
"I was never a bad boy at school," he told me, and I replied, "I would rather hear your school-master's testimony upon that point!" "My testimony's best," he retorted, with a twinkle in his eye, "for I never went to school in my life. I got my trade myself, and what ever education I have had. I never sent a letter yet which the people could not read, but I've received a good many which I could not make out and I have thought sometimes that the writers of them ought to go to school again."
After he had been in Rushden for a time he began to make boots and go round the villages with them. Every alternate Friday he would travel to Irchester and the lodges; and one Saturday he would go to Wymington, the other Saturday going to Souldrop and the lodges.
"I used to save my half-pence," he told me, "and I find them very useful now that I am old. I remember once going to Bedford with a tailor named Burgess to collect a debt. I had walked several times to Bedford and back, and also to Northampton and back, but this time we wanted to go in style, so we secured one of the only two animals which could be hired in Rushden at that time two donkeys! We got to Bedford alright, and stayed there until dusk. Well, we didn't do all that we ought to have done same as some people to-day! When we got to Sharnbrook Hollow on the way back, we saw a long hill in front of us. We ought to have got out and walked up the hill, but, instead of doing that, we laid the reins on the donkey's back and said we would let it go or stop just as it liked. The donkey's pace got slower and slower until at last we could not tell whether it was going at all, so we got out and struck a match to see if the wheels were going round!"
Mr. Perkins remembers a baker named Astill living at the corner where the Rose and Crown now stands. One Sunday a man was fetching some "pluck pie" which had been cooked at the bakehouse. The tin slipped from one hand, and, instead of letting go with the other in order to save at least some of the dinner, he kept hold of the other handle, with the result that the "pluck pie" was soon on the ground.
The father of the baker used to start the tunes at the Succoth Chapel, though he did not understand music. One Sunday the official who gave out the hymns pointed to some of the notes in the music and asked, "What do those knobby walking sticks mean?" "Why," said the precentor, "that means that when you get to them, you've got to make a knobby noise to keep in tune."
MR.DANIEL SHARP is in his 90th year. He was born near Hitchin, and was apprenticed at Hitchin. For the last 70 years he has lived in Rushden. He was the first man to make a rivetted boot.
Many interesting stories are told of Mr. Sharpe. For instance, he was the first man to introduce crows into Rushden! The late Mr. Sartoris had expressed a desire to have a rookery near Rushden Hall, and Daniel Sharpe hit upon the happy expediency of tying some sticks together in the shape of a crow's nest, which "nest" he proceeded to place in a tree. At once a number of crows, deceived by Daniel's "nest," built in the trees, and there have been succeeding generations of crows in the grounds of Rushden Hall ever since.
MR.CHARLES STURMAN is 86 years of age. A native of Chelveston, he has lived in Rushden for the last five or six years. He has known Rushden practically all his life, and remembers it as an agricultural village.
MR.GEORGE WILLIAMSON who is 89 years of age, was born at Sharnbrook, and has lived in Rushden for the last 40 years. Up to the time of coming to Rushden he was a gardener at Colworth House. He had 11 children, of whom six are living, one being Mrs. W. Desborough, of High-street, Rushden; there are 34 grand-children and about 12 great grand-children.
He is the composer of several hymn tunes, some of which are in use at Succoth Baptist Chapel, Rushden, at Sharnbrook, and at a London chapel, though the tunes have never been published. He has a large book of manuscript music, and is a very good writer, though he never had a day's schooling in his life.
MR.CHARLES WOODING, who lives in Montague-street, Rushden, was 90 years of age last Rushden Feast. He was born at Newton Bromshold, and has lived at Rushden for the last 23 years. For 13 years he has been employed by the Rushden Urban Council. His memory carries him back no less than 86 years. He recollects the time when wild crabs were thought as much of as apples are in these days. People would gather all the crabs they could and save them until Christmas, when they would be used as an article of food.