Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Northamptonshire Advertiser, 3rd March 1974
Mr. Ralph Thompson
"A Street Remembers"

A Spot of  Dr Who

RUSHDEN in the old days of the turn of century—that's what Mr. Ralph Thompson remembers. And in particular Mr. Thompson remembers the High Street and what it meant to him as a boy. Mr. Thompson now lives at Raunds, Here he writes "A Street Remembers" for many  of  our  readers who will know just what he is  talking  about and the nostalgia of 70 years ago.

Just imagine if the noise and bustle of Rushden's teeming High Street could be lost by rolling back the best part of 70 years.

Probably Dr. Who might pay us a call — and do just that. If he did, what peace! His time machine would probably leave us at that tiny shop in Church Parade, gazing through the window at splendid examples of local craftsmanship such as sturdy bicycles and hand-made boots.

Leaving the shop and entering High Street, the only vehicle we might possibly encounter would be the "Overland" taxi from the garage of Mr. Okins and, glancing in the direction of Newton Road, whilst waiting for the car to pass, we might observe the familiar "cloak-clad" figure of Archdeacon Kitchin crossing the road to enter the Carnegie Library for his daily read of the London papers.

A familiar sight also would be that of a boyish figure mounted upon an equally boyish bicycle speeding down the slope, recklessly turning at "Wards Corner," later to become a place only for the quick or the dead, and then almost before his machine comes to rest he dismounts and vanishes, it, is of course Wilfred and, as usual, in the devil of a hurry.

From the doorway of his shop at the top of High street, Mr. Moody the hatter, his own hat set at a rakish angle, sends us on our way with a nod and a smile and in Mr. Snelson's shop near­by there is a display of toys and model steam engines enough to gladden the eyes of most small boys for whom, at Mr. Cartwright's shop lower down the street, a similar feast awaits.

No Doubt

The windows of the music shop display the latest in pianos and sheet music together with posters bearing the photographs of eminent singers due to appear locally some, no doubt, at that stronghold of Oratorio — nearby Raunds.

The clatter of tea cups in the Coffee Tavern tempts us and we enter to a familiar tune tinkling away on the "Polyphon." Here we now are at the grass roots where all problems, local and national, are instantly solved and where spontaneous humour flourishes.

Refreshed, we cross at the foot of Coffee Tavern Lane where the click click of billiard balls reaches our ears. The slight figure of Mr. Sanders, in deep black and silk hatted returns via Rectory Road to his workshop having accompanied some unfortunate creature upon his or her last journey up the Newton Road to rest at last in that forest of white marble and dark trees.


Lower in the lane the small, bowler hatted figure of "tinker" Noble, a craftsman in tin, hurries back again to his workshop to complete an order before leaving for the night.

The furniture shop at the corner of the lane is one of the less unsightly buildings with its roof high window like some gigantic cuckoo clock out of which one half expects a large bird to emerge and furiously dispute the hour with the chiming of the church clock.

Almost opposite, and worthy of interest, is the Northamptonshire Union Bank. What a pity it is after closing time or we might have witnessed the reverent approach of the faithful to the shrine of Mammon, the removal of headgear to be placed upon a convenient table, and the almost tiptoe approach to the counter to proffer a modest offering; the beads of perspiration appearing on the forehead lest, before there is time to escape, a door opens and the unhappy client is beckoned into the inner sanctum to discuss a "little matter".

The Palace Cinema in 1912
However, such unpleasant matters are forgotten as we reach the Palace Theatre where, Mr. Carrington, a resplendent figure in expensive looking overcoat, flower on lapel, gives us details of the evening programme. The flickering carbon filament lamps record each stroke of the gas engine which David has just started before going to the operating box to prepare the arc lamps and the films for the "first house". The Comedy Duo and the Illusionist billed to appear between the parts of the feature film, will soon be arriving at the stage door.

At the Echo Office, Mr. Fathers hastens in bearing a paper which, no doubt, lists the "floral tributes" at the afternoon funeral, a list so dear to the hearts of those good ladies whose exploits and acid remarks R.W.N. so brilliantly recorded and perusing the list they would probably remark: "I see 'er next door din't send no wreath:  No - I din't expekt she would - mean ole faggit".

We cross at the junction of College Street at the Post Office, perhaps the most outstanding building in the street and so very convenient for the public - reason enough, of course, to later abandon it and hide in a side street away from the public gaze!

Now, at about midway along the street, we must soon be within range of the voices of two colourful personalities; the Town Crier pressing home his message with an added personal reminder to his hearers not to forget having been told, and the stentorian tones of Mr Keller Senior, assuring his customers of both quality and service.


A small band of men, clad in what might best be described as chapel black, carrying stunted attaché cases, hurry along the street and quickly disappear. Irreverent youth witnessing the sight inform us that the men are on their way, to engage in the somewhat unlikely occupation of spending the evening leading round a goat, the truth, or otherwise of such an assertion some of the youths will, no doubt, eventually discover for themselves. It may be that the idea arose as a result of seeing the magnificent mascot of the Royal Welch Fusiliers paraded through the town, or the story may have a much earlier origin, who can tell?

Before we proceed further let us take a quick look around that self help mini­market "Hootons Penny Bazaar" with prices surely to suit all purses, then at the Maypole we pause long enough to observe the huge mounds of butter, the shining brass weights and scales, and listen to the clatter of wooden pats on the marble slabs as each purchase is deftly shaped and weighed.

A splendid car passes driven by a local doctor, one who knows the family history of his patients and whose records bear no identity numbers but names, including Christian names, by which, usually, they are known to him.

Vehicles travel up and down the street unhampered by a rash of road signs, particularly of the stupid kind to be seen today, for who would have foreseen a sign being erected to direct an unhappy motorist, in search of a public convenience, to pursue his quest against the law and against the flow of traffic when, if only pointing in the opposite direction, the sign would keep him within the law and bring him relief within a shorter distance.

Yet another fine example of the coachbuilders and coach-painters craft holds our attention, surely the product of Wadsworth or perhaps F. D. Brazier, the latter noted not only for craftsmanship but also for his readiness to give a spirited rendering of the "Captain Ginger" type of song at charity concerts.

The fragrant scents of tea and coffee greet us at a grocer's shop and we pause to read the names of the contents of the square tins of biscuits piled high near to the door; whilst across the street, standing at the foot of a ladder, is Robert Marriott, clad in cycling tweeds, and urging his employees, engaged high up on some roof repairs, to do a good job although the work may be out of sight of the public to whom, we rather suspect, his words were also intended to reach. Further on we exchange a cheery greeting with Fred Lilley, busily engaged in putting the finishing touches to graining and varnishing an office door, the work an excellent example of his skill.

Gun and Dog

At the corner of Duck Street we hear a sound, later only to be associated with sound effects in radio plays, the "clip clop" of horses hooves as Mr. Peck with his horse and trolley makes his way home to Carnegie Street. For a modest sum he will have conveyed parcels to or from Kettering for delivery on the same day. Today, when speed is one of the gods we worship, it is not unusual to have to wait some weeks for a parcel to be delivered.

The old farmhouse and the picturesque thatched building adding charm to the street are surely musts for demolition later on and the spaces left will be as elegant as gaps left by extracted teeth which, incidentally reminds us of the folly of having toothache on a Thursday during the shooting season when dentist T. Algernon Baker is sure to be out with gun and dogs.

The clatter of the horses' hooves mingles with the distinctive sounds of the motor cycles as they pass up and down the street. We scarcely need to see them for identification for the ear readily picks out the measured beat of the F.N. a design in advance of its time; the full throated roar of the red Indians and the Harley Davidsons, the equally powerful but more subdued note of the Brough Superior, the Rolls like silence of the Gradua geared Zenith, the unmistakable sound of the Sunbeam and the shrill whining of the water cooled Scott. We listen quite unaware, of course, of the excitement and flourishing of cheque books the sight of such machines will cause in the years ahead.

At Station Approach is the busy coming and going of sturdy horses hauling heavily laden drays piled high with bales of sole leather, bound tightly by strong rope as by a giant hand, and neat rolls of upper leather bound, like so many other things in life, with red tape. The returning drays carrying the heavy wooden cases containing the finished boots and shoes.

We recognise one of the draymen as a local preacher who with his brother lay preachers will, on Sundays, be collected by a hired or a loaned car, flippantly known as the "Gospel Chariot," and conveyed to Chapels in the surrounding villages as the preacher for the day in accordance with the "plan."

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the People & Families index
Click here to e-mail us