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Road Signs & Traffic Lights
& traffic flow
The Rushden Echo and Argus, 8th October 1954
digging up
Three highway and pavement features
are combined in one picture at the corner of
High Street and Newton Road, Rushden.
A slice of pavement has been carved off to improve the road junction, soon to be controlled by traffic lights. The pillar box which stood there for many years has just been moved to a site nearby,
and a “no waiting” sign is just going up.

Note: This is known as "Ward's Corner"

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 7th January 1955, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Traffic lights: Nuisance or ‘a real treat’?
“Nuisance” and “a real treat” were two of the varied comments made in Rushden yesterday about the operation of the town’s first-ever traffic lights, which were switched on, on Wednesday.

The first description came from a pedestrian who had to wait two minutes to cross the road; the other from a lorry driver who enjoyed being able to drive from Church Street to Newton Road without having to stop to look for traffic.

Some residents, accustomed to exercising every caution at this crossing, are a little confused.

One woman stood at the kerb waiting to cross from the corner of Church Street to Newton Road, wondering why a car coming along High Street had suddenly stopped.

It was pointed out to her that the traffic lights were working and were in her favour. But by then they had changed and she had to wait again.

‘No Advantage’
A motorist, who drives from Bedford to Rushden every morning, could see no advantage in the lights.

He said that anyone who knew the corner at all would naturally drive carefully, and motorists driving from Bedford to Rushden, but not knowing the road well, would come on the traffic lights too quickly to be safe.

Mr. G. R. Johnson, president of the Chamber of Trade, said: “The view of the traders of the town still is that the real solution to the traffic problem is a one-way street system, with Rectory Road and Newton Road forming the alternative route. We hope that we shall see the day when that is introduced.”

Questioned about vehicles being held up in Newton Road on Wednesday evening Mr. A. Millar, Rushden Urban Council surveyor, said the lights were totally traffic-operated and if the vehicles did not go as far as the mats at the approaches the lights could not change.

If a vehicle touched the mat it gave the driver three seconds on amber and five on green, allowing him altogether eight seconds to clear the crossing. If a vehicle came in the other direction during those eight seconds a device prevented the lights from changing until the first vehicle had time to get across.

Asked how he thought the lights were working Mr. Millar said: “Quite satisfactorily. I was there yesterday at lunch time, when there is usually a big hold-up and there was no hold-up at all. All the traffic got away quite easily.”

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 13th May 1955, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Beware: High Street is an accident area
Rushden High Street has been selected for an important road safety experiment – the first of its kind in Northamptonshire – which begins tomorrow and continues for a month.

Until June 10 every possible attempt will be made by the road authorities to inspire a high standard of conduct by all classes of road users on the mile-long stretch of A6 from the Higham Ferrers-Rushden junction to a point near St. Mary’s Church.

Designated a “Red Area,” the route is one of only four which have been selected for this year’s experiments in the North Midland Region.

Built-up all the way, it is regarded as a section typical of modern traffic problems and was the scene of 23 accidents in 12 months which ended on September 30, 1954.

Street Signs
Warning notices at each approach to the area will announce: “Beware: Accident Area Ahead.”

All lamp-posts will bear special signs.

Propaganda will be maintained in schools and cinemas.

Loud-speakers will add their urgings tomorrow morning.

The campaign originates from the Ministry of Transport, which expects to gain valuable knowledge of reaction to propaganda.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 22nd August, 1958, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Traffic signs up at last
The signs which Rushden Urban Council has wanted to see for two years went up in Rushden on Wednesday. They are the signs to direct southward-bound motorists along Rectory Road instead of along busy High Street.

The heavy through traffic which passes along High Street – part of the A6 trunk road – has caused many headaches over a number of years. Being narrow, the street is often greatly congested by heavy lorries and long lines of cars.

It is in an attempt to relieve the situation that the signs have been erected, with permission of the Minister of Transport. A voluntary diversion scheme will be better than a compulsory one-way system, it is believed, although a one-way system may eventually have to be enforced.

sign near the Victoria Hotel

Traffic Signs - Here they are at last—the first of the signs pointing to Rushden's long-promised voluntary diversion for southbound traffic. Placed near the Victoria Hotel, it invites through traffic to take a route along Rectory Road and so relieve High Street.

Below, workmen are erecting a sign indicating a right-hand turn from Rectory Road into Newton Road, which is acknowledged to toe the debatable part of this experimental scheme. It is already being objected to by the way that the arrow appears to point into Coffee Tavern Lane, where entrance is prohibited.

traffic sign
No parking
Rushden council workmen were out on Tuesday to put up the first of the many signs necessary to effect the scheme. They put up six no-parking signs along one side of Rectory Road, making a total of such notices eleven.

On Wednesday morning it was the turn of county council men to come out with signs. First they put up a yellow and black sign marked “A6 – BEDFORD” with an arrow pointing to the left, near the Queen Victoria Hotel car park, and then a similar sign on the corner of Station Approach. Further directions signs were erected outside the Rectory, outside the Council Offices and near the John White factory in Newton Road.

The route of the voluntary diversion is longer than going the High Street way, and it is thought that many local people will disregard the signs altogether. It is for strangers to the district that the scheme is intended, for every car which goes along the new route will help to avoid congestion in the busy shopping centre.

Official car parks should now be used even more than in the past for a no-parking rule has come into effect for the entire west side of Rectory Road. With this rule, a Ministry of Transport experiment will be tried – that of a continuous yellow line, four inches wide, painted on the road about four inches from the kerb. This was first tried out at Slough with effective results.

A voluntary diversion scheme has already been in operation for a few years for the northward-bound traffic, signs at the top of Skinner’s Hill directing motorists to Kettering via Wellingborough Road and Washbrook Road.

The northward diversion cannot be said to have had much effect in sorting out the problems of High Street. Will the new one? The council is waiting to see.

The council agreed on the diversion suggestion over two years ago, having decided that compulsory one-way traffic systems were to be avoided if possible.

Rectory Road was widened in parts and halt signs were erected at streets leading on to it. All that was then needed was to round off the corner at High Street and Station Approach.

It was a remarkably long time before the council was able to acquire the necessary narrow strip of land from British Railways, but the work at this corner was completed a few weeks ago.

Supervising the placing of the signs was Mr. H. Ingham, works superintendent of Rushden Urban Council’s Highways Department, who emphasised that the diversion scheme was only an experiment which might or might not succeed.

Rushden Police were notified when the scheme would start and are now keeping an eye open to advise people not aware of the new no-parking regulations.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 20th January 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Now for a New ‘Backway’
As the last inches of brickwork sway and totter, the Rectory Road demolitions at Rushden work up to a climax of interest. It has been an ordinary plodding job – just a one-man job for some of the time – but to me, brought up as a lad on the “Backway” legend, nothing yet planned in the realm of local topography could have greater claim to attention.

It was said at last week’s meeting of the urban council that when the demolitions were complete the town’s general traffic arrangements would be considered. That in itself is a big reason for breathing deeply as the bottleneck disappears – though a great depth of breath will be inhaled before those arrangements work decently. There is also the effect on the landscape and the impetus that will be given to the whole idea of developing an important road parallel with High Street.

It was just after the First World War that Rushden council heard the main spate of optimistic speeches about the future of the “Backway.” In those days the clearance of a few obstacles seemed capable of solving every traffic problem. Traffic, however, was not then the main consideration; there was a wider dream of developing the shopping area and making the town more presentable.

Subsequent nibbles at the old landscape have shown how right was the policy, and the completion of a stage in that policy should but freshen the urge to achieve something new and revolutionary in the heart of Rushden,

Because of wars and the constant lag in all kinds of accommodation, the evolution of Rectory Road has been painfully slow. It may soon be possible to go forward in a big way, and even the stultifying railway need not, according to the latest theories, be looked upon as an obstacle that will be there forever.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 11th October 1957
extract from Council meeting

New park will hold up to 100 vehicles

A new car park which, though not complete, will hold up to 100 cars, was introduced to motorists at Wednesday’s meeting of Rushden Urban Council. It is in Duck Street, almost opposite the foot of College Street.

Mr. Cyril Freeman, chairman of the Highways Committee,explained that work had been suspended pending the erection of a sewage pumping station on the site.

“We shall be grateful,” he said, “if motorists who have been leaving their cars in the adjoining streets will use this new car park.”

Five “Halt” signs are being erected at junctions with Rectory Road, but the divisional road engineer does not favour one in Queen Street on the east side of Rectory Road, where there is already a “Slow” sign. There was laughter when Mr. Freeman said: “To save time the committee decided to go ahead, but in the light of experience we shall complain later.”

The corner of the Green, and road junction with signpost. Facing is Skinner's butchers and old farm outbuildings (right) c1960, after the one way traffic scheme was in place, taken from the church tower.

The Rushden Echo, 25th January 1963, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Traffic Island New Plans

Rushden and Higham Ferrers District Road Safety Committee has received a letter from the county surveyor confirming that the proposals for the improvement of the junction of Skinners Hill and High Street South, Rushden, would include the provision of a traffic island, which would serve as a refuge for pedestrians crossing the road junction.

The letter was presented to the committee at their meeting at the Council Buildings, Rushden, last Wednesday.

The attention of the meeting was also directed to the potential traffic dangers caused by children running down Succoth Place into the High Street at a point immediately opposite the pedestrian crossing.

A suggestion was made that a barrier might be erected on the edge of the pavement in High street, adjacent to the entrance to Succoth Place, but attention was directed to the fact that this would involve moving the pedestrian crossing to a new position, otherwise the barrier would obstruct the access to the crossing.

It was decided that the suggestion be referred to Rushden Urban Council for consideration.

The Rushden Echo, 16th December 1966, transcribed by Jim Hollis

These Trees Aren’t In The Green Belt

You don’t have trees in the concrete jungle, you have sign posts and in Rushden, particularly in the High Street and approach roads they add up to a forest. Our photograph proves the point with this view of the High Street taken from Victoria Road. It actually shows 13 sign posts, but viewed with the eye it is possible to see 14 and there are more just round the corner.

A driver trying to take note of all the signs that greet him from Victoria Road would go dizzy. It is like a maze. There are four signs all within a few feet of each other on one side of the road.

A forest of signs at the junction of High Street,
Duck Street and Victoria Road

But this junction is by no means unique. Looking from Alfred Street to the High Street there are 12 signs sprouting out of the pavement like wild weeds. To add to the confusion, one sign warns motorists not to turn right into the High Street and immediately opposite there is a public toilet with an arrow pointing right.

But in the High Street alone, from St. Mary’s Church to the railway bridge, there are 79 signs – “The Echo” knows, we counted them. However, it must be admitted that the figure of 79 included four pedestrian crossing bollards. How necessary are they?

An “Echo” reporter who walked along the High Street counting all the signs he could see noticed that one had been twisted round the wrong way by some fool. He noticed it because he was specifically looking for road signs, but one wonders how long it had been pointing in the wrong direction without anybody noticing it. After all, what is one sign in 79?

There is no need to play “spot the odd man out,” because our reporter twisted the sign back to its proper position.

In the vast majority of cases, even with Rushden High Street, a sign is only erected if it is thought really necessary.

Most in Rushden High Street are necessary, but there does seem to have been a lack of thought and planning behind their erection. The actual number of poles could be reduced by using two signs on one pole; this particularly applies to High Street approach roads. They are crowding each other so much one hides the other.

There is one consolation for shop owners. If a car should get out of control it is an even chance that it will hit a signpost before it hits a shop front.

The Rushden Echo, 23rd August 1968, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Triangle will Replace Traffic Roundabout

Traffic Island being replaced
Traffic Island being replaced
Rushden Urban Council workmen and machines started work on removing a road traffic island from the entrance to the Home Farm Estate on Monday.

The site of the island was criticised at a council meeting and one councillor even suggested that as a temporary measure signs directing traffic round the wrong side of the island should be erected.

This gives a guide to how badly situated the island was.

Approaching Hall Avenue, the island was so far to the left many drivers had passed it on the wrong side before realising it was there. After one resident was fined for doing just that, other motorists took a little more care.

Nevertheless the roundabout was badly sited and the council decided to do something about it.

Workmen started pulling trees, grass and kerb stones up. Mr. G. D. Evelyn, the council’s surveyor, said that the large roundabout would be replaced by a triangle.

The Rushden Echo, 20th September 1968, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Guiding us in the wrong paths

The junction of High Street and Church Street
If you are going to make a muck up, you might as well make a good job of it. That is precisely what I think Northamptonshire County Council had in mind when instructions were given for road directions to be painted at the Newton Road, High Street junction.

The directions have been painted to help strangers. Local people know where the roads lead to so they don’t have to be guided. All I can say is they will create more confusion than assistance.

Let’s take the approach from Church Street. On the left it clearly states A6. This is followed by a white line sweeping round the corner towards High Street South direction. AROUND the bend (not before the bend) the word Bedford has been painted.

The same applies on the other side of the road. A white line sweeps round into the High Street and it is not until you have committed yourself to a lane of traffic that you can see the words, “Town Centre.”

And in case you are in any doubt that is a white line with an arrow head pointing straight ahead. That’s all a white arrow, no place name. We know it goes to Newton Road, but what about the stranger.

And there is another thing County Hall has not considered. What about the people who want the A6 to Kettering? The only A6 painted on the road points towards the Bedford Road.

If you think the approach from Newton Road is any better, think again. This time you have two arrows. One clearly points to the left and Bedford. Fair enough. The other points directly ahead in a straight line – right down Church Street.

We all know Church Street is a one way street and admittedly there is a no entrance sign. But surely a bend could have been placed in the line to show that the town centre was round to the right.

The Rushden Echo, 10th January 1969, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rush to Make Traffic Lights Legal

Rushden is an urban district. Higham Ferrers is a borough, one of the smallest in the country perhaps, but still a borough. Between them they boast one set of traffic lights – and they are not legal. At least they were not until Wednesday when there was a rush to paint them the regulation black.

Last week the police offered no evidence and Wellingborough magistrates dismissed a case against a driver who it was alleged failed to conform to automatic traffic lights at the Rectory Road-Newton Road junction, Rushden on October 13.

In 1966 new regulations were issued by the Ministry of Transport which said all traffic lights should have black surrounds. The set at Rushden have a white centre and two have a black, white and yellow surround. Consequently they were not regarded as legal signs at the time of the offence.

The alleged offence took place in October. The case was heard last Wednesday. On Tuesday of this week the lights were still illegal.

However, the chances are that by the time you read this something will have been done because of the “Echo” inquiries. But even if they still do not conform to the Ministry regulations drivers be warned – this does not mean they can drive past the lights no matter what their colour without fear of conviction.

A police spokesman admitted that the police would be powerless to act on drivers failing to conform to automatic traffic lights, but . . . .

Anybody driving stupidly might still be prosecuted under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act. That is driving without due care or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

The “Echo” started inquiries with the police, Rushden Urban Council and Northamptonshire County Council. The responsibility rests with the county authority.

County Surveyor, Mr. G. N. Sanders said on Monday that the problem of the Rushden traffic lights was news to him.

“I will investigate at once, probably tomorrow (Tuesday). If they are contravening the regulations we will modify them,” he said.

And on Wednesday Inspector Albert Hurst, of Rushden Police said that the technically “illegal” traffic lights were being repainted by the county council that day.

He said contrary to popular opinion it was not the two inch yellow band on the backboard which was the offender – it was the fact that the light section itself was white and black instead of all black.

Black and white stripes on this section were correct up to 1966 but then a new Road Traffic Act came in which made it mandatory for this section to be painted all black.

The yellow band on the backboard was just an optional extra dreamed up by the Ministry of Transport to aid motorists to see the sign he said.

The Rushden Echo, 16th May 1969, transcribed by Jim Hollis

‘No parking’ rule upsets 3 traders - One Moving to Wellingborough

Three Rushden traders in High Street South are up-in-arms over the laying of a set of double yellow lines, denoting no parking, outside their shops. One of them claims they have already affected his trade.

Mr. Tom Lines, who has had a furniture business in High Street South for 11 years, has decided to move his business to Wellingborough partly because of these parking restrictions.

“I decided this week that I would move,” said Mr. Lines. “Since the lines went down I have sold only one chest of drawers.

“People used to draw up outside the shop and look in the windows and if there was anything they liked they would come inside or call back.

“We deal in all aspects of the furniture trade and still get orders by phone for upholstery work but people have stopped coming to the shop,” said Mr. Lines.

As well as affecting Mr. Lines, the yellow markings extend past a small general store, run by Sue Martin, and Pat Holt’s car showroom.


They fail to see the logic of having double yellow lines on either side of the road when only a couple of years ago High Street South was widened at this point. Prior to that there had been no parking restrictions whatsoever.

“I can see the sense in having yellow lines on the far side of the road where the bend causes a slight blind spot for motorists. However, there is no danger for motorists on this side of the road travelling in the direction of Bedford,” said Mrs. Martin.

“A lot of my trade is done on Sunday afternoons and I am afraid that these parking restrictions will drastically affect my business from people passing through the town.

“We saw the statutory Ministry of Transport notice regarding these lines in the newspaper and lodged a written complaint to Rushden Urban Council.

“However, we got our dates mixed up and when we made our objection in March we were three months too late. Rushden Urban Council knew nothing about the lines and they said they would pass on our letter to the county council, who were responsible for painting the lines,” said Mrs. Martin.

The parking restrictions do not come into force until June, according to Pat Holt, but already cars are parking in the lay-by outside the Compasses public house next door to the car showroom.

Mr. Ron Burnett, who runs the Compasses, said that it has not so far disrupted his regular custom.

“If I find that is happening I shall have to ask them to move. But I don’t know if I have any powers to do that,” said Mr. Burnett.

This is the second time in a matter of months that double yellow lines in High Street South have caused raised eyebrows.

Yellow lines were painted opposite South End Infants School, just down the road from the latest set. These caused teachers from the school to make inquiries and it subsequently turned out that they had been put there by mistake.

They have since been burned off and replaced by a white parking line.

Evening Telegraph, 21 August 1975

Town’s new traffic signs lead to row
New traffic signs at busy town centre cross roads have been criticised as “confusing” by an amenities society leader. Mr. Arthur George, chairman of Rushden Amenities Society said that the new Pelican pedestrian crossing and right-of-way road marking could confuse newcomers to the town.

He plans to raise the subject at his organisation’s next meeting.

He said “A newcomer to the town comes on the traffic signal at the crossing in Church Street. The green light will give him right of way but then he has to give way to traffic coming downhill from Newton Road.”

Mr. George believes the line-markings should be altered to give the Church Street traffic priority.

“It is recognised that drivers travelling downhill usually give way to uphill traffic,” Mr. George said.

He is to include the subject on the amenities society meeting agenda for September.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said that the siting of the crossing was the responsibility of the Department of the Environment although there have been consultations with the county authorities. “The matter was looked into very carefully and it was felt in general terms that this could be the answer to what was a very difficult pedestrian problem” the spokesman added.

Evening Telegraph, 21 August 1975

Pelicans are no puzzle – police.
Motorists and pedestrians do understand the pelican crossing signals, says a county council spokesman.

A Department of Environment move to stop publicity of the pelican crossings, one of which opened in Rushden last week, has come under fire from the Road Haulage Association. The association claims that there is considerable congestion in busy urban centres because motorists don’t understand they are entitled to pass the yellow flashing light. It claims there should be more rather than less publicity of the pelican crossing signals.

A county council spokesman explained that a lot of time and effort had been put into publicising pelican crossings. The spokesman said “We’re confident the publicity has been a success and that motorists and pedestrians know how to use the crossing.”

He said that over a considerable period talks had been given to schools and there was a special mobile pelican unit available to illustrate road safety talks.

“Traffic wardens and the police always keep an eye on there crossings and if people are in difficulty there is usually someone on hand to help.”

A spokesman in the police traffic management department said he felt pelican crossings had been a part of the highway scene long enough for motorists and pedestrians to understand them.

“There is still a little confusion over the flashing orange light but on the whole pedestrians seem happier on the pelican crossing than on the old pedestrian crossings.”

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