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High Street
Development of the Village into a Town
Demolished in 1920
Opposite the church, one of the few buildings that were in High Street in the 1800s. Robinson's in 1880. Demolished April 1920

At the time of the Enclosure in 1779, Rushden was a farming community. Suppliers were given licences to sell goods, and many grew their own vegetables, baked bread, and kept a few hens. Those who couldn't provide for themselves were given parish relief through the Poor Law. If they were born elsewhere the Overseers of parish might try to send them back to the parish where they were born, and would seek a court order to remove them.

In 1841 Rushden was still a mainly agriculutral village. It had grown up around the road, this being a main way from London to the North. It also followed for the most part, the brook or stream that ran through from the south, almost following the road of today (but now mostly culverted), through Rushden Hall Park, to Duck Street, and out through Spencer Park, and winding down to the river Nene at Ditchford.

So Duck Street was the main thoroughfare, and sometime suffered floods. Development began with the shoetrade mechanisation of the 1850s, now needing factories. This brought in workers from the surrounding villages, so increasing the need to develop rapidly.

c1880 left: Caves Factory, a few cottages, Rose & Crown.

A proposed sale May 11th 1882. This photocopy of the map is all we have:
1882 plan
The road running down from the top right is now called College Street.
This 1882 plan shows it as Higgins Lane, and it was to be widened.
The 2 buildings at the top - are Wilmotts shop and the Rose & Crown.
Perhaps several plots remained unsold as the lower part is where
John Cave built a new factory in 1904/5 to replace one burned down in
the great fire of 1901. He also bought the large property Lot A (top right)
The 1880s saw great changes; take a look at the of sales that took place in the next few years. A need had come for new businesses to support the growing population and a new street was planned. The plan (right) shows a 'proposed new street' marked across the centre, but this was not built. Instead the High Street was developed. Some land formerly Marriotts farm was available, and was higher than the valley of Duck Street.

The High Street was ceated on land that had originally belonged to farms. The most northern end of the town was Mason's Farm, John Clark's Farm, Marriott's Farm, Denton's Farm was towards the Church end, and Smith's Farm was High Street South area. More farms were in Bedford Road, Wymington Road with a windmill close to the village boundary, Newton Road, and Wellingborough Road, where another windmill stood close by.

Development was apace in the 1880s, and 1890s. The Denton family had moved into shoemaking, Marriott's were now much involved in building work, and had moved to land further north, and the farmhouse was now a school. A nursery was established by the rural postman and his son, and several of the farm barns were being put to other uses; the fire brigade keeping the fire hose and cart in one, Doctor Freeman had another, and Phillips opened their drapery in another.

The shops were dotted in amongst the houses until gradually the houses were also converted into shops.

Trade Directories also provide much information of the expansion.

Many of those early buildings still survive, and although the ground floor frontages have changed, a look upwards shows their origins.

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