Who would ever have thought that the good old English pub trade would be under threat?
Well in the year of 2017 there were at least 20 plus pubs calling time each week, but the surprise local pub under the threat of closure was the Viking; this was a Charles Wells house on Grangeway in Rushden.
This was a typical housing estate pub design, not the most attractive externally, but I suppose it did the job required, and was well attended for many years.
I remember it from the 1970's, when I was the drummer in the popular local pop group "Voodoo," along with other group members in the shape of Pete Ainge on bass, Ebby Kehoe on lead vocals, Ron Pearson, Dave Huwlett and last but not least Andy Robinson also on guitars.
We used to regularly perform at charity gigs that were organised there, and the beneficiary at the time was the "Stoke Mandeville" hospital at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. This was helped by a fund raising scheme organised by the BBC TV presenter and radio disc jockey "Jimmy Saville." At the time he was seen by most people as an iconic sort of "super human" but events came to light, after his death aged 84 in 2011, that totally disgraced him.
The local gigs at the Viking were organised by the then landlord and landlady Keith and Julie. Other local entertainers also gave up their time for free, and of course the general public were always keen to put their hands in their pockets to help out the worthy cause.
We did ask "Jimmy Saville" to appear there to collect the large amounts of cash raised from the numerous gigs, but he made it quite clear that he was just happy to accept the praise for such events, and to build his own empire over at "Stoke Mandeville" hospital. This made him even more popular, and at the time he was probably seen to be some sort of saint, rather than the sinner that lots of people were later to believe.
In May 2017 Charles Wells announced that it was selling the brewery and wine business to Marston's brewery together with the Bombardier and McEwan's brands, and rights to the Young's brands. The company said it would set up a separate brewery in Bedford to brew Charles Wells-branded beers in two years' time in (2019).
So the news spread that the Viking was closing and hanging up its bar towels, and the change of use it was to become a Co-op store. [The new shop under the CWS - not Rushden Industrial Co-op Society]
This in itself is nothing unusual, other than there seemed to have been a Co-op shop of varied type and sizes on just about every street corner in Rushden and Higham Ferrers up to the 1980's.
These ranged from grocery stores, many butchers shops, the popular electrical store, a chemists, outfitters, a building department and the main store in the High Street, where Father Christmas always seemed to make a showing.
So as we moved into the autumn of 2017, the regulars at the Viking were putting up some resistance to the plans of their 'watering hole' becoming a shop. This proved to be futile, and the fight was lost, and the pub shut down.
And to make matters very final, on the lunchtime of Thursday 26th October 2017, workmen began taking down the pub sign at the side of Grangeway. I luckily got a shot of the old sign just before it was removed, and there is a photo to remember those days.
At the time of our article, there has been little sign of any activity towards mid May, 2018.
Charles Wells brewery seems to be on the move again, and I remember visiting it when it was down Commercial road in the centre of Bedford in the mid 1960's. They have just submitted plans in the spring of 2018 to build a £13 million plant at Fairhill, off the A6 western bypass, after selling the Eagle Brewery to Marstons. This new site will be near to the well where they started brewing at the start of the 20th century, back in 1902. They currently run over 200 pubs in England, and others based across the channel in France.
Locally the previous pubs to shut in the Rushden area were the "19th hole" in Irchester High Street, (the Red Lion) that was, and the Oakley Arms in Rushden.