Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
From an interview with Harry Graham, 1st December 2015, by Rae Drage
Harry Graham
Development of the Court Estate in Rushden.

Harry in 1944
Able Seaman in 1944
I remember Court Estate very well. My short introduction to the Court Estate was in 1943 when I left London and went home to the family who were then living at 316 Newton Road. This was before I went into the Royal Navy in 1944. My father had previously been drafted to work at Chelveston Aerodrome. The family had moved to Rushden in 1941 from Seaham Harbour and they had just moved into 316 Newton Road with Mr Osborne. They had been looking for a property and somewhere to live. The facilities were basic and the washing was done outside in the wash house. The water system was inadequate, just a well at the front and the water having to be boiled. A well at the side of the house was rainwater which we used for washing clothes. We had to light the fire at six o’clock in the morning before Mother got up. She spent all day on the Monday doing the washing in there. I was only there for a short time and when I came home in 1947 Mr. Osborne had passed away, but there was a lady called Miss Moseley living with the family. My mother met Miss Moseley on a train. She was always willing to take in waifs and strays and Miss Moseley stayed with us right until she died in December 1952. There were a lot of barns in the field and I was able to do skilled work and make things.

We had chickens and an orchard of fruit trees with masses of daffodils in the Spring.

We did so many things up there and got to know so many people. They accepted the family. St. Mary’s Church had a plant church in the Nissen Hut in Higham Lane between Newton Bromswold and Avenue Road. I always cycled to work which was a few miles from the house. I lived there until I got married in 1952. I don’t know what happened after that.

So from 1947 to when you came out of the Navy and you came back and lived with your Mum and Dad and the family.

I always remember in 1944 I came home on leave but I didn’t get off at Wellingborough Station, I was asleep, I had been awake at Kettering Station. I carried on to Luton and I had to stay in Luton over night, then I came back and I walked from Wellingborough to Rushden and I had four hours at home before I had to go back again. Out of seventy two hour leave I had four hours in Rushden before I had to return to Rosyth.

I had a long leave from April 1947. If I remember rightly there had been a deep snow early in January and February in Newton Road. They couldn’t get down Newton Road because of the high level of snow as they had deep snow higher than the hedges. But it had all gone by the time I came. I had a long leave because I hadn’t had any for two and a half years and I didn’t have to go to work until October.

What year was that Harry?

1947 When the big snow was in Rushden.

At this point I got a job at Marriott’s. We worked Saturday mornings then. I used to go out doing small jobs that people wanted doing, as Marriott’s did that sort of work then. That’s when I went backwards and forwards on my bike from the Court Estate to Marriott’s every day. We left the yard early in the morning to go to far flung places like Hatfield and many other places in England.

After a while I was promoted to work in the wood machine shop in Marriott’s yard.

In 1950 I was sent away on a Government training scheme at Long Eaton for nine months to train as a wood machinist.

When I returned in 1951 fully qualified, I worked in the Wood Machine Shop and then Stewartby for a few months until the job finished ,then they said there was no more work. I went to look at another job in Bedford but did not find work there. I went to Northampton and visited many places where machines were being used but no jobs were available. I got a newspaper which I read sitting on the bus coming home and found there was a vacancy at United Counties Bus Company; repairing and rebuilding double-deckers and single-deckers. I returned the next day, got the job and stayed there until1953.

Still living on the Court Estate and travelling?

No. I couldn’t. United Counties at that time bought out Eastern National Bus Company and they wanted the same sort of work carried out for Eastern National as for United Counties. The theory with United Counties was that each bus had to earn enough money to cover its costs and it had to keep on the go until this was achieved. The same amount of work for the same number of staff was quite extraordinary. Because of the travelling by bus and long hours each day working, I went to live in Broadmead Avenue in Northampton. I just had a room and had to get all my food out. I worked there until 1953.

I left United Counties because the working conditions were dangerous. The waist rail for the buses was twenty four foot long and they had to be cut in one piece. In the structure of the bus and the cutting of the 6” waist rail we put wedges in, and the wood shot back and went straight through the wall. I thought it was so dangerous so I walked out.

I came home and got a job straight away with Whittington and Major in Queen Street, Rushden. I was given the job of making coffins. I was there for three weeks when the manager at Potters of Stanwick realised I was available and they wanted a wood machinist. I got the job at Potters in the machine shop in Stanwick. I did the woodwork for houses and lots of repair work. It was quite a challenge; timber frames, skirtings and all that kind of thing. I also prepared the woodwork for council houses in Raunds and Rushden.

I was involved in all the timber structures. In 1956 I left this job. I think the firm were struggling financiall, having problems paying the Timber Merchants and after a while went into liquidation.

I started working on my own. What should I do? I knew people wanted work doing. I had a truck with ladders on and I worked anywhere that people asked me to do jobs.

I worked mostly in Park Avenue. There was no access into Park Avenue from Upper Park Avenue so I had to go along Rose Avenue into St. Margaret’s Avenue to gain access. A lot of professional people lived in Park Avenue, such as Teachers, Bank Managers and Business men.

I cleaned windows, made gates, kitchen cupboards, painted and decorated and did repair work. I also worked for some of the people in Upper Park Avenue where I lived and other areas of Rushden. So that’s how I became involved with the people of Rushden.

Did you stay self employed for the rest of your life?

Until 1990.

I was on the supporters committee of Rushden Town Football Club. They were a semi-professional club. I was asked to be treasurer. The previous treasurer had died suddenly and I had to create a system of book keeping which was what I liked doing, because in my education Maths was my top subject. So it was easy for me to take over. I did that for ten years. I fought with Rushden Urban District Council to get the road built. When the Football Club bought a Nissen Hut to use as a club house, I erected it. I made improvements to the ground and floodlights were installed. I left then in 1973 when I was elected to the County Council. Together with my own business I couldn’t do everything.

We’ll stop there and next time we will do the political system.

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