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Kettering Northamptonshire UK   

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A Walking Around the Parish Boundary

On the afternoon of Sunday 12th May, a group of thirty or so members met, with the Vicar, to walk the Parish boundary. Only one or our number had a rod to literally ‘beat the bounds’ by tapping a staff in time honoured way at key points around the boundary and he only brought his stick to help him along! I did hope that some of our older members would come along as I’m certain we should have had some good and perhaps surprising reminiscences; as it was (and it is happening more and more these days!) I turned out to be the oldest and consequently ended up ‘taking the minutes’. Therefore, if you can remember more than I record let me know and I will (editor permitting) do an addendum.

We left the Church by the vestry gate and immediately had a discussion as to whether or not we were in St Andrew’s Street (it used to be) or in Lindsay Street? As you [may] recall St Andrew’s Street was originally ‘L’ shaped from Rockingham Road and turned right by Goodfellows factory and then along to Eden Street past the Vicar’s vegetable garden and the old original St Andrew’s School. We moved on into Eskdaill Street, passing what used to be Simms sweet factory and the Empire Cinema (with its best seats in pairs!) to Glover’s corner. Here we turned left into Montagu Street [and onto the boundary proper]. With the sun over our shoulders the detailed stonework of the old Stamford Road School was picked out and we all remarked on its fine appearance. it was then that we noticed that the word ‘Kettering’ was still boarded over on the stone wording saying ‘Kettering Board School’; from the time at the beginning of the Second World War when all signposts were removed and all references to towns were painted out on lorries and vans, the idea being to deceive German parachutists (dressed as nuns !?) should they have invaded. It is extraordinary that it has not been taken down! Incidentally, am I the only one who cannot fully understand why Stamford Road School is in Montagu Street?

Moving down the hill we passed the site of Ernie Berwicks model shop, where I spent many a happy hour drooling over the balsa wood aircraft kits - a naval Blackburn Skua comes to mind - and then on again passing by what was Bryants leather factory, York’s TV shop to Braces on the corner of Tresham Street. It was good to see Braces still open although I’m not sure the family are still involved. At this point we noticed the sun striking St Mary’s church on the right hand rise from the dip in Bath Road. With the trees in blossom around the church, St Mary's stands well. After pausing at Braces we then moved on past the old Barlow’s Bakery (How did we lose that?) and round the corner into Bath Road.

I seem to recall that where Selecta Tyres is used to be a grocer’s shop called Underwoods (?) and going in there with my grandmother. Perhaps someone can recall more. Moving along Bath Road we came to the offices of the famous Timsons Engineering. Who can remember the buildings on the left-hand side being the Primitive Methodists Chapel and Rooms ? (These wooden buildings do survive for a long time you know!) We carried on, passing the old Dolcis factory, now Tailby’s Heel Builders etc and came to the top of Bath Lane where Mr White’s general store used to be and where, on my way home from the swimming baths, I used to get what ‘sweets’ he’d got. In those days likely liquorice root or sherbet! He also used to sell some of the first rhubarb in Kettering, grown on the garden field (allotment) immediately behind Blandford Avenue. Sadly the allotments have been built on and that super early rhubarb long gone.

A little further on we passed the rear of old Carey Sunday School Buildings where I used to attend for some of my normal schooling when the evacuees arrived. We used to go from 8.30 am to 1.00 pm one week and 1.30 to 5.00 pm on the other week, as we shared Park Road with the evacuees. We then used the Carey buildings for either the afternoon or morning for P.E., Play (Drama!) and some other lessons. Never too keen on schooling, I think I enjoyed the disruption!.... Opposite the Carey School buildings stood Stimpson Perkins the leather dressers, whose buildings were demolished along with the old Public Baths to make way for the houses in Bonham Court. A nice touch that; a nice way to honour Mary Bonham who taught so many of us to swim.

We continued our walk along Bath Road crossing King Street and Regent Street; I still expect to see the Co-op Grocery and Butchery on the Regent St corner ! - and then past Ernie Parker’s house before reaching the Havelock Street corner, where Lewis’ owned the corner shop. Turning left into Havelock Street we passed rows of red brick Victorian terraced houses which are so typical of our parish, before reaching the junction with Nelson Street where the old Co-op Boot, Holyoake factory once stood - now demolished for yet more houses. On the left hand side we came to the old Co-op builders yard and just before that was a factory which was burned down around 1941/2. I remember being late for school that morning and wanted to be a fireman like Nat Gould for a long time after that ! Continuing we passed the Rifle Band Club - a good few years since they were World Brass Band Champions ! I remember being taken to Chrysanthemum shows there as Dad often entered the competitions. They still hold a Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Show in October - well worth a visit.

Onwards, up Havelock Street, we passed the old Aquascutum factory, where U.S. black soldiers were billeted during the War, and my grandparents’ house, before arriving at the top where the United Counties bus garage used to be - I only remember it being used for repairing Wellington bombers which arrived on long RAF Bedford lorries with ‘Queen Mary’ trailers. Rockingham Road was difficult to cross but the Vicar didn’t lose any of his flock ! After crossing in small groups we entered Buccleuch Street noticing what a fine building the corner building is, which was a doctor’s surgery for so long - Dr Bland, Dr Howe, Dr Gracie - I can’t go back any further ! The Co-op Grocery and Butchery at the corner of Albion Road has long gone for more houses; as someone observed, it looks as if the new houses had been built to replace ones destroyed by bombs during the War. No, we made a much better job of destroying the buildings long after the War ! Funnily enough although we had a few bombs in Kettering - some incendiary bombs did land in the Co-op butchers yard but were quickly extinguished by the Fire Watchers and ARP. I remember going round to the Albion Road shop, as soon as I heard the following morning, and being very disappointed on finding everything as normal.

Across the road from the old Co-op corner is a garage, used to be Craddock Haulage, but in the last century it was a church school, which is well documented in a booklet written by the late Pat Partridge; lay reader and previous head of Bishop Stopford School. well worth reading, unfortunately it is out of print and I haven’t got a copy. If anyone has one and wants to part with it let me know. At the corner of Buccleuch Street, Field Street/Cross Street were three shops - Burt Whitwell out-door beer house (off licence!), Hulls general store and Alf Bradshaw’s butchers shop - last used a cycle shop - now a house. Moving down the hill we came to the junction with Union Street. At this point the boundary is really through someone’s front door, and down his garden to Leicester Street, but obviously we couldn’t do that, so we turned left and headed for Cobden Street passing yet another redundant Co-op Grocery and Butchery before arriving in Leicester Street. Yet more red-brick houses but relieved by a new estate, Leicester Close, built on the site of Lett’s market garden. Do you remember the large greenhouses seen from Northfield Avenue and his lovely shop in Rockingham Road ?

The Vicar and a small party walked into Leicester Close but I and a few others ‘tapped the rod’ at the top of Hill Street. We walked down the steep hill and crossed the Slade Brook into Northfield Avenue (‘The New Road’) and turned left towards Lower Street/Rothwell Road. technically the boundary runs across the new road, from Hill Street, to the railway line and then back to the Rothwell Road railway bridge, but we didn’t do that...... Turning left from Northfield Avenue into Lower Street it was a shame only to see rubble on the site of Geerys Leather factory. I think there is only one leather dresser left in Kettering. Very sad. Moving up the hill we passed what used to be two Police houses at the corner of Carlton Street before arriving at Windsor Gardens, the site of the Charles East shoe factory next to the Friends Meeting Place. Here we managed to cross the road to Upper Street and then back into Lower Street at the ‘Three Cocks’. Some of us could remember the block of houses, shops and garages that used to stand on the triangle of traffic lights bounded by Lower Street, Northall Street and Upper Street. I particularly remember being sent to get a ‘Bermaline’ loaf from Warwickers Bakery which was on the corner facing the town. It later became Wayman’s before being demolished. We then continued along Lower Street past the Carey Mission House, birthplace of the Baptist Missionary Society, thankfully saved and made into residential apartments. Next door is the old Malt House of Elworthy’s Brewery which extends through into Tanner’s Lane.

Crossing Tanner’s Lane we came to the most [architecturally] vandalised part of Kettering, opposite the General Post Office, where once stood Garley’s Cycle shop (another drool centre of younger days ! ), Smarts the Jewellers, a fur shop and Billson’s Ironworks, from where we got our sledge runners for just a few pence. Here, too, was another triangle of shops and businesses: Bakehouse Hill, demolished by the developers (sic), which housed Bell and Billows, Theobalds and one of the first Co-operative shops. Next to this, the old Grammar School which became the Borough Engineers office, the Crown Inn and remains of Elworthy’s Brewery, the Odeon Cinema, Post Office Arcade with FA Watts, Timothy Whites, Perkins the seedsman and finally the Fuller Assembly Rooms. All of these have disappeared, knocking the character out of the heart of Kettering.

We passed quickly along Lower Street and into Gold Street, hurrying past the now soulless new shops, past the Fuller Chapel to the crossroads at the top of Gold Street. We crossed over into Montagu Street passing what was for many years Ernest Woodcocks store, Tutty’s the ironmongers, Robinson’s garage and the old farm building that housed the Co-op Hairdressing Salon to the entrance of the Central Hall. The Central hall, centre of so much of the social life of Kettering; dances, band concerts, broadcasts, theatricals and Gang Shows etc, where so many of us used to meet our future wives and husbands; I disdain the word ‘partners’ ! Now too many of our young folk have to go away ‘to meet a spouse of similar educational standard..’ - I’ve actually heard that said, but it doesn’t work like the old Central hall, I can assure you !

Moving on past the Conservative Club we came to Newman’s the ironmongers at the rear of which, now part of Newman’s, is the place where Timsons Engineers started. In those days, if I’m correct, Timson Bullock & Barber ? Also now part of Newman’s is the site of RAS Adams the Chemist where I obtained my first part-time job, whilst still at school, and learned many things ! In those days sugar was rationed and packets of 100 saccharine tablets were only sold at the Chemists. Soon after I started I was told to fill up some packets each with 100 tablets. Charlie Ansell, the pharmacist, let me count out the first 100, and then the second 100, before showing me that they kept a packet with exactly 100 tablets in it and what you did was put that on one side of the balance, and then you just weighed out another ‘100’ on the other balance pan ! A good lesson. He also taught me how to sweep up without making the dust puther and there’s not many people know that ! - to coin a phrase. It seems not to be part of the curriculum these days!

Finally we came back to Eskdaill Street, where in the now vacant premises was once Cleavers the builders merchants and before that a doctors surgery - I can only remember Doctor Baillie but others will no doubt fill the gaps. So we returned to St Andrew’s Church. As you can see I have only highlighted the boundary of our parish but when you consider what is or was contained within that boundary you can see that for many years it was the heart of Kettering. I have only scratched the surface with my memories, no doubt our older members can recall much more and perhaps we should encourage them to tell us before it is too late.

The boundary was beat, and so was I!

A book is currently in production of a walk round the new boundary line

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