|Rushden Echo, October 5th 1923, transcribed by Kay Collins
Higham Ferrers Bede House Interesting Discoveries
It is no news that the Bede House at Higham Ferrers was originally divided up by high oak screens into a broad alley from west to east, with small compartments or cubicles on either side, leaving a broad space in front of the great fireplace, where stood a long oak table with benches or settles, where the bedesfolk met for meals.
There is a small relic of these screens, viz., a portion of the upper rail with some iron cresting. This was found twelve years ago in a garden in College-street and recovered by the Vicar and churchwardens. It is now fixed above the fireplace.
Last week, however, a further clue to the above arrangement of cubicles has come to light by stripping off some of the plaster from the north wall and disclosing the position of five of the thirteen lockers, or cupboards, with which each cubicle was provided. They are of uniform size and form, 3ft. high, 2ft. wide, and 1ft. 8in. Deep. There is evidence that each had an oak framework, with a shelf and a drawer of some kind, and apparently a door, the sides being stone-plastered.
The position of these lockers is shown on a ground plan published in 1846. They were evidently filled in and plastered over about 80 years ago, when the chapel was reroofed and the hall renovated.
After the bedesmen quitted the House it is supposed the screens were destroyed, a portion being used for a time as a vestry screen in the church until 1857.
A pencil sketch by one B. Rudgenow in Northampton Library (of which a copy hangs in the Bede House)shows the curious hovels which were then erected along the south wall: and the names of the families which occupied these hovels are known. The sketch also indicates the position of some of the cupboards; there were eight on the north side and five on the south.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
Additional storage accommodation for the Brigade, Guides, and Sunday school was needed, without sacrificing floor-space, and it occurred to me to strip off the plaster where we supposed the cupboards were, and we did so with success.
It is not proposed to open more than five of the lockers at present, as they need renovation, and the cost would be considerable. But as funds are forthcoming it would be interesting to refit them all in English oak, as their restoration would make the original arrangement of the House much more intelligible to those who visit it. No relics of any interest have so far come to light beyond some of the woodwork and two old keys.
Herbert K. Fry