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Higham Ferrers Bedehouse
& notes
Bede House & rectory Inside
The hall
The bedehouse c1946 - by A J George
Two interior pictures c1980s

before alteration
Inside the bedehouse before alteration

Following Restorations in the 20C, the great fireplace can now be used, the windows were re-glazed and the walls painted.

Now the Bede House now offers a meeting place and can be used for social purposes both for the parish and for outside events.

It can now accommodate 150 for a dance or 130 for a concert or dinner.

Crypt under the Bede House Roof details
Two pictures of the crypt or beer cellar under the Bede House

Wellingborough News, 28th February 1890, transcribed by Kay Collins

BEDEHOUSE COMMITTEE TEA AND ENTERTAINMENT—On Saturday evening the Committee appointed to provide for the lighting, warming, &c., of the Bedehouse provided a public tea, to which upwards of 100 sat down. After tea a pleasant social evening was spent.

Wellingborough News, 26th December 1890, transcribed by Kay Collins

ST. THOMAS—The old Bedesmen, according to custom, have been round to the tradesmen to solicit subscriptions for the St. Thomas dinner, their appeal being liberally responded to. Preparations were made, and the tables set, but we doubt if ever so few of the old guests attended, as out of 12 men and one woman, only four men were able to attend, eight of the men and the woman being absent through illness. The Mayor (Mr. C. Jolley), the ex-Mayor (Mr. O. Parker), Rev. J. Dunn (vicar), Rev. P. Wrench (curate), the Parish Clerk and the Mayor's Sergeant dined with the four, and dinners were sent to the others. Mr. E. B. Randall and Mr. C. H. Simpson also visited and entertained the old folks, and a pleasant afternoon was spent.

Rushden Echo, 27th December 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

Bedesmen’s Day at Higham – Annual Dinner
The Bedesmen and the Bedeswoman of Higham Ferrers met at the Town Hall on Saturday morning. After having dinner, service was attended at St Mary’s Church, the Rev H K Fry preaching. At the Town Hall an excellent dinner was provided by the Bedeswoman (Mrs Wilby), assisted by the mayor’s Sergeant (Mr W Pettit) and Mrs Pettit.

The following sat down to dinner: John Parker, Jacob Quincey, James Draper, James Tester, George Draper, Collius Miller, William Townshend and Edward Dickens. Four deaths occurred during the year, the following being appointed in their places: George Hartwell, Chapman Pack, William Mitchell and Eli Dickenson. In addition to the Bedesmen at dinner were the Mayor (Ald. T Patenall), the Rev H K Fry, and the Rev C Borman, Wesleyan minister.

During the afternoon the Mayoress (Mrs Patenall) brought grapes and sweets, and Miss Orrell, of Rushden, gave recitations. Tea was served at 4p.m. Mr F Parker balanced up the accounts, the twelve men and one woman receiving 30/- from the united Charities Committee, 7/2 each from the day’s proceedings, besides 7d. each and 1d. day paid weekly during the year. Hearty thanks were accorded to Mr F Parker.

Higham Ferrers Dec 24 1919

Fred Parker's notes
Fred Parker's notes
Bedesman Day
The Bedesmen and Woman celebrated St Thomas’ Day on Monday when they met at the Town Hall for lunch at 10 o’clock. After having lunch divine service was attended at St Mary’s Church. The Rev H K Fry read the prayers and preached a suitable sermon. A return was made to the Town Hall where an excellent dinner was provided for them by the Bedeswoman Mrs Wilby and the Mayor’s Sergeant Mr W Pettit. Ten Bedesmen are able to be present and two had their dinners sent home to them. In addition to them were the Mayor Councillor E H Horrell, Rev Fry, Rev Boman and the Ex-Mayor Alderman Patenall. Fruit was handed round in the afternoon, supper being served at 6 o’clock. The accounts were balanced up by Mr Fred Parker, the twelve men and one Bedeswoman receiving 10/4 each in addition to the Charity received from the Town Clerk of 1£ each.
No death occurred during the year a fact at most without parallel.

Fred Parker, High St, H.F.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 21st July 1922, transcribed by Kay Collins

United Charities—At a meeting of the Trustees at the Town Hall on Friday last Mr Joseph Coleman was elected Bedesman in the place of Mr James Tester, who has left the town. For two vacancies in the Pressland Pensioners Mrs Seckington, of High-street, and Mrs Middleton, of Town Yard, were elected.

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. Rudge—now 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

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