|Article extracted from "One Hundred Years of Worship" by kind permission, and compiled by Greville Watson 2007
RUSHDEN INDEPENDENT WESLEYANS
The Sunday School began with 10 pupils in 1848 and one teacher, Mr. Benjamin Denton, although records suggest that a Methodist Class was started as far back as 1781. The church and school in 1848 met in a small chapel neat The Green (now the site of the War Memorial). In 1852 they moved to new premises in Chapel Lane, now known as George Street. During this time it was recorded that teachers not in their place at the appointed time were fined teachers ½d and superintendents 1d, but this was abolished in 1859. There were Sunday School sessions at 9am, 1.30pm and 5pm. At that time there were 151 families in Rushden and 335 children over the age of 5 years. In the year 1873 the chapel and school in High Street were erected. The school part consisted of lower and upper rooms, the latter being used as the main assembly hall and the total cost being £1,000.
On 14th August, 1882, an Industrial Exhibition and Flower Show was held and seeds were sold to the scholars at 1d per packet, the money to be refunded if they made an exhibit. In 1885 the teachers decided to join Rushden and District Sunday School Union. A teachers’ summer tea and meeting was held in Mr. Denton’s top field in beautiful weather. Overcrowding of the school was mentioned for the second in 1886. Minutes of a teachers’ meeting held in 1888 record the attendance of forty two teachers.
1890 saw the erection and opening of the schoolrooms in Queen Street having been built at a cost of £2,000, the whole of which was cleared in 1896. A special mention was made in 1892 of the treat held on 27th June when tea was provided for 400. There was also a special treat for teachers on 30th June of a Strawberry Tea. By 1893 there were 66 teachers and officers and 470 pupils. At that time quarterly teas were arranged and an annual meeting held on New Year’s Eve at the invitation of Mr. And Mrs. Denton. Also there was an April gathering in the open air at Eastfields. It was at that time that a branch Sunday School was started at Moor Road School in December.
In 1885 there was a teachers’ outing to Lilford Hall during Whitsun Week to the beautiful gardens and aviary. The catering was in the hands of Rushden Coffee Tavern and before leaving in the evening the company assembled before the Hall singing several selections under the lead of Mr. J. Mackness and Mr. T. Bromage. During the course of that year the Mission Hall (the ‘Tin Tabernacle’) in Station Road opened at a cost of £500. In 1896 they all joined together for anniversary celebrations on 15th June when provision was made for 700 with swing boats, sports and a string band, with Miss Jennie Street of London as the preacher.
Jubilee Year 1898 was full of activity. With lectures, Industrial Exhibition and also No.3 classroom was built and opened by the Rev. Newman Hall of London. Also an Adult Bible Class was formed led by Mr. T. Bromage and in August the erection of the present chapel was commenced. It was agreed to lay memorial stones by Mr. G. Denton for the Assembly Room, Mr. J. Jaques for the Lower Room and Infants, Mr. T. Bromage for the Adult Class and Mr. J. Clark for the Station Road School. Arrangements were made for the Infant Class to meet in Mr. Claridge’s factory during that time.
On 22nd February, 1900, the new chapel was opened by Dr. Brown of Bedford and at a special school service on Sunday 25th February, Mr. G. Green of Wellingborough gave an address. Scholars were allowed to take their places for morning service in the gallery. In 1902 mission services were held in Queen Street and Wellingborough Road Mission Church. At a united gathering of Rushden teachers, diplomas were presented to a number who had served for many years in the schools of the town. September saw a Bazaar and Fancy Fair. Alterations to the platform of the school were made in 1904 and cost £35. A new hymn book was chosen and a school choir formed under Mr. E. Cunnington. It was also decided to adopt the star marking system.
In 1907 a committee arranged a sweets and fruit stall at the summer treat. Mr. Denton retired from the Sunday School after 43 years of service. Diamond Jubilee Year in 1908 saw a gymnastics class formed with 20 members under Mr. G. Cook and Mr. J. Cunnington. For several years this class gave displays at the school treat and on other occasions. In 1909 a school treat was organised in Mr. R. Marriott’s field and Sunday School teachers took part with other organisations in the “White City Bazaar” in aid of church funds. In November Mr. A. Hayes, the Hucknall elocutionist, paid his first visit. At the annual meeting the church minister Rev. C. Keeler became the president of the school. In 1910 there were 56 teachers and 390 pupils. In 1912 there was a Birthday Party organised and each person attending was asked to contribute according to age. The Independent Wesleyan Sunday School won the Attendance Challenge Shield for the second year running.
Easter Week in 1913 saw another Scholars’ Exhibition with sale stalls, 86 people serving on various committees. As a result of the star-marking system a number of scholars had five-year records of complete attendance. A gallery in the Beginners’ Room was removed by teachers and 50 small chairs were purchased for the use of scholars in this department. That year saw 50 years’ service to the school by Mr. C. G. Cunnington and Mr. G. Denton. The Sunday School again won the Attendance Shield for 1913 and 1914.
In 1915 a school treat was organised with the Mission School, the numbers being 600 scholars and 200 adults. Provisions ordered for this treat should be noted: 80 loaves, 90lbs slab cake, 20lbs dough cake, 600 buns, 100 iced buns, 150 small cakes, six gallons of milk, 40lbs of butter, 40lbs sugar and 8lbs of tea.
In 1916 Miss N. Clipson was added to the list of superintendents and also coached scholars for the Union Scripture Examination. The schools at that time were in the occupation of the military authorities and services had to be held in the gallery of the church. Parcels were sent to those connected with the school and church who were serving in the war. Food restrictions made it impossible to hold treats in 1917 and 1918. Bible picture cards were introduced for the Lower School and a piano was purchased for the Infants’ Room. With a view to providing recreation for the young people, a field was hired and an Institute formed for boys and girls in 1919. Cricket for boys and other ball games for girls filled the summer and an indoor Institute was arranged for the winter months.
Early in 1920 the school suffered a great loss in the passing of Mr. A. Lawson who had been secretary for 30 years. At the teachers’ meeting in April the secretaryship passed to Mr. J. Denton. In November Mr. A. Hayes came to give Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Also at that time the first Eisteddfod organised by the Sunday School took place. 23 ‘Independent’ pupils competed, taking 7 prizes.
In April 1921 there was a tribute to Mr. Cunnington after a connection extending over 60 years. At the Eisteddfod that year ‘Independent’ scholars obtained twelve prizes. The class collections handed-in during the afternoon anniversary services totalled £18.5.2½d and at the Harvest Festival 36 baskets were purchased for the scholars’ parade. Miss F. Cox and Miss F. Sears became assistants in the Primary Room.
In 1924 a scholars’ exhibition was held. A piano was purchased for the large schoolroom. At a Decision Day service in the chapel, 30 of the older scholars made their affirmation and in the autumn the Institute for boys was re-organised. In January 1926 Miss F. Denton and Mr. S. Weekley were appointed as pianists and Miss F. Cox, Mr. F. Wrighton and Mr. A. Wooding as organists. Mr F. Noble received a diploma for completing 50 years’ work in the Sunday School. In 1928 a flower and egg service was held in July. On 19th October, 1930, the school took part in the Robert Raikes 150 Years Celebration, a great procession going from Spencer Park to the Park Road Baptist and Methodist Chapels. During 1932 the teachers compiled a cookery book and a report showed a profit of £31 with 150 books still to sell.
In 1940 the school was again disturbed by war as teachers and elder scholars were called away. A special fund was organised and gifts were sent to all on Active Service. The annual meeting that year was ended abruptly by the warning air raid siren. During 1941 the YMCA were using the schoolrooms as a canteen. A new picture roll and tables were purchased for the Primary Department. On 12th March, 1944, sanction was given by teachers to the forming of a Boys Brigade Company and 17 members were enrolled with Mr. Tom Lack as Captain and Mr. Cross as Lieutenant. In June of 1945 Mr. W. Lack completed 50 years’ service, 37 as superintendent and was presented with the Golden Diploma of the national Sunday School Union. In 1947 Rev. J. Renison was President and superintendents were Mr. W. Lack, Mr. C. Maddams, Mr. D. Towner, Miss F. Clipson, Miss D. Cunnington, Jean Hardwick, Gwen Smith, and Barbara Dudley. Pianists were Miss F. Denton, Miss Joan Viccars, Miss M. Viccars and Mr. A. Wooding. The school also took part in the “Rushden-On-Sea” effort to help meet the cost of school renovations.
Since that time to the end of the Century there have been lots of teachers and helpers including Sue Large, Bryan Rolfe, Ann Tyman, Rachel Trusler, Sharon Keech, Denis Smith, Rosemary Holmes, Cheryl Pugh, Neal Malvern, Elizabeth Alderson (Tin Britten), Carol Butler, Jean Bing, Ruth Coley, Jim Coley, Ann Lawman, Roy Freeman, Margaret O’Dell, Linda Freeman, Judy Watson and many others.