|Notes in the church archive - partly by Canon Brian Frost, Transcribed by Gill Sear, 2008
Roman Catholic Church of St Peter
Log Book 1982-1991 & Parish History
August 1982 - No logbook appears to have been kept so this one is being started in August ’82.
Obviously records will have to be discovered from wherever possible: Bishops House, Baptism and Death records, memories of oldest Parishioners and so on.
A pity, I think, when keeping our Parish logbooks, to start from the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, as if this was when the Catholic Church began in these parts. So I have looked into the earliest beginnings of the Catholic Church here albeit in a very amateurish way so that one might see a bit of the Catholic past before the Reformation. Then a brief look at the local history during the period when the Catholic Church was outlawed and then a trying to “bring up to date” from the time when the Catholic religion was permitted to exist once more. This last part is sketchy as no records have been kept and also, the beginnings of this last stage were slow in an area where the Catholic Church was virtually wiped out as a result of the Elizabethan ban on the Church.
At this time (Autumn ’82) the Parish consists of 4 fairly large areas Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Irthlingborough and Irchester and a number of smaller villages nearby Sharnbrook, Souldrop, Podington, Hinwick, Wymington, Farndish, Melchbourne, Knotting, Yelden, Newton Bromswold, Chelveston, Caldecote, Knuston, Keystone, Hargrave, Covington. Many of these are just hamlets, but they do contain Parishioners, so they need to be included in any Parish account. Also, people do come here from the Addingtons, Riseley, Finedon, Stanwick and others, but they are not legally within the Parish confines.
RUSHDEN a general picture
Rushden takes its name from the situation of the original Saxon settlement along the banks of the brook which still runs through the middle of the town. The “rushy valley” was the home of a few families dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. They were joined by the Danes and at the time of the Norman Conquest they had their own Priest and Church and were an established village. The Normans set up a hunting lodge on the South side of the Parish and this transformed the life of the villagers. The farm buildings and centres of activity were all removed to Higham Park on the Beds border; the hunting lodge and park also brought notable people to the small township and there was soon a small house on the site of the present Rushden Hall. This house was said to have been built by John of Gaunt, the Lord of Higham Ferrers, for his park keeper. At this time much of the Church was completed with its famous spire and later on, the Strainer arch in the chancel.
For many centuries farming pursuits were the dominant activity but cottage industry could also be found and in common with North Beds, lace making flourished here. In the early 19th century there were more lace makers than shoe makers among the 1300 inhabitants but shoe making expanded quickly as work was done in little “shops” behind the cottages and collected in a central barn for distribution.
The wars on the continent stimulated demand for military boots and the first “manufactories” were built. In twenty years the population increased tenfold and by 1900 Rushden “New Town” had been built. The pattern was set by the typical three storey factory with the owners house next door and a row of workers cottages and a foreman's house nearby.
By 1911 the population was over 13,000 and the shape of the town had settled down. As it matured, the new town with its famous brass bands, clubs, non-Conformist chapels and its Victorian architecture became one of the main centres for the
Cutting from Northamptonshire “Life” magazine August 1979 Describes modern Rushden
Manufacture of footwear, a trade which has ensured a long and steady employment. As the population rose slowly, the town has attracted other light industry; new estates have sprung up and the relatively cheap housing has attracted many newcomers.
St Mary’s Church
In 1086 the Doomsday Survey speaks of land held by Samar the Priest (perhaps 40 acres) so probably, there was a church here of some kind. Perhaps a small Saxon chapel of wood and wattle not worthy of mention in the Survey. William the Conqueror rewarded his knights with English Lordships and Peverel became a very great lord in the midlands with 162 manors. Possibly he caused to be built the Norman Church whose foundations lie below the present church a simple rectangular construction 35 ft by 16½ corresponding approximately to the present nave and clearly of Norman style architecture of the 12th Century.
In 1105 William Peverel founded the Priory of Lenton, one of the noblest and richest religious houses in Notts: it was endowed with six churches, including Rushden. This Priory was
The oldest and second smallest borough in Northants. Has a commanding position high above River Nene, so had a strategic importance of which Saxons took advantage. Called it ‘Hecham’ and they made it a burgh. Evidence even that the site of the farm was once occupied by the Romans; few relics found it is only three miles from camp set up in 43A.D. on the banks of the Nene at Chester Howes.
Normans strengthened the rough Saxon fortifications and William I gave ownership of the place to William Peverel one of his generals who probably built the first of two local castles on this hill top site. The Lord of Higham was a great figure, possessing over 150 ‘Lordships’ in the Midlands. In 13th Century it passed into the hands of Ferers family. In 1251 Higham added Ferers to its name and took on the dignity of a borough.
Town grew slowly during the next centuries. Received a Royal Charter granting borough status. Another was granted in 1556 by Philip & Mary which gave the town the right to send a member to Parliament a right kept until Reform Act of 1832.
In 1363 saw birth of Highams greatest son so far, Henry Chichele son of a local draper, was sent to Winchester School, New College, Oxford, became a Priest and in 1413 became Archbishop of Canterbury, an office he held for 30 years. Famous man, buried in Canterbury Cathedral, he left memorials in Higham: the Bede House alongside the Parish Church and the remains of a College he founded (in College St) and which was suppressed at the Protestant dissolution. He also founded the All Souls College in Oxford.
In the Lancastrian period, Higham Ferrers became one of the centres of the Duchy of Lancaster's administration. The manor and most of the farmlands still belong to the Queen in right of her Duchy, but other estates passed to the Dacres and Fitzwilliam's before passing into local ownership in the 19th century.
The town grew very slowly; even the fairs and markets have faded from the scene: at one time, it had seven fairs every year.
The development of the boot and shoe industry was slow in the town. The Crown and the Fitzwilliam's held most of the land and would not sell land for factories so they went elsewhere. The earliest reference to leather testers were recorded in the 16th century. The Nene valley had long been a famed cattle-grazing area and hides were abundant. This, together with the many local oak trees whose bark yielded the liquor needed for tanning, led to many of the towns on or near the Nene in Northants starting leather or footwear industries. The Nene provided easy and cheap transport in days when roads were bad and so in such places as Higham, Rushden, Raunds, the tanners and shoemakers set up in business.
In early 19th century the working population of the borough was almost solely engaged in making shoes and pillow lace this latter industry now defunct. The Nene carried a considerable river traffic but the coming of the railways put a stop to that.
A gazetteer of 1866 said “…. Town is of a plain appearance, about a mile long, contains some houses of 15th century. An ancient cross in the market place. An old Baptist Chapel, noted for preachings by John Bunyan, is now a stable. The town hall is a small edifice of 1808. The Parish comprises 2,260 acres, has 246 houses and a population of 1,152”
The Napoleonic wars helped the county’s industry as military orders poured in: so the town attracted new commerce. The railways did come in 1845, even a station was built to serve the next town of Irthlingborough, and went on to Rushden. But, today, the branch line of all these has disappeared once more.
In this century, Higham Ferrers has grown far less rapidly than neighbouring Rushden and has thus retained many of its pleasing and mellow medieval buildings, especially those round about the Church. A high proportion of the total working force is still employed in the boot and shoe trade and the leather dressing industries, though a greater variety of other places of employment has begun too. So, there is still a pleasant historical quarter to the town and the factories have been kept from intruding into the quiet and historic parts.
The population now is approaching 5,000, still one of the most historic places of the county, still a leading ‘boot, shoe and leather’ town. The castles have gone, but the remains of the Chichele College and the ancient Bede House itself remain; it still has all the best features of an old world town with a proud and independent history and tries to combine these with all the amenities of the 20th century.
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary
One of the most beautiful in the Midlands with its crocketed steeple which rises 170 feet above the local buildings. Much of the work dates from about 1260; a double nave makes it almost as spacious as a small Cathedral; South side is 13th century while the North side is largely 14th century. Some of the older woodwork was given by Archbishop Chichele when he founded his College. Separate from the Church is the Chantry Chapel, a small but beautiful place, founded by Chichele after the Dissolution it continued as a grammar school for nearly three centuries now it serves as a chapel occasionally: it is a lovely piece of Perpendicular architecture. Then there is the Bede House founded in 1423 by Chichele to house twelve poor men and a woman attendant. Now it serves as the C. of E. Parish hall. Then there is an Old Cross nearby dating back to the 14th century.
Chichele College founded in 1422. Called Higham College, built around a quadrangle which housed 20 members eight chaplains, four clerks, six choristers and a song and grammar master. This was also dissolved by Henry VIII and parts of it are now preserved as an ancient monument.
Earliest references to Irthlingborough are found in a sale of land document during the reign of King Offa (755), signed here during the occasion of the King holding a council here.
The name is derived from a “fortified enclosure”. The Romans withdrew in 410; England was then invaded by the Angles, Saxons & Jutes who penetrated inland along the river valleys e.g. the Nene. These were probably the first to inhabit this area, clearing the woodland from the riverside to the hilltops and then erecting rough hut dwellings. They were the first comers.
In 1295 we find the Abbot of Peterborough is the Lord of the Mana (“Mana” was the land belonging to a Lord over which he had authority). Originally there were two Parishes here. The older one was All Saints stood in the Coneygenes in a part formerly known as “Priests Close”. Possibly this was one of the first Saxon Churches in England. The ruins were uncovered in 1965 by a local farmer and this prompted a big “dig”. The remains of three Churches were discovered on the site the earliest contained Roman material; skeletons from the 7th Century (the Dark Ages) were discovered; the second church must have dated from the 7th century then. A third was possibly built in Henry III time (1223-42) and could well have served as a Monastery as well as a Church.
The decline came through the Black Death (1348). By 1428 there were only 8 Parishioners, the Church in a bad state of repair, but it is recorded as still being in use in 1526. By 1570 it was in a dilapidated state and by 1637 the few Parishioners were using the other Church (St Peters). In 1683 the Church hiring (advowson) of All Saints was combined with St Peters; in 1780 the Rectory of All Saints and Vicarage of St Peters were combined and stones were gradually removed for other uses. What remained was gradually covered by the soil and eventually grassed over and forgotten.
St Peters Church. Probably dates from Norman times (12th century) and the main structure seems to be 13th century. First Priest is named as GALFR de Warmington, the second Henry de Kylkennia (1274) (sounds like an Irish monk?).
In 1352 a College was opened at the Church and it was used for 150 years for religious purposes until 1535 when Henry VIII ordered the closure of all monasteries and religious establishments. In 1887 the Tower was found to be 30” out of true it was taken down, each stone marked and rebuilt.
13th Century, its 13-foot shaft was probably a standard for measuring land. In 1966 it was dismantled and moved a few yards due to a road improvement scheme. During this operation evidence came that some of the stones had come from All Saints Church. Some soil at the base contained items of Roman origin.
The old bridge site was originally a narrow tracked ford used by all in pre and post Roman times. By Norman times, Higham Ferrers had gained in importance and visitors to it would have had to use the ford.
Mostly arable land. The Enclosure Act was a great disappointment to the peasant farmers (the yeomanry) but it was necessary, to improve farming methods in order to feed a growing population. Most of the local people who sold their land sought employment in newly emerging local industry. By 1850 there was boot and shoe manufacture as a principle industry, two firms of brick and tile manufacture, and also some parchment and lace making. Pillow lace was a centuries old Northants craft and in the 17th 18th and 19th centuries, every village in the County had its lace makers as a cottage industry. The boot and shoe trade finally eclipsed the lace making as the main cottage industry as it did in the other local towns.
Boot and Shoe industry
Good for the County as we have seen because there was ample pasture for the cattle, ample water, ample oak trees, whose bark was used for tanning. It was good for Irthlingborough as in 19th century the Enclosure Act meant that people left the land to seek employment so by 1850 this was the main local employment. It usually started as a cottage industry. A single room added to the back of a house or in the garden, and when factories replaced the “home work”, these rooms were converted into washhouses. In the early days all the work was done by hand, ladies did the “closing” (sewing of uppers), men did the “lasting” (attaching soles and heels), children helped by fetching and carrying the materials which was collected at the beginning of each week from the warehouse and the finished products were delivered at the end of the week when payments were made. Machines came late into the shoe industry (largely through the “Luddite mentality” of the workers).
These machines increased production, brought prices down which made homework too expensive so home sales fell and workers were forced into the factories. By 1870, practically all the shoe workers had transferred to factories. After 1900, males working at home had disappeared but some women still did a bit of “closing” at home until well into the 20th century. By 1900, Irthlingborough was placed 4th in the County among the leading shoe manufacturing towns after Northampton, Kettering and Wellingborough.
This was closely allied to the boot and shoe trade. It was important to Irthlingborough but didn’t really become established until 1874; sited here because of the prevalence of the oak trees whose bark was used in the tanning process. Following the introduction of chrome tanning, several tanneries were founded. They also did CURRYING leather dressing for tanned hides.
The abundance of iron ore was known since early times. Since Roman times, most iron ore was quarried but Irthlingboro was unique in that here, ironstone was mined. Tunnels and workings riddle the earth for many miles around the town and so prohibit building in these areas. It doesn’t disfigure the landscape as much as quarrying but mining does leave problems roof collapse, subsidence of surface soil, vast tracts unsuitable for building development had to be in the Crow Hill direction and not round the boundaries of the old town. In 1939-45 war, work in the mines was offered as an alternative to conscription and a great deal of foreign labour came into the mines during and shortly after this period.
For several years but now closed.
Growth of Population
Irthlingborough was a Parish Council in 1875 with powers over its burials, street lighting and able to make recommendations to the R.D.C.
A daughter mission of Wellingborough, started in Fr Murray's time, in 1.… In the last year of the century, in 1899, land was bought at the corner of Higham Road and Hayway. A house was built on this and a portion of a church dedicated to St. Peter, was opened in 1904, though, until then a hall was used as a temporary Church.
In 1904 Fr O’Hagan came from Ireland. Lived in Alfred St where his front room was used as a church. He built the church (at present it is the Sacristy of the church) and it was recorded that about 20 people were there. He later returned to Ireland.
Before that even : in 1868
A Mrs Sophia Arkwright had moved into Knuston Hall near Irchester. Obviously well to do, she agreed to pay Bishop Amhurst £50 a year for a priest to say Mass once a week in Wellingborough and Canon Scott of the Cathedral said Mass in the town, usually on a Wednesday and at Knuston Hall every other Monday. So, Mass was said in this Parish, on a regular basis, at Knuston Hall, from 1868 until the Arkwrights moved away. (See picture of this hall)
Looking through the Wellingborough Church Register, there are entries dating back to 1885 (Baptism register), 1884 (marriage register) 1888 (confirmation) and 1885 (Death) and many of the early ones are listed with addresses in this Parish, so the few Catholics who lived around Rushden must have looked towards Wellingborough when they needed the services of a Priest over the page are listed some of the earliest records from Wellingborough, obviously before there was any Priest here or the keeping of any registers
A Mr Berrill and family used to walk in from Irchester each Sunday. He remembers there being a flask of tea in the porch for people to help themselves, if they had walked in from a distance and with the fasting from midnight rule, it was quite a feat as there was no Sunday transport at all.
A Mr Albert Magee, who lived with his very large family, also in Irchester, around 1900, remembers walking into Wellingborough each Sunday for Mass.
An elderly Irthlingborough Parishioner, Jim Horner, who moved away to Wells, Norfolk, wrote two letters in which he remembers the Chapel buying in Irthlingborough (in the files box)
Burial Register (starts 1876) (extracts from Wellingborough)
Included in the list is the name of Helena Moulding and Mrs Arkwright was Sponsor to most of the Candidates.
The Rushden registers start
Death Register June 1911 Mary Wellsdown (by Fr Waldie)
Baptism Register begins in 1909
Confirmation Register begins 7th November 1909
Marriages a Hurley wedding 1912 (by Fr Thomas O'Gorman)
Looking through the "Rushden file" kept at Bishops House, Northampton there were a few letters from the different Priests to the Bishop of the time and they add bits of news about the Parish.
19 July '24 - a letter sent from the Rushden U.D.C. to Fr Lockyer enclosing a plan showing proposed improvements the Council would like to make affecting Hayway Corner (small widening of the road and a tree to be taken down)
24 July '24 - Canon Tonks from Northampton replies asking what the U.D.C. are prepared to pay! The U.D.C. reply was that they were not considering any purchase but would submit Tonks letter to the next meeting of the Highway Committee.
July 10th '31 - Fr F Nutt asks if he can have faculty to receive Ivy Mary Carter from "the error of Protestantism".
March 7th '31 - Fr Nutt writes to the Bishop applying to the Catholic Education Council for a grant to send Catholic children to Wellingborough School.
Nov 26th '30 - The Misses Carter of Kimbolton are moving to the Agents House in the Park and want permission to put a chapel there and erect an altar. The Bishops reply was to let them go ahead and transfer their chapel to the new house.
But, to look at the Bishops "file" we should start at the first of the letters which, for some reason or other, have been kept. They start :-
17th Oct 1922. Fr Lockyer thanks Bishop for his permission to have "leave" so that he can have a holiday. He says he called on a Fr Hughes and found him seriously ill. The Doctor was there and asked to speak to him he had said that Fr Hughes was critically ill but whilst he was not yet out of the wood, the Doctor had checked the cause of the problem and now only the effects needed to be cleared up. It had been highly infective and the Doctor insisted I heard Fr Hughes confession. I put a towel saturated with some antiseptic right over my face and made H. speak through a handkerchief similarly treated. It could be many weeks before he is ready to do anything. The letter finishes "with great reverence and filial regard and begging your blessing, I am, my dear Lord, Your faithful and obedient servant in Christ. Frederick Lockyer"
Nov 23rd 1923 Fr Lockyer wrote for a dispensation for a marriage and says, "Rushden is still Rushden, only poorer on account of unemployment".
Nov 27th 1923 A visitation took place and in the report we read, "Rushden is a little town with hardly any Catholics; the Parish is spread over many thousands of bare acres and I have children at Irthlingborough (4), Raunds (7), Kimbolton (11). For months together they do not see the Church and when the weather is bad or in wintertime, very little can be done. The instruction the children have is spasmodic; first Communions have to be in the Summer so I can get round myself and it will be a fair chance that the children will be able to get in on that day so it is with Confirmation.
14th Dec 1923 a painful letter to the Bishop …" despite my sordid poverty, my remission of money for outside works compares very favourably with wealthy and large places. My best man is a shoe hand, unemployed, often on short time. Short time and personal distress have ruled here for over three years. My collection at the two Masses is frequently less than a total of £1. My faithful handful do their level best and I cannot ask for more. Cheque sent
"What one has done for 10½ years and is still doing does not count what does matter is being accidentally late in sending in to Bishops Home is the second collection".
19th Feb '24 (Fr Lockyer to Bishop) … "Rushden is ravaged with flu. I have neuritis in the right arm, so writing is a torture. … with very great reverence and filial regard, Frederick W Lockyer".
24 Sept '24 (Fr Nutt has obviously just come). "I find plenty to do with one thing and another. People seem very friendly and willing". Fr Nutt made his Profession of Faith 13 Aug '24, so obviously we just made P.P. he was sent to Rushden, but it could easily have been either Gorlestone or March to which he was sent, so he reports
Feb '25. "I am still busy with the garden. It is hard and rough work but I have shaped it now".
29th Dec '25 Fr Nutt was approached by the people of Raunds about the possibility of a Mass there. There are about 20 Catholics. The Bishop says he will consider it and report back submitting his terms! The roof needed mending; he was flooded out here in Rushden.
13th Jan 1926 … "with reference to the guildroom I desire to erect, I find the sum of £200 with the £90 already in hand should clear all incidental expense. I will repay in not more than three years.
6th June 1926 Bishop opens the guildroom. A concert at 7pm … "a good party, not only of our own people but of distinguished townspeople. Dancing will follow, with a full orchestra, the concert when we will leave for dinner at 8.30pm.
17th June 1926 … "I have just formed a Men's and Women's Guilds. The former I expect will go well but I anticipate trouble from the women. If so, I shall not hesitate to disband them." The Bishop sent Fr Nutt £5 to keep with his holiday.
April 1st '29 Fr Nutt to Bishop … " I have had a bill for re-laying new water pipes from the mains for £13.15.9d. I have saved another £10 in labour by opening and filling in the ground myself. I am so hard pressed for funds and obligations I have to meet, so, may I draw £5 from Guild Funds. Every best wish for 1927"….
April 5th '29 Fr Nutt receives a cheque from the Bishop and replied, … "your little cheque far exceeded my most sanguine hopes and proved far more than I fear, I deserve"
July 13th '30 Catholic Education Council Collection was 14/7d. A grant had been received for £15 from this C.E.C. to help local children go to Wellingborough Catholic School
July 14th '30 The Bishop rebuked Fr Nutt for some reason. His excuse was excess of work; was busy the past six weeks painting and re-decorating every room, personally, as the Parish could not pay the price to have it done.
The letters in Bishops House "Rushden file" stops then. Maybe they were not kept once they had been answered, so lots of interesting tit-bits were, no doubt, lost.
From now on only just some few details will be noted, such as I can find.
Photograph and paper cutting from 27 May 1956
Chelveston cum Caldecot
Fr Edmund O'Gorman (1936-65)
The "Rushden Echo and Argus" June 1st 1956 records the following "On Sunday morning, members of St Peters Catholic Church, saw the happy culmination of 50 years planning, saving and waiting, when their own church was blessed and formally opened by Rt Rev T. Leo Parker. All this time, services have been held in the small hall attached to the Parish Priests house. By last September, enough funds had been raised to start building a £10,000 Church next to the hall… the building which is meant to accommodate 200 persons was filled to overflowing. Built by Robert Marriott Ltd, the architect Mr J S Comper (see cutting from paper among the log pictures)
Mass had been said in what is now the Sacristy for many years until the members demanded something bigger to accommodate them. Fr O'Gorman built a wooden hut in the garden (where the Parish hall is now) and the new Church, described above, replaced this hut.
The War period and just after the War
As much of the land round here was flat, the authorities decided that airfields could be built easily, with good access to Europe, so a large airfield was based at Podington and another at Chelveston cum Caldecott, both serviced by Americans. Many of these were Catholics and Mass was said regularly in both places. From 1942-45 the base was part of the 305th Bombardment Group. Four squadrons were based here the 422nd, 366th, 365th and 364th with attached units. They flew B17 Flying Fortresses as part of the U.S. 8th Air Force of the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. There were 480 missions flown by the group. 769 U.S. airmen were killed. A plaque to commemorate this is to be seen in the 13th century local church of St. John the Baptist. After the Americans left, the R.A.F. took over the camp and Mass was said each week by a Chaplain (or sometimes by Fr O'Gorman) until the camp was finally disbanded. There is still American base housing alongside the now extinct camp and families of Servicemen live here; and many come to Mass in Rushden rather than travel to other bases for Mass.
When the Americans left Podington, the housing was taken over by units of the Polish Second Army which was being demobilised at this time. This brought into the district large numbers of Poles, Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans, including some from the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. They stayed in the camps until they chose to move and found work in the Tanneries, the farms and the mines at Irthlingborough. Fr O'Gorman bought, through John Wilson of Wellingborough, an Estate Agent, the disused Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the High Street in Irthlingborough. Negotiations began 17th Jan 1961 and it was conveyed to the Diocese in July 1961. The Chapel had a Covenant on it … "not to be used for manufacture, distribution, sale or supply of intoxicating liquors, nor for the use of a public dance hall, nor for any form of gambling."
When the mines closed, much of the foreign labour moved away, and the members attending Mass dropped. By now Fr Harris was P.P. and he decided some of the walls were unsafe and decided therefore to sell the building. It is now used as a furniture auction room and appears to be in reasonable condition. So the Mass centre left Irthlingborough and was transferred to Sharnbrook. At one time there was at least 100 Catholics in the town until the numbers dwindled and Mass discontinued in Irthlingborough.
There are many Polish descriptions, with pictures and cuttings, of life at Podington Camp one excellent bookful was in the keeping of some Poles in Wellingborough, a Town in which many of the Polish people settled as they found work. One comes across photos of life in the camp in Polish houses in the Parish: often been tempted to ask for them, but they would be too precious to be given up.
So, Podington camp is now little more than a memory a happy memory for so many as it gave new hope to many hundreds of Poles whose lives and families had been ravaged by the 1939 start of the war, when they were invaded by both Germany and Russia.
Fr. John Harris (1965-76)
The Church built by Fr O'Gorman had become too small for the increasing number of people and Fr Harris organised its extension (D. J. Rawlings of Rushden were the builders) and pulled down the wooden hut to replace it with the Parish Hall and Social Club as a centre of Life for the Parish. This has become a focal point for the "activities" of the Parish and has been administered by a well-run Social Club committee. Meting there Scouts, Cubs, Guides, Brownies, over 60's club, U.C.M., socials of all kinds, concerts, with the lounge bar open each evening, it has been a boon.
Two or three elderly Priests came to live in the Presbytery as assistants a Fr Rogan (who was a Missionary, sent home from the Missions, who needed a Kidney machine), Fr Murtagh a late Vocation, and Mass was said in Irchester (St Katharine's). Sharnbrook village hall (to replace the Irthlingborough Mass centre) as well as the three Masses said in Rushden.
The Presbytery was completely modernised during this period and brought up to date. Efforts to acquire the School next door were made, the numbers of children in the Parish having increased by so many, but the Northants Educ. Cttee said no. So the younger children whose parents want a Catholic Education send them to Wellingborough, while the older ones go to Northampton.
Fr. Neville McClement (1976-80)
Canon Brian Frost (1980-91)
May 1981 - saw the Silver Jubilee of the Church. A special Mass had been composed and it was sung in the company of the Bishop, the two former P.P.s, many of the local non Catholic Clergy and a full Church. Confirmation the next day when 70 were Confirmed.
The Italian Priests in Bedford (Scalabriniani Fathers) have re-started an Italian Mass here, twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. There are still about 70-80 Italian families who came here in the 1950-1965 period to find work. They do not practice very regularly: but they are an integral part of the Parish, like the Poles.
1981 The Vicar of Sharnbrook happily lets us use the village Church for Mass, to replace the small hall, which has been used until now. He even changed the time of his Sunday Service to accommodate us at 9.15am. £250 per annum was promised him as a payment. Congregations of between 50-80 from Sharnbrook and many of the nearby villages make it a sensible Mass centre and a valuable one too. Mr Les Freeman has been driving the Priest there and back since the Mass centre first began.
1982 Highlight of this year was the visit of the Pope, John Paul II to England. Canon Frost was the liaison Priest for the Diocese and the Parish was, therefore, well up in the news of its planning and activities! The Parish Council organised coaches to take all who wanted to go to Coventry on Whitsunday; some of the choir sang with the assembled choirs; one of the Altar Servers, Tom O'Connor was given the privilege of being the Popes Mitre bearer; we have, now, in Parish possession a) a ciborium used at the Papal Mass, b) a white flower stand used in the decoration of the alter, c) a yellow and gold coloured umbrella used to shield one of the Priests distributing Holy Communion in the heat of the day and which is now used as an ombrellins for Holy Week Service.
Sept 82 A new Bishop, Frank Thomas, to replace retiring Bp. Grant.
1983 A lady (Mrs Bridget Shanley, Canon's Housekeeper) offered to replace the benches in the Church. These were odd ones, collected by Fr O'Gorman and Fr. Harris from many a place, as the church was being built and extended, different shapes and sizes and many uncomfortable (ex "chapel"). So the new ones were ordered, of Brazilian mahogany and costing £12,000.
A carpet was bought (with Parish funds) and kneelers at the alter rails, to complete the décor of the Church.
1983 The Pope had designated 1983-4 as an extraordinary Holy year: 1950 years since the Death and Redemption. Bishop asked Canon Frost to organise a Diocesan pilgrimage to Rome in October. Two planes took 240 people including 13 from Rushden. Nearly all the children were able to shake Holy Fathers hand as he went to his podium for the public audience, 17 Priests and the Bishop went.
Parish Mission in December given by the Catholic Missionary Society. 850 houses to be visited and the two Priests managed to get round Rushden and Higham but not time for the villages. The Bishop came for the first time since his Ordination and commissioned eight Parishioners as special ministers of the Eucharist.
In September, we began a Saturday 6.30pm Mass to replace the Sunday evening Mass. With 3 morning Masses and 1 evening one the Sunday "Mass load" was 4 Masses. This change will relieve the pressure a bit.
Peter Whelan, the Choirmaster, composed a Mass in honour of 150 years of S.V.P. and it had its first performance in September here in Rushden. Many S.V.P. Conferences from all over the Country were represented and we gave them a sherry reception in the club.
1984 It has been apparent for some while that the leather Industry and the boot and shoe industry is dying out. The shops here contain cheap shoes from places like Taiwan, Formosa, S. America where the cheaper labour and their Governments subsidies keep the prices low. Only seven or eight local factories remain: these make expensive shoes and are destined for a London or "abroad" market. Certainly very few Rushden people can afford to buy the shoes they are making (apart from the "seconds" or "rejects").
Tom O'Connor from Irchester began life at Oscott Seminary to try his vocation for the Priesthood. Mark O'Donnell is in his second year at the English College, Rome. Could be the first two priests to come from this Parish.
Started an "over 60's" Club. Meets 2.15 on Tuesdays in Parish hall and provides a pleasant outlet.
1985 In the summer a new electronic organ was installed to replace the very limited pipe organ. This latter had been made in Raunds over 80 years ago and when it was first used it had to be hand pumped. Later it was wired up so that it replaced the manpower with electricity. But with a small manual and only 4 stops, the choir found they needed something more substantial. So a Wyvern was bought at a cost of £4779.50 and the old one donated to St Margaret of Scotland Church in Farley Hill, Luton. One of the Parishioners, Mrs Francesca Verity offered to run in the London Marathon to raise funds for the new organ. She did and raised about £700.
In October, Mrs Noreen Higgins receives the Bene Merenti for long service, playing the organ for well over 40 years with a couple of weeks break as she had her babies. Canon Frost presented it on behalf of the Bishop. No records of this medal being given previously in the Parish can be traced, though at least Albert Magee and Les Finch received it in the past. In November Canon Frost became Chairman of Rushden Council of Churches.
1986 in January at the Week of Prayer for Church Unity, Bishop Thomas preached in St Mary's C of E Rushden and warmly received. A new public address system installed in the church to replace the old system which was, apparently, made originally for music but not for the spoken voice. Now there are no secluded places for a quiet doze during the sermon. We ran a "jumbulance" pilgrimage from here to Lourdes at a cost of about £4,000. Hoped it would be really ecumenical but apart from half a dozen Methodists, the others were Catholics. We raised our last promised £500 this year to help rebuild an orphanage in Mexico, which had been destroyed by an earthquake. The Rushden Feast the week the Fair people come to Rushden annually the Religious Service was re-started after it had fallen into abeyance over a number of years. About 400 came to the Dodgems track for an all Church Service.
Quinquennial report a new plan for the Diocese to examine all its properties every 5 years starts here in Rushden. Horrendous lot of things need doing. Diocese insists on oversight of structure to roofings and the job of doing this (to start in January next) is very nearly £20,000.
1987 A year when the Quinquennial action happens. Messrs Underwood and Weston (Northampton) did work on roof of Church where the flat roof needed attention, and the Club roof and related Sacristy roof plus other jobs at a cost of almost £20,000 + fees. Later in the year, Smith of Market Harborough put in a new ceiling to the Church as there was no insulation and the condensation was causing problems nearly £12,000 + fees. And whilst they were up there, they put a decorative moulding at the Architects designing. The artexing and painting of the ceiling was another £1,000: so we are in the red just.
This was the 400th anniversary of the execution, in nearby Fotheringhay, of Mary Queen of Scots. A big Catholic rally was organised and Mass said for her in the village Church on Feb 7th: the anniversary date. Zambia was our project this year and we sent out almost £1,000 to Sister Christina (Sister of our Noel Caldwell) to help with bringing water to a village in her Mission land.
Canon Frost went to Larmudiac (Kenya) with two young Parishioners, Kerry and Sean Harper at the invitation of the Bishop of Njoro, to open and bless the Church of "St.Peter on the Equator" we had helped to build. The local Parishioners, in their thanks gave picture from the Rushden Parish as a present. It hangs in the sacristy. Jumbulance again from here to Lourdes.
1988 In Rome, one of our Parishioners, Mark O'Donnell received the Diaconate. Mark is a student at the English College, Rome. He hopes to be ordained a Priest in Rushden next year. Some of the cills needed replacing in the Presbytery, so it was decided to double glaze whole house: to save, eventually, on the heating bills and the need of painting. It has made a great difference, and the cost was defrayed by a pious Parishioner. In December, Bishop Thomas died of cancer.
1989 In June, at Oscot Seminary, another of our young Parishioners received the Diaconate Tom O'Connor. We decided to repaint the Church: a colour scheme was devised by Marsdens Paints and Pat Landens did an excellent painting job. The bill of £1947.00 was taken on by the Morgan family from Keyston; John, Anna, Julia and Sheila who, very kindly, paid it all. Red-letter day was July 29th when Mark O'Donnell was ordained a Priest here. As we had no Bishop, we invited Bishop Crispian Hollis from Portsmouth to come and in a very moving ceremony; Mark joined the Priestly fraternity, saying his first Mass at 10.30am next day (a Sunday). The whole ceremony was filmed and videos offered to the Parishioners later. The first Priest to come from Rushden Parish and Mark was assisted by Tom O'Connor our newly ordained Deacon.
We decided to "do up" the Parish Hall/Club as the Parish was going to play the host to so many people and the overflow of the Church was to be in the Hall. New ceiling to help with insulation, new air extractors, total rewiring to bring it up to date with present regulations and new floor (fortunately a huge storm a few weeks earlier had wrecked the floor and the Insurance accepted their liability in replacing it), repapered, etc. Must be one of the best halls in the Diocese now. The bill horrific about £24,000.
1990 That led on to "doing up" the lounge area. New suspended ceiling, rewiring and decorations so the whole social club has now been updated.
June 22nd Another big day for the Parish when Tom O'Connor is ordained a Priest. The newly installed Bishop Les McCartie came to do the ordaining and 60-70 Diocesan Priests came to welcome Tom into the Presbyterate. A lovely Friday evening with a suitable reception in the Hall afterwards and a Parish present of £515 to help Tom on his way. He will begin his Priestly ministry as an assistant at Bedford.
1991 March saw the Silver Jubilee of the U.C.M. Evening Mass and a buffet/party in the Hall with many guests from foundations all over the Diocese. Another party for the 40th anniversary of the Ordination in Rome of Brian Frost. Decorations in Hall/Lounge now complete looks good.
Five more Eucharistic Ministers were commissioned to help take Holy Communion to the sick.
April Canon Brian Frost is moved to Kettering and in his place comes Fr. Roger Edmunds, the Bishops Secretary, to his first appointment as a Parish Priest.