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St. Mary's Church Tower & Spire
Sketch by Grace Claridge Funds raised
Sketches by Grace Claridge - (right) used for a Church Christmas Card
Keeping track of the funds raised

pencil
Pencil sold in aid of "Rushden St Mary's Church Spire Fund"

The Wellingborough News, 23rd May, 1902, transcribed by Jim Hollis

The Church Tower
Rushden people will note with satisfaction that the work of restoring the fine tower of the Parish Church has already been taken in hand. Scaffolding has been erected, and the work will be at once proceeded with. Some five or six years ago it was considered advisable to discontinue the ringing of the bells, and this has been followed out except upon rare occasions. Messrs. Brown and Fisher, after a thorough examination of the structure, have recommended the pointing of the tower and other repairs. The estimated cost is £500, and Mr. R. Marriott, builder, Rushden, has been instructed to carry out the required work. [see also Samuel Ball]

The Wellingborough News, 7th November, 1902, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Parish Church
After standing for three or four months, the scaffolding erected for the purpose of repairing the tower of the Rushden Parish Church has this week been entirely removed, and the inhabitants have the satisfaction of knowing that the edifice has been made secure. It will be remembered that Mr. Talbot Brown reported to the Church Council that the ironwork which held the four angle pinnacles and flying buttresses was a source of danger, through rust and expansion splitting the stones. He recommended that this should be removed and the stone-work re-set where required, and also that the whole of the tower should be thoroughly examined and repaired. The work was entrusted to Mr. Marriott, who has carried out the work to the satisfaction of all concerned. The Urban Council also took advantage of the scaffolding to have the clock faces re-gilded, and this remains as a bright reminder of the improvements effected. The completion of the work comes at an opportune time, seeing that on Saturday a series of meeting commence which will make the church a centre of special interest, Canon Lester, of Lichfield, assisted by others, entering upon a special evangelistic mission.


Rushden Echo, 13th September 1918

Church Spire—The repair of the church spire has been commenced this week, and ladders have been affixed. The work is being carried out under the direction of Mr. A. H. Bowen, of Edmonton, and an ascent of the spire revealed that the damage is more extensive than had been anticipated, the masonry in all probability having been struck by lightning. It will probably be some two or three weeks before the work is completed. In addition to the work on the masonry, a new lightning conductor will have to be fixed, and the total cost is estimated at over £100, and we hope a liberal response will be made to the Rector’s appeal for a good collection on Feast Sunday. Our beautiful church spire—perhaps the most beautiful in this county of beautiful spires—is a precious possession to the town of Rushden, and its good repair may well be thought to concern the whole town. The Rector will be glad to receive donations from any friends interested in the preservation of the church spire, irrespective of creed or denomination. The various dates of the restoration of the spire are marked on the masonry, the earliest being 1498 A.D.  Intervals of a century of the following restorations are as follow: 1620, 1719, 1885, and 1918. The probably date of the erection of the spire would be about A.D. 1400.


The Rushden Echo and Argus, 11th July 1952, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Church Appeal for £3,500
An appeal for £3,500 for repairs to the spire, belfry and clock of Rushden St. Mary’s Church is to be made shortly. Recent examinations of the spire by an architect have brought to light the fact that repairs are urgent and that in its present state the spire is dangerous.

Badly cracked stone in the top portion of the spire will necessitate taking it down to the level of the highest sill of the spire lights and re-building. A number of crockets will have to be replaced, and repairs to the pinnacles are also urgent. Included in the many incidental jobs to be carried out will be the re-gilding of the weathercock.

Lowering Belfry
Work on the spire will cost £1,370, but a further £898 has been earmarked for work on the belfry. This work will entail lowering the belfry several feet almost to the level of the clock tower.

The belfry will be supported by two sets of foundation girders, the ends of which will be built in the strong part of the tower. Weight and strain will be distributed equally over the four walls.

A further suggestion is for the bells to be re-hung in a specially constructed cast iron frame and up to date fittings so as to reduce stress and strain on the tower to a minimum.

Finally the sum of £260 for dismantling the clock and re-fixing in a new position is required. Work not included in the price submitted will amount to £200-£250

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 1st August 1952, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rector launches £3,500 Spire Fund appeal
To the townsfolk of Rushden, the Rector (the Rev. E. A. Green) is now launching the appeal for a £3,500 Spire Fund for St. Mary’s Church. Personal letters will be sent through the post during the next few days.

The Rector writes: “A recent inspection of the spire of St Mary’s Church has revealed that it is in a dangerous condition, and urgent and expensive repairs must be carried out at once. It was with a view to re-hanging the church bells, which have not been properly rung for over 30 years, which the inspection of the spire was made. It is hoped that this will be possible when the repairs have been carried out, the whole work to cost £3,500, but the main and urgent need, apart from re-hanging the bells, is the work which must be put in hand at once, to save the spire.

For 700 Years
“It is I am sure, unnecessary for me to emphasise what the Parish Church of Rushden, with one of the most beautiful and stately spires in the county, means to the town. Every one of our townsfolk is proud of this marvellous heritage, which has stood for over 700 years as a monument of devotion to God on the part of those who erected it to His glory, and has come down to us for our use, and to preserve for future generations.

“So the appeal for this large sum is made in the confidence that all will respond willingly and generously for the Spire Fund, which has now been launched. We hope it may be possible to put the work in hand at once, and to have it completed, with the bells re-hung, in time for them to ring out a joyous Coronation peal, on that great occasion.

“Please send your gift to me personally, to the Church Wardens, or to Lloyds Bank, and it will be gratefully acknowledged.”

Work on the spire is expected to cost £1,370, but a further £898 has been allocated for work on the belfry. The dismantling of the clock and re-fixing in a new position will cost £260 and finally, work not included in the price submitted will amount to £200-£250.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 8th August 1952, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Moves to Save Spire - Early response to Rector’s appeal
Rushden’s campaign to save the noted 14th century spire of St. Mary’s Church from decay and possible collapse, has begun to make headway in spite of holiday distractions.

The £3,500 scheme, which also provides for bringing the bells into full use after many years of restricted service, was launched by the Rector (Rev. Edwin A. Green) in an appeal issued last week.

Some encouraging donations have already been received and the Rector tells of incidents revealing the deep interest of townspeople.

“I am grateful to you,” he writes, “for so kindly giving publicity to this appeal through the columns of your paper. Although many are at present away on holiday, some response has already been made and one who has sent a generous gift has also written these lines, which I think you will agree are worthy of publication.”

The tribute mentioned by the Rector is as follows:

With what industrious loving care
The stately edifice was reared,
Stone placed on stone with patient toil,
Until the finished fane appeared,
Then with what mingled pride and joy
The sacred house of God was viewed;
And may not we, who guard that trust,
With the same spirit be imbued?
So may we play our lesser part
This glorious heritage to restore,
That generation yet unborn
May worship in it as of yore.

Shillings Help
The Rector also reports that a lady in charge of High Street business premises read about the campaign and in a few days collected £10 in shillings for the fund.

It may be recalled that last year’s “Pageant of Rushden” introduced a 14th century scene with these lines:-

Three centuries pass by, and Risedene stands
Much where it did though well-directed hands
Have built and built again, to raise a pile
With wondrous spire, and spanned from aisle to aisle
By stone that’s arched and worked with beauteous grace
That men might worship in a fitting place.
The monks of Lenton chose a goodly site
Whereto on raft and horseback came the white
Of Ketton stone to blend with bands of brown
That yet bear witness in their native town.

The scene was dated 1372 – only a short time after the spire had been added to the church.

Ringing The Bell
When Rushden people return from holiday it will not be long before many of them receive – if they have not done so already – the Rector’s circular letter about the preservation of St. Mary’s Church spire. A fund of £3,500 is needed, and it is rightly assumed that all sections of the community together with natives now watching the town from afar, will feel that they have a share in the responsibility.

Should there be any doubt, I may mention that I have read the reports of the architect and steeplejack, which show the restoration work to be urgent and the condition of the spire actually serious. The architect had a series of photographs made and these are only too eloquent. In one place daylight is visible through an interstice between stonework.

The second aim of the appeal is, of course the re-hanging of the bells in a strengthened tower and mount and I am glad to see that interest in this long-desired improvement has been quickened by the assembling and training of a new and young team of bell-ringers.

From boyhood I have heard so often about the tower being weak and the full ringing of the bells being impossible that the story seemed like a legend for all time. Now happily, the Rector is suggesting “it may be the church bells will ring a Coronation peal.”

Although a holiday week is hardly the time for donations to be booming, the Rector was in optimistic mood on Wednesday. He had been much encouraged by early reactions to the appeal and had no doubt that the main “flow” was imminent.

…………….

15th August 1952

Pensioner Helps To Save Spire
An anonymous gift of £50 has been received this week by the Rector of Rushden (the Rev. E. A. Green) towards the St. Mary’s Church Spire Appeal for £3.500.

Business firms in the town have been making generous donations, and there have been gifts from old age pensioners. One contribution of £25 was from “a former parishioner.”

About one pensioner who stopped him in the street to ask if he was too proud to accept a gift there and then – and passed a note into his hand – the Rector told the “Echo and Argus”: “I don’t mind how often I am held up for this purpose. If those who are able will give as generously as the anonymous donor and the many will give in the spirit of the old age pensioner, the work will soon be in hand and the money in the bank to foot the bill.”

……………..

22nd August 1952

Her Watch for Church Spire Fund
Perhaps the most remarkable gift yet received toward Rushden St. Mary’s Church Spire Appeal Fund has arrived in the form of a beautiful gold watch. It was sent to the Rector (the Rev. E. A. Green) by a woman who, he says, “Has little of this world’s goods.” A family treasure, she has asked for it to be sold for “the use of the Church and the glory of God.”

Another contribution has come from a man who says that he had forsaken his Sunday worship for a walk but that the sound of the church bells brought him back again.

The sum already subscribed is steadily mounting, the Rector told the “Echo and Argus.”

Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 7th October 1952

Taking Top From 190-Feet Spire - Rushden Church Alterations

SHORN of its summit the spire of Rushden Parish Church which is over 190-ft. high, is to undergo its first major reconstruction for many years. Soon scaffolders will begin to remove further stonework until the top 23-ft. are dismantled.

The work involved is to cost £3,500 and since an appeal was launched a little over two months ago £3,195 has been subscribed, a magnificent response in the view of the rector (the Rev. E. A. Green).

One of the main tasks is the rehanging of the bells to which it is intended to add two more making a full peal of eight. Peals have not been rung at the church for 40 years—bells have only been chimed—and it is hoped the work will be completed in time for Coronation peals. When the new bells are cast they may carry an inscription noting Coronation year. A team of ringers will be ready, for they practice regularly at Higham Ferrers. The bells will be hung in a steel frame at a low level which will help further to safeguard the spire, which is regarded as one of the loveliest examples of crocketed work in the county.

It is intended to raise the clock and add another dial and a scheme for illuminating the two faces is being considered. The clock is regarded as a public clock and providing Ministerial permission is forthcoming the Urban Council will pay for the work on it.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 10th April 1953, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Spire Tradition is Shattered - Shock result of measurement

This is a sad story for Rushden eyes. It might be headed “How Have the Mighty Fallen,” or “Taking Rushden Down a Peg or Two.” To our sorrow and dismay it takes Rushden’s church spire down a cool 28 feet.

Through goodness knows how many decades – or it may have been centuries – any loyal son of Rushden who knew his local data would reply proudly to the inevitable question, “What’s the height of your parish church spire?”

The answer was “One hundred and ninety-two feet.”

It had an impressive sound … Nearly 200 feet, or half the height of Salisbury Cathedral.

Mr Fleeman with the weathercock
Taken down from its lofty perch when restoration work began, the weathercock of St. Mary’s had long been supposed to reside at a height of 192 feet above ground. It returned to in the splendour of new gilt, only to find that the spire had been measured and was no more than 164 feet. Mr. G. E. V. Fleeman, a churchwarden, fondled the bird consolingly on Wednesday afternoon, and the steeplejacks will take it aloft in a few days. In the meantime the weathercock, with four small turret vanes of similar design, can be inspected at the Vestry Hall. It bears the inscription: “Blackburn, Nottingham, 1885. Repd. by Furse Nottm., 1953.”
And why not? Seen from near the railway bridge the grand old steeple rivalled any picture postcard view from any other town. Viewed from the Church Parade, with neck craned back, it had no limit.

Just a legend on which thousands of us have been brought up? Not at all. It was not by any means hearsay, but something which could be read in book after book – the Victorian histories, the Edwardian directories, the popular guides. There is no hint of error.

The Brick
Then came 1946, and a brick was dropped. In his book called “Church Spires of Northamptonshire” Mr. L. G. H. Lee, of Raunds, wrote this: “The Victoria County History gives a total of 192 feet. This would make the spire the second highest in the county, but there is little doubt that some error has been made. It is probably much nearer to 160 feet.”

One brick – rather easily put aside but not so easy to forget entirely.

Quite recently “Mister Cobbler” of the “Rushden Echo and Argus” happened to see the Council surveyor’s theodolite and suggested that a measurement of the steeple’s height might be taken. It also occurred to him that the steeplejacks now working on the spire could make a direct measurement by plumb line.

Surveyor Alex Millar needed no persuasion. With an assistant he took the theodolite out on Tuesday, made careful observations and noted the result. This was from a position 260 feet from the base of the tower.

Not wishing to cause pain and distress he checked up from a second position 80 feet from the base. The result was the same.

From the finial at the tip of the spire to the ground at the west porch the distance was 164 feet.

No more, no less. All that can possibly be done about it is to add the two-foot weathercock, which the steeplejacks intend to do within a few days.

The impression of height, Mr. Millar observed, is increased by the fact that the church stands 10 feet above road level.

Final Proof
“Perhaps you will still like to ask the steeplejacks to go up with a plumb-line,” he added.

We did, feeling that the chance of correction, however slender, must not be missed.

On Wednesday, therefore, we bought an enormous length of string, handed it to steeplejack Gerald Vardy, and hoped for the best.

Gerald tied an iron weight to the string, monkeyed to the top staging and held his line well wide of the finial, giving a practically vertical drop. Another steeplejack, behind the balustrade, held the weight to the tower roof, and Gerald, up aloft, cut off the spare string.

The same line was used to measure the tower and proved to be too long, showing contrary to general belief, that the spire is longer that the tower. A knot was made where the surplus began, and with fast-beating heart we bore the fateful line to the office.

Yard by yard the string was measured and re-measured. The result? Spire: 87 feet. Tower: 77 feet. Total: 164 feet.

One of the steeplejacks, who calculates by his ladders, says he doesn’t believe it. We wish we didn’t, for what will Raunds (190 feet) say? And Higham Ferrers (175 feet)?

And Mr. L. G. H. Lee?

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 17th April 1953, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Spire appeal: £3,500 raised in 100 days
“It has been a wonderful year and I am sure we have all seen the way in which prayer is answered and to me that is the most important thing of all,” said the Rector of Rushden (the Rev. E. A. Green) at St. Mary’s annual parochial meeting last week after congratulations had been voiced on the response to the spire appeal – £3,500 in 100 days.

“On the financial side,” said the rector, “you have seen the total sum raised is £5,370 and as far as the spire fund is concerned as I have said it was definitely the result of answered prayer.”

Mr. F. Andrews, rector’s warden, said there was great rejoicing in the parish and a great deal of it was due to the rector.

Mr. W. Clifton then proposed and it was unanimously agreed that the rector’s work during the appeal should be recorded in the minutes.

Revised Estimates
At the close of the business the rector announced that he had no less than three revised estimates for the repair work on the spire, bells and clock and disclosed that £4,724 would now be required instead of the £3,500 originally estimated.

The clock, he said, instead of costing an estimated £415 would require £803. The Urban Council which had agreed to finance alterations, including the provision of a second dial as the town’s Coronation memorial, at a cost not exceeding £425 had replied “with regret” that they could not accept any further responsibility.

Strong opinions were voiced at the meeting that they were now in the position of having to find another £400 for something they were not responsible for – the second dial “memorial.”

Mr. G. E. V. Fleeman (treasurer) said that the budget for 1953 showed that general expenditure would be £1,905; anticipated receipts (including £800 from the Share Plan) would bring in £1, 650, leaving £255 to be raised by special efforts.

Northampton Mercury & Herald, 25th June 1954

Bird’s-Eye View—From 164-feet

Mr. Peter White, verger at St. Mary’s Church, is one of few Rushden people who have had a bird’s-eye view of the district from the top of the tower.

He climbed up there recently while workmen were making alterations at the top of the 164-ft. Structure.

“I had a marvellous view and could see Wellingborough and Finedon easily,” he said. “Peterborough Cathedral was also in site along the valley.

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