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The Argus, 20th October 1916, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden Parish Church in 1816

I am trying to give a picture of Rushden Church and its services 100 years ago.

Entering by the old north wooden gate, the people would pass the old Workhouse and the Clerk’s House which stood on the site of the present Vestry Hall, which were pulled down in 1874. The old twelve-apostle-trees were all standing then with the (so-called) “Judas” about the centre. Sheep used to graze in the church-yard in those days, and perhaps the chief ringer would be conducting the chiming. The people would enter the porch through the wooden gates (no doubt similar to those to the south porch at Wellingborough Parish Church); perhaps the old lady who used to live in the parvise (or room) over the porch would come down her wooden ladder (which was there until about 30 years ago) and unlock the gates and the door. They would find the church in a very dilapidated state at that time—seats and floor decayed, windows in bad condition. It would be heated by a stove in winter; candles were used for lighting. The sounding-board over the pulpit, I suppose, was there. The “King’s Arms” might be seen fixed on the west wall. No organ, no gallery—only one for the school children in the north transept, against the north window. The small door in the west side of the transept was then used. The choir present, perhaps, were Tom, Jim, and Tim Bolton, Tom Litchfield, and Will Bridgeford (as Charles Marriott left on record). I question whether there was any instrument with the exception of a pitch pipe, if that is called one. I may, perhaps, possess the identical one, bit i think it belonged to Higham Ferrers. The parson, I suppose, would appear in a black gown—at any rate for the sermon. The reading-desk and pulpit would each have a large cushion with a fringe. Most likely a curate or an officiating minister would attend for the service rather than the Rector, as the latter seldom put in an appearance in those days. The Clerk (John Packwood) would be there to say “Amen.” It must have been grand to have heard Tom, Jim, and Timothy and the rest sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel, and Purcell’s “O give thanks,” as Charles Marriott recorded they used to sing. The services were usually held in the morning and afternoon, and no doubt the inmates (or some of them) used to attend from the Poorhouse. Service over, the old men, wearing smockfrocks, breeches, and leggings, and the old ladies, mostly in black or print dresses and poke bonnets, would wend their way quietly home, with nothing to excite them on their way—no bands, no processions of Constables, Scouts, or Girl Guides, no motors or bicycles to upset them, very rarely a vehicle of any kind, especially on a Sunday. The middle of the road was almost as clear and safe as the footpath—not even a policeman to be seen, not, perhaps a parish constable in plain clothes, unless something unusual happened; no recreation ground to take a stroll in after dinner, no trains to travel by; all peace and quiet. But they perhaps had one grievance—the open fields and common lands had not very long been enclosed, which may have interfered with their accustomed rambles. But I think they were very happy a hundred years ago.

J Enos Smith – 22 Church-street.

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