In the forefront of the Group Backgroundsupposing the background to be held at a suitable anglestands Rushden. Such a town could probably stand without assistance, but, just to make sure, we have on our left the ancient borough of Higham Ferrers, on our right the Northants-Bedfordshire boundary, and at our pivotal point a goodly office neatly labelled "Evening Telegraph."
At the fourth strategic point we smell printer's ink, hear the clickety-clack of jobbing activity, and read "N.P. & P.Co."
There are boot factories tooso many that you might think Rushden existed on boots. Your perspicacity is amazing, for boots it is, and practically nothing else industrially save allied leather.
They say that Higham Ferrers alone makes enough leather each year to lay a carpet from the borough to Londonbut they never say how wide the carpet would be. Taking Rushden and Higham together, they might also say that no district in the world makes more footwear in proportion to the population, and this is probably true. We have mentioned population. It's 16,000 odd at Rushden and 4,000 odd at Higham. Just how odd? Well, you shall see.
If you are Mayor of Higham Ferrers you become very serious on official occasions and beautifully benevolent in between, because you represent century upon century of pomp and circumstance. You descend in spirit from William de Ferrers, the entire House of Lancaster and one Henry Chichele, who was Archbishop of Canterbury five hundred years ago. Once upon a time your borough had markets, an M.P., and everything to match.
Should your sense of values weaken when you read the latest Census return, you have only to go out and look at the period Market Square (which is really triangular), some venerable ecclesiastical and once-collegiate buildings, and the mellow demostic architecture.
Should doubt still linger, just mention Chichele and call your townsman a burgess. Watch his well-trained response. Note how he glances sharply over his shoulder to see if Rushden is still there. If you are chairman of Rushden Urban Counciland somebody has to beyou must know the story of the quiet little village which apparently behaved itself very well until around 1880, when, with Industrial Revolution in its veins, it tumbled into an era of expansion. You must know about the sudden rise of streets and factories; about the opinion, which spread and remained, that Rushden was progressive and enterprising and had strong men of business.
In your heart of hearts, however, you will perceive that Rushden's rush captured prosperity rather than refinement.
It missed the style of leisurely development, the lay-out of cool planning. It failed to secure status in education and the official services generally. There is no court of justice, no fully-fledged post-office, no train on Sunday, no income tax office, no market. Too often it's go to Wellingborough, go to Northampton, or go to blazes. And so we could go on; but we won't, because we want you to picture and, if you can, respect and appreciate this robust, hard-working community astride the A6 road.
With its memories of John of Gaunt hunting in the park and of Thomas Britton setting forth to sell coal and organise music in London the Rushden of to-day is healthily predisposed toward sport and music. It has genuine local teams, notable choirs and brass bands. Its business leaders make headlines in the trade circles. Once in a while it throws up an H. E. Bates. There is friendliness abroad, and a lack of pretence. The local accent, as lyricised by R.W.N., could hardly be worse, but the neighbourly loyalty could hardly be better.
There is much herding together in working men's clubs, much dancing in the extensive Windmill Hall, much banding into committees and societies, much mass feeding at annual dinners, much doing in the parks, much pride in Rushden Hall (Elizabethan, town-owned) and much satisfaction when Rushden outshines the more privileged townsnot an uncommon event.
And how stand scions of the local Pressthe famous Group? In truth, we hardly stand at all. There is every facility for sitting, and when not sitting we are in eager motion toward this and that, sometimes using a semi-motor bike or female sporting pedal-cycle. Two of us usually walk, and one of us has a much-admired carriage of the non-vehicular type.
The two towns read us and seem satisfied. When they aren't, we blame it on to Kettering. And why not? L.V.E.