|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 10th December, 1948, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Forgotten Drain Solves a Problem
Discovery Ends Flood Mystery
Council workmen who dug a hole in the road near 77, Newton Road, Rushden, found the solution to a problem which has been puzzling the local authorities for some months. Beneath the Paving of Rushden streets they found gold – or rather an old drain which will save the town the cost of a new sewer.
The romance of their discovery is revealed in the formal, printed minutes of Rushden Urban Council, who met on Wednesday, and it is the sort of reading that makes councillors sit bolt upright in their oak chairs.
Broken down into simple English, the story is this.
At No. 77, Newton Road, rain always brought a flooded cellar and when the Council minutes were presented on April 14th, the Clerk reported that the tenant had complained. He also said that the property was owned by the County Council, and that though there had been much correspondence and several meetings between officials of the two authorities, these had not resulted in improved conditions.
The Surveyor and Sanitary Officer then came into the picture. They reported to the Health and Sanitary Committee, and the councillors decided that the County Council should be asked to deal with the matter immediately. Any question of liability or the cause of the flooding should be disposed of later, they said.
It was in July that the Clerk reported that the matter would be referred to the County Architect.
The Sanitary Inspector said that no further work had been carried out at the premises.
“Further strong representations shall be made to the County Council,” said the committee. They were getting worried over the floods and the coming winter, for they also requested that the Medical Officer of Health should make an inspection and should send a report to the County Council about the condition of the premises.
All that was reported in October was: “A letter was received from the County Council as to steps which have been taken with regard to these premises, and the committee decided to defer further consideration of the matter in the hope that the action proposed by the County Council may result in an early improvement at the premises.”
Then, after last month’s Council meeting, the councillors went into committee to hear the first words which spelled action.
They were told that there had been a meeting between representatives of the two authorities and there was possibility of an agreement to construct a subsidiary sewer at an estimated cost of £225.
The Council agreed that their men should set to work to construct a subsidiary sewer in Newton Road for the “drainage of subsoil water in the vicinity of Newton Road and Cromwell Road.”
They made a condition that the County Council should agree to contribute 50 per cent of the cost of the works, the sum to include the money which the County Council had expended in their investigations at the site.
All was now set for the grand climax.
The Surveyor reported on Wednesday and the councillors read: “Upon the commencement of works for the construction of a subsidiary sewer in Newton Road, an existing drain, of which no records were available, had been disclosed. Upon the removal of an obstruction of this drain, the flooding at No. 77, Newton Road, had subsided. Accordingly no further action was taken for the purpose of constructing a subsidiary sewer.”
Instead the plan now is to build a manhole, and the estimated cost is £30.
“There is nothing to say about it,” was the answer of the Surveyor when asked about the proceedings which have taken nine months according to the Council minutes. “It is a matter between us and the County Council, and it has been settled quite amicably. It was an old drain and we found it, that’s all.”
But to Mrs. G. A. Collings, who lives at No. 77, it was not quite all.
“This started in October, 1946, the night we had a terrible thunderstorm,” she told us. “My husband said, ‘Has a water main burst? We are knee deep in the cellar.’
“My husband and son were baling water out for seven hours. We did not know then what we know now, because we were wasting our time. The water reached a certain height and then stopped.
“And every time we have had a severe rainstorm we have been knee deep in water, and every time I said it came from out here by the road.
“We kept getting visits from everyone. The Architect came and the Surveyor. They had the house drains up and they tested them. They dug holes in my garden. They were going to put a drain in the cellar, but they never did, and the hole remained in my garden for six months.
“It was just the two Councils fighting as to who was to foot the bill. How or what brought the two Councils together at the finish I don’t know.”
Mrs. Collings then told how the work had been begun on the sewer, and how the old drain had been uncovered. “A man actually put a pick through a pipe which they did not know was there. The poor fellow was nearly drowned. They unblocked the pipe and the water ran out of my cellar as though it was running out of a sink.
“It has been a nightmare to me. It has been on my mind night and day. We had to go in the water to get the coal and put money in the meter, and we had to put waders on to do it for two years and one month.”
Mrs. Collings claims, not surprisingly, that her rheumatism has not improved as a result of having a private swimming pool six bricks deep in the cellar. “When my little boy started to have rheumatism I thought it was time I kicked,” she said. “And I did. It has taken 10 years of my life.”
In spite of her troubles, Mrs. Collings speaks of the County Council as excellent landlords.