Rushden Echo & Argus, 16th January, 1953, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Unseen by the great majority of Rushden people during the
last 30 years, the interior of Rushden’s old Public Hall is being transformed for use as a dance and banqueting hall. At the
end where workmen are seen a gallery stood for many years.
Town’s oldest hall becoming ‘new’
Rushden’s almost exclusive setting for its social and political life at the turn of the century, the old Public Hall, latterly a billiards saloon, is on the verge of a third stage in its career.
Extensive alterations are in progress to equip the room at the Waverley Hotel for the role of up-to-date hall for dining and dancing. Up to 200 people will be accommodated at a meal.
It was a meal that gave the Public Hall its send-off in 1882 a dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire for 1s. 6d. Canon Barker, often described as the “founder of modern Rushden” was the instigator of the old Coffee Tavern Company which had the hall built and gave way, about 1928, to the Waverley Temperance Hotel, Ltd.
The first 30 years were marked by red-hot enthusiasm for politics. Rushden was already keen on socials, theatricals and charities. Patriotic concerts were frequent during the Boer War. Teas and socials helped to finance the National Schools of Rushden.
Travelling theatre companies, in addition to the local Amateur Dramatic Society, found Rushden’s Public Hall a profitable venue. Miss Maggie Morton’s Company appeared in “stirring military dramas,” and on these occasions it was always reported that “the building was filled to overflowing.”
A few days after Miss Morton’s visit it would perhaps be the turn of Mr. G. Egerton Burnett’s Company in pantomime such as “Dick Wittington,” presented in December, 1900 followed by the Amateur Dramatic Society in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Political meetings were congested and noisy affairs, though Mr. F. A. Channing, M.P. (afterwards Sir Francis), could usually obtain a fair hearing. In the 1900 Parliamentary election his visit to the Public Hall was described as “the most remarkable political demonstration ever seen in Rushden.”
Public dances, particularly fancy dress balls, socials and teas were in progress every week. There were frequent religious meetings too, and churches used the hall for bazaars.
In the 1920’s the hall became a billiards saloon a popular meeting place for the youth of the town. Little was done to the room after installing the five tables until the reconstruction started last November.
The hall is being transformed in a colour scheme of blue, peach and mushroom. The stage will have a suntan front with rust drapes; there will be rust tapestry curtains at the windows and light oak furnishings. There are 12 hanging lights and wall brackets, and new heating is being installed. Dressing rooms and a newly-erected stairway (in place of the old gallery) lead on to the main floor, which is being re-laid by a London firm of specialists.
The Waverley Hall opens for a round of dinners and parties in March, but some dances may be held before then.