I am trying to give a picture of Rushden Church & 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 was 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 [open space in front of church], or the room over the Porch would come down the wooden ladder (which was there until about 30 years ago) and unlock the gates & the door, they would find the church in a very dilapidated state at that time, seats & 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 for the school children in north transept against north window, the small door in west side of transept was then used. The choir present perhaps were Tom, Jim & 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 (but 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 & Pulpit would each have a large cushion with long 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 A---men. It must have been grand to have heard Tom, Jim & Timothy & 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 mornings & afternoons & no doubt the inmates (or some of them) used to attend from the Poorhouse.
Service over, the old men wearing Smockfrocks, Breeches & Leggings, and the old ladies mostly in black, in [fruit] dresses & [pak] Bonnetts, would wend their way quietly home, with nothing to excite them on their way, no bands, no procession of Constables, Scouts, or Girlguides, 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 & quiet, but they perhaps had one grievance, the Open Fields & Common Lands had not very long been enclosed which may have interfered with them accustomed rambles, but I think they were very happy a 100 years ago.
J Enos Smith, August 1916