|The History and Antiquities of Higham Ferrers, with Historical Notices of Rushden, and Irthlingborough - 1838, John Cole
John Cole's - History of Rushden 1838
Rushden in Domesday-book written Risdene, is situated in the county of Northampton, but on the borders of Bedfordshire, having Knotting and Wimmington in that county on the south and west, while Higham Ferrers on the north is the contiguous parish, and Newton Bromswold and Chelston are its boundaries on the East. Rushden is distant from London, sixty-four miles; from Northampton, fifteen; from Bedford, thirteen; and from Higham Ferrers, about one mile.
The principal part of the village is on high ground; the collegiate edifice forms one of an effective series of spired churches, embellishing the distant landscape, along an elevated range of upland, richly diversified with pasturage and woodland scenery. The church-yard of Rushden commands a pleasing view down a luxuriant valley, beyond which, rising hills stretch far away in retiring beauty, and being well wooded afford a fine prospect from this elevated scene of mortality.
The appearance of the village itself is truly picturesque, and about a mile in extent, the houses being irregularly placed in all directions, somewith their gables to the street; others retreating, and are here and there intersected by orchards, and interspersed with straggling shrubs; and rural lanes strike off from the principal street to an interesting vale, along which a clear stream winds its variously meandering course, having rustic bridges thrown over it; and being occasionally belted by plantations, with cottages on its winding margin, orchards near the stream, a planted nook of forest trees, outbuildings to give effect, and a farmhouse to characterise the spot; while the tall spire of the church occasionally graces the scene, from a green, lawn-like opening; at another bend of the rippling brook, the water impetuously murmurs as it forms a characteristic cascade, diverging into two streams, and near it the road curves off to the ascending hill, forming the elevated green mount in front of the tall and elegant spire of the church. Such and so rural is 'our village'. This, it must be confessed, is but the bright side of the picture; as, in winter, wet and dirty lanes, with trees divested of their foliage, furnish little or no interest, but to the devotee of nature.
At the time of the Conquerer's survey, Risdene was a member of Hecham manor. Here were six hides; the arable land was twelve carucates in the hands of nineteen socmen. There was a mill rented yearly at xs. and thirty acres of meadow. In the sixth year of Hen III a fine was levied between Sara the daughter of Warine Falconer, demandant, and Henry Billing and Wemar, his wife, deforciants, of a moiety of three virgates of land in Rischeden to the use of the said Henry Billing. By the inquisition taken in the same reign, Henry Billing was certified to hold a sixth part of one Knight's fee in Risden of William, Earl Ferrers, of the honour of Peverel. In the thirty-fifth year of Edw I it was in the hands of Richard Faber, who held it of the Earl of Lancaster. In the ninth year of Edw II the Earl of Lancaster was Lord of Rushden. Upon collecting the aid for knighting the King's son, in the twentieth of Edward III, William de Brabasoun accounted for a sixteenth part of one Knight's fee here, of the Earl of Ferrers, of the honour of Peverel. In the thirty-fifth year of the same reign, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, by licence from the crown, conveyed the manor of Rushden, with the manors of Higham and Raundes in trust to the Bishop of Lincoln and others. Coming to the crown, as part of the Duchy of Lancaster, Edw IV in the fifteenth year of his reign levied a fine of it. It was afterwards settled in Charles II's time on the Queen Dowager Catherine, but reverting at her decease, now remains a part of the Duchy of Lancaster; and, under the duchy, the manor is at present held by Charles Higgins, Esq. of Turvey, Bedfordshire.
In Rushden, according to Bridges, are three sorts of land; freehold of which there is but little; bondhold or born, native tenura, the old writings call it; and copyhold, which is nearly four-fifths of the lordship. The bornhold land pays double rent, and double fine to the crown; the copyhold is gavel kind.
Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, consists of a nave, north and south aisles, running parallel with the eastern window, transepts, north and south; choir; north, south and west porches; and an octangular turret at the north angle of the east end. At the west end is a very beautifully proportioned tower of the perpendicular style, of great elevation, surmounted by a tall octagonal spire, with pierced crockets up the several angles. Over the windows of the upper division of the tower is a moulding composed of a double series of trefoiled blank arches, possessed of excellent perpendicular character; above which series is a battlement ornamented with pierced quartrefoils, presenting a light and rich appearance. The west porch is rather shallow, and has a pointed arch, supported by ribs, rising from corbels. Over the exterior arch is a trefoiled canopy, above which is a head, and the whole is enclosed in a pointed moulding, which is singularly, but effectively, connected with the supporting buttresses of the tower, which are of four stages, by a flying buttress, ornamented with curves. The interior door of the north porch is early English; but the porch itself is of perpendicular character; enriching which is a canopy with crockets and a finial; the niche is now converted into a window, to light the room above. The roof of the porch is supported by fan-work groining, springing from circular pillars at the angles. There is a window of three lights on the west side, the heads being filled up with quartrefoils. At the east end are three windows; the choir one being surmounted by a niche. In the circular corbels of a window of the south chancel, are in one, The, and in the other M.
The interior of the church is particularly interesting. The north and south aisles are separated respectively by octangular pillars with capitals of plain projecting, but beautifully worked and graduated, mouldings, supporting three pointed arches; from the easterly ones, spring across the north and south ailes, pointed arches; the north, very obtuse, rising from an elegant foliated corbel and in a line across the nave, is a richly worked arch, called by the old architects, a strainer arch, which displays some very beautiful tracery, with very large corbels of flying angels, whose expanded wings in conjunction with the fine open work of the arch, present a noble coup doeil. Separating the south aisle from the south chantry is a very fine arch of decorated character, possessing some bold mouldings with quartrefoil in the spandrels, the dripstone being supported by angels of an imposing size, with labels in their hands, thus inscribed, ‘In god is all’, and ‘A god help’. From the following inscription on the soffit of the arch, we learn who were the erectors of this effectively ornamental composition. This is the legend: ‘yis arche made Hwe Bochar and Julian hise wyf of whos sowlus god have mercy upon. Amen’.
A lofty pointed arch separates the nave from the chancel. The transept chantries have some very good wooden screen work. The south chantry has window cases with deeply indented grooves, filled up with small embattled pedestals, surmounted by trefoiled canopies, with crockets and finials, affording a rich effect to the interior sweep; the window itself is of the perpendicular character. In this chantry is a trefoil-headed basin for holy water. Dividing the south side aisle, or chantry, from the choir, are two arches, supported by clustered columns, and against the other walled portion on the south side of the choir, is an elegant recess, formed on each side of the wall, leaving it hollow within, similar to a window of two lights, having a quartrefoil in the head, enclosed by a dripstone, springing from corbel-heads. This was, perhaps, formed for the same purpose as the triforia, 'from which tapestry and other ornaments might formerly have been suspended on festivals'; or a crucifix, or other image, might in old times have been placed here. From the rough manner in which the sides are filled up, I should conclude that the recess had extended farther. Beneath this are three elegant early English sedilia; or stone seats, trefoiled, possessing beautiful foliated capitals, and some delightfully executed groovings. The pillars are cylindrical, but one is unfortunately gone. The recess above has evidently been formed since the seats, as the pointed arches have been broken off. On the north side of the east window, considerably elevated, is an enriched flat canopy, with a large projecting stone for the statue, now missing. Of the size of this, an idea may be formed from the circumstance of a person's standing upon it clothed in a white sheet, during the act of doing penance, some few years ago. In the east window are ten full compartments of stained glass, composed of figures, the predominant colours of which, are blue and yellow, every two being headed by a yellow quartrefoil; below these is a larger portion, apparently the most perfect in the church, comprising two whole length figures, one standing, and the other sitting with a book before him; there are also portions in other windows. Of the series of turn-up seats, only a solitary example is now remaining. Near the north door are some rugged stones which have apparently formed the base of a pillar.
This beautiful church, by its numerous and varied windows, its transepts, aisles, choir, and chapels, its arches of rich tracery, and bold projecting corbels, its light screen work, its old stained glass, and its walls adorned with figures of men in armour and women in the dress of the period; affords a noble and interesting effect to a spectactator placed in certain portions of the nave, suitable for commanding the series of imposing objects now adverted to. In such a situation, an unusual appearance for a village church will be found exhibited for the gratification of the taste of the admirer of the perpendicular style of architecture.
As on one of the corbels of the windows of the choir, are similar initials to those on the brass in Higham church, to William Chichele, one is lead to imagine that this window might have been given by him, and as he died in 1425, the style of architecture in its construction would lead us to date the present edifice to about that period; the architecture being uniformly of the perpendicular style; with the exception of an early English door and the sedilia, to which, however, we may attach a considerably earlier date, if we consider them as portions of an antecedent edifice.
The length of the church and chancel is ninety five feet, two inches; of the transepts, eighty-five feet, six inches; the breadth of the body and aisles, fifty-five feet.
It appears, according to Bridges, that the church of Rissenden, with the tithes and appurtenances, one virgate of land, and one villane who held the said virgate, was given to Lenton priory, in Nottinghamshire, by William Peverel, the founder. This donation was afterward confirmed by King Edward II. Such being the case, I am inclined to conjecture that the present handsome structure was erected out of the revenues of that religious institution.
Upon the suppression of religious houses, the advowson fell to the crown, and is now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor. It is in the deanery of Higham.
In 1254, 38th of King Henry III., the profits of Rushden rectory were rated at ten marks; in 1535, 26th of King Henry VIII., it was let to farm to Richard Throgmorton, at xiij£. vjs. viijd. out of which was deducted xs. vijd., in procurations and synodals.
The register commences in 1559.
The monuments at Rushden form a perfect contrast with those at Higham; in the latter place the memorials consist principally of ancient brasses; at Rushden they are of a dissimilar character, being of sculptured marble. The north side aisle, or chancel, the burial place of the families of Pemberton, Ekins, Fletcher and Williams, is the receptacle of two costly monuments to the Pemberton family. The one at the east end, composed of white marble, consists of the figure of a man cased in armour, which is represented in admirable taste; the spectator can hardly be persuaded it is marble before him; but must actually satisfy his sense of touch by raising his hand over the railing in order to convince himself, that, instead of a metallic substance, it is in reality dull cold marble.The folds of the costume, around which the armour is buckled, are particularly true, and most delightfully represented; which lead us to pronounce it to be the production of one of the first sculptors of the day; the time when this was erected being the period when our nobility and gentry were lavish in monumental memorials of this class.
Robert Pemberton is represented at a desk on one side, and Mary, his wife, in the dress of the period, on the other. She died 30th July 1608, in the 58th year of her age; and he, the 18th April, 1609, having attained to the age of 67 years.
In the same side aisle, is a figure in armour, leaning on his right arm, which rests on his helmet; presenting an idea of an uneasy position; but the sculpture is good. It was erected to the memory of ‘Sir Goddard Pemberton of Hartingfordburye Park, Knight, who died 1st August, 1616’.
In the church-yard, near the east window, is an ancient free-stone monument, thus inscribed under the flat cover: Orate pro aiabz Willi Peeke et Margarete uxoris ejus et pro aia Johis Peeke nuper mariti Priscille quorum aiabz ppicietur Deus. Amen.
Extracts from ‘Surveys of the defects in Churches’ taken by Commission under the direction of the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, in the year 1631.
Thomas Whitby, clerk, M.A., on the presentation of Sir Lewis Pemberton, of Rushden, Knight, the patron in full right, vacant by thy death of the last incumbent, 5 Feb.1630.
Frederick Schloer, clerk, M.A., on the presentation of King Charles, vacant by the resignation of the last incumbent, 16 Sep. 1637.
Jacob Mawde, instituted, 21 Oct. 1665.
Thomas Haywood, clerk, on the presentation of the King's Majesty, 6 June, 1666.
William Holmes, clerk, M.A., on the presentation of the King, vacant by the death of the last incumbent, 22 Sep. 1670.
David Kinlock, M.A., on the presentation of King James II., by the death of the last incumbent, 5 May, 1686.
Charles Livesay, clerk, on the presentation of King William and Queen Mary, vacant by the resignation of the last incumbent, 19 Dec.1694.
John Lettice, clerk, on the presentation of Queen Anne, vacant by the cession of the last incumbent, 28 Mar. 1702.
Randolph Ekins, M.A., on the presentation of King George, vacant by the death of John Lettice, 3 Feb. 1720.
Thomas Bright, M.A., on the presentation of King George II, vacant by the death of Randolph Ekins, 23 May, 1745.
William Withers, M.A., on the presentation of King George II, vacant by the cession of Thomas Bright, 14 Mar. 1745-6.
Richard Wynne, M.A., on the presentation of the King, vacant by the cession of the last incumbent, 15 Dec. 1752.
Robert Knowles, B.A., was licensed to the curacy, 30 May, 1760.
Benjamin Hutchinson. M.A., on the presentation of King George III, vacant by the death of Richard Wynne, 17 Sep. 1788.
Spencer James Lewin, on the presentation of the King vacant by the death of the last incumbent, 15 June 1804.
Spencer James Lewin, on the presentation of the King vacant by the cession of the last incumbent, 30 July, 1807.
Ancient Church Ceremony
It is the custom at Rushden when a funeral takes place on a Sunday, for half the portion of time allotted to chiming, to be devoted to tolling the corpse to the church; when the body of some well known individual of the parish is, for the last time, ...... 'gathered to the place of prayer, with slow and measured tread' and remains at the entrance during the entire service. This was a practice which was anciently more prevalent than at present, and I can see no objection to its continuance, when the individual has not died of any pestilential disease. It certainly affords a striking memento 'Remember that thou must die'; and experience proves that we woefully need all the helps which we can acquire to warn us of the 'deceitful security of life'; for as Dean Kirwan has eloquently observed:
'Thousands pass their accounts around us and we are not instructed; some are struck in our very arms: our parents, our children, our friends, and yet we stand as if we had shot into the earth an eternal root. Even the most sudden transitions from life to dust, produce but a momentary impression on the dust that breathes. No examples, however awful, sink into the heart. Every instant we see health, youth, beauty, titles, reputation, and fortune, disappear like a flash. Still do we pass gaily on, in the broad and flowery way, the same busy, thoughtless, and irreclaimable beings'.
Such ceremonies tell that 'the soul of one of the congregation has fled', and that he shall never more 'stride up that foot-worn aisle': declaring that 'Earth can no resting place ensure, Where pilgrims may abide'.
Scenes of this description are particularly forcible and full of effect to the congregation of worshippers. The old acquaintance of the deceased appear to eye the solemn receptacle of his last remains with affecting curiosity, as if they fain ‘would lift the coffin lid', and view the mighty change. A sight 'enough to freeze the warmest blood!'
Then how applicable is the funeral service, occasionally introduced; for instance, the proper psalms for the burial of the dead; while 'Stretch'd at that fearful length', reposes, in full sight, keeping his last slumber, the well-known companion of the congregation; which appearance gives, as it were, a double and heart-felt effect to such scriptural expressions as these;
Every man living is altogether vanity, - I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner as all my fathers were. We fade away suddenly like the grass; in the morning it is green and groweth up, but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered. To this succeeds the anthem in its lamenting and wailing note; which is followed by the appropriate funeral sermon. Then the remains are deposited in the earth in the presence of several of the assembled congregation:
'Rest now! his journeying is done Your feet are on his sod'.
And are all these forms for the benefit of the dead?
There is a peculiarity here at these solemn scenes in regard to the circumjacent scenery, and 'natural scenery has been stated to be favourable to devotion’ which affords a strikingly interesting effect. Those persons who are spectators in the nave of the church, view through 'the long-drawn aisle' and receding door-ways, the confined and telescopic view of the funeral procession moving up the steep ascent to the sacred fabric, in prevailing sombre black; relieved in front by the clergyman in his white canonicals, uttering those impressive words, 'I am the resurrection and the life' which echo throughout the extensive church and its retreating transepts; while 'Above the sleeping dead' is seen the boundary line of the distant horizon, with the outstretched landscape, composed of high receding hills, clothed with herbage, affording a contrasted relief to the dark foreground of this sad procession 'dull in its motion'.
In Bridges's time there stood, at a furlong distance from the village, a house, with grounds belonging to it, in some writings called Scanthorp, of which Henry Hall, Esq. was the proprietor. As Scanthorp is probably a corruption of Sanct-thorp, it may perhaps have anciently been a religious house to the priory of Lenton, to which institution the church of Rushden anciently belonged.
As there are marks of antiquity in carved stones enriched with quartrefoils, &c. on the gable of a barn on the farm of Mr. Grey, this may be the place alluded to by Bridges.
'The stately homes of England,
Norden, in his 'Delineation of Northamptonshire' states, that, in his time, 'there was in Rushden an ancient house of the Dukes of Lancaster then inhabited by Mr. Pemberton, a gentleman intrusted therein by the Queen'. The renowned John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, is said to have erected the house referred to by Norden, which was under a grant from the King to this famed personage, with various rights and sole privileges, appertaining to the Duke of Lancaster's high station; and upon its site, the present mansion of Elizabethan architecture has been erected. The Pemberton family afterward became possessed of the house, land, and attainments; to which family succeeded that of Ekins; it then came into the hands of Lord George Germaine, and subsequently into the family of Fletcher; and in 1820, Thomas Fletcher, Esq. sold it to Thomas Williams, Esq., whose residence is near Dorchester.
The Hall is at present occupied by John Fletcher, Esq., and is situated nearly in the centre of Rushden, to the west of the London road; being seated upon an elevated plot of ground, surrounded by plantations, gardens, and orchards, by which it is completely screened from the village. The house is quadrangular and principally consists of a retreating centre, with a large bay window, and two projecting wings, each being composed of its respective correspondent, large, embattled semi-circular bay, sufficiently elevated to light both the upper and lower apartments; the windows being backed by a carved pedimental screen, as an elevated ornament to the wings. On the south side is a square embattled tower, presenting much of the appearance of a castellated edifice. Formerly a range of palisadings enclosed the inner court, near the flight of steps by which the terrace is mounted, and beyond this, whereabout the exuberant periwinkles now form the verdant border, was the substantial closure of a park wall, having, in front of the house, in character with the period, high enriched iron gates; the Hall being utterly inaccessible at all times, except by permission, and notice at the porter's bell. The two inner courts were paved with large stones, and were secured from strangers by the iron fencing; but into these courts all visitors to the mansion were ushered. The park wall extended around the domain, which occupies 3 acres, 3 roods, and 35 poles; a portion of which, surrounding the gardens, is yet remaining. This wall, built entirely without mortar, was performed by contract, and the engagement entered into with the builder, was, that it should be erected without lime or soft mixture of any kind, and that the stones should be made so nicely to fit, as that, if even a bee could creep in between the interstices, the contract should be void. A curious and laborious style of building, this, now known only by name.
The interior of the house formerly possessed one of the finest old halls in the county; it having been of late years incorporated into other apartments, and thus entirely swept away. This imposing hall occupied nearly the whole width of the building, and was enclosed on the north and south by handsome corridors, the arches which composed the northern portion, yet remaining, are of the perpendicular style. The walls were garnished with fine original pictures by the first masters, and with ancient armour; being, perhaps, some of the remains of a chivalric age. A small portion of the armour is yet an interesting appendant to the walls of the mansion, and a few only of the paintings are left, which are standing about the corridor, &c. Within the area of the hall, extending its whole length, was an ancient, long, oaken table supported upon trestles; where, in ancient times, and upon particular occasions such as Christmas and rent days, the whole household assembled, to partake of the hearty fare of the 'olden tyme'. Here, no doubt, old English hospitality predominated, particularly at Christmas-time when 'the enormous log glowed and blazed and sent forth a vast volume of light and heat.' A full sounding bell, hung at the top of the house, having the rope guarded by a casing of wood down to the ground floor, has been a fixture in the mansion from time immemorial. This bell yet continues to be rung by the family at certain times during the day, and may be heard throughout the extent of the village.
Among the pictures with which the walls of the Hall were formerly adorned, I am enabled to give the following selection; and I am assured they were by the most eminent masters:
In addition to these might be specified a number of family portraits, &c.
In a room in the upper part of the house is shewn a board of the floor, under which, at the period of the Scotch Rebellion, all the plate and valuables were deposited and nailed down.
An extraordinary circumstance connected with a room in the south wing of this house deserves recording. On one occasion the late Thomas Fletcher, Esq., entered the breakfast parlour in his sporting accoutrements, and by some means or other a spark was observed by his son to fly into the pocket of his father which contained his ammunition, and scarcely had he been warned of the event, before a dreadful explosion ensued, which completely blew out the windows of the apartment leaving only the stanchions and stone mullions; and, as was likely, the astonishingly loud report called to the spot a great portion of the inhabitants of the village, and all was a scene of commotion. But what rendered it so extraordinary was, that neither Mr. Fletcher nor his son received the slightest injury.
In front of the house is a small flower-garden enclosed by tall shrubs, and in the undulating land beyond, the trees of the plantation surrounding the demesne appear, the spiry fir being most conspicuous; while in the back ground, that fine architectural composition, the tall spire of the church, gracefully rears its head, affording a charmingly rich effect to the scene, particularly when viewed from the window of the Drawing-room.
The west entrance into the park is flanked by a row of aged trees on each side, principally Wych elms, sixty three in number, which form a noble avenue; at the extremity of which, the tall church spire affords a fine relief to the scene.
Birds J. Fletcher, Esq., of Rushden Hall shot a remarkably fine specimen of the Hooper, or Whistling swan (Anas Cygnus) which is preserved, with various other birds at the Hall, among which may be specified the Eider Duck (Anas Mollissima), the Goosander (Mergus Merganser), &c.
In regard to the Hooper: the conformation of the windpipe deserves particular notice. I was once favoured with the loan of a skeleton of this fine bird, in which was exhibited the course of the windpipe, and its entrance into a hollow in the breast bone; where, after descending to the bottom of the cavity, it bends upon itself, ascends, and emerges at the same hole that it entered. It is owing to this singular convolution of the tube that this bird is capable of producing those sounds which have obtained for it the common name of Hooper.
The titmice appear to be very tame here; as, on entering a butcher's shop, a specimen of the beautiful blue titmouse, (parus caeruleus) had just been captured, when the weather was by no means severe; but they have a great liking to flesh; and are very valuable little creatures in gardens in destroying the caterpillars.
There is a fine natural aviary, among a little plantation of firs (which belts the garden ground of Mr. Pressland), in one of the sylvan lanes, conducting to the brink of the rivulet; and these firs are rendered doubly evergreen, through being exuberantly clothed with mantling ivy, which the feathered choristers in immense numbers enliven by their continued flitting from tree to tree, and by their constant melody. It is observed by Phillips, that 'the yellow-hammer loves to nestle in such festoons of undecaying verdure'.
Trees The environs are remarkably well wooded; the tree which seems to have been most generally adopted by planters here, is the Lombardy poplar (populus dilatata) single and double rows of which Italian tree are numerous in gardens and grounds about this place; particularly conspicuous from the leads of the church, which command an extensive sweep of woodland landscape, much intermixed with the stately poplar, among which rurally appear, scattered about in various directions, the picturesque farm-houses, and moss-crowned cottages, beautifully embosomed in the deep foliage of different trees, ‘Of varied colour, form, and bend'.
The most majestic trees of the poplar genus here are those in the avenue leading to the Hall; in the grounds attached to which mansion is a fine Walnut tree, for which the late Thomas Fletcher Esq., was once offered the sum of one hundred guineas, for the purpose of its manufacture into gun stocks. A venerable specimen of the sable yew is a near companion of this Walnut.
I have noticed that beautiful shrub the spindle-tree, (Euonymus Europaeus) throwing up its curious and singularly formed scarlet berries, in a hedge in the immediate vicinity of the village; while in another direction the hoary-headed Traveller's Joy (Clematis Vitalba) rendered interesting the hedgerow, by its downy seeds, which present themselves in thick clusters, being prominently conspicuous in the winter season.
A particularly fine Sycamore (Acer Pseudo-Platanus) raises its head to a considerable elevation on the hill, near Mr. Gray's farm, and is considered the finest tree of this species on the lordship. Its girth, about 3ft. from the ground, is 8¼ft.
The trees in the hedge-rows, chiefly ash and elm, are comparatively young. Oaks are scarce: there is a prominent one about half a mile from the village, on the Higham road. Among fruit trees, I should mention five or six very aged pear trees adjoining to the southern portion of the grounds of the hall; and in the gardens attached to the Hall are some remarkably fine, large, and venerable fruit trees, most probably coeval with the building, which, I should conceive, from their venerable appearance, had weathered the storm, and enjoyed the sunshine of three or four centuries. A fine aged Vine appears against the southern side of the Hall; which I should conjecture to be two or three hundred years old. The orchards of fruit trees are rather numerous here, displaying many pears of magnitude and age.
Plants The time of my appearance here to collect materials under this head was remarkably unpropitious, as
'The woods were stripped with the wintry winds
The following plants, however, found growing here, are conspicuous in the winter season:
Lichen Fulgaris. Green Liverwort. The oblong beautiful green leaves of this plant exuberantly spread their leaves around the walled well at Mr. Gray's farm; and at the sides of a horse-trough on the grounds of J. Fletcher, Esq. The old herbalists considered it good in obstructions of the liver, hence its name.
Asplenium. The spleenwort grows luxuriantly on an old garden wall belonging to the hall. An infusion is considered good in obstructions of the liver and spleen.
Museus pyxilatus. Cup Moss. This pretty grey moss occurs on the grounds of J. Fletcher, Esq. Boiled in water, Sir J. Hill states it to be good for children’s coughs.
Dipsacus. The Teasel is conspicuous in thickets. One species of this plant the fuller’s teasel is cultivated in some of the strong lands of Wiltshire, and Essex, and affords, with the Dutch rush, the only known instances of natural productions being applied to mechanical purposes.
Parietaria officialis. Pellitory of the Wall. Around the covering of the well on the church-green. An infusion is esteemed good in the jaundice, and for the gravel.
Laureola. Spurge Laurel: woods at Rushden and Knuston. The leaves are a powerful remedy against the dropsy, but they are so violent that they must be given with caution. The above have fallen under my own observation. I have been informed that the Helebore grows here, but I have not noticed it.
The parsnep is cultivated here for cattle.
Geology The strata here is of the upper oolite formation, consisting principally of limestone, and in some portions of the neighbourhood green sandstone occurs. At Raunds in the vicinity is dug a shell-marble, formerly much used to enclose monumental mural tablets; a specimen is to be seen, forming a border to the monument of Mrs. Elizabeth Ekins, in Rushden church. The most distinguished fossil of the vicinity, which is scarce elsewhere, is Gryphaea dilatata; but this, of course among the diluvium having been thrown out in digging a dyke in the immediate neighbourhood, between Rushden and Knuston.
In the southern suburbs of the village is dug blue marle, under a bed of clay of a like colour, in which occasionally appear layers of selenite, and just before arriving at the marle, the workmen dig through a very unctuous blue earthy matter. The marle itself affords an abundance of fossils, particularly echinites, beautifully studded over with tubereles: one specimen, which has fallen under my observation, is flattened and awry, as if it had been crushed by a weight of matter, while in its primitive slate; the terebratula subundata is abundant, being sound and glossy, with their beautifully turned beaks quite perfect. There are also specimens of the genus Ostrea, Mytilus, &c. contained in this useful stone.
In the farmyard of Mr. Achurch is a curious conglomeration of marly matter, which was dug upon his farm. Into this huge mass, are firmly incorporated numerous pebbles of various sizes and qualities, presenting much of the appearance of the plum-pudding stone.
The village is remarkably well watered, abounding with springs pellucid in their quality. There is one near the church, whose water is clear as crystal, and of a transparent blue tincture, to which, like that of a similar tint at Naseby, the cattle are particularly partial. This well of transparent water being situated so near the church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, we may without much stretch of imagination conceive it to have been 'Our Lady's well' of Rushden, during the remote ages of superstition; and although no ceremony now prevails of throwing gathered flowers into the fountain, the pink-tinted florets of Parietaria officinalis are more permanent adornments of this tasteful description, flourishing as they do on the walls of this carefully defended well.
"In the earliest ages of poetry and romance, wherever fountains and wells were situated, the common people were accustomed to honour them with the title of saints. In our own country innumerable instances occur of wells being so denominated. “Where a spring rises or a river flows', says Seneca, 'there should we build altars, and offer sacrifices'. At the fountain of Arethusa in Syracuse, great festivals were celebrated every year. In Roman antiquity the fontinalia were religious feasts, held in honour of the nymphs of wells and fountains: the ceremony consisted in throwing nosegays into fountains, and putting crowns of flowers upon wells. Many authorities might be quoted in support of the antiquity of this elegant custom, which had its origin anterior to the introduction of Christianity. It was mingled with the rights and ceremonies of the heathens, who were accustomed to worship streams and fountains and to suppose that the nymphs, whom they imagined the goddesses of the waters, presided over them. Shaw in his 'History of the Province of Morray', says, that 'heathen customs were much practised among the people there' and he cites as an instance, that they performed pilgrimages to wells, and built chapels to fountains".
Among the earliest of those men who have received their cognomination from this village, and held distinguished situations in public life, I enumerate the following:
William Rusheden was one of the members elected for the town of Northampton in the 12th parliament at Westminster in the reign of King Henry IV.
John Rushden was incumbent of Lodington in 1438.
William Rushden de Northampton was patron of the living of Pidington, about 1455.
The Family of Pemberton
had considerable possessions, and were seated here for several generations. It appears that William Pemberton of Somershall, in the county of Lancaster, had a son whose name was Robert, who seems to have been the first of that name of Rushden ; but the Robert whose effigy is so admirably sculptured in the church of this village was of a succeeding generation. His monument states him to have been 'the eldest son of Robert Pemberton of Pemberton in the county of Lancaster, Esq.' This Robert 'the worthy son of a worthy father was one of the gentlemen ushers all the Warrs to Queen Elizabeth. He died 18 April, 1609'. Sir Lewis Pemberton appears to have been a son of the above, and Goddard Pemberton of Higham Ferrers was the second son of Sir Lewis. Sir Goddard Pemberton of Hartingfordbury , whose effigy in armour appears in Rushden Church, was Uncle to Sir Lewis, who caused the monument to be erected. In the first Parliament at Westminster in the reign of King James I, Goddard Pemberton, Esq. represented the borough of Higham; and in the first Parliament at Westminster in the reign of Queen Anne, Thomas Pemberton, Esq., was member for that borough.
The four brothers Pemberton.
The four brothers, but I know not exactly which of the above named was their father, are curiously characterised in the following legendary lines allusive to their different bearings in life, traditionally handed down in the hall at Rushden.
Galloping Goddard, from his furious style of riding.
Swearing Robert, from his sad and distressing habit.
Luring Lewis, from his distinguished attachment to falconry, and probably from his aptness in bringing hawks to the lure.
Jerkin John, from his doublet, a kind of waistcoat with sleeves, called a 'jerkyn', and his peculiar action the smart quick turn, forming a play on the name of his fashionable costume. It might too have a third reference in regard to falconry, there being a kind of hawk, named the Jerkin.
Daniel Whitby, the learned Commentator on the Scriptures, was born in the Parsonage house here, his father the Rev. Thomas Whitby, M. A. being the Rector of the parish, to which living he was presented by Sir Lewis Pemberton, of Rushden, Knight, the patron in full right, on the 5th Feb. 1630.
The following extract from the Parish Register will confirm the statement, that this village was the birth-place of his afterward celebrated son.
'1637. The fourth day of January, Daniell the son of Thomas Whitbie Minister was baptized in the year above written'.
Daniel Whitby was admitted of Trinity College, Oxford, where he was scholar in 1655, B.A. in 1657, M.A. in 1660, and fellow in 1664. In early life Mr. Whitby was engaged in a strong controversial warfare with the Roman Catholics, was Chaplain to Seth Ward, D.D., Bishop of Salisbury, who collated him to two successive stalls in that Cathedral; was Precentor there; in 1672, took both his degrees in Divinity, and was rector of St. Edmunds, in Salisbury. A book published by Dr. Whitby, in 1682, which excited general censure, raised violent opposition, and the strongest animadversions was at length condemned, and in 1683, burnt by the Marshall of the University in the school's quadrangle. The Doctor signed a retraction of the work, and died in 1726, aged 88 years.
Dr. Whitby wrote a number of controversial books; but he is chiefly known by his 'Five Points against Calvinism', 8vo.; and 'A Paraphrase and Exposition of the New Testament', 2 vols. folio. This laborious undertaking was the result of fifteen years' study. It is an esteemed work, and ranges in our libraries at the side of Patrick, Lowth, Hammond, &c., in the goodly, majestic, portly-looking folio tomes of the commencement of the eighteenth century. Besides the above works is an 8vo. volume of 'Twelve Sermons' 1726.
Ancient Manners & Customs
The usual complimental wishes, so very general throughout the kingdom, usher in the new year here.
Shrove Tuesday On Shrove Tuesday a modification of the barbarous custom of throwing at cocks, is practised, by persons paying two-pence each time for shooting at them, standing at the distance of about 60 yards.
The bell, at half-past 11, announces the period for the stirring of pancakes.
Seed-time Bell. The great luminary advancing in his mighty progress through the heavens, indicates the approach of that great and important period 'seed time', as necessarily, though distantly, introductive to the more joyous season of harvest; and to denote the arrival of this month to the husbandman, one of the bells of the Church is sounded in an awakening manner, to call up the sower to his task, at the early hour of four o'clock; now, after the rains of February have mellowed the soil, and the drying winds of March have prepared the earth for the reception of his seeds. The sound of the bell at this noiseless hour, and being heard only occasionally in the year, is felt 'new as the morn', which it ushers in as 'nimbly as the winged hours'; and renews, as it were, the great promise on record in the Sacred Scriptures that 'seed time and harvest shall not fail!'
The 29th of May is a day of much rejoicing here. The display of oak boughs is general. The battlements of the church and the houses are enlivened with these verdant honours waving in the ambient air. Those youngsters who do not display a small slip of oak about them are pinched by others, until they 'charm the ear with melodious numbers'; and at length produce by a shew from the fruitful woods; in addition to which, one is chaired on a hurdle wattled around with the oak, which some of the company carry with wandering steps about the village.
Christmas Among the good old Christmas customs kept up here is that of the carollers at midnight on the eve of Christmas. As the minstrels, agreeably to Bishop Percy's opinion, were the genuine successors of the Ancient Bards, who united the arts of poetry and music, and sung verses to the harp of their own composing, it does not seem improbable that our Christmas minstrels continued the chain of connection from the Bards.
Time, place, and circumstance all conspire to render the Christmas carol, at such a period, remarkably effective: the state of repose, scarcely acquired since the hallowed peal had ceased, delightfully broken into by an harmonious swell of voices, in sacred, but joyous accents, chanting the quaintly expressed old carol, whose chorus breaks forth in these words :
'Then let us be merry, cast sorrow away,
Every note being; distinctly heard through the stillness of the night, and every cadence falling on the ear with a liquid and novel effect; which latter character predominates through the whole performance, and is increased by the darkness, rendered visible through the light carried by the company, which enters, as it were, mysteriously into the respective apartments; and 'coming on a sudden, like the light from heaven, which filled the plain when the angel of the Lord stood revealed before the shepherds of Bethlehem' produces emanations of grateful feeling of the highest order in true accordance with this happy period.
Head of a stone cross
The Lantern of Guy Vaux
The Lordship consists of 3619a. 1r. 28p. Population, according to the last census, 1,245.
Circa 1776. A fire broke out in the day time in a barn belonging to a house in the principal street, upon whose site that occupied by Mr. Spencer, the Tailor, has been built. The circumstances attending this lamentable occurrence were that some boys lighted a heap of straw in the barn, which burned with great fury; and one of them fell a sacrifice to its influence; the smoke, it is conjectured, suffocating him before he could make his egress, as his body was found standing against the wall of the barn, scorched to a cinder. The house belonging to the barn was destroyed, but the flames happily communicated no farther.
Of the literature of the village, an idea may be formed, when it is stated that there is a Society for the purchase of books, distributed regularly among the members. A Society of this description being rarely found established in a village; and of the musical talent of the place, it is but justice to advert; as a self-initiated band, of no common order, has been formed by the young men of the village; which occasionally throws life and variety into the rural streets of the place, so often left vacant a prey to dull monotony.
In the south side aisle of the church is recorded the following Charity :
'William Maye of Rushden, deceased the 19th of Aprill 1630, and left to the inhabitants of Rushden 100£. to be layd out in freehold land, the increase and benefit to arise to the poor of the Town so long as the world indures; which Will remain in the hands of Lewes Tapp and his heirs, to be performed for ever being Executor'.
Freehold land was accordingly purchased with the above £100., in the open fields of the Parish of Woolaston, and which produced annually about £4.19s., but that lordship being lately enclosed, the yearly rent for the benefit of the Poor is now become £12., December 20th., 1798.
A benefaction of £3., distributed yearly to the poor on the festival of St. Thomas, was given by the Rev. Nicholas Latham, in 1620.