|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 23rd April 1954, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Hall - new flat
The family that lives in the middle of a park
Thirty-three year old architect Mr. Kenneth Witham and his household have just moved into an unusual new home. It is a new two-bed-roomed, all-electric flat in the centuries-old grey-stoned Rushden Hall where no family has lived for about 25 years.
Surrounded by derelict, crumbling outbuildings, the Withams modern flat is situated in the former servants’ quarters of the sprawling 25-roomed Elizabethan manor. And they don’t miss having neighbours for the Hall is in the middle of a public park.
When Rushden Urban Council acquired the property between the two world wars and threw open the grounds to the public they were left with a big problem to what use could the Hall be put? One room was used as a museum until the arrival of troops during the last war. Another is still used as a social centre for male pensioners.
During the last few years thousands of pounds have been spent in giving the old place a “face lift” and roof repairs.
All ‘Mod Cons’
Under the supervision of Professor A. E. Richardson, the eminent architect, the old features were carefully preserved, but without any effect on the exterior the flat was designed as an up-to-date home with all “mod cons.” The idea of the flat was to get the house inhabited and thus under supervision. And that’s where Mr. Witham newly-appointed to the council staff, came in.
The furnishing tastes of Mr. and Mrs. Witham have enhanced the picture of a modern home in an old setting.
You enter their flat by climbing a newly constructed oak staircase, glazed double doors open on to a pleasantly surprising sight.
A kitchen to the left with an electric cooker, a long narrow hallway with bookcases, bedrooms and living room with contemporary furniture made of Australian straight-grained walnut, and the tiled fireplace.
This is what catches the eye at the first look-round. Then you note the smart grey paintwork and off-white distempered walls and an up-to-date bathroom.
But something else has already struck you something from the past which neither spoils nor improves the setting. The windows, they are the tiny Elizabethan-style leaded windows.
Now hear the impressions of Mr. Witham. “Apart from the smallness of the place I am very satisfied. I think we are probably the only people in the country living in the middle of a park and having nothing to do with it.
“We are used to open spaces, coming from the Forest of Dean. People are rather surprised to see us here, and many come round to have a look at us. But we just stare back at them!
“I have explored the main building a few times but I have got lost each time. There are so many doors and rooms. Still, if only I could charge 2s 6d a time in the summer ....!”
Added his wife, Marjorie: “I have to keep a very careful eye on our son Stephen he’s nearly two because he does like to wander. We keep the main building locked, and are hoping to get some land enclosed as a playpen for him.”
Although delighted with their new home. Mr. and Mrs. Witham have just one worry will it be warm enough in the winter?
Historical Note: Rushden Hall, once belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster, may have existed a century or two before its rebuilding in Elizabethan times. The Pembertons lived there for 200 years, and the late Mr. A. H. Sartoris, who gave up the residence just before the council bought the property, was last in line of “squires.”