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Article by Theresa Clark, photographs by Robert Clark
Rushden Research
Presentation and IT Kiosk Launch 1st May 2009

The cake Demonstration of the website
The cake - made and iced for us by Joan Clipston
Greville and Kay demonstrate the website & DVD to the audience

Greville Watson introduced the event to the audience assembled in Rushden Hall. He explained that the Rushden Research Group was a community grass roots effort formed by Kay Collins. Their original work was transcribing wills and parish records. They moved on to transcribing the 1901 census details (earlier censuses had been transcribed previously), and recording the information on a CD. Inspired by a CD of the Grafton Regis Estate presented by Sue Blake, they decided they wanted to record more of the history of Rushden. It was decided that a website would be the best option and helped by Roger Drage, Kay and the team applied for a Heritage Lottery Grant to fund the project. Rushden changed from a small village to a thriving town due to the Shoe Industry that was established in the area. The industry needed workers, so the population grew substantially, and the people needed churches and chapels so the non-conformist chapels were erected. The website was called ‘Hearts & Soles’ to focus on these areas and to include the wider history of Rushden and the surrounding villages. The Lottery bid of £44,000 was to cover the website, an IT Kiosk in Rushden Museum and other work. The money had to be matched by the volunteers’ time contributions. To date the team have devoted an amazing £73,000 worth of time on the project. The website now has 5,300 pages and is still ongoing. The kiosk was officially opened that afternoon making the website available to all. Greville thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund, all the volunteers, Roger Drage for his expertise and computer skills, John Socket for his patience and tutoring, and Kenton White of Redhead Designs Ltd for the 3D animation and multimedia skills. He also congratulated Kay on her Mayor’s award for her work on the project.

At the second demonstration - in the evening Guests go into the Museum
At the second demonstration - in the evening
Guests go to the Museum for the unveiling of the IT Kiosk

Greville then presented an overview of the website. The Home page included ‘Project News’ which gave a running account of the progress of the website and the main index which had eighteen headings including ‘War’ and ‘People and Families’. The ‘War’ items include details and photographs of the town’s War Memorial and eleven First World War street shrines. All the names on the memorial are listed. Most of the soldiers have their war service detailed on the site, often with photographs. Harry Wagstaff’s page included 24 letters he had sent home during his wartime service. The ‘People and Families’ section focused on the memories of Rushden people and included some soundclips, Bert Catlin’s speech being played as an example. Some of Ada Sail’s many diary entries and photographs were then shown to the audience.

Roger Drage explained that the team wanted to make a DVD to appeal to all age ranges including the young who needed to be interested in local history, so they could engage future generations. History teaching in schools is very restrictive, so the DVD presents history in new ways to interest those who are used to audio-visual presentations with music and computer-generated images.


The DVD runs for 65 minutes and has sections on

The Village

Churches and Chapels



Alehouses, Pubs and Clubs

Leisure - Parks

Leisure - Indoor Facilities, Parades and Bands

Civic Pride

Modern Rushden

The finale of the Churches section is a computer generated recreation of Jaques & Clark Factory

The ‘Village’ section explained how Rushden formed around the A6 on Duchy of Lancaster land. The original Rushden Hall dated from the 1300s and was a hunting lodge, probably owned by John of Gaunt. The last private owners of the hall were the Sartoris family who sold the hall in the 1929 to the council for £5,000. In the 1960s after decades of neglect the hall was in such a bad state it was to be demolished. The Amenities society was formed to campaign to save the hall which cost £48000 to renovate. The DVD took the audience on a tour of the other older buildings in the south of the town including St Mary’s church, which dates from 1270, the Wheatsheaf, which was a coaching inn, the Hall Gatehouse, since demolished, ‘Florence Simpson’s’ thatched cottage, the Waggon & Horses, Bernard Vann’s birthplace (Victoria Cross recipient), the old South End School and the original Police Station on the corner of Wymington Road. Hilly Farm, Manor Farm, Rushden House which became the Sanatorium in 1919, the much changed Duck Street, the demolished Succoth Chapel, the original Baptist church in Little Street and the High Causeway with William Green’s shoe factory all featured. Numerous old photographs with a musical backing track followed.

The ‘Churches and Chapels’ section explained how the growth of Rushden included the building of new factories, houses and chapels. The Baptists flourished and built a new larger chapel. Other new buildings were the Methodist Chapel, Independent Wesleyan, Primitive Methodists, Congregational Church, Zion Chapel, Wesleyan Mission Sunday School (Tin Tabernacle), St Peter’s Church, Mission Chapel, St Peter’s Catholic Church, Highfield Baptist, St Mark’s Church, Whitefriars Church, Full Gospel, Spiritual, Kingdom Hall and Brethren Meeting House.

On the Jaques and Clark’s Shoe factory site a block of flats now stands, but through the wonders of computer generation an amazing fly-around view was shown including the adjoining houses and the ‘Tin Tabernacle’.

The Mayor unveils the IT Kiosk
The Mayor unveils the Kiosk watched by her Consort and Kay Collins

The audience, having enjoyed a fascinating presentation were then invited to visit the nearby museum, where the Mayor unveiled the new IT Kiosk and then all returned to the hall for refreshments and celebratory cake.

Guests check out the Kiosk Guests looking at the museum exhibition
Guests looking at the IT Kiosk and the exhibits in the newly extended Rushden Museum

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