Kettering Civic Society
Newsletter 12 (Autumn 2009)

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Members may be thinking that because they have not received Civic Society news for some time that the Committee  has not been busy, on the contrary we have been working hard behind the scenes. Foremost we have been attending Council Meetings and our Chairman Paul Ansell has spoken on a variety of issues concerning developments in the town. As stakeholders in the town the      opinion of the Society is sought.

Most recent discussions have been about the Kettering Town Centre Transport Strategy.  Public consultation ended on 6th November. The Society’s response is under Planning Applications

We are delighted to have gained charitable status because it will benefit the Society in being able to claiming gift aid which will be especially good when fund raising for the mosaic. It is our intention to apply for grants as well as fundraising by holding events.

One idea is to raise the money by dividing the mosaic into 51 panels, which is how it will be reconstructed. This would be £600 per panel! It could be sponsored through individual donations, group donations or through donations from business. We accept that economically these times are difficult. Committee members would welcome any support with ideas or in a practical way from members, friends and businesses.

Eltham Palace, a hidden treasure

  It Is quite a long way from Kettering to Eltham Palace and most people, having never heard of it, would question your wish to go there.

Now almost swallowed up in the suburbs of South London Eltham Palace remains an oasis of calm surrounded by nineteen acres of garden and trees. From the front lawn are great views across the city to Westminster, Canary Wharf and the London Eye. The palace itself is medieval but by the early twentieth century its former glories had crumbled away. It was almost a ruin when millionaire couple Stephen and Virginia Courtauld bought the property in 1936 and built their Art Deco mansion hard by the Tudor Great Hall.

Nowadays people visit to see this house which has become a classic of early 20th Century design. Here we have a glamorous showpiece,:an eclectic mix of Art Deco, Ocean liner style and cutting edge Swedish design. The clue of course is in the word ‘Courtauld”, the revolutionary textile process that most people have heard of and which provided vast amounts of money for the completion of the house to the highest standards. You cannot fail to be impressed by the size and elegance of the rooms. The entrance hall alone has the total floor area of any ordinary house with fine sweeping staircases designed for making grand entrances.

We duly joined a party to trundle round admiring the pink leather, veneered walls, aluminium leaf ceilings, black and silver doors. Gold back taps, under floor heating, built in audio systems and centralised vacuum cleaning, not to mention the art!! Virginias pet ring tailed lemur Mah-Jong had better living conditions than most of the inhabitants of the British Isles at that time. In fact the servants quarters had no central heating and it seems that life was quite hard for the staff. The tour ends by a sudden transition, moving back in time to the middle ages just by opening a door into the world of Henry V111 and the Great Tudor Hall. The very place where he was bought up and grew to manhood. A fitting conclusion.

Outside the fine gardens compliment the house with an impressive deep moat, limpid pools crossed by a medieval bridge, extensive lawns and a sunken garden. We were lucky to have the sunshine to picnic on the lawns which all added to a delightful day. I had visited before but enjoyed it just as much the second time around – it is surprising how much you forget!

Sadly, considering the vast effort and expenditure, the Coutaulds only spent a few pre-war years at Eltham. The war and its aftermath sent them on a different path – to Scotland and then South Africa. Fortunately the beauty of Eltham remains, a little bit of 20th Century history for all to see.

Robert Mercer
Vice Chairman


Donations to the Society

The Society was saddened to hear of the passing of Miss Marjorie Malpas in June this year. “A well known figure in the town Miss Malpas taught at Kettering High School for 28 years. Interested in many aspects of the town she was a founding member of the Local National Trust Association, the life long Vice President of the Old Girls Association and a member of the Civic Society amongst many other organisations. Miss Malpas was a keen gardener and traveller, often keeping Diaries of her trips to Europe and the US.” Miss Doris Barker

Miss Malpas made a generous donation to the Society in her will and the Committee is carefully considering how this could benefit the town in her memory. If you have any thoughts on this please contact us.


Bill Hulme’s family very kindly donated his research works based on the History of Kettering to the Society and the Committee felt it appropriate to share his works by placing it in the reference section in the Local History Department of Kettering Library.

"William Henry Hulme-”Bill” Cathy Griffin

“It is, of course, impossible to précis someone’s life. Bill, my father, had many talents and interests – but his love of Northamptonshire, its people, places and history were the most significant.

Bill Henry Hulme 1932-2007, lived in Barton Seagrave and Kettering, 40 years of which were in Queensberry Road. He was married to Zoé and they had three children. Bill was educated at Kettering Grammar School and began his working life in the local shoe industry, first at the Mobbs and Lewis Ltd, Carrington Works as a Master Model Maker, and later at SATRA (Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association) on Rockingham Road. From 1951–58 he studied at the Boot and Shoe Technical College in Kettering, gaining qualifications in the Northamptonshire County Council Boot and Shoe Instruction and the British Institute of Management.

With the collapse of the Northamptonshire shoe industry and facing redundancy in his late 30s Bill retrained as a teacher of Woodwork, Metalwork and Technical Drawing. History was his passion and his second teaching subject. His thesis on Kettering has been donated by his family to Kettering Civic Society along with his research materials including maps of Kettering and a book on Barton Seagrave which he produced in 1982 with the Women’s Institute. Besides Kettering Civic Society, Bill was an active member of many Northamptonshire organisations – Family History, Archaeological Society, Record Society, the WEA and the National Trust.

Music was woven deep into the fabric of Bill’s life. He played both the piano and the cello and he also enjoyed singing – both listening and participating, and sang in the choir at St Botolph’s, Barton Seagrave. Bill was a devote Christian. No biography of Bill would be complete without reference to his love of Campanology He was well known in Kettering bell ringing circles and was given special recognition for his 50 years’ membership of the Peterborough Diocesan Guild of Church Bell ringers.

Bill was a quiet, gentle man. “A man of detail, dependable and hardworking with an unshakable Christian faith. So much of who Dad was and what was important to him found expression in the local area. He would be thrilled and humbled to discover that his research and knowledge of Kettering over many, many years was of interest to others”.

President: Lady Freeman (Dipl. Cons (AA))     Chairman: Paul Ansell, Dip Arch RIBA     Vice Chairman: Robert Mercer        Secretary: Monica Özdemir
Committee members:
Rachel Aldridge, Mr John Coleman, Mrs Susie Corke, Mrs Mary Lock-Page, Miss Eleanor Patrick and Mrs Andrea Pettingale.