Kettering Civic Society
Newsletter 4 (January 2002)

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Rushton Hall 

The sun was shining and it seemed a good idea to visit somewhere a little different. Why not Rushton Hall? An edifice that I had passed by car and on foot many times but which had always remained to me mysterious and inaccessible. What really lay beyond the gates apart from some residual elements of a school for blind children, who I knew was about to disappear to a new building in Coventry? 

Such an opportunity it was therefore that on this particular summer afternoon you could not only kill the curiosity bird with one stone while at the same time loyally supporting Kettering Civic Society by turning up for their pre-arranged visit, a last opportunity before the place was eventually sold for several million pounds. After all we needed to make sure there was at least a few members putting in an appearance to make it worthwhile, turning up at such a stimulating event organised by the society is not exactly a strong point with the memberships not yet anyway! Perhaps there could be ten or twelve people - fifteen at the most? 

How wrong we were! Obviously due partly to advertising in the local press the curiosity bug, the need to know, had infected quite a few of Kettering's cognoscenti just as it had me; hundreds, well over a hundred turned up-all wanting to get inside Rushton Hall. 

Despite the heat and the inevitable logistics of too many people in lots of small places, secret rooms, cellars and staircases, it was a most illuminating experience. The guide, a dedicated soul named Greta Larkin told us all the relevant details-dates, endless changes of ownership, ghosts legends all substantiated on the ground by wonderful Jacobean ceilings and fireplaces, atmosphere-haunted, halls with linen fold panelling and tunnels deep underground. 

Greta Larkin accepts a cheque on behalf of RNIB, from KCS

All very satisfying, we've seen it now, we, in an important sense now possess it. Even walking round the grounds was part of the delightful hot English afternoon, not to mention the wonderful sponge cakes and other delights always rustled up so splendidly on these occasions by Monica and friends. You should try them sometime. After the visit a thank-you cheque was presented to RNIB. 

Robert Mercer 

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The Chairman's Column 

As a caring pressure group, Kettering Civic Society was instituted with the intention of preserving those historically important buildings that made the towns character; and gave its distinctive sense of place. We may look back with regrets, but our society's future is probably prompting that confrontation has less place than being proactive for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, the past year has included a range of social events to keep members in touch and hopefully we will put together a new programme for next year. The climax of the coming year will be a steam train journey probably taking us to York. We are also looking forward to the annual general meeting and dinner, which will be held at the Royal Hotel. We will write to you with details. 

"Where do we see Kettering in the coming years of this century?" This must be a question and the topic not only of the after dinner talk but the focus of our caring pressure group. The Civic Society remains our concern. Do please support our coming events, share in our decision-making and if you can, contribute to our newsletters. In the meantime, may I, on behalf of our committee, wish all our members and readers a Happy New Year. 

Paul Ansell

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Chairman Kettering & District General Hospital 1897-1997

This is the title of a book written and published by the author, John Pettman in aid of the Centenary Fund Cancer Unit. John Pettman was born in North Lincolnshire and qualified in Newcastle upon Tyne at King's College, of the University of Durham, in 1955. He has lived in Kettering since 1965 when he was appointed Consultant Orthodontist at the Kettering and Northampton General Hospitals. He has a wide knowledge of health service matters having worked in the University, general practice, teaching hospitals, local authority service and several district general hospitals. 

He was the first chairman of the Northamptonshire Dental Advisory Committee reporting to the Area Health Authority of 1974, then Chairman of the Kettering District Hospitals' Medical Advisory Committee. On the formation of the Kettering District Health Authority in 1981 the Oxford Regional Authority appointed him as the Consultant Member and he served until 1990. He was three years a member of the Regional Medical Advisory Committee and twelve years one of the Three Wise Men of the medical staff of Kettering General Hospital. For eight years he served as Chairman of Governors of Southfield School for Girls, and a further eight years as co-opted member of the Schools Sub-committee of the Northamptonshire Education Committee. He retired from the hospital in 1993, he is now Trustee of the Post Graduate Centre. 

John will be giving a talk about his book at 7.30pm on Tuesday 19th February at the Kettering Cornmarket Hall 
Books will be available for purchase in aid of the Centenary Fund Cancer Unit.

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Past Events 

July Visit to Qxford 

I enjoy keeping a diary and from it will trace a civic day around Oxford: Having had a 2 hour journey in the companiable company of Mrs Cox, was glad to get up and start a day long walk about with Mr Joyce, Chairman of Oxford Civic Society, who met us off the coach outside St John's College and eagerly began to ply us with interesting facts about Oxford. One of the earliest concerned the Martyr's Memorial, which is Victorian, in the wrong place, and boarded up: Oxford City Council lacks the money to repair it. Where have we heard this before? Mr Joyce also mentioned the Debenham Department Store recently refurbished but keeping the well-preserved facade of an earlier one, and a special paving before it which the Civic Society had sponsored. 

Through crowded streets we walked to the Town Hall, where much to my relief our guide mentioned the lavatories. Before long we were seated around a vast table in the Committee Room, drinking coffee, munching biscuits and listening to a lengthy but absorbing account from Mr Joyce. I elicited the fact that they have as much difficulty as ourselves in gaining youthful members; but in other respects their situation was enviable. They have 850 members and contacts with the University were clearly not lacking. Powerful if unofficial support was available to them: when Christ Church Meadow was under threat, it is said that the Cabinet meeting agenda began, (1) Christ Church meadow motorway; (2) Suez Canal crisis! Sadly I reflected; there couldn't be many government ministers who attended Kettering Tech! 

I was fascinated to see that Mr Mercer was drawing a pencil picture of Mr Joyce as he spoke perhaps this will be deposited in the Society Archives? After several questions the meeting broke up. The Chairman and others went to lunch with Mr Joyce, to absorb even more detailed information about Oxford Civic Society, while the rest of us went our separate ways to shops, museums, galleries. Much of my day was spent frequenting the charity shops, which I expected to yield rich pickings, but I found, surprisingly, they weren't really up to the Kettering standard apart from Oxfam's excellent bookshop, where I managed to purchase several old Church guides. 

Rain threatened to fall when we arrived, but generally the weather was bright and sunny, conditions, which enhance the many stone buildings. Our host, with the Chairman and a small group of members were the last to return to the coach for our 5pm departure, obviously wanting to diffuse the embarrassment of any other late arrivals! We'd had a good time, and our thanks are due to Monica for organising such a worthwhile visit. 

Richard Makins 

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Our Trip to Lincoln Christmas Market 

We set off at 8.30am on a cold wet morning from the Corn Market Hall. As we journeyed to Lincoln, the sun and blue sky appeared showing signs of the sunny day to come. Upon arrival in Lincoln, my daughter and I stopped to have coffee and a mince pie in a Church Room then we joined the mass of people going towards the market. What can I say about the wonderful atmosphere of this market! With the many stalls and the beautiful backdrop of the Cathedral and other buildings steeped in history, it was an ic1eal setting for such an occasion. 

Practically ail stallholders were in Victorian dress and stalls ranged from Christmas decorations. toffee, pictures and cards and leather drinking tankards. It was incredible to see so many people and a voice over the tannoy kept telling us to keep moving forwards. 

There were tasty tipbits for you to sample, stalls selling German sausages, beef burgers and different kinds of Punch. After the market we made our way down the very steep hill towards the main town and explored the small specialist shops. 

A fitting end to the day was our visit to the beautiful Cathedral where we sat and listened to a band playing carols. Many people from different parts of the country were there just resting and there was a common unity between all present in this old Cathedral, which had stood the test of time during the centuries. 

The raffle on the coach home made the day complete. We had nine prizes and the joy of Christmas was reflected in a little girl's face when she won a large box of chocolates. 

Dorothy Knibbs

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Local Planning - The Tesco Appeal 

A Public Hearing took place on Wednesday 2lst November and Thursday 22nd November at Kettering Council Chamber. Tesco put for ward a planning application for a 5 m development increasing the size of the store from 6,503sqm to 10,382sqm at the Carina Road branch in Kettering Venture Park. The Hearing was Chaired by Government Inspector Peter Watson. Tesco was represented by Patrick Clarkson QC with Tesco Development planning Partnership, representative Richard Flack. Representing Morrison's, (opposed to the development) was John Mutton QC. 

Kettering Civic Society gave the following statement. 

The Civic Society take a broad view on the proposal by Tesco to carry out further development away from the centre of Kettering. At the onset, Tesco are welcome traders in the town for a range of reasons: 

1. As retailers, they offer a wide well presented range of merchandise in a comfortable setting. Their management is good. 

2. They are large employers in the town. 

3. Their buildings are of a high standard architecturally. Kettering Council have used their present building as an illustration in the Local Plan. 

4. The Tesco profile is good. 

The issues to set against all of these positive points are related to: 

1. "The Town Centre" - which the Civic Society defined as that area bounded by Sainsbury's in the North, Victoria Street in the East, Northfield Avenue in the West and the Council Offices in the South. 

2. The Borough Council Local Plan 

3. The needs of the population & District Shopping Centres

The Civic Society now argue that the town centre, as they define it, is in serious need of further support for redevelopment - particularly in the areas of shopping and car parking. The balance between the towns various functions is currently out of equilibrium and considerably more support is needed in this area to revitalise Central Kettering. On its present performance, Tesco would be very welcome there. Their influence would be beneficial. 

Perhaps they might care to do a Town Centre Development? 

On taking a walk around the centre area it is quickly evident that those qualities which the Local Plan highlight on Shopping, need reinforcing if the Centre Area is to remain viable and the focus of the town. All of the Local Plan "Topic Issues" are key to the well being of the Town Centre. The Civic Society supports the Borough Council in its view and the position they have taken in this appeal together with town centre traders and residents. 

Summarised, the aims are: 

1. To preserve the town centre and to encourage its development. 

2. To support and reinforce the presence of a diverse range of local traders and larger companies in the centre. 

3. To support "Walk-to shop" as an environmentally friendly process. 

4. Further expansion outside the town centre would damage the principle of the Local Plan. 

Kettering has a population of some 80,000 people. They are spread both across the town, in the A6 towns and many small villages. The enquiry must bear in mind that Kettering is a relatively small town. The spending power of that many people has a limit and viewed in terms of who shops where, further limits what trade any particular shopping outlet can do.

Retailing of the type Tesco does is shared between a range of shops and to an extent the towns plan and road network determine where people shop. Access from one side of town to another is hampered by Kettering's one-way network and tends to dictate choice. The road network is undergoing problems. The result of this relates then to the view one might take on district shopping or local shopping by need or desire. It is not clear what Tesco may define as "its district". 

With the close proximity of the Al4 it could be that "District" may have an envisaged radius of 20 miles or more? This is interpretation. Certainly the houses surrounding Tesco could support little more than a local shopping Centre. Kettering has examples of these and includes Grange Place Local Shopping Centre, which serves two large estates and passing traffic. If Grange Place can be identified as a local shopping centre then clearly a large town edge store must be viewed as a store drawing upon a large district. As a well managed company with skilled management resources, perhaps Tesco can advise how many people/ customers are required to support both their new and existing stores. 

We also have some concerns over reported employment figures. Perhaps it can be confirmed that of the 140 reported jobs that will be created, 1. No one will be transferred from the present store. 2. Of the 140 new jobs, how many will be more than part-time, i.e. doing more than 30 hours per Week? 

At this point in time, the Civic Society ask the inspector to turn down any further development by Tesco until the Centre Areas of Kettering have been re-established.

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Future Events 

Details can be found on the programme page
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