Kettering Civic Society
Newsletter 5 (August 2002)

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In Memory of Tony Ireson

Need you ask so many questions?" I remember the White Rabbit asking Alice. With the curiosity and inquisitiveness of a child came the regular flow of questions from Tony, yet, as behind Alice, was a very intelligent author. I'm sure this curiosity in Tony was something, like his impish charm, he was born with. His family had been stonemasons and carvers for several generations, and men working with craftsman's skill and natural products - usually stone - was Tony's childhood background. His cousin was Archie Ireson.

Having reached 88 years, he could look back over a lifetime of change. Being taken as a child by the family horse and cart had been a pleasure particularly if given the chance to hold the reigns. Lately he was a proud Triumph car owner. As a journalist he would now be an email man.

It's not hard to see how this early upbringing developed in with a love of the countryside and carefully crafted buildings set in it. Having been educated locally and worked locally, he never really wanted to leave Kettering even though he spoke with some fondness of India.

As with a journalist, my link back to Alice, has a more serious side. Tony's questions were always searching for answers, put in an intelligent way, with thought behind them but never a vicious or scandalous edge. Where he considered he might be personally hurtful, he left things unsaid. I like to think this was the Christian side of Tony.

In 1954 he wrote his first published book 'Northamptonshire History' which was to become a best seller. With an ear for local phrases and expressions, he picked up and incorporated the way Northamptonshire people were, into his writing. Photographic illustrations were his also.

From the Civic Society, we remember him as a founder member. The Town will remember Tony's Civic Society work in connection with Kettering Town Centre Redevelopment and particularly the saving of Beech Cottage, which now stands as a memorial to him and a reminder to the town of how things were. It is now a Gallery of his father's paintings.

All towns grow and evolve and it was his caring side of this evolution of Kettering with which. Tony associated himself.

It was his `Care Quality' for which I think everyone respected him. There was always a sense of humour with what he said and did. During the Build-up to Kettering entering the Redevelopment Epidemic of the 1970's local politicians held meetings to win converts to their cause. At one of these meetings, Tony was to display his impish side.

Chaired by Councillor Barry Chambers, a full meeting, mostly of politically minded folk, was joined at the back of the audience by Tony and a fellow Civic Society member. Heads turned, people murmured, and the chairman looked pensively and then launched into reasons why Kettering Town Centre should best be blitzed and rebuilt.

Tony proceeded to noisily unzip his briefcase and took out a clipboard and at the top of the sheet of paper wrote a short sentence. In front of Tony sat Alderman Len Smith. Tony tapped his shoulder and passed the clipboard to him. "Sign that please"... Len did and Tony urged with a dramatic whisper "Pass it on..." Gradually the board went round the whole seated audience who one by one signed the petition before it eventually came back to Tony. At this point, the other Civic Society member was able to read the petition, which read... `SAVE THE WHALES'.

The Chairman didn't know what had so broken the concentration of the audience but in a move, which Gatling Fen himself would have been proud of, Tony's impishness was well demonstrated and the meeting deflated.

Tony took early retirement to devote more time to opposing the development of the Newlands Centre eventually saving Beech Cottage, which I guess everyone will now try to save. What an irony.... Arrangements were made during the 70's for his cottage and we wait enthusiastically to learn what Tony had in mind. Tony devoted much of his time to writing and at the time of his death, he was nearing the completion of his 8th book.

Civic matters always remained in his mind and he was a regular behind the scenes, worker and mentor. Lately it was the Civic Society secretary who called on him regularly to bring his thoughts back to our meetings.

Tony has left us with memories of a charming intelligent, innocent man whose care for the world around him has left us a model in society to look up to and a conscience to protect and care for what is good.

The Civic Society and The Town say `Goodbye' to one of it's GREATEST DEFENDERS,

Tony Ireson 1913 - 2002 

For more information about the Tony Ireson Story follow this link

Auction held at The Alfred East Gallery Kettering Saturday 6th July 2002

In accordance with Tony's wishes a sale by auction of his paintings, some 250 works by his father Christopher Ireson1883-1925, and other artists, was held on Saturday 6th July. Members of the committee considered it a fitting tribute to purchase a painting in remembrance of Tony and a successful bid of 420 was made for the picture (right) Beech Cottage Garden (5th June 1974) by Nina Carroll 

The money from the whole sale (18,800) was donated, at Tony's wish, to Kettering General Hospital League of Friends. A better choice could not have been made, one that would also honour the memory of Nina Carroll the artist and a good friend and founder member of the Society. Members of the Society have been presented with a photograph of the painting with thanks to the generosity of Kate Steane, daughter of Nina, who has granted us the copyright. We now look forward to exhibiting our painting and for Kate to bring an exhibition of Nina Carroll's paintings to Kettering.

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Croft's Way

What is it? Where is it? Countless townspeople have never even heard of it. Many more would never dream of using this narrow filthy passageway that runs through the Newlands Centre and links Tanners Lane and Gold Street. Yet, awful as it is, Croft's Way represents one of the Kettering Civic Society's hardest and most bitter battles with the town's council, a battle that resulted in a Crown Court Judge listening to the council's counsel putting a case for closing it and the Society's case for confirming it as a Right of Way. After reading letters from the Kettering Council to the Society, Judge Young did more, he adjourned his Northampton Court and accompanied by the opposing barristers, he drove over to Kettering and walked through the disputed passageway from Tanners Lane to Gold Street. He assessed the standard of maintenance, and the adequacy of lighting and, after a day's hearing the Judge gave his summing up. It was devastating

The Facts: After winning a Public Inquiry in 1972, the council, as developers of the `Kettering Central Area Redevelopment Plan Phase 2', demolished the Old Post Office Buildings in Gold Street and the Listed Beech House in Tanners Lane and commenced work on the new shopping centre. In their haste to get the work underway they overlooked the statutory requirement to make an application to close and build over the recognised and much used Right of Way through the Post Office Arcade running between Tanners Lane, Richard Leys and Gold Street. The Civic Society immediately requested that The Secretary of State have the matter called in for another Public Inquiry. The council complained that this could hold up building of the new shopping centre for 18 months or more and could cost ratepayers millions of pounds.

In meetings with the council, the Society put the view that if the new shopping mall was designated a R of W this would be an acceptable alternative. KBC however insisted that the Mall had to be locked up at nights.

Stalemate was reached and work stopped on the new centre.

Eventually the then Chairman of Planning, proposed to the Society an alternative Right of Way, which was in fact a slightly altered fire exit route for the shops in the new centre (the present Croft's Way). The Society did not like it at all. Drawings showed that it would be narrow and, half way through had an acute `Dog's Leg'. KBC was told this. The council then promised that if the Society accepted this route, as an alternative to the old Post Office Arcade, it would ensure that the passageway would be (1) Well Maintained (2) Properly Lit (3) Wide enough for wheelchairs (4) Designated a 'permanent' Right of Way. 

The Society held a special meeting in Manor House to discuss this whilst at the same time KBC Planning Committee met in London Rd and awaited the Society's decision. The Society's vote was even with 6 agreeing to the council's proposal and 6 declaring vehemently that the council would go back on its word. As chairman, I reluctantly gave the casting vote that we accept the Council's word and the proposed alternative Right of Way. 

The name Croft's Way was suggested by the Society in attempt to `up-market' the passageway It was suggested originally by Fred Moore, `Annie Croft' (circa 1880) who had a stall where the passageway ends in Gold Street. 

Within 2 years KBC went back on its word and applied through Kettering Magistrates Court to close the passageway. The Society challenged the council's closure application and appeared at Kettering Magistrate's Court. After walking through the passageway the 3 Magistrates agreed with the Society that KBC had not carried out their promises. They refused the Council's application to close the Right of Way. 

Furious with this decision, the council then appealed to the Crown Court. The Society opposed the closure application. After a day in court and after the Judge Young had walked the passageway, he gave a 45-minute summing up. The Judge said: "A right of way was a pathway that could be used by anyone at anytime." The passageway had been constructed to Kettering Borough Council's design as an alternative to the original route known as the Post Office Arcade. In offering the passageway as an alternative the Council had written to solicitors acting for the Civic Society, promising that if the Civic Society would accept the passageway as an alternative route to the Post Office Arcade, the Council would ensure that the new route via the shopping centre and running from Tanners Lane to Gold Street, would be well maintained, well lit, suitable for wheelchairs and would be designated a permanent Right of Way. When asked to define `permanent' the council had replied Permanent as for- `All Time'. 

Having walked the passageway it could be seen that that it had not been well maintained, was not well lit and in requesting a closure order the council was going back on the assurances it had given in writing to the Civic Society that it would be a Right of way for All Time. The judge then confirmed the passageway to be a Right of way for All Time and dismissed the council's application to close it.' Time will prove how right the Society was to fight for this walkway from Tanners Lane to Gold Street. Disgusted by the state this important Right of Way has been allowed to fall into over the years, the Society made a number of suggestions for improvements. None have been accepted. 

Letters referred to above, from the council, are held in the Society's files. 

Arthur Heath. June 2002

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Annual General Meeting and Dinner 
of The Kettering Civic Society 
20th March 2002

Gests of honour were the Mayor and Mayoress Councillor and Mrs Civil. The Mayor spoke on his theme for the year, which was "Civic Pride". He was able to recall many buildings in the town, which in his lifetime had been demolished in the name of progress. Some of these buildings had been his place of work and it was with a smile that he noted his last place of employment was the Council Offices. Thought was that if only the staff there that were demolished, not the building. 

Highlights of the Mayoral Year had been the Queen's visit to Kettering followed by a return visit to Buckingham Palace. The Civic Society were pleased that one of the Mayors first official functions was to attend the Rose Bowl Presentation at the Quaker Meeting House. 

Giving the Annual Committee Report, the Chairman Paul Ansell spoke on the evolution of the Society from the days where every effort went into trying to save some of the towns notable buildings to the present time when concentration on the towns future has become particularly important. 

Through the year, visits had been made to Oxford, Rushton hall and Lincoln and several guest speakers had come to meetings. The proceeds from one of those evening talks was presented to Mr John Pettman for the donation to the Centenary Fund Cancer Unit. In the coming year, the highlight will be a trip to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London to see A Midsummer Nights Dream and a visit to Boughton House. 

The guest speaker was Gareth Fitzpatrick, Director of The Living Landscape Trust who spoke on the meeting of Town and Countryside. The Trust, based at Boughton House, have placed emphasis on educating young people on the values and pleasures of the countryside with a view to them enjoying and caring for it through their lives. Boughton House is regularly open and themed visits or tours are regular features. Mr Gareth Fitzpatrick is also assessor for the National Heritage Fund and outlined what money may be applied for to enable Heritage Projects. 

The evening concluded with thanks to all who had contributed to the Society throughout the year and the challenge was made to members to participate in more of the work of the organisation including new members to join. 

Left to right: Dr. R Wigglesworth, D Knibbs, M Ozdemir, M Locke-Page, S Clipston, R Makins, A Heath, R Mercer, T Wright, Chairman P Ansell. Photograph courtesy of Kettering Evening Telegraph.

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The Globe Theatre London 

Society social life was given a boost with a trip to London's Globe Theatre to see A Midsummer Night's Dream (in the afternoon!). For those of you who have not visited this theatre, it is a recreation of the original Globe Theatre, with thatched roof, open thrust stage and wooden bench seats.

 A special delight was the producer's performance as Bottom, standing in at short notice for the actor who was taken ill. As ever, there was an underlying reason for the visit, "should Kettering have a small theatre in town?" The Society welcome your views.

Perhaps you remember our proposals back in 1970 to have a theatre by the Market when a design was prepared to encourage support. What do you think now?

Rose Bowl Award 2002
Winner: The Darby Building Company 

Following last years award of the Rose Bowl to the Quaker Meeting House in Kettering for demonstrating how simple, good taste with even the smallest extension can be very pleasing and possibly a model for others to copy, the 2002 award was made for a large conversion and restoration of an old factory whose presence in Montague Street is an important landmark. 


The Velux Offices near to Tesco were seriously considered a new modern building bringing new technologies into its design but on balance, the role of restoring and thereby retaining town centre properties won the day. 

Congratulations to Darby Building Company who converted the old Bryant Factory into 20 town houses. Richard Darby received the Rosebowl from the mayor, Sue Holmes, presenting it on behalf of the Kettering Civic Society. Many of the factories internal features remain. The properties sold very quickly indicating the success and popularity of this type of conversion. 

We were grateful to the ex-Mayor Jonathan West for making his home available for inspection and a small reception after the presentation. We wish the new residents a happy and comfortable life in their new homes.

Previous winner

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The Tesco Appeal 

The following statement was published in The Evening Telegraph, voicing the opinion of the Society concerning Tesco's plan to increase the size of the "out-of town" store on Carina Road. Such a development threatens the livelihood of commercial activity within the town centre. "Kettering Civic Society welcomes the decision of the Planning Inspectorate to refuse Tesco's application to extend their present store and recognise the relief of the town centre traders. "Our concerns are that the town centre needs revitalising before further expansion happens out of the town boundary. Many of our members shop at Tesco and we welcome their presence in the town and with their undeniable capability in operating successful stores would have welcomed seeing them investing in the town centre, before the town boundary. "We all know how lively the town centre becomes late on several evenings a week and how nice if it could become this lively through the day. A regular comment often heard is that there is no life in the town. Planners are now putting together a new Local Plan for Kettering and we urge your readers to take an interest in contributing to this plan and specifically the town centre." A report on the Public hearing that took place on Wednesday 21 st October 2001 at Kettering Council Chamber, chaired by Govt Inspector Peter Watson, (and attended by representatives for Tesco, Morrisons, and Kettering Civic Society) appeared in the January 2002 KCS newsletter. It can be viewed on this website, under planning applications:

United Reform Church, School Rooms, London Road

In the history of the Congregational Church in Kettering a dramatic development of events led to the elders of Toller Church requiring a site in London Road and building a new church for themselves in 1898 followed by School Rooms and Institute in 1908. "The Church" had grown in the part it played in the Town's life to such an extent that it became appropriate to build not only a church but also a Sunday school, and meeting rooms. An architect was chosen and a comprehensive design prepared for what is the largest church complex of its type in Kettering. As time has passed, the numbers of people attending the church have dropped and the building has begun to decay. The sad decision to sell part of the building to finance necessary repairs is the reason for the planning application by a local developer. The Civic Society recognise the church's dilemma and also have strong concerns about potential loss of building. Rather like a body losing an arm, it is no longer complete. The proposed new dwellings are intended to retain the large gable window and possibly bring some long-term use to the site. It would however have been a valuable way forward to find alternative funding to save the whole building. The Civic Society support the views of the Council Officers and English Heritage and hopefully even at the eleventh hour, the building can be kept entire even if it has another use.

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British Rail was receptive to the Civic Society's ideas and suggestion as Kettering Station was refurbished concluding with a special station opening to which we were invited. With this link as a starting point, it seemed a wild idea to hire a real steam engine for the day and starting from the station, travel north to York, a Cathedral City with quaint streets, museums and the Railway Museum. The engine, `The Union of South Africa' 60009 has been booked for l0th May 2003 complete with historic carriages. Tickets and more details will be available shortly. Please book the date in your diary and then find tots of friends to bring on the day. Hopefully we will meet with members of York Civic Society on arrival. 

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