Kettering Civic Society
Newsletter 9 (2006)

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Chairman's Letter

MOSAICS topic at the Annual Dinner Dance

Oliver Budd gave a mind broadening illustrated talk at our Annual Dinner at the George Hotel on the mosaics that he and his father had created. The talk was a valuable background to the creative skills of father and son. It was Kenneth Budd who created the mosaic on Windmill Avenue Grammar School and which the Society is working hard to have saved. The mosaic tells the history of the town and is now becoming a rare and valuable commodity as more and more mosaics up and down the country are being lost to redevelopment.

We will continue to make every effort to save our most precious mosaic.

Society keeps a watchful eye on Kettering

The title of a film, 'Back to the Future', seems to sum up the Society's dedicated aim for Kettering. The "Town Centre Plan" is being actively consulted upon and we continue to be pressing for the inevitable development to have a character which we can proudly say "is Kettering". To this end we have been to a full meeting of the Council to urge that a Design Guide be prepared for developers use which would include features and building materials, and which would be special to the town. The Rockingham Forest Area already has such a guide and we believe Kettering should have one.

It is important that all the hard work the Society did in attempting to save town centre buildings was not ultimately in vain. If out of the ashes of the past a new town centre can arise, which has the character of Kettering built into it, we shall indeed be going Back to the Future.

Monitoring and participating in Development Consultation is ongoing and as a part of that we are supporting the Green Walkway from the town centre to the Leisure Village with we hope a new theatre.

In supporting pedestrians, pressure is being applied to secure a new access onto the A14 from the Leisure Village. The Evening Telegraph has published some of these activities and we look forward to giving you a progress update both regarding the Town Centre Plan and the Mosaic.

A special watch is being kept on the Heritage Quarter including the Council Offices and the Corn Market Hall which the Council propose to sell. These are our vital landmarks.

The 2007 events calendar is nearing completion and we look forward to meeting you at these events.

Paul Ansell


Kettering Civic Society's Seventh Heritage Plaque is unveiled

Sunday August 13th marked the 90th Anniversary of the setting up of the Wicksteed Trust and some 75 years after the death of Charles Wicksteed. The whole day was given over to celebrating events at the Park and in honour of the occasion, the seventh Blue Plaque was unveiled by Oliver Wicksteed marking the contribution his great-grandfather made to the town.

The plaque is over the door of his old house, "Bryn Hafod", in Hall Lane. The house was designed by Gotch and it is said that he used the garden as a model for Wicksteed Park.

When Charles died his house became the home of Ursuline nuns who were succeeded by the Sisters of Our Lady who recently moved to Hawthorn Road after living there for 50 years. The property is now being sold.


2006 Silver Rose Bowl Award

TOLLER CHURCH ROOMS (Formerly Toller Church Schoolrooms) Meeting Lane Kettering

The first Sunday school to be built in Kettering was in a corner of the Toiler churchyard in 1810. The Rev Thomas Northcote Toller recognised the need for providing a place for the religious instruction of an increasing number children who were being taught in the homes of church members. One of the first children to attend was William Knibb who later became a missionary. In 1810 there were 70 children on the register by 1820 the number had risen to 374. The children met in shifts and were also taught the 3 'R's.

In 1849 a new building was erected joining on to the church (This second building has since been much altered and is now shops and the modernised church in Gold Street).

By 1860 there were no less than 1,400 children receiving religious instruction. Over flow classes went to the Mission Hall in the old Post Office Arcade.

As churches of all denominations began their own Sunday Schools the numbers of children attending decreased, never the less the church felt the need for better facilities and purchased land in Meeting Lane. Building began in 1883 and the cornerstone was laid by the previous minister of the church, Rev. Thomas Toiler the son of Thomas Northcote Toller, and was officially opened on August Bank holiday Monday 1884.

The two towers capped by pinnacles housed the staircases to the upper hall, one for the boys and one for the girls. The large room on the ground floor once contained tiered seating and a platform and housed the Middle School. Until 1920 the infants still met in the original stone building in the churchyard and after 1920 that became the Primary Room. Between 1970's and 1990's Age Concern used it as a rest centre now renamed the Fellowship Room.

On the other side of the long corridor were about 8 small classrooms, one later becoming the Beginners room, (later used for storage and a cloakroom). The cloakroom known as the Round Room had a trap door in the ceiling for access to the hall above-but the reason for this is lost in time. Under the boys staircase was the cellar housing coke and the furnace for the central heating, and next to it a warm hide-away for the caretaker, with armchair, kettle and teapot!

The upstairs was the ultimate in Sunday school design. A stage, a large seating area around which were 10 classrooms with a shutter on three sides and each able to seat at least 20 children plus their teacher. The shutters enabled the classrooms to be increased in size, and when all were raised it almost doubled the size of the seating capacity.

The crowning glory is the high vaulted hammer beam roof, which must have amplified the children's singing.

Over the years the building has seen many changes. The Red Cross occupied the whole building between 1943 -1946 for a social and rest centre for the American servicemen. Showers and toilets were installed in the towers and the kitchen was enlarged. After the war the roof was retiled and the tower pinnacles, which had always caused problems, were removed. The original hot water system was changed. (The upstairs hall has seen 4 different heating systems over the years). The old coke stove and open coal fires in the downstairs classrooms were also removed. One amazing venture was a huge coke furnace in one of the classrooms, which emitted hot air through a grill into the upstairs hall. At times it also emitted fumes and soot! Apart from being used as a Sunday school, the building has so many other uses: by Kettering School Board as a Day School in the early part of the war by an evacuated London School, it housed Band of Hope, uniformed organisations, Youth clubs, Badminton clubs, Wedding receptions, stage concerts, Church worship when the church was undergoing redecoration, Bazaars, Dances, Pantomimes ......

Both church and community always used the building and the latest refurbishment will make it even more suited to today's needs. The history of the hall dates back to 1810 and the naming of the Hall "William Toiler" reminds us of the man, another son of Thomas Northhcote Toiler, who was perhaps the only teacher to teach in all three of the Toiler Sunday Schools.

Taken from information written by David Pywell


On 1st January 2006 our interest in town centre planning took us to the heart of Birmingham where we were able to explore from the heights of the Birmingham Wheel panoramic views over the city from Centenary Square and below, to Brindley Place and the Canal. Visiting Birmingham Symphony Hall nearby to listen to the New Years Day concert was an occasion not to be missed. The Johann Strauss Orchestra was directed in a traditional Viennese manner by Christopher Warren-Green with the Johann Strauss Dancers in beautiful costumes of the period. We took a trip back in time to the grand ballrooms of 19th century Vienna. The show was a delightful blend of music, dance and song with Strauss family favourites including the Blue Danube Waltz, Radetzky March, the Trisch Tratch Polka and many more.

In February we returned to Stratford Upon Avon, this time to take a look at the Swan Theatre where a brilliant performance of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, had the audience totally absorbed. This truly excellent adaptation, costumes and props continued to tour the country and finally reached the Gielgud Theatre where its season has been extended due to its huge success. The experience left us all still in high spirits when we reached home!

Philip Hollobone MP kindly invited a group from the Society to the Palace of Westminster and gave us a fascinating tour. After lunch we were able to sit in the gallery to observe the proceedings of the afternoon. All had a most enjoyable day.

Perhaps the exact location remains a mystery to many people even those who live locally. It is often confused with Drayton Manor Theme Park. Nothing would be more different, and such is the privacy you will never find yourself passing it in the car or even public transport. It demands a pilgrimage up a narrow "No Through Road" through gates and over cattle grids to sheep pastures away beyond the village of Lowick.

Once discovered however, its splendid setting and spectacular skyline of timely domes is barely forgotten. This fine building had remained in the possession of the same family (the Stopford-Sackvilles) for over a thousand years, albeit also under several other names, never needing to be sold off, or in any way advertise itself, it has just quietly continued minding its own business and over the centuries slowly gaining its treasures.

Luckily the public are allowed to visit from time to time at the convenience of the family, provided they belong to a designated group. It was just such an arrangement that enabled a party from the Civic Society to explore the house one very hot day in the hottest of Julys. Its secrets both outside and in were revealed to us by Mr Bruce Bailey and Mrs Margaret Sewell respectively. Both enlightened us with a vivid account of its treasures and the people who created and acquired them.

For much of its history it has been fortunate. The family was extremely well connected. Close to the throne and the centres of power and influence, they were able to employ the finest continental artists and craftsmen already working on the Dukes of Burghley and Boughton Estates.

After a leisurely and rewarding tour we were gently tipped out into the garden full of summer heat and afternoon sun. We slowly drove back to the Germaine Rooms in Lowick for a splendid tea provided by the "church' ladies of the village. In fact, their coffee cake, shortbread and other goodies proved to be the culmination of a perfect, quintessential English, and most memorable summer afternoon.

Robert Mercer

 Lahnstein Kettering Twinning

The 50 Anniversary of the twinning of Lahnstein and Kettering was celebrated in July, and to mark the occasion the Society presented the Twinning Association with a cake.

Members of the Society joined in the fun at the Twinning Ball held at Wicksteed Park on a hot summer's eve.