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 Northamptonshire Writers | The Kettering Mural | Kettering Railway Station | Tony Ireson and the Beech Cottage Saga | Ted Wright | Robert Mercer | John Smith | HE Bates


Local People also feature on the Blue Plaques page

A County that has inspired so many
An Article from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph Dec 19 2002 by Tony Smith

A GALLERY of writers including Charles Dickens and H E Bates has been gathered in a new book looking at authors associated with the county. More than 70 poets, playwrights, novelists and historians are featured in 'The Literary Heritage of Northamptonshire', the latest publication by Kettering teachers Ian Addis and Robert Mercer.

A number of books has been produced over the decades on local wordsmiths or their work, most notably Trevor Hold's definitive poetry anthology A Northamptonshire Garland, but this is the first time writers of all genres have been showcased under one umbrella. The period covered is wide-ranging, from poets John Clare and John Dryden to contemporary novelists such as Corby crime writer Jill McGown and her former Latin teacher Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse. It even includes two journalists who died this year - the Kettering historian and former ET writer Tony Ireson and Michael De-La-Noy, author of than 20 books, for whom the village of Slipton, near Thrapston, was a weekendretreat.

Kettering itself is well represented, from the 19th Century Baptist John Ayre Leatherland to nature writer and artist George Harrison, whose poems and articles were published in the former Kettering Leader in the 1920s and 30s. In more recent times the late J L Carr, who took up writing after teaching at the town's Highfields Primarv School, had two novels short-listed for the Booker prize. For a short spell Carr also taught at Kettering Grammar School, whose former pupils included H E Bates, who based several of his novels on his childhood haunts in the Rushden area. The latter's most popular creation was the Larkin family who won the nation's hearts with The Darling Buds of May.

Arguably the county's most famous literary son is peasant poet John Clare, whose village birthplace of Helpston on the county border has since been claimed by Cambridgeshire through boundary changes. The former ploughboy was feted by the London glitterati in the 1820s, but ended his days at Northampton's lunatic asylum. Dryden, rated by many as the initiator of modern English prose, was born in. a former rectory at Aldwincle, which still stands opposite the redundant church of All Saints. Long gone is the nearby childhood home of poet and theologian Thomas Fuller, whose father was rector of the other village church, St Peter's.

Other writers from the Nene Valley include the 19th Century Barnwell schoolmaster, historian and poet Thomas Bell and naturalist and world flea expert Dame Miriam Rothschild of Ashton, near Oundle. At King's Cliffe is the burial place of renowned religious writer William Law, born in 1685. Earlier that century the poet Mildmay Fane spent his last years at neighbouring Apethorpe after a spell in the Tower of London for his Royalist leanings during the Civil War. Often regarded as the 'forgotten' poet is Wellingborough-born John Askham, buried in the town's London Road cemetery in 1894. Better known was the 18th Century preacher Philip Doddridge of Northampton, whose religious writing included more than 400 hymns.

One of the county's most illustrious writers of more recent years was Denys Watkin's-Pitchford, who penned popular children's books under the pseudonym BB. Born at Lamport Rectory in 1905, he was also a skilful illustrator and champion of the countryside whose work earned him the MBE. Charles Dickens merits a mention for his coverage of a riotous election in Kettering in 1835 for the Morning Chronicle. He was also a regular guest at Rockingham Castle, where he was inspired to write Bleak House and David Copperfield.

The book 'The Literary Heritage of Northamptonshire' is illustrated by sketches of local places and is published by Diametric Publications, priced £9.95.

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 Northamptonshire Writers | The Kettering Mural | Kettering Railway Station | Tony Ireson and the Beech Cottage Saga | Ted Wright | Robert Mercer | John Smith | HE Bates


Ted Wright (1923-2005)

TRIBUTE has been paid to a Kettering Civic Society vice-president who has died at the age of 81.Ted Wright was born at 119 London Road, Kettering, on May 8, 1923. In 1936 he went to Wellingborough School.

On leaving he went to technical college and Grassmoor Colliery Chesterfield, as a mining engineering student before volunteering for military service in 1942.
He joined the Northamptonshire Regiment before being seconded to the Fourth Somerset Light Infantry It was while in its service that he was badly injured after being hit by an antitank shell while fighting in the Rhineland He suffered head injuries and spent about six months in military hospital.

Mr Wright later took a desk job and was posted as adjutant at a prisoner-of- war camp in Luton, with the rank of captain. He went on to Jesus College, Cambridge, on a further education grant. He joined the Government’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and in 1951 became scientific personal assistant to its director of food investigation, based in Cambridge.He moved to the department’s headquarters in London in 1955. He eventually became head of research establishments before retiring in 1983.

After his parents died in the early 1980s he moved from Bloomsbury to their old house in London Road.

He became chairman of Kettering Book Society and at the age 70 vice chairmanof the civic society In 2000 he was appointed life honorary vice-president. Kettering Civic Society chairman Paul Ansell said: “It was his ideas, judgement and wisdom that we would always have benefited from. His opinion was very caring and sound.”

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'Time Travellers' Room

The Society has for several years been looking for a base to give it a ‘face’ in the community and to fulfil its objectives. In December 2015 Dan Eustance, East Midlands Trains Customer Experience Manager offered a room on platform 1 for Kettering Civic Society use.

Dan Eustace: “ Through this partnership, Civic Society Secretary Monica Özdemir has adopted the station. Together we (East Midlands Trains) are planning to have more community activities take place at the station including working with Prince’s Trust offering career advice and work experience as well as offering students the opportunity to engage in environmental and conservation projects.”

The Time Travellers Room, although just big enough for 10 people to sit around a table, benefits from high walls allowing for exhibitions. It is suitable for use as a small workshop, and an information point for promoting the county and the town. It is felt that the activities that will take place in the room will evolve as new volunteers join in and the projects that will be undertaken under the Heritage Lottery bid will be the start. The room will also form a good fundraising base aiming towards installing the Kettering Mosaic on the Newlands Shopping Centre above the car park entrance, an area of the town to be regenerated.
Dan Eustace, David Rose of Network Rail and Civic Society secretary, Monica Özdemir decorated the room in December 2015.

Kettering Railway Station Refurbishment

EVENING TELEGRAPH Monday March 24 1980

The alterations currently being carried out at Kettering station should ensure that it would still be one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture remaining in the country. Work has been in progress since last year to replace the glass canopy covering the 19th century ironwork over the station platforms. It is hoped the whole project will be completed before the end of the year, and that the station will be restored as a reminder of the achievements of our Victorian forebears.

The fact that the restoration work is being carried out at all is something of a triumph for Kettering Civic Society. British Rail's original plan was to demolish the present structure and re-roof the platforms completely. But following pleas from the Civic Society that the station is a prime example of 19th century railway architecture and that is should be preserved, BR agreed to co-operate in the restoration.

The scheme has already cost BR 498 man-days of work and £45,000. Just over half the central part of the station - covering platforms 3 and 4 has been refurbished. The original glass is being replaced by translucent PVC, which should greatly reduce the cost of maintenance.

The old Midland Railway was particularly noted for its platform ironwork, and until recently Bedford and Kettering stations were the best surviving examples of the style. Now Bedford is due for demolition; so Kettering will remain supreme. Some of the ornate cast-iron pillars, which are such a feature of the two stations, will be transferred to Kettering from Bedford to replace worn-out specimens here

When the glasswork has been replaced on platforms 3 and 4 work will start on the remainder. A fresh coat of paint all round, and improvements to public facilities are also planned for 1980. The result, says Mr Fred Waterhouse traffic manager, at Corby with responsibility for Kettering and Wellingborough, will be that Kettering station will be the finest example of cast-iron railway architecture in the Midlands region.

The railway first arrived in Kettering only after strong opposition from local Owners. Mr Frank Thompson of Kettering Civic Society in some notes on the coming of the new mode of transport to the town, says:

In 1918, the Stockton and Darlington scheme (to extend the railway in the direction of Kettering) was presented to Parliament but was defeated on the grounds that it would interfere with fox coverts and hunting in the area. It was also thought that road tolls would be affected and the value of the franchise would be decreased.

In 1821, however, a bill was passed to allow the building of the line and in September, 1825, the line was opened. The development was of great interest to Kettering, and the prospect of it being one of the towns through which the Midland Railway would pass hailed with delight. Until this time the county of Northamptonshire had been almost totally lacking in modern methods of transportation and communication.

The travelling facilities and those available for the transport of goods and essential supplies were at this period very poor indeed. Of all the towns that the Midland Railway would pass through, Kettering would probably derive the most benefit. Coal, the driving force of the Industrial Revolution, was the main reason why.

Coal was being obtained from Market Harborough, and the additional cost of carting the coal made it very expensive. As a means of power it was costly, and as a means of heating it was beyond the pockets of most of the poor people of Kettering. A contemporary report notes: 'At this period, during winter, the poor could be seen purchasing a halt of a quarter of a hundredweight of coal'. The coming of the rail way would have a dramatic effect by reducing the cost of fuel by half. This would be a great benefit to residents, manufacturers and agriculturalists of the district, both on account of the more economical source of power and the great comfort in winter.

Goods and cattle at present being drawn or driven to and from Northampton to link with canal systems would now only need to be taken to the station.

A petition in favour of the railway was sent to Parliament by the inhabitants of Kettering and district. The petition pointed out the advantages of such a sys tem in getting fuels into the district and minerals out, as well as linking 'up with the northern manufacturers and the metropolis of London. The line was to be financed by the issue of stock to local people. A list of Kettering subscribers exists showing the Duke of Buccleuch to be the largest subscriber, to the tune of £3,000.

Kettering station was eventually constructed and opened in 1857. The occasion was celebrated by the declaration of a public holiday. A ball was arranged in Kettering Corn Exchange, and a public dinner held at the Royal Hotel on May 9, to celebrate the opening of the railway. The line was open for general traffic the next day. An express service was inaugurated between Leicester and Kettering, stopping at Kibworth and Market Harborough. The journey took an hour and 13 minutes.

The new line, and Kettering station, approached their heyday at the turn of the century, at which time nearly 200 people were employed at the station, providing a variety of services for gentry, traders and travellers of even the lowest classes. The station was greatly expanded in the late 1890s so that the increased volume of traffic could he catered for.

The following is an extract from the Evening Telegraph of February 11, 1898:

Passengers to and from the station who have been using it for the last 12 or 15 months have been aware that certain alterations have been in progress, hut they were hardly prepared to see such an elaborate block of buildings as is now revealed by the removal of the hoardings and scaffoldings. The station buildings are now brought some 40 feet nearer the town, and to those who have been so long used to the dingy and ill-arranged offices which have done duty for so many years, the change is a marvellous one. Near the principal entrance is a glass roof covering some 15 feet by 60 feet which will be much appreciated by the porters and public alike when the weather is unpropitious. The main entrance to the station is a special feature, and is a fine elliptical terra cotta arch, illuminated from the top by lantern lights. The gates are of wrought iron, and are of an open waked pattern. Oak and pitch pine barriers have been erected near the ticket windows, and now, instead of having only one little pigeon hole, three convenient places have been made for issuing tickets. The first will he confined to excursionists, the next for third-class passenger, and the last to those who can afford to book first class.

The contract, which amounts to between £8,000 and £9,000, was secured by Messrs E Brown and Son contractors of Wellingborough. The whole staff at Kettering now numbers about 180, and no less than £550 it paid per week in wages and salaries.

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Robert Mercer (1933 - 2012)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our Vice Chairman, Robert Mercer. He was a much valued and loyal member of the Society and we will miss him greatly.

Robert died peacefully at his home on April 10th 2012 aged 79 years. The beloved husband of Stephanie, much loved father of Stephen and Alison, father-in-law to Carole and Nanni, and adored Granddad of Guy and Anna, Adam and Nicole.

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 Northamptonshire Writers | The Kettering Mural | Kettering Railway Station | Tony Ireson and the Beech Cottage Saga | Ted Wright | Robert Mercer |  John Smith  | HE Bates


John Smith 1790 - 1824

Defiant hero who paid with his life - from an article in the Evening Telegraph 1/12/00

The name of a brave Rothwell missionary was etched in the annals of history after his tragic death in British Guyana aged just 34.

John Smith, born an orphan boy in 1790, was a staunch abolitionist whose outspoken views and attempts to help negro slaves in Demerara were to cost him his life.

This son of a soldier born in Egypt, whose only education was from a Sunday School in Rothwell, went to London at the age of 14 to work for a biscuit baker. There he joined the London Missionary Society, which sent him to Demerara in 1817.

On arrival with his young wife, Smith was greeted by the Governor with the that any-teaching of the negroes would lead to immediate banishment. Undaunted, he took charge of a little chapel at Le Resouvenir in the midst of slave plantations around Georgetowm.

Slaves toiled for 12 hours a day among the sugar canes, spending each evening supplying fodder to their masters' stables. Even Sunday was a working day and flogging was an every day occurrence, yet Smith attracted large congregations and began reading classes for the freed negroes (and some of the slaves). In 1823 an orderly demonstration by the negroes was met with brutal oppression, with hundreds shot, 47 hanged and many receiving 1,000 lashes each. After refusing to take up arms against them, Smith was arrested on a charge of "conspiracy and rebellion", although the real reason was hatred of his work and his defiant attempts to give slaves some elementary education.

After seven weeks' detention and a court martial lasting 28 days, he was condemned to death In November of that year. But his feeble body was unable to withstand the rigours of his trial and he died in his damp and rotten cell on February 6, 1824 - just three days before Instructions arrived from the British government that he Was to be sent home.

The storm raised in the House of Commons by his treatment was an important factor leading to the final abolition of slavery. His cruel sentence was, in the words of Lord Morley, "an event as fatal to slavery in the West Indies as the execution of John Brown was its death- blow in the United States". A portrait of Smith and a memorial plaque to his martyrdom can be found today at the United Reformed Church in Rothwell, where he was a member as a child. A town avenue is also named after him.

 

 

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 Northamptonshire Writers | The Kettering Mural | Kettering Railway Station | Tony Ireson and the Beech Cottage Saga | Ted Wright | Robert Mercer | John Smith |  HE Bates



H E Bates 1905 - 1974

H E Bates was born in 1905 in the shoe-making town of Rushden, Northamptonshire, and educated at Kettering Grammar School. After leaving school, he worked as a reporter and as a clerk in a leather warehouse. Many of his stories depict life in the rural Midlands, particularly his native Northamptonshire, where he spent many hours wandering the countryside.

His first novel, The Two Sisters (1926) was published by Jonathan Cape when he was just twenty. Many critically acclaimed novels and collections of short stories followed. During WWII he was commissioned into the RAF solely to write short stories, which were published under the pseudonym “Flying Officer X”. His first financial success was Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944), followed by two novels about Burma, The Purple Plain (1947) and The Jacaranda Tree (1949) and one set in India, The Scarlet Sword (1950). Other well-known novels include Love for Lydia (1952) and The Feast of July (1954).

His most popular creation was the Larkin family which featured in five novels beginning with The Darling Buds of May in 1958. The later television adaptation was a huge success. Many other stories were adapted for the screen, the most renowned being The Purple Plain (1947) starring Gregory Peck, and The Triple Echo (1970) with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed.

H E Bates married in 1931, had four children and lived most of his life in a converted granary near Charing in Kent. He was awarded the CBE in 1973, and died in 1974.

Writes: General Fiction, Bloomsbury Reader Author of : The Day of the Tortoise, The Triple Echo, The Song of the Wren, The Wild Cherry Tree, The Fabulous Mrs. V., The Four Beauties, The Yellow Meads of Asphodel, The Black Boxer Tales, An Aspidistra in Babylon, Death of a Huntsman, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal and Other Stories, The Golden Oriole, Colonel Julian and Other Stories, Love for Lydia, The Watercress Girl, Cut and Come Again, The Complete Uncle Silas Stories, The Flying Goat, The Beauty of the Dead and Other Stories, The Nature of Love, Something Short and Sweet, The Bride Comes to Evensford, The Daffodil Sky, The Complete Flying Officer X Stories, The Cruise of The Breadwinner, The Wedding Party, Seven Tales and Alexander, The Woman Who Had Imagination, Day's End and Other Stories - See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com

In his first autobiography, The Vanished World he writes of his first love being a girl called Con who he used to meet at Kettering Station on Platform 3.  Quote, 'There is no practical reason whatever for there ever being erected a plaque on a house in London saying H E Bates lived here; but if there were any justice whatever in the history of railways and twentieth-century novelists there should be a plaque on the door of the first-class waiting-room on Platform 3 at Kettering station saying H E Bates loved here.'