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About Us

Plaque commemorating the Lightstrung cycle factory

Rushden & District History Society held its inaugural meeting in May 1991 and issued the first “Risdene Echo” in September of the same year, as a quarterly magazine. Our meetings were then held at Rushden Hall but when our regular audience topped 50 this forced a move to a larger hall. The varied programme of speakers now regularly attracts audiences of over 80 at our monthly meetings, now held at South End Junior School , usually on the 3rd Friday, at 7.30pm, where visitors are always welcome.

In January 2002 a small group was formed to start to create a research base to help anyone researching people or places in the town, called Rushden Research. We began with the 1901 census which had just been released for public scrutiny, and our aim was to have it on display at the first “Discovery Day” at the end of March. We managed to complete input but it was not fully checked, so we later did a full recheck and then went on to transcribe the other parishes which with Rushden, make up the old administrative area called the “Higham Ferrers Hundred” (13 parishes in all) and produced it as a CD in time for the next “Discovery Day” in the autumn of 2003. Since then we have been transcribing and indexing Baptist & Methodist records and have recently started on the Wesleyan Church books. Our regular meetings have been as “Wills Workshops” where we meet and work to transcribe wills of Rushden residents from 1500-1858.

A closer link has been established between those interested in the history of Rushden and we are now working with two independent groups, Rushden Museum & the Rushden Historical Transport Society to co-ordinate our efforts to bring our Societies’ activities to the notice of a much wider audience. Joint planning meetings now make sure we are all represented at town as well as at each other’s events.

We are also working with the Rushden branch of the Northamptonshire Family History Society on some of our transcription projects. Several members belong to both societies.

Rushden Research group applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable us to create an interactive website so that the fruits of our research can reach a worldwide audience. The grant was awarded in January 2007 and after two years of hard work by our dedicated team we have celebrated the launch of a DVD "A History of Rushden" and the installation of an IT Kiosk in Rushden Museum. This marks the end of our funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund - our future work will now be self-funded.

The team
The Website Team and Tutors - May 2009 outside Rushden Hall
Back row: Kenton White (IT Kiosk), Roger Drage (project co-ordinator/tutor/filming of DVD),
Jim Hollis, John Collins, Greville Watson, John Socket (tutor), George Jennings, and
Robert Clarke (he joined us for a few months following redundancy, and took the photo)
Front row: Sue Manton, Sue Comont, Gill Hollis, Kay Collins,
Karon Rice (now Watson) and Jacky Lawrence.
Missing - John Comont, who works full time and came to work with us at our evening sessions.

National Award For Kay
Pride in Rushden
Evening Telegraph article 2009 - Presented by Catherine Collins
Kay Mayor's Award
Delight - Mrs Collins receives the award from
mayor Barbara Jenny watched by, Karon Rice,
Greville Watson and Jacky Lawrence.
An historian who has been the driving force behind a major project to record Rushden’s social history has been awarded her town’s highest honour.

Kay Collins has helped to co-ordinate the Rushden Hearts and Soles Project which won £49,500 from the Big Lottery to enable keen history fans to research the town’s history from the 1880s onwards.

So far Mrs Collins and the other researchers have compiled about 5,300 pages of information on the project’s website.  In recognition of her hard work she was presented with the Rushden Mayor’s Award by Rushden town mayor Barbara Jenney.

Mrs Collins said: “I was really touched to be nominated. Although I’ve been the contact point for people, I couldn’t have done this by myself, and without the support of the other researchers the project wouldn’t have been as good as it is.

“I feel as though I’m accepting this award on their behalf too.”

The project was launched two years ago.  Since then its website has been visited by more than 11,100 people.

The site has sections about the development of the town, its shoe trade, churches and chapels, education, emergency services, crime, businesses, genealogy, families, leisure clubs and societies, transport and war.

Mrs Collins said: “I’ve really enjoyed being part of the project but there is still a lot to do so we would be pleased to hear from anyone who can offer us more information or photographs.”

Mrs Collins was put forward for the annual award which is to recognise services to the community by members of the public.

Cllr Jenney said: “I was delighted to be able to present the award to Mrs Collins.  She has done some outstanding work and has also inspired others.”

National Award for Kay
Article from The Risdene Echo September 2010
Kay BALH Award
Professor David Hey presents Kay with
her award
In 2010 the committee of Rushden & District History Society nominated the Co-ordinator of this “Hearts & Soles” project, Kay Collins, for a national award from the British Association for Local History (BALH).  The committee subsequently learned that the nomination had been successful and Kay had been awarded a Personal Achievement Award for Local Historians for 2010.
Although up to six awards may be made each year, it later transpired that only four had been awarded on this occasion.  The awards are a means of publicly honouring local historians who have made outstanding and significant voluntary contributions to the subject in their own areas. 

The BALH citation commended Kay’s “extensive and longstanding voluntary work in local history in Rushden”, and she was invited to the Imperial War Museum in London to receive her award at the beginning of June when the presentation took place as part of the BALH “Local History Day 2010”.

The awards ceremony took place before a large number of BALH members when Jane Howells (Awards Secretary) introduced the winners and Professor David Hey, president of BALH, presented the awards.  Kay was described to the audience as responsible for an accessible interactive website that encourages all ages to participate.
A well-deserved national award.

The project, “History of Rushden – Hearts & Soles”, is continuing. We are now looking to the wider community to get involved to help us to improve the web site. Anyone who wants to get involved can chose to help by interviewing, typing, researching, writing articles, collecting documents and pictures or help us with administration.

This project gives everyone a chance to share memories of living and working in Rushden and the surrounding villages, and this website makes them available to a worldwide audience. If those memories are not recorded for future generations, they will be lost. Please consider helping us - read more here.

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