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Article & Photographs by Paul Wright.
Alfred Lord Tennyson School

In September 2023, the name of the trusty place of early learning in Rushden became Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The new head teacher is Mrs Kelly O’Connor, so takes pride of place at the start of this historic journey for the former Alfred Street School.

Entrance Ramp. School sign.
Entrance Ramp.
School sign.

The new school came about after formal approval was given to amalgamate Tennyson Road Infant School and Alfred Street Junior School. The site in Tennyson Road opened in the late 1930s, following building of Rushden’s first Council Houses.

original street sign. Plaque to the pupils who died
Sign of ageing - the original street sign.
Blue Plaque at the former Alfred Street School

Tennyson Road Boys School was formerly located next to the Infant School, and many lads would have gone on to be under the guidance of Mr Bert Catlin, the larger than life headmaster of course.

As far as I am aware Tennyson did not have a direct connection to Rushden, but obviously the residents of the road leading off Highfield Road, share addresses connecting them to Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Nearby is H.E.Bates Way. This was named after Rushden’s own “man of letters” as H.E.Bates, the author, was born in Rushden at the start of the 20th century. He went on to Kettering Grammar School, and qualified to go to University, but his parents could not afford to send him on to higher education.

In 1921, at the age of 16, he joined the local paper, the Northampton Chronicle as a reporter, but he left two months later because he did not like the work.

His next job was back in Rushden, as a clerk in a factory; a job he did for a couple of years.

We had so many boot and shoe factories, and the community benefitted by the close knit family atmosphere that was generated by working alongside some real characters.

Several of H.E. Bates’ books are set in this neck of the woods, and reflected strong earthy characters, who many of us can identify with; people that we have known, and loved of over the years.

Some have made it on to our TV screens, and famously include The Darling Buds of May, which tended to reflect on his move from Rushden to the garden of England in Kent.

An original TV version starred David Jason and Pam Ferris, and that ran from 1991-1993.

ITV gave it a new lease of life in 2021, and that starred Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlon, and the title was changed to the “Larkins”.

Now in 2023, there are only a small bunch of factories now, but in the past there were over forty, so keeping Rushden on the map.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was considered as a suitable name, as not only was he prominent in literature, it is widely thought that he also embodied the British values which are so important to the national curriculum. Being the son of a fairly wealthy Anglican vicar, who came into this world at Somersby in Lincolnshire.

Over the 150 plus years the Alfred Street site has seen so many pupils and teachers pass through its doors.

And over that period, not all times were happy of course.

Back in 1901 the building was badly damaged by a fire, and just under forty years later, it was bombed during World War Two. It was October 1940, during a bombing raid over Rushden, seven children lost their lives.

They were Dennis Felce, Roy Odell, Joyce Dodd, Muriel Moye, Donald Scrivens, Lorna Payne, and Cecilia Chase. Three of the children had been young evacuees from Colchester in Essex.

The very idea of evacuation was intended to protect the children from such sad outcomes.

For some time in 2023, building work had been taking place, and scaffolding was seen on the exterior, and painters were sprucing the place up with a coat of paint. During this work, the alley way connecting Alfred Street to John Street was closed.

Hopefully many of our readers have very fond memories of attending Alfred Street School, which has stood in our town for so long.

From 1st September 2023, the Tennyson Road site will be for children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, and the Alfred Street site will be for children in Years 3 to 6.

Tennyson Road site.

Tennyson Road site.

Earlier Schools with similar names:

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