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Barry Postle
Memories of 1942-48 at Rushden

I lived at the brickworks in Wellingborough Road between 1942 and 1948 though my birthplace was Beechwood Road in Luton, Bedfordshire. Though I was only young when I left Rushden I have some vivid memories of living there. I attended Alfred Street Infants School and Wellingborough Road Mission Church Sunday School. My teacher at Alfred Street school was Miss Foxworthy and my Sunday School teacher was Mr Robinson.

At the time I was living at the end of Wellingborough Road there was very little up there, it was all open fields, Fern Road and Palm Road were just dirt tracks with a few houses and there were just a few buildings on the left hand side past what is now Masefield Drive including Mrs Harbour’s shop and a couple of bungalows. Mr Robinson, the Sunday school teacher, lived in the last bungalow and I remember he would always carry me on his shoulders all the way down to the church. I remember then it was a very remote part of Rushden and a very long way into town.

On the right hand side of Wellingborough Road there were just two cottages, the first one was the building Cyril Norris used for offices in later years, just up from White Arches Caravans. This is where I lived with the bungalows almost opposite. The second cottage was just past White Arches Caravans towards Northampton Road; Mrs Newell lived in this one. I went to school with her son; I believe they could have moved to Irchester.

The railway lines ran at the back of our houses and as young children we would play and sit on the bridge that was across Northampton Road and wait for the steam trains to come by, and to wave to the drivers. There were no health and safety rules then.

The reason my family moved from Luton to Rushden was because of my father’s work. The ground on the right hand side of Wellingborough Road was all open space then with the clay pit in the middle of it. I remember being warned the clay pit was very deep and there was a large pylon in the middle. As children we would play round the clay pit, and I once fell in with my elder sister getting me out safe.

The large trees along the road were only small back then and I remember my mother telling me a sheepish story in later years. My father won two lambs in a raffle. He could have had cash or the lambs and he chose the lambs, possibly because it was war time and food was scarce. Unknown to him at the time one was a he and one was a she, and when they had grown some they were tethered to the trees by the road outside our gate, as traffic was few and far between in those days so they were no trouble and kept the verge short. My mother told me after a while she had a council order threatening court action if they were not moved because they were eating all the bark off the trees, and so they were tethered on long ropes within the house grounds. Many a caller was butted on the backside by the ram, they were eventually given to the farmer at the end of the road.  I still remember those sheep.

Through the war years my father, service exempt, did demolition work, not scrap dealing, for Thomas Oakley who did government work making blitz areas safe. Thomas Oakley owned or leased the brickworks grounds - this stretched to the railway lines at the back and down to Northampton Road inclusive of the clay pit. He was a steel tycoon with steelworks in Beechwood Road, Luton. I was born next door to the steelworks at number two. My father leased the grounds from Thomas Oakley, the house included, but this was tied. I have often wondered if the Oakley Arms public house in Wellingborough Road, now closed, had anything to do with Thomas Oakley who was a big landowner.

business card
His father's business card.

Through the war years my father travelled all over the country making buildings safe after bomb damage. He was able to use explosives, and at its peak he had thirty men working for him, and after many years my mother told me he packed it all in because he was away from home for weeks on end and she was always getting on to him.

1946 report
School report 1946
Not many people in Rushden would remember this business in Wellingborough Road but while clearing a drawer I came across a business card, the only one in existence, dating from between 1942 and 1947. This card is now with Irthlingborough History Society together with an Alfred Street school report from 1946 for safe keeping.As a child I can remember Mrs Harbour’s shop as if it was yesterday. I now wonder why the shop was there, because the area was so remote. My mother told me she always had a good stock of sweets even if it was the war years, no health rules then, sticky fingers in the jars, sweets not wrapped, four sticks of liquorish and a bag of lemonade powder for a penny.  Oh to think about it.

Even though I was a young boy I have very clear memories of the big snow of 1947, being as our house and Mrs Newell’s house down the road were in the open, snow drifts were up to the bedroom windows all round, we were stranded in home for a very Long time. Wellingborough Road was cut off. I remember a huge snow plough from Chelveston Airbase coming along, but this got stranded near the junction of Northampton Road for a few days.

When my father called it a day with his business in 1948 it gave my family a problem, as the house was tied. We had to move but in those days places were few and far between and we were eventually evicted from the property. My mother with three young children and all our worldly goods on the roadside. Arthur George of Washbrook Road told me many years ago that he covered the event with his camera. We, as a family, then moved to the YMCA hostel in Irthlingborough for about a month. This hostel was used later for the Thomas and Baldwin mineworkers. We eventually moved to Chelveston Airbase, which was a far more interesting part of my young life.

My mother moved me from Alfred Street School and I started at Higham Ferrers Junior School in Saffron Road. I walked to school and back to Chelveston every day, with no supervision, and I can still remember some of the teachers; Mr Woodall, Bob Tanner, Johnny Burdett, Miss Johnson and Miss Sugars. I finished my schooling at Rushden Tennyson Road School for boys, my last teacher being Bert Catlin. Jack Wilce was the then headmaster.

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