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Article by Geoff Wiggins, Rushden & District History Society
Risdene Echo, Volume 31 Number 4 September 2022

Eric Fowell

"Rushden's History Man"

In 1930, Eric aged just 3, was taken to see Rushden Hall and the Park, by an aunt, after the festivities of the day were over, and this photo was taken.

He stood on the steps in front of the large front door.

aged 3
Eric had a passion for the history of Rushden which started in 1937 when, on his way home from school, he saw Robert Marriott's farm in the High Street being demolished. From that moment he was hooked, and so began a lifetime's interest in collecting old photographs, artefacts and stories of the town's past.

He was attending Alfred Street School at that time and where he was to be at the centre of the most devastating event in Rushden's history on 3rd October 1940 when a lone German plane dropped a string of bombs across the middle of town. One of the bombs landed on the school resulting in the loss of life to seven young children. Eric survived, but he never forgot this terrible experience and over the years he organised events that never allowed the loss of those young lives to be forgotten.

In 1991 Eric, together with Eric Jenkins another local historian, decided to see if there was enough interest in the town to form a History Society. They organised a meeting and were surprised to see 58 people turn out. As a result of this initial meeting Rushden & District History Society was formed and now, some 31 years later, has a membership of 235. All of this being testimony to the enthusiasm of the two Erics and their passion for local history.

Eric had many other interests besides that of Rushden's past. He was a founder member of The Collectors Circle and would organise speakers for their monthly meetings at Rushden Hall.

with one of his books
Eric with one of his first books
In 1967 he was at the forefront of a group that formed the Rushden Amenities Society with the main aim of stopping the demolition of parts of Rushden Hall that was being mooted by the town council at that time. They organised petitions, lobbied local councillors and attended council meetings, and as a result the Hall was saved.

Eric enjoyed his time with the Pensioners Parliament with his fellow retirees where, once again, he would organise speakers for their meetings. He was also a member of Rushden & District Probus Club for quite a few years which he enjoyed attending until ill health prevented him joining the monthly meetings.

A few years ago he founded the H.E. Bates Group which brought together a number of enthusiasts who would meet to listen to invited speakers talk about Rushden's famous author. Needless to say it was Eric who organised the speakers.

Members of Rushden's History Society will be aware of the contributions Eric made to their quarterly Journal. Every issue usually contained several of his articles full of interest which mostly included photographs from his vast collection. Eric also used this collection of photographs in several books that he published and many of them can be found on Rushden History Society's much acclaimed website.

In addition to these interests, Eric was a very keen gardener and could often be found on his plot of land opposite his house in Spencer Road where he grew a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

It is fair to say that Eric was a very active man who took a great interest in his town and its past. He should therefore be rightly remembered as "Rushden's History Man". He will be sorely missed.

Article by Geoff Wiggins, Rushden & District History Society

Eric was a carpenter by trade, and worked in many of the buildings and businesses throughout the town. He married Jean in 1955 and they had one son, David. Together they were members of the Cactus and Succulent Society.

Eric had a wealth of knowledge on the factories, owners, clubs and societies. He was a keen member of Rushden Heritage Centre. After that closed, he joined Rushden Museum, and could always find items for the displays: Plans of buildings, photographs, information. KC

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