Changing face of Rushden High Street

Fine Fare built on the site of the old Coffee Tavern in High Street, taken in 1962 or 63
Fine Fare built on the site of the old Coffee Tavern in High Street, taken in 1962 or 63

This week’s Retro shows the changing face of the top of Rushden High Street between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century.

The pictures show the end of Rushden High Street nearest St Mary’s Church and have been supplied to the Telegraph by Rushden historian Eric Fowell.

The Coffee Tavern in Rushden High Street, taken about 1890

The Coffee Tavern in Rushden High Street, taken about 1890

The first picture was taken in the 1890s and on the lef-hand side you can see the former Coffee Tavern building.

The second photograph was taken in the mid-1960s and by this time the Coffee Tavern had been pulled down to make way for Rushden’s first supermarket, which was called Fine Fare.

Mr Fowell said: “The Coffee Tavern was a hotel where you could go for lunches and breakfasts. It was there for many years and it didn’t sell alcohol.

“It was pulled down in the 1960s to make way for the town’s first supermarket which was called Fine Fare.

“The supermarket wasn’t there for that long. Today Peacocks stands in its place.”

The Coffee Tavern was built in 1882 and the little lane next to Peacocks still bears its name.

At the rear of the Coffee Tavern there was a public hall where groups belonging to such organisations as churches, political parties and the Salvation Army used to meet.

Mr Fowell added: “There also used to be live entertainment on in the public hall.

“It used to host all sorts of concerts and it was a really busy place before the cinemas started to arrive in about 1910 or 1911. After that the public halls seemed to decline in popularity.”

In the older picture you can also see on the right a section of agricultural land.

Mr Fowell said: “It looks as though that land might have been being used for growing potatoes.

“That area was later replaced by the John White factory and the town’s library and council building.”

If you follow the line of Newton Road, the road heading towards the right, on the newer picture you can also make out another large modern structure, the depot for the United Counties Omnibus and Road Transport Company.

Before the Rushden depot was built, the buses used to park up on an area where Home Close cottages formerly stood, in Skinners Hill facing the town’s War Memorial.

The United Counties Bus Depot was built in Newton Road in 1949 and had its own set of traffic lights.

When the depot was closed builders merchants Toseland’s moved there from Albert Road.

When they outgrew the premises, they moved to Northampton Road.

The building is now owned by East Northamptonshire Council and was used as a recycling centre until last summer when it closed. The authority is now looking to sell the site.

Mr Fowell said: “I think these pictures show how Rushden expanded quickly from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.

“When you look at the older picture I think you feel that you’re looking at a growing village.

“But by the 1890s you’re starting to see the effects of the shoe trade moving into Rushden.

“As a result of that people started to move here from all over because there was work and you start to see new streets being created.

“At one time we had about 40 or 50 boot and shoe factories and by the 1960s everything was thriving. By that decade we were no longer a growing village, we were a separate town.”

To find out more about Rushden’s history visit www.rdhs.org.uk.