Grand-daughter of Rushden-born author H E Bates calls for assurances over county libraries

H E Bates
H E Bates

The grand-daughter of one of Rushden’s most famous sons is calling for assurances over the future of the county’s libraries.

Northamptonshire County Council, which has severe financial problems, is planning to stop funding a large number of its libraries.

One of the blue plaques in Rushden for H E Bates

One of the blue plaques in Rushden for H E Bates

The proposed changes have attracted a lot of opposition and Victoria Wicks, grand-daughter of the English writer and author H E Bates, has written to the authority’s leader Cllr Matt Golby to have her say.

H E Bates was born in Rushden in 1905 and his best-known works include Love for Lydia, The Darling Buds of May, and My Uncle Silas.

Several blue plaques can be found in Rushden in honour of his contribution to the town’s history.

His grand-daughter’s letter to Cllr Golby says: “I am writing to you on behalf of the literary estate of H E Bates.

Victoria Wicks (front right) at an event in Rushden in 2011

Victoria Wicks (front right) at an event in Rushden in 2011

“The directors have been following events in the county and are deeply disturbed by the news.

“We hope your appointment will be successful in restoring some respect to the county’s reputation.”

Victoria said they are concerned for the archive of material relating to H E Bates held at Rushden Library.

The letter continues: “I am informed that the collection of material relating to H. E. in the library at Rushden is no longer in tact.

“For instance, the book ‘War in the Air’ by David Garnett, which was lodged with the collection, contains reference to H. E’s recruitment at the start of World War Two.

“Any other library could hold all his books, but it is additional material like this, donated by local residents, with personal notes and memories added, that makes it of such importance to the county.

“This collection is unique in the country and I am very concerned as to where these items are and what the plan is for the archive.”

Another concern is for Higham Ferrers Library, one of the libraries earmarked for closure after the county council said it could no longer afford to maintain many smaller libraries across the county.

The letter says: “Recently I visited the library in Higham especially to find a rare copy of a book called ‘One-Zero-Five’ by John Burns about the airbase at Chelveston; it contains photographs of both my uncles.

“Apart from the loss to the local community of the library I am concerned for the safe keeping of this and other books particularly related to the history of the town and villages round about.

“Please tell us where this book is going to be held when the library closes.”

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We can provide assurance that the H E Bates collection held at Rushden library will remain at the library, which is not affected by the library service review.

“The items at Higham Ferrers and other libraries potentially affected by the review will be retained and relocated depending on the subject and locality of interest.

“We fully recognise the importance of the H E Bates art collection and are currently considering options for its future use and display.”