Tributes to Rushden's very own 'History Man'

Eric Fowell will be very much missed but his work collating the town’s history will be a lasting legacy

By Stephanie Weaver
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 6:00 am

Tributes have been paid to Rushden’s very own ‘History Man.’

Eric Fowell was born and bred in Rushden and spent many years researching, collating and preserving the history of his home-town for future generations.

Following his death on June 30, many who knew him have expressed their sadness, saying the town has lost a ‘great historian.’

Eric Fowell in May 2012

But while this chapter of his life has closed, all Eric’s work to ensure Rushden’s rich history and heritage is retained will be a lasting legacy to him.

Speaking to the Northants Telegraph, Eric’s sister Jean Pratt said you could ask him anything about Rushden’s history and he would have the answer.

She says his love of history started following a large fire in the town, prompting him to start researching the past of buildings like these so they would never be lost even if the bricks and mortar had gone.

Eric attended Alfred Street School as a child and was a pupil when it was bombed on October 3, 1940, killing seven children.

Eric was a pupil at Alfred Street School when it was bombed, killing seven children

The bombs also struck a shoe factory, killing several workers at John Cave & Sons in College Street.

Eric has been involved in numerous events over the years to mark the anniversary of the day 30 bombs fell on the town, causing havoc, death and destruction.

After leaving school, Eric became a carpenter and was married to Jean, who died in 2019, and he leaves a son David.

Eric Fowell at Rushden Museum in 2008

Eric loved gardening and would often be out there early on tending to his fruit and vegetables before doing anything else.

He was one of three siblings, with his brother John who died last year and sister Jean.

Jean said: “I shall miss him being around and seeing him.

"He was my big brother, six years older than me.”

Eric Fowell at Rushden Museum in 2008

John Garley, who knew Eric well, said: “The locality of Rushden and Higham Ferrers, and indeed Northamptonshire as a whole, have lost a valuable friend with the passing, at the end of June, of local historian Eric Fowell who was 93 years of age.

"Over the past 60 years Eric has collected photographs, a mass of ephemera and memorabilia from the locality, regularly putting on exhibitions of his collections.

"He was the author of several books full of photographs of Higham and Rushden mainly from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Eric was a great supporter of Rushden Museum contributing to its opening.

"He was on the original committee of the Rushden & District History Society from its formation in April 1991 and contributed to every edition of its quarterly Journal The Risdene Echo.

"He remained president of the society up to the time of his death.

"He was fully involved in the Collector's Circle up to the group's demise earlier this year.

"He was also heavily involved in Rushden's Pensioners' Parliament for many years.

"Eric was joint founder of the H.E.Bates Discussion Group, organising their bi-annual meetings with speakers including his good friend Victoria Wicks, H E Bates’ granddaughter.

"He was fully dedicated to this group and recently presented a framed portrait of HE to Rushden Council which hangs in Rushden Hall.

"Eric was enthusiastic about all of his groups publicising their achievements and their place in modern society whenever he had the opportunity.

"He will be sadly missed but hopefully his legacy will be continued by others.”

Rushden Town Council has also paid tribute to Eric.

A spokesman said: “Rushden Town Council would like to pay tribute to Eric Fowell, local historian.

"We have been associated with Eric since the formation of the town council and his historical knowledge of Rushden has always amazed and inspired all who knew him.

"Eric was the founder member of Collectors Circle that met at Rushden Hall for many years.

"He was also the a founder member of the Rushden Amenity Society, Rushden Historical Society and the H E Bates Society.

"Eric also found time to be co-editor of the Risdene Echo.

"Rushden has lost a great historian and we send condolences to his family, friends and many close colleagues.”

The Love Rushden Facebook affectionately referred to Eric as Rushden’s very own ‘History Man’ following news of his death.

The post read: “We are very sad to report the recent death of Eric Fowell, local legend, local historian, and a long-serving member (and former president) of the Rushden and District History Society.

"We send our sincere condolences to his family and many friends and colleagues.

"Over many years Eric built up a huge collection of photographs and postcards, some of which he published in three volumes of ‘A Pictorial View of Old Rushden’ – and which are now collectors’ items themselves.

"This page owes him a particular debt of gratitude, since in recent years Love Rushden has used many of his images to illustrate the very rich heritage of our town.

"Rest In Peace, Eric – Rushden’s very own ‘History Man’ (1928 – 2022).”

Eric’s funeral service will take place at Nene Valley Crematorium in Wellingborough at 1pm on Tuesday, July 26.

It is family flowers only but donations for Northamptonshire Health Charity (Forget-Me-Not-Appeal) or Rushden Museum can be sent to A. Abbott and Sons Independent Family Funeral Directors in Rushden.