Category: sharedstories

Moving up from London

Thanks to Stevie Gray for sending us this story. The image is taken from Northampton Development Corporation advertising literature.

We came to the Eastern District to Thorplands in November 1973. There was a big yellow sign saying ‘Thorplands 1045 Homes NDC’.

We left south London as our old flats where being pulled down and my mum and dad didn’t want to move into a tower block, so we applied to the NDC. They actually came to your place in London, you had to be sponsored by a company – ours was British Timpkin – and show you were a decent clean family. They didn’t take everyone, we were all in our Sunday best and my mum cleaned the house from top to bottom to show we where not a rough dirty family.

Moving to Northampton was a mixed bag. We had a new five bedroom house and a new school but I lost my old school mates. I was very homesick for ages and wanted my life back in London. We paid 10 pounds a week for our house – my Dad collected our keys from an office in Derngate, they had one in the Market Square as well. The NDC estate was nice but nothing to do. There were a few shops and a pub, it was a building site then in ’73. The locals didn’t like us much, we were all cockneys and were trouble and they made us out to be something we were not.

I grew up there till my late 20s and after my parents died I left, there was nothing there for me. I eventually moved back to London. I still have a brother in Northampton. The last time I went was when my eldest sister died, it had changed so much. Trees have grown and it looks unkept. I’ve moved to the northeast now, I have no plans to visit Northampton. I have some bittersweet memories of the place but the first few summers we had there are the happiest. My mum, dad and sister are there in Milton Crematorium, if I pass it on the M1 I still think part of me is still there.

This map was created by Northampton Development Corporation, showing the new areas designated for housing. Th eold town is shown in grey, with coloured areas showing new housing, schools, green space and retail estates.

My memory of the Eastern Districts being developed

Thanks to Russell Mutton for sharing this story with us. The image is from Northampton Development Corporations plans to expand the town. 

I went to school at Cherry Orchard school. I was in the last year when they opened Weston Favel shopping centre. Got shown around it and the Kings school as we had some classes at Cherry and some at Lings.

My family was also one of those to inhabit Belling Estate, there was only us in Faracre Court, then as other families moved in the doctors moved in next door.

I played all over Thorpelands 1 & 2 as a youth. People in the Billings villages thought we were wrong ‘uns as they thought we were from London. I wasn’t, I was from Northampton born and bred.

I remember the Billing Aquadrome drive through bottle shop and the main road ran to it then. I’ve seen Marriott throwing up house like nothing – the compound was opposite the bottom of Faracre Court.

No buses through the estate then – you had to walk to the shopping centre or the Wellingborough road to get a bus.

Battered fish and chips with a wedge of lemon on some newspaper

College Street chippy for a treat

Thanks to Roger Hilliard for sending this story to us.

This is my memory of Northampton before ‘ progress”. It was a market town very similar to Market Harborough now. As a child on Saturday my mother would take me into town. We would walk down Abington Street past Watts, the Co-op Arcade, the new theatre, library and Woolworths. Then onto the market selling virtually everything and so vibrant. Then up the Emporium Arcade ( bless it) and look in the joke shop etc. Then when mum was finished we would go to College Street chippy for a treat. The town centre was full of people and you felt as though you belonged. They talk of revitalising the town centre but, they have pulled down everything of note in this town and ripped the heart out of it. The town was expanded with virtually no infrastructure added and certainly no vision. Maybe if profit is not the motive it could be dragged back from the brink. Let’s hope so.

This image shows the story author as a child with his sister, they are sitting ona. tractor at Wicksteed Park in the 9160s. The image is black and white . The child to the left has short blonde hair and glasses, the older child to the right has short darker hair.

Growing up on the Westone estate as Northampton became new.

Thank you to Mike Packwood for submitting this story. The lead image is of him and his sister ‘learning to drive’ at Wicksteed Park in the 60s. 

We moved to Northampton from Wellingborough in 1967.  Dad was a toolmaker and cycled to work at Plessey, an electronics firm in Kingsthorpe on the other side of town. Mum was a health visitor based at the family planning centre in Guildhall Road. Our house was a 1950’s bay windowed semi – 9 Beechwood drive on the Westone estate.

The Westone estate at that time was the very edge of Northampton. When I was a lad, I walked to the end of Beechwood Drive, climbed over the fence next to the ‘private keep out’ sign and from then on it was just rolling fields of corn as far as the eye could see. It really was stunning. Just field after field all the way to Ecton and Earls Barton, stretched out along both sides of what at the time was the main road from Northampton to Wellingborough, the A45.

Westone was built in the early 1950’s around the Westone Hotel, which had been home of the Sears shoe family and post WW2 was a convalescent home before becoming a hotel – the Beatles stayed there when they played the ABC apparently. There was a row of shops near the hotel which comprised a hairdressers, a newsagents where I had my first paper round, and a hardware shop where I used to get the small pots of paint for my Airfix kits.

I walked past these shops to get to my first school: Weston Favell County Primary school, which then was entirely separate from Weston Favell Upper school next door. The Primary school was head mastered by the fearsome Mr Rickard assisted by his deputy Mr Amos (still the only person to hit me with a ruler). The only teacher I remember was Ms Roberts who also lived on the Westone estate. One day someone lit a banger and put it through her letterbox. It wasn’t me. Her house backed onto the ‘horsefield’, which oddly never had any horses in it but was where everyone rode their bikes and played football. Rachel Jones, the first girl I ever kissed lived in a house whose garden backed onto the horsefield and I used to take her cans of Spar coke that cost 2p.

At this time Northampton had green buses that went out of town, the ‘County’ buses, and red ones for the town and they all lived in the old bus station which was in Derngate, where the Derngate centre is now. You could drive all the way down Abington street and you went to the pictures at the ABC. McDonalds hadn’t been invented so you had to go to the Wimpy which used proper plates. The Co-op arcade was a favourite destination for mum as was the brand-new M&S over the road and the central library next to the arcade. Dad used to get parts for the car at Sheltune on the Kettering Road – next to that (and gone now) was an art deco garage, which was the last in Northampton where white coated pump attendants came out to serve you.

Obviously in those days every summer was fabulous – we had real seasons in those days – and weekends were spent at Billing Aquadrome in a caravan, over at Wicksteed Park or on the boating lake in Abington Park. If you were feeling really exotic you may have spent time in the shadows of the cooling towers along the Bedford Road at the Midsummer Meadow outdoor pool. Obviously, proper seaside was mostly out of the question – Northampton is about as far away as its possible to get to the coast, but when we did go it was usually to Hunstanton or Kings Lynn and of course at that time for most of the population ‘abroad’ was a complete mystery.

In my mind this was Northampton at its best. Quiet, safe, small with its own identity, useless football team, the mounts pool which my grandad helped build and where I did all my swimming certificates and the fantastic Victorian shopping arcade at the top of the always bustling market square.

And then it happened. Northampton was designated a New Town. Planning started in Northampton around about 1965 but if memory serves building didn’t start at the end of our street until about 1971.

The Westone estate and everything on the Eastern side of town, stretching from Northampton boat club in the valley on the Nene, past us and up to Lumbertubs lane became submerged in what was designated as the new part of town, the Eastern District. It’s difficult now to explain the impact that this had. From the end of my street I watched as field after field vanished to be replaced by little cardboard houses that were thrown up in what seemed like days. Lumbertubs first, then Thorplands, then the rest. There was a bit of a planning fight when an enormous and quite beautiful Oak tree was sacrificed to build the Alexanders Ford garage (now gone). It was felled at night in the end so no one was there to protest. At the same time as the houses came the vast new shopping centre, that had something called the ‘Supercenta’ in it when it opened and also a truly grim pub called the Swinging Sporran. All of which could be accessed from Beechwood Drive by the plastic tunnel bridge at the end of the street. The entire area was lit by really tall streetlamps which meant that it was often never really dark anymore.

These new estates were filled with ‘overspill people’ from London. (I never really understood what an ‘overspill’ person was). At the close of one school term our headmaster told us that next term we would be joined by a lot of new pupils and that we should make them welcome. When the new term came there were indeed countless new kids – they had walked up the road in a gang on their first morning. The school seemed to have doubled in size. They all talked funny and stuck together. It was definitely a them and us situation. We didn’t talk to them and all they wanted to do was fight and cause trouble it seemed. They were put into their own classrooms to start with. These were portacabins that had been erected during the summer holidays.

They didn’t all go to the existing schools though. A new one had been built for them, Lings Upper, which quickly gained a reputation it has probably never recovered from.

My mum, who had become one of the health visitors serving the Eastern District and was based in a house on the Lumbertubs estate that had been converted into a doctor’s surgery, told me that these people had come from very poor areas of London, where their houses were being demolished. They were told they could move to brand new houses in Northampton if they paid off their London rent arrears. Most of them couldn’t, so the London councils wrote off their debts and they were shoved up the M1 to a place, our place, which they had probably never heard of and where they didn’t really want to go. Where ordinarily a town grows organically over hundreds of years so that you barely notice, Northampton must have grown by a third in just 5 years or so. The Eastern District went on for miles but never really became integrated because the new dual carriageway, Lumbertubs Way, separated it from the rest of old Northampton. I don’t think the people really integrated either. We were never told how to help them. 50 years on it all looks a bit better. The trees have grown. But it’s still the Eastern District. It isn’t Northampton. All of those people moved in, Northampton changed completely and in the end our family moved away. I haven’t lived there for 30 years and rarely go back but I still remember very fondly those years growing up on Westone before everything changed for good.

This image shows a private housing development set in the Eastern District. There is a grassy area to the front of the image and some young trees. A yellow car sis in a car park in front of a cream house. Three other brown houses are shown as well.

Brookside Community Centre playgroup in the ’70s

This story is from Lynda Austin and her time working at the play group at Brookside Community Centre from 1974 until 1976. The image is of Thorplands Brook private development and is similar to the one Lynda would have moved to.

We moved to Northampton in September 1974 and I had two boys aged 2 and nearly 4. We bought a new house on a small private development at the top of Lings. At the time this was on the edge of the New Town developments. There was Lings Wood behind us and the rest was fields.

My kids had both been at play group before so I was looking for another one for them. We could walk to the Brookside Community Centre by a path between the houses and an underpass beneath Billing Brook Road. No danger at all from traffic. The play group was already running but the women in charge wanted to give up, so I became involved along with another three new people. Of the four of us three were qualified teachers.

At that time, children did not start school until the term before their fifth birthday, so play group ran every morning from 9.30am until 12noon. Children had to be three and a quarter to come but later on we ran an afternoon session for those who were over two and a half.

In each session there were five staff and 30 children, and it cost £1 a session per child. The centre had one very large room that had windows all around so it was bright and airy. There were toilets and a kitchen.

Activities were designed to increase children’s fine and gross motor control and speech, language, confidence and independence before they went to school. There were toys to ride and climb on and small group activities such as cutting and sticking, drawing, painting and model making. Activities were changed half way through the session and they always ended up with a story and singing. Very much what happens in nursey schools these days.

We were lucky in being given may materials such as paper and card by local firms such as Robert Horne. Local health visitors used to ask us to help with children who had particular needs because of their health or development requirements. At times we were also asked if we could help lonely mums who had just moved to Northampton by involving them in the sessions or in fundraising activities.

I think much of what we did has been taken over now by the fact that children start school earlier and most now go to nursery school. I did enjoy my time at play group and made friends there that I still have until today.

This image shows the Lumbertubs Estate when it was newly built. In the foreground is a shop with an orage telephone box and well kept grass between paths. To the rear of the image are rows of houses.

On the beat in the Eastern District

Thanks to Dave for submitting this story. The image is of Lumbertubs estate when it was newly built.

I was a kid growing up in the ‘60s on the Eastfield estate – then on the Eastern edge of town and I have nostalgia for the fields, spinneys and streams between there and Overstone.

As I started work, the Weston Favell Shopping Centre and Lings Forum opened. Does anyone remember the visit by Pan’s People c ‘76? Woo. I found it quite exciting with the tube bridges and the Lumbertubs Way “motorway”- which became the new border between old town and the Eastern Development in my mind.

I wasn’t bothered at the time that the small idyllic (in some eyes) market town was taking the cash to become an overspill town. As some have said, and to be Devil’s advocate, the choice was economic development and progress etc or to stay as a declining, along with the boot and shoe industry, stagnant backwater?

However, my opinion was probably changed somewhat by a decade of policing the town from 1975, mainly on the continually expanding East side. We joked at the time about architects getting prizes for estates of high-density social housing with myriad rat runs and alleys – presumably built as cheaply as possible, before “designing out crime” was a concept.

Most mornings the builders’ compounds and part-built houses seemed to have been pillaged. There appeared to be a lag in infrastructure and resources being provided to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population – one example being reliable police radio coverage: single crewed officers had lots of challenges and sometimes had a very long wait for back up to arrive.

Of course, the majority of incomers were perfectly normal hardworking folk who didn’t deserve any hostility or resentment from NIMBY locals, but cops had more contact with the minority – the imported career criminals and what we now call antisocial types and problem families. I’m not aware of any vetting and barring but imagine some authorities strove to export their problems.

In the early days though, I believe it was routine to check records to see what issues new tenants would bring. That was soon deemed to be “not cricket”, so all arrivals were unknown quantities until their first contact with the constabulary – by which time the bad apples had spoiled others in the barrel and probably filled their boots committing crime. Ultimately these were no different to the homegrown baddies but less familiar and visible, so harder to tackle.

Before Weston Favell Policy Station was opened, I spent some time in the early ’80s working as a Detective and then Beat officer at “The Arbours” or “Burrows Court Section”. A few area beat officers covering the estates and a couple of detectives were housed in a converted barn to be closer to the patch rather than Campbell Square. There were limited opening hours for the public to attend the office for interviews or mundane enquiries like making lost and found property reports, with the beat officers taking turns to staff the counter.

For major incidents, such as murders, sometimes ad hoc incident rooms were set up in vacant houses in the Eastern District and the extra cops involved were fed at the Tesco canteen at the Weston Favell Shopping Centre!

I suppose the majority of new residents came from Greater London, but I believe there were many from Birmingham and further afield eg Newcastle, Glasgow, too? Maybe the numbers arriving, and slow integration did for hometown pride and a sense of community – or maybe that was going anyway.

50 years on I’m not sure whether the Eastern expansion was good or bad for the town overall; we locals with rose tinted specs aren’t the most objective judges…

This shows a map of Northampton and surrounding areas from the 1953 series OS Mapping, before the New Town developments had started.

Teaching at Lings Upper School in the ’70s

Memories from Mr H

I taught in a large new school that opened in 1974 in the development area. Our first year started off with 80 students and by the end of the year we had over 150 students in that same school year.

Each brought their own problems to be integrated into a pecking order. We did marvellous work for which we got very little credit. At times we had the highest initial employment rate for our school leavers of any town Upper School. We had some great students who had some great achievements, but we also had the occasional very bad parenting affecting the students.

The Development Corporation did spend a lot of time cutting the grass and keeping the estates tidy. With Lings Upper, in the early stages, money was found to develop a community involvement. The initial buildings had two public footpaths going through, which were thought to enable the public walking through to be enthused at what was going on and encourage them to come back for day or evening classes. BUT what happened in a very few number of cases was parents/friends would come close to lunchtime and knock on the window where the student was being taught to show them the lunch pack and then sit on the grass awaiting the lesson to end!

Lings, being a community school, had a community office in the school, complete with its own staff team, to organise evening classes and group work around the Eastern district! They also put on Summer School Holidays Daytime Classes (Woodwork, Pottery, Drama etc) for several years, for primary and secondary aged students to pay to attend. Unfortunately, they were not very well attended.

The Community part also organised a Summer Fun Day with activities in the afternoon with an evening of a drama finishing with fireworks. On one of these Saturday evenings a teacher, Willi Gilder, assigned to the Community side of Lings, had to put on a complete water monster outfit and hide unseen in the stream between Lumbertubs and Lings and appear in time for a dramatic episode in the play! Getting out partly submerged in cold water for a specific time proved difficult but he did it! Lings itself had a Lings Player’s drama group which was a mixture of school staff/students and people from the communities it served. Led by teachers from Lings, Mr John Cartwright and Mr V Perry, these productions were of high standards and included a most beautiful local Pantomime each Christmas time. They could rival the best in town at the time!

Unfortunately for Lings and the middle school Emmanuel, they did suffer by being actually joined to the new large shopping centre, Weston Favell Centre. Anyone misbehaving up there was “always” a Lings/Emmanuel student. 90% of the time it wasn’t! Also, at lunch times it became a warm dry playground. But inside the school we had a great staff and great results with students going on to great positions – Doctors, great engineering designers, great parents, nurses, one a brilliant American Wrestling star, great armed forces members, company directors, local service workers, artists and one to become The Director of the Tate and awarded a CBE for her work. 

As a housing development however, it destroyed Northampton and lovely surrounding countryside (see attached Ordnance Survey Map) adding very little positivity to the town. When Lings was being built there were plans for another Upper School to be built somewhere on the Rectory Farm area. Now I presume that they were cancelled possibly because the Wellingborough District Council refused to sell the land to the East of the stream between Ecton and Rectory Farm. Only a presumption.

Map is in the 1953 series OS Mapping

A sign for the Road to Morocco pub, which has a cockerel on the top, set against a sky with the sun setting.

BaNoNanga!

Thank you so much to Richard Lyon for sending us his modern day Northampton banger and this explanation to go with it!

After long spells living in London and Manchester I returned to the Midlands in 2004. With my family I have lived happily in Northampton ever since but still spent most of my time during the week in both London and Manchester for work. Lockdown meant that suddenly I was spending all of my time in Northampton and with the time that freed up through not having to commute I started to make music. This led me to make a new anthem for the town – the first, I think, since the classic ’60 Miles by Road or Rail’ was released back in 1980. The song is a tribute to Northampton, to the market town and a shout to remind our friends in the North, and the South, that the Midlands does exist!

Image of a large walking dragline. The sky is blue and the ground is sand coloured. The dragline has a large body with a white top half and to the right is a large boon arm. The structure is huge.

‘I Wouldn’t Necessarily Start from Here…’

A memory of growing up in Corby from 1962 – 1972, by David Robinson.

I was a teenager in Corby from 1962, when my Dad Keith’s job progression from Cransley Furnaces to Stewarts and Lloyds, via Kettering Iron and Coal, took us to the ‘steel town’; and I stayed there until I married in 1972 (currently living in Peterborough via Market Harborough and Leicester).

Back in 1962, I didn’t want to move towns, and that’s an understatement. Corby Grammar School was co-ed, a prospect which seemed challenging after 18 months at the single-sex Kettering Grammar. More to the point, my Dad’s descriptions of Corby were laced with folklore about ‘rough and dangerous’ streets, citing Studfall Avenue and Occupation Rd, where the inmates were likely to chop up their front doors for firewood’ – and the journey to my new school would take me along those very streets! (I feel compelled to add that I have now walked these roads hundreds of times, still do, and have encountered very little trouble, even when pubs and clubs were spilling out on to the streets at closing time in the 60s).

Dad’s tales had stemmed from an earlier time, and the folklore had been embellished over the years. Construction of the steelworks in the 30s had drawn workers from all over the British Isles, who would have had little to do but quench their ample thirsts on a Friday night. Corby gained a rough-and-ready image, probably exaggerated, which persists even to this day in other towns and cities: this is ironic, as – having been born in Kettering, literally within stone-throwing distance of the fearsomely-iconic ‘Prickett’s gang’ – and then moved to Corby as a teen, I agree with those who maintain that there is little to choose between the neighbouring towns.

Corby is itself legendary for its fair percentage of inhabitants with Scottish ancestry; and, to my ears at least, a ‘Corby Scots accent’ is still detectable, even three generations on, and even among those born and bred in England. On arrival in the 60s, my Dad insisted that my new friend Eddie was from north of the border, even though his father was as English as mine and his mother was Italian! I found the Scots’ loyalty to their homeland commendably dogged, including when attending a teenage party in the late sixties, where they were still repeatedly playing Andy Stewart’s ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?’ from 1961.

Our new home, replete with yellow front door and ‘piped’ television, was in Newark Drive on the Mantlefield Estate – a modern-looking layout with large areas of green where children of a broad range of ages played fairly happily (it saddened me in later decades when the children had all grown up and those areas were empty). We moved into the end of a terraced block, next door to a pleasant ‘flock’ named Lamb, all four of whose daughters would prove good-looking to men slightly younger than I (the youngest, Gillian, would emerge 35 years later as my late Mum Hilda’s hairdresser at Corby’s Glenmoor care home on Rockingham Road). That first January, their late Geordie father introduced us to the art of first-footing (‘keeping New Year’ had been largely unknown to us in Kettering). Bob went on to try a range of jobs, including training as a bus driver. One day, he saw a big cardboard box in the road; as he swerved the vehicle around the obstacle, he was aghast to see a child pop out of the box!

But the first neighbour we met was the late Mrs Delbridge, from two doors down, as I accompanied Mum and my younger brothers, Malcolm (8) and Philip (4), in a search for Greenhill Rise, the ‘local’ shops, which were actually quite a walk away. It was here I reacquainted myself with ‘MAD’, the American humour magazine (1952-present) which I had been forbidden by parents to buy any more of in Kettering. The newsagents had MAD paperbacks reprinting older American articles which re-whetted my appetite. Why do I say all this? Because I went on to write and draw for the British version of MAD from 1978 to its closure in 1994 (all the while holding down a ‘proper’ day job in IT).

The Delbridges hailed from the far northern coast of Scotland, and Mum struggled to understand their strong dialect; what’s more, Mrs Delbridge later revealed that she had the same problem with our accent! Stanley Delbridge was a year older than me and attended the Beanfield secondary school (since sadly demolished). Stan was missing living on the coast and joined the sea cadets. Stan tended towards Elvis, as seen at the local Odeon in ‘Blue Hawaii’, while my slightly-younger taste took me via the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers to America’s Beach Boys and Byrds. When Stan joined me at our school fete in the mid-60s, some girls in my class asked who the ‘hunk in the blue suit’ was! He was keen to join the police, an ambition later also realised by his middle sister Marjorie, whom I once or twice helped with her maths homework. She was later featured in a Daily Mirror headline as ‘WPC Gorgeous’! I lost touch with Stan, but I would bet a tenner that he looks the image of his late dad, as they were ‘like two peas’.

Among the local sights was the ‘walking’ dragline excavator which our family would very occasionally walk out to see on a Sunday afternoon; note how easily pleased we were in those days! We arrived in Corby in time for the traditional Pole Fair, the historic event which, since 1862, has taken place only once every 20 years (the next being due in 2022). The eponymous pole is a greasy, perpendicular one, up which town worthies traditionally clamber in a quest to grab a cash prize at the top. In 1962, I recall that a young lad aged around 11 was the victor, after older men had been trying and failing, all day.

For me, the Francis Frith photo collection of black and white images, where all the vehicles seem like Dinky toys, captures Corby perfectly for that era. The town centre’s distinctive astronomical clock, decorated with moons and stars, appears faithfully in all photos since, rather like the clock in the ‘Back to the Future’ films. Frith’s frontal shot of Corby Grammar School, now sadly demolished and replaced, has become definitive. I was there till 1966, having been part of the small stream that was accelerated to O and A Level GCE (i.e. we missed a year. While I’m not sure this did me any good, I’m not sure another year of messing about would have helped, either).

The definitive headmaster was John William Rolfe Kempe, who had been a fighter pilot during the War – twice mentioned in dispatches – and a high-profile mountaineer, intrinsic in the conquering of Kanchenjunga, the ‘runner-up’ to Everest. Neither of these was evident at the time (in a way, I wish he’d told us, as this would have added flesh to the bones of someone whom I’d regarded as a cultural opposite); although an ‘open air’ approach to education was favoured, gleaned from Gordonstoun school (Prince Charles’s ‘Colditz with kilts’) at which John Kempe had taught maths (and where he would go on in 1967 to become headmaster at the time Princes Andrew and Edward were pupils). Hence Outward Bound, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), canoe-building and weeks in the Peak District (at Derbyshire’s Ilam and Castleton) were highly regarded.

Among our Latin masters was Colin Dexter, who went on to create the Inspector Morse novels. To be honest, he frightened us to death at the time, but many of us agree that he was an excellent teacher. Three of us met up with Colin in Oxford later in the century, and I later sent Colin a short story from which he borrowed the twist-in-the-tail ending for one of his own tales: my name actually appeared in the story (although my friend Eddie Andrews went one better, appearing in one of the Morse novels as a Scene of Crime Officer, his actual job).

As with most of us, ages 12 to 18 were formative years. I would travel with friends on the bus to watch pop and rock acts at Kettering Granada, including the Hollies, the Searchers, The Who and more. Corby itself had strong local groups, some of whose members were at school with me, including Roger Buckby in The Invaders; and Jim Gaffney and John Hemmings (plus Rod Crozier, initially) in the Rising Sons, whose drummer was Rog’s younger brother Pete.

From c1965-67, I was singer-guitarist in a music group named ‘Frequency 209′, whose one gig at the Air Cadets’ Christmas party failed to trouble even specialised local record books, having begun well but foundering by the fourth or fifth number. The rest of the line-up comprised Grammar School lads Dave McAlpine (drums), Dave Bell (bass), Chas Stewart (rhythm and bass), all of whom attended the Covenanters youth group at the Baptist Church on Rowlett Rd – times which I enjoyed, despite having been agnostic for most of the time since. Later Dave Bennett joined us on vocals. We practised at the dark-wooden Air Cadets’ hut next to the so-named ‘old tech’ on Rockingham Road, then in another prefabricated building at the top of West Glebe (neither building seems to have survived the intervening half-century).

This space was secured for us by Dave Sykes, younger son of high-profile Corby councillor Tom Sykes, an unabashed left-winger whose day job was delivering mail for the GPO (Sykes Court, a retirement housing centre in Corby, is named after him); and with whom John Kempe, his political opposite, had a number of run-ins over comprehensive schooling, etc. (When, in her ‘later career’, my Mum worked as a tea-lady and cleaner at the Corby Council offices, she was taken aback by the aftermath of the Christmas parties, observing that the ‘Quiet ones were the worst!’)

Dave’s enterprising approach matched his father’s verve: at school, we produced a ‘pirate’ school newspaper. This publication sprang from the creative efforts of my friend Graham McPhee and I, begun in the third year, and Dave managed to persuade the nearby Smiths factory to donate cartons of crisps as free gifts! The younger Sykes was eventually lured away from Corby by the ‘bright lights’ of Manchester, where he was quickly promoted to social secretary of the university students’ union, booking acts like The Who, Soft Machine and the early Slade. Dave was involved in the south Manchester music industry until his untimely demise due to illness in 2009.

I left school in ’66, rightly or wrongly taking an office job at Stewarts and Lloyds in their computer department, mainly because I passed an aptitude test; I had little interest in the technical side, and ex-colleagues will probably agree that my thoughts were elsewhere, as my time was spent drawing a stream of cartoons, hopefully for their entertainment (one of which was my first published effort in the late, lamented _Wrestler_ magazine: the drawing, which I’m not especially proud of because it was drawn in black biro, is still visible on the web).

In 1967 I started to attend The Stables, a youth club tucked away in a wooden building behind houses on Rockingham Road, a fair number of whose members worked at Chester’s, the printer in the village. The club conformed to the record-player-and-table-tennis norm, but was a fair free facility for the time. Among its benefits, I met Susan, whose elder brother Steve I sort-of-knew from school. Sue and I would marry five years later at the Parish Church, which as one modern author wrote, ‘makes up for all the dumb things I ever did’. We were weekly visitors to the Odeon cinema on Rockingham Road, enjoying ‘The Graduate’, ‘Butch Cassidy’ and other examples of 60s kitsch (although the longest queue I had ever seen was probably for Cliff in ‘Summer Holiday’). The cinema was re-named the Rutland in 1969, with strange offerings including so-so documentaries like ‘Love in Our Time’ and the Swedish ‘I, a Woman’.

To this day, I travel back to Corby to visit in-laws, still passing by the 8-storey office block where I once worked (I use the term loosely), although its ‘brutalist’ design is now threatened with demolition.

Image description and credit:

This picture shows a large walking dragline which operated in the UK between the 1950s and 1980s, similar to the one mentioned in this story. The picture was taken in ~July/August 1986 by Mr D King. For an idea of scale, the photographer’s children, aged around six and ten at the time of capture, can be seen standing in front of the machine towards its rear. This picture is of W1400 N`2 which worked Cowthick quarry oppsite the steelworks next to Weldon. Although similar to Sundew, the boom is 26ft longer and over 200 tons of pig iron ballast were used to balance this legthened boom.

Link to source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sundew_dragline.jpg

A black and white photo of Auntie Em. She is a white woman wearing a bonnet style hat. Her dark hair curls out from underneath and she is wearing a shirt and a pearl necklace.

Errol Flynn & Auntie Em

Thanks to Kay Medway for submitting this poem recounting her memories of her Auntie Em working in the theatre in Northampton in the ’50s and making a famous friend along the way!

Today how quickly

a conversation calls on your memories & the

family stories long since told

by a Great Aunt both Theatrical and respected.

As if to awaken the unending family curiosities.

As if to pique a young daughter’s interests

in an uncertain time. I listen

as quickly as if the words we will transcribe to pages.

You beam and recall the actor Errol Flynn

was once alongside your great aunt Em

forming a friendship and a bond

in our hometown that now carefully reawakens.

I am there when I listen.

The 1950s and 1960s, with

Great Aunt Em at Northampton’s Royal Theatre

finding her work as an usher and dressmaker.

Before the wondrous years, there was

Her boarding house, her family home,

the portrait of a friendship takes shape.

Auntie Em always well-liked and with the young actor

Errol Flynn as a friend. 

We are back to the start of

An acting career, learning lines, and visiting a home.

A good friend with even a holiday to Scotland.

These stories all rekindle my love of

The Golden Age of Hollywood.

The scenes still etched in my mind with pride. 

And now to learn the familiar, something new

spanning generations, that reassures us

In theatre, we always find our home for all.   

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