St Mary, Rushden
Rushden shown within Hertfordshire
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|UK Parliament||North East Hertfordshire|
Rushden is located just off the A507 between Baldock and Buntingford. Although a very small village Rushden has a colourful and varied history and was mentioned in Domesday, although the size of the village has doubled since 1086 when there were only 100 inhabitants.
Starting in 1086 with the Domesday Book, there were two large farms and twenty families (100 people) living in Risendene (Rushy Vale) around Church Green. Each family probably had two pigs. Cattle and sheep were grazed on unfenced pasture at South End Green. Southern Green remains the same today.
The first Lords of the Manor – the Bassets – lived in the Bury beside the church. The list of vicars is complete right back to 1220.
The Church 'living' was handed over to the Chapter of Lincoln and in 1336 it was declared a Vicarage but a very poor living. Two hundred years later it was still only valued at £8 per annum.
1350 The Nave of the present church was built and later the Tower.
15th century Bradfield Grange, now known as Friars Farm, was used by Cistercian monks and leased to the Newport family for £5 in 1478.
16th century: The Age of the Rising Gentry and Yeomen and the Decline of the Church and Barons.
The Bury by the church fell down. The Newport and Goodman families take advantage of rising prices and falling money values during the Tudor period.
1536 Newport buys Friars for £60.
1547 Cumberlow Green: Tudor mansion and three cottages and 420 acres (1.7 km2) were sold to John Goodman by the Fortescues who had received it from Henry VII.
1580 Newport bought Youngloves Farm (originally owned by John Younglove whose family moved to Cottered by the end of the 16th century)
1586 Newport bought Julians for £1000. The Newport family now owned most of Rushden.
In James I's reign the depression caused the gentlemen and yeomen to start selling to the London City men while other poorer people began buying common fields. Outlying bits of farms were sold by the big landowners. Between 1603 and 1618 nearly the whole village changed hands.
1603 Newport sold Ivellingsbury across the Green from the church (possibly where Church Farm is) to the Vicar's sister for £110 together with 43 acres (17 ha). He also sold Julians to John Stone, a London lawyer.
1605 A Tudor Yeoman, named Hamers, having gradually bought bits of land, bought Shaw Green Farm.Bradfield Grange (Friars) was sold to John Stone as well. Sixty acres next to the house was known as Old Field Green, now known as Offley Green. This must have been a Common Field that went out of cultivation in the Black Death or in early Tudor times when sheep farming was profitable. It was ploughed up in World War II for increased food production. John Goodman had become rich from high corn prices and built a Manor house in the meadow opposite the Tudor Cumberlow Green House.
1615 Youngloves was also bought by John Stone for £416 together with 100 acres (0.40 km2). Stone built the Jacobean house (Julians) and his family lived there until the end of the 17th century.
1650–1660 There was an influx of inhabitants and a population of 200.
1674 A miller named Hankin bought an acre of land and built a windmill and a cottage (part of Windmill House).
1699 Penelope Stone married Adolphus Meetkerke. As workers like Hankin bought land, a house-owning village gradually began developing. 17th Century cottages were built by carpenters, bricklayers, blacksmiths and wheelwrights who were picking up a cottage here and a scrap of land there. This continued until the Agricultural Revolution in the 1770s. The cottages they built were spacious to accommodate large families and cottage industries such as spinning and straw-plaiting.
In the 18th century Julian's Georgian façade was added. It stands two feet in front of the Jacobean walls.
1722 John Goodman's Manor House at Cumberlow Green was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The remains were left and today only an uneven field, which is not allowed to be ploughed, marks the site.
1726 John Goodwin built the New House (the present one).
1752 Ivellingsbury sold to the executors of Thomas Paternoster – related to the first printer in Hitchin.
1770s After the agricultural revolution, the large landowners were buying as much land as they could.
1779 Meetkerke bought Cumberlow Green and the Manor of Rushden from a family called Hodges.
1791 Meetkerke bought Shaw Green Farm.
1801 First Census – population 253. 1821 – 333, 1891 – 225. Squire Meetkerke owned most of Rushden, having bought the centre of the village and many cottages. Common Fields are reorganised to be more compact and less scattered. The population increase means cottages are divided up into two, three and even four – one room downstairs and one or two upstairs.
1840 Many of the Meetkerke family had died in epidemics. Only Adolphus Meetkerke remained and he only had two daughters. He was an amiable, tolerant man and in 1841 the many footpaths that criss-crossed the Estate Park were used by poachers and villagers alike.
1857 School building (present village hall) was given by Adolphus Meetkerke.
1870 Day School opened.
1901 Population – 195, 1951 – 178, 1991 – 220.
1918 Mrs Metcalfe died. Julians was sold by Adolphus' granddaughter, bought by the Cavendish Land Property Company.
1920 The Sale of Rushden.
The Church of St Mary
The Nave was built in the 14th century and the west tower in the late 14th century. A blocked 14th century doorway remains in the Nave. The Chancel arch and the font were added in the 15th century. The Chancel was pulled down in 1849 when it was replaced by the present one. The Church has stood on its little hill for 600 years. It was built by local craftsmen with no trained architect, using local materials except stone from Stamford. Transport was very difficult and the tools simple. Drawings from 1831 show a Hertfordshire spike on top of the tower. In 1908 it was given to the Duchy of Lancaster and remains so today. In 1935 it was re-pewed when 19th century deal box pews were replaced by local oak. The original Elm trees behind the church were destroyed by Dutch Elm disease. The iron railings in front of the church were taken down during the war as part of the war effort. There were more railings around the horizontal wooden tomb.
Pre 1937. The church with the old pews which had doors and high backs but made from cheap wood. There was a stove opposite the door which used to get too hot to sit near. The pulpit and lectern are on opposite sides from today. The organ can be seen in the chancel near the choir stalls on the left. Boys would be paid 4d to pump the organ for the whole service. There is a small altar at the end of the chancel. The altar was enlarged in the 1960s and the organ moved to the back of the church.
The Spender window depicting wild flowers, in the bell tower, is in memory of the Spender Sisters' mother. Flowers in the left window from top to bottom are : rose, shirley poppy, aquilegia, orchid, wood lily, marguerite, cowslip, poppy, fuchsia, primrose, trumpet gentian, daisy, pasque flower. Flowers in right window (top to bottom): anemone, wood lily, fritillaria, holly, crocus, gentian, kingcup, tulip, rose, lily, cornflower, nasturtium, and buttercup.
The sculptor Percy Portsmouth lived in Youngloves in the 1950s. His patron was the Duke of Wellington and he did commissions for the Wellesley family and a sculpture of Ramsey McDonald. He retired here from the Chair of Sculpture at Edinburgh. His wife Kate started the WI. A statue he made in the 1960s can be seen in the church.
Rushden's five original bells were cast as a peal by John Briant of Hertford, one of the finest English bell founders, in 1787. He died in poverty in the Alms Houses in St Albans in 1829 and is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Hertford. The new sixth bell, made in the Whitechapel foundry, was hung in the 1970s. The Bishop of St Albans (Robert Runcie) officiated. He later became Archbishop of Canterbury.
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