I used to think that I could remember Church Parade before the road was widened. Ever since childhood I was certain I had some vague recollection or distant knowledge of the wall in front of the church being somehow different to that which anyone who passes through the town en route to Bedford will encounter these days. The wall is distinctive, a high stone wall which contains the extent of the churchyard of St Mary's church and follows the curve of the road from the junction with Newton Road and the High Street the short distance round to High Street South.
More recently, I researched the matter and found that the road widening scheme which entailed having to relocate the wall further back happened in 1959. In fact the work had started a year earlier in 1958 with evidence detailed in the local newspaper of the time, the Rushden Echo and Argos, which is quoted on the Rushden Heritage Website. Now, this presented a problem with my claim of memories of the old wall as I wasn't born until 1959. Therefore a suitable explanation needed to account for these memories. I can think of three alternatives:
- I have some pre-birth consciousness of Church parade. I guess such an explanation delves into the realms of the supernatural and the ideas of whether the soul pervades timelessly without a body. This is clutching at straws but a subject worthy of debate for late nights around a camp fire. I dont think I can honestly say this is a worthy explanation in this case.
- I am really older than I think. Such a possibility is unlikely as I have my birth certificate, therefore in order to serve such an explanation I would need to assume that the entire world was in on the conspiracy to change me age. Family, friends, officials all conspiring to make me younger than I actually am just to prevent me from knowing a Church wall was removed. I highly unlikely situation.
- Thirdly, and the most likely explanation is that I have distant memories of photos from the family archive which capture the Church wall being moved back.
The two photos that are displayed in this post were found in a collection of family shots which obviously had at one time been held within an album. The church is obviously St Mary's whose clock is at nearly a quarter to four but there is no date to the photo and the only thing of significance being the half removed churchyard wall. This leads to the suspicion that it was taken during the reconstruction as part of the road widening scheme back in 1958/9.
An interesting story involving Church Parade goes back to the early 1980's. Back in those days I used to regularly frequent the Wheatsheaf pub, just around the corner where Church Parade meets Hugh Street South. In those days The Wheatsheaf was a renowned bikers pub which regularly hosted local rock bands plus had a regular rock disco. On a Friday and Saturday evening bikers would come from far and wide to the 'Sheaf', as it was locally known, and the car park was full of the machines, old and new. One particular chap, known as Paddy to his friends, would always be there. Although he lived in Rushden, he, like many other Rushden bikers, would ride his bike down to the pub.
On one particular day he arrived at the pub in a disheveled state looking a little worse for ware. Certainly not through drink. His limping arrival caught the attention of his many friends and it didn't take them long to get him to admit that he had come off his bike to which he enlarged that the said misfortune had occurred just yards away from the pub on Church Parade. Car drivers were the immediate assumption and conclusion of those who now offered help and sympathy to the dazed figure Church Parade was always a hazardous section of road for the intrepid biker, with traffic peeling off to the right to head down Skinners Hill. Paddy shook his head. No. It was not the fault of cars or car drivers. It wasn't the fault of an impatient van driver or challenge for space from a lorry driver. He could not lay the blame to any form of transportation or unprecedented manouvre by another road user. Paddy, still dusting himself down, emphatically put the culprit of his misfortune down to girls. Yes. Girls. Well, to be precise, a girl. A particular girl in a short skirt who he had noticed as he cruised slowly around Church Parade. She caught his attention and had mesmerized his concentration as the girl was walking in front of the war memorial. Transfixed. This is probably why he did not see the car in front stop and why he had fallen from his bike as he attempted to avoid a collision No damage. No broken bones. Just dented pride and a few bruises. We all laughed.