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What was Raunds like at the beginning of the Great War?

To give you a flavour, we've consulted various Directories of the day to produce the following guide as it may have appeared to a prospective visitor in 1914:

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Raunds is a parish and large village, with a station on the Kettering and Cambridge section of the Midland railway, about one and a half miles north east from the village. 

It is four and a half miles south from Thrapston, four miles north east from Higham Ferrers and sixty nine miles from London. It is situated on the river Nene in the northern division of the county, comprising of upwards of 4500 acres in the hundred of Higham Ferrers, the petty sessional division, union and county court district of Thrapston, the rural deanery of Higham Ferrers (second portion), and the archdeaconry of Oakham and diocese of Peterborough.

By the Local Government Board Order No.37,051, which came into operation on the 1st October 1897, an Urban District Council of 12 members was formed, under the provisions of the “Local Government Act, 1894” (56 and 57 Vict.ch73). The sewage works were completed in 1896 by the Urban District Council. 

The church of St. Mary the Virgin ** is a noble edifice of stone, considered the finest specimen in the Early English style in the county, with Decorated and Perpendicular insertions, consisting of chancel, clerestorial nave, aisles, south chantry, south porch and a western tower, with a broach spire, containing a clock and 8 bells, two of which were presented in 1897 by J Kingsmith in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, 6 originally cast in 1732, the 5th and tenor were recast in 1878, the tenor again recast and augmented in 1898. 

The spire, 186 feet in height, having been struck by lightning on the 31st July 1826, and severely injured, was taken down and rebuilt at a cost of £1731; it was again struck by lightning on the 23rd January 1895 and restored at a cost of £111. The lower stage of the tower is groined and has a screen. 

The communion table of carved oak was the gift of Gilbert Negouse, buried here on the 3rd August 1630; the font is a curious circular example, on a moulded pedestal, and has a carved ram’s head projecting from one side. 

There is a monument with brass and arms to William Gage esq. of Magilligam, County Derry, Ireland, ob.1632, who bequeathed £10 annually for 40 years to the poor of this parish; at the east end, in the sanctuary, on a large stone, are effigies of a man and woman in brass with an invocatory inscription commemorating John Tawyer, ob.25th January 1470, and Margaret, his wife, and below are figures of four daughters and a shield of arms. On an adjoining stone is the effigy of a woman, with those of four sons and five daughters, and a shield of the same arms. 

There is also a panelled alter-tomb, inscribed to John Wales, vicar ob.1596: in the chancel is a coffin slab of the 13th century ornamented with a rich floriated cross, and supposed to be the tombstone of the founder of the church. 

In the church are pre-Reformation wall paintings, and also the dial of a 15th century clock, bearing the inscription “Pray for the soules of John Elem and Sara his wife”.

The church was restored, at a cost of upwards of £4000, from designs by the late Sir G. Gilbert Scott R.A. and reopened in June 1874. In 1893 a new organ was presented by Mr John Kingsmith, at a cost of £1200. In 1900 the chancel was renovated by the lay rector, H. L. Storey esq. of Lancaster.  

In the churchyard is the base of an ancient cross. The register dates from the year 1581.

The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £220, with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough, and held since 1912 by the Rev. Cyril Clowes Aldred M.A. of Keble College Oxford. The first authenticated incumbent was John de Twyford in 1254. 

There is a Baptist chapel (Pastor S Gray) and a Wesleyan chapel (Superintendent Minister, the Rev. Joseph Burrows) with Sunday and day schools, built in 1874, at a cost of nearly £3000; the chapel will hold 800 people and has a large burial ground attached. The Primitive Methodist chapel was erected in 1899. The Temperance Hall, built in 1859, will hold 350 persons. 

The curfew is rung here at 8pm daily from Michaelmas to Lady Day (Sundays excepted), and this place may be regarded as the headquarters of the “Raunds, Wellingborough and District Society of Church Bell Ringers.”

Raunds is a place of considerable importance for the manufacture of boots and shoes, chiefly for the Government, a list of principle manufacturers is included below. In 1905, 115 men, representing the army bootmakers, marched to London to protest to the War Office about their low wages. 

At Raunds was born John Grimbold, who built Trinity College Library and part of Clare College, Cambridge.

The charities, amounting to about £27 yearly, are chiefly derived from 18 acres of land left by John Blaise, of Raunds, and six cottages formerly belonging to Nicholl’s charity, but the property has been sold and the proceeds invested; the interest arising is distributed in cash on St. Thomas’ Day to the poor of the parish. 

H.M. the King and Sir Herbert Charles Arthur Langham bart. are lords of the manor. Sir H C A Langham bart., H L Storey esq., Messrs. T C Jeeves, Harold Nickols, the trustees of S Brown and the vicar are the principle landowners, and there are some smaller proprietors.

The soil is chiefly clay, with some light scaly land; subsoil, clay; and in the neighbourhood of the village, white rock and ironstone. The chief crops are wheat, barley, seeds and roots. 

The area of the civil parish and Urban District is 4452 acres of land and 8 of water; assessable value, £14182; the population in 1911 was 3873 (compared to 1653 in 1842).

Principle Officers of the Village:

Urban District Council Chairman: Jesse Shelmerdine,

Treasurer: Charles Modlen,

Clerk & Collector: William Fellows Corby,

Medical Officer of Health: W Mackenzie, LRCP & LRCS Edin., LRFPS Glas.,

Inspector of Nuisances: Thomas Yorke,

Parish Clerk: Henry Stubbs,

Postmaster: George Walker,

Station Master: William H Rodway,

Police Sergeant: Henry Ellingham.


From 1704, the National School was partly supported by a bequest of £100 left by Miss Peaps. 

Public Elementary Schools: Raunds Council School; erected in 1914, for 248 children and 200 infants. Each department has open-air class rooms; there are also adjoining rooms for cookery and woodwork; Leon George Harold Lee, head master; Miss Amy Beeby, infants mistress.

Mixed School; built with a master’s residency in 1859 from designs by the late Mr Street and enlarged in 1896 at a cost of £350, for 232 children, and again enlarged in 1911 for 272 children; Frederick A Potter, master. 

Infant’s School; built in 1869, and enlarged in 1874 at a cost of £180, and again enlarged in 1897, by Talbot-Brown and Fisher of Wellingborough, at a cost of £1400, for 258 children; Miss Kate Atkins, mistress. 

Principle Boot and Shoe Manufacturers:

Adams Brothers, Park Road & Spencer Street: wholesale boot & shoe, boot upper & legging manufacturers & governmental contractors.

J W Black, Brook Street: boot & shoe manufacturers. 

Ernest Chambers, Park Road: boot heel (lift) maker.

J H Clark, Brook Street: boot manufacturer. 

R Coggins and Sons Ltd, Marshall’s Road: boot manufacturers.

John Horrell & Son, Wellington Road: army contractors & wholesale boot & shoe manufacturers. 

Walter Lawrence, High Street: boot & shoe manufacturer. 

Neal & Gates, Park Road: boot & shoe manufacturers.

C E Nichols, Midland Road: boot & shoe manufacturer.

Owen Smith & Company, Grove Street: wholesale boot & shoe manufacturer. 

St. Crispin’s Productive Society Ltd, Sackville Street: wholesale boot & shoe manufacturers. 

Tebbutt & Hall Bros, Clare Street: boot & shoe manufacturers.

Wellington Boot & Shoe Company Ltd, Wellington Road. 


** As explained in the superb 1988 book “Raunds, Picturing the Past”, by David Hall, Ruth Harding and Cyril Putt, the church at Raunds is actually dedicated to St. Peter. However, during the late Victorian period through to the time of the Great War, the commonly used name was that of St. Mary’s, the early 16th-century patronal saint.