diamond geezer

 Monday, May 09, 2022


I didn't spend all day in Corby, I also took the bus and spent the afternoon in Kettering. For those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of North Northamptonshire, Kettering is five miles further south, a bit larger and fundamentally older. You'll find it where the A14 meets the A43, or more likely see the outskirts as you're speeding past. Touristwise it has one key attraction (which I enjoyed returning to after a 25 year break), but otherwise feel free to give it as much of a miss as Corby. [Visit Kettering] [8 photos]

This is Market Square in Kettering. It isn't square and it doesn't have a market - they moved that elsewhere and footfall plummeted - but it is still a popular spot for alfresco congregation. It got seriously spruced up in 2009 with stepped seating, a slim crescent canopy and allegedly an arc of fountains (except these weren't switched on midweek so I can't confirm). The church in the background with the crocketed spire is St Peter and St Paul's which is mostly medieval and boasts a couple of angelic wall paintings (except it was locked so again I can't confirm). I had similar luck when visiting the town's Cultural Quarter, which lies immediately beyond.

I had been looking forward to visiting the Manor House Museum, Kettering's low key repository of local history, because it's the town centre's chief tourist offering. Unfortunately it was closed awaiting cultural upgrade, as was the Alfred East Art Gallery nextdoor, the town centre's only other tourist offering. All that was left was the public library, an unexpectedly depressing space with sealed-off shelves, whose leaflet racks were also unlikely to inspire. All three are due to be connected later in the year by Cornerstone, the glassy hub they're currently building out back which'll offer coffee, start-up space and workshoppery. I hope Kettering approves... but for those of us who only intend to visit the once and it was all closed, I think I blew it.

Kettering grew big on boots and shoes, churning out sturdy footwear in direct competition with Northampton down the road. That's all pretty much gone now, although Loake still make brogues and Oxfords in their Wood Street factory and Clarks sell imports from Somerset in Newlands mall. The High Street's been pedestrianised and goes from old inns at one end to modern malls at the other. My photo above shows the modern bit with the Rotary clock to give you a misleading idea about the town centre. The Horsemarket, for example, makes a much nicer bus station than the average bayed shed, and the Cornmarket can be hired out for parties. I think what struck me most about Kettering is how perfectly ordinary it was, nothing too amazing, nothing too grim, just a Midlands market town doing its thing.

What I failed to do was follow the Kettering Civic Society's Blue Plaque Heritage Trail. I saw one for the town's first mayor and another for the town's first nonconformist chapel and assumed they were all that dull, but missed the plaques for comic strip illustrator Frank Bellamy, artist Thomas Gotch and artist Sir Alfred East. Only when I got back to the station at the end of my trip did I find the best one, a tribute to author H E Bates pinned up on platform three. He attended the local grammar school and used to meet his first girlfriend here before they travelled home their separate ways. In his autobiography he wrote "if there were any justice whatever in the history of railways and twentieth-century novelists there should be a plaque on the door of the first-class waiting-room on Platform 3 at Kettering station saying H E Bates loved here', and hurrah there now is.

But the big attraction in Kettering has to be Wicksteed Park, the 101 year-old unthemed theme park. This covers 147 acres on the edge of town and was designed by industrialist Charles Wicksteed who owned a local engineering works. Originally he wanted the land to be housing for his workers, but when the authorities started building homes following WW1 he switched to creating a leisure facility on the site instead. His park had a boating lake and a huge playground - still does - then a pavilion, rose garden, theatre, aviary and miniature railway - ditto. Crowds flocked in and have continued to do so since, if not in quite such massive numbers. The pandemic alas sent the business into administration, crippled in four months flat by visitorlessness, but last year a charitable trust took over and everything's up and running again.

The joy of Wicksteed Park is that entry is free, only the rides cost. That's particularly useful for the local population off-season, and indeed midweek in early May when the main attractions aren't up and running. I got to wander all over from the carousel to the campsite and the minigolf to the Splash Zone. The locomotives were locked away in the station sheds awaiting weekend circuits. The picnic zone by the waterside was amok with geese protecting their new offspring (and their droppings meant you had to be very careful where you trod). The water chute is thought to be the first ever built and looks it, although the narrow steps you clamber up beforehand look much more recent. Thank goodness the park was open because I'm not sure what I'd have done with my three hours in Kettering otherwise.

I particularly enjoyed the nostalgia of returning after 25 years away. Last time I remember I had to pay for everyone's tickets by cheque in the pavilion, so that's moved on. I remember being particularly rubbish on the go karts. I remember gossiping in the rose garden while others took another turn on the dodgems. I remember whizzing round the rollercoaster twice, relieved it was quite basic and not of Thorpe Park proportions. And I still have a hopelessly blurry photo of me on the Ladybird, the really tame mini coaster, which somebody present inexplicably framed and presented to me a few months later. The whole place had the feel of a charming prewar throwback even then, and still does, and is all the better for it.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards