Snapshots from history of Far Cotton

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THERE was once a time when people joked that you needed a passport to get to Far Cotton.

Its identity was as a district far removed from Northampton’s town centre, with a separate set of people and completely individual identity.

Nowadays Far Cotton is seen more as an integral part of Northampton, but that is not to say that its community has disappeared. Far from it, the people who like to call themselves ‘Cottonites’ are still going strong.

And anyone who would like more evidence of this need look no further than the latest publication by the increasingly popular Far Cotton History Group.

The group, which has been running for five years, has just produced its second book, entitled Far Cotton, A Pictorial History Pre 1960.

As the title suggests, the book is a lovingly put together melange of snapshots from the early days of Far Cotton; compiled by former and current residents.

The pictures are varied in theme, recording everything from the terrible floods the area has suffered, to the schools so many local children attended and the strong connections Far Cotton had with the railway industry.

Committee member Pat Roe explained that numbers in the history group have soared from eight original members to about 90 today.

She said: “Far Cotton is quite a special place, we always say, and people who have connections with the area enjoy getting together and talking about the old days.”

Fellow member Philip Webb said: “We often have messages from all over the world, from places like Canada and Spain.”

The group’s website, as well as its first history book (and the DVD which went with it), was funded with help from £25,000 in Heritage Lottery Fund money.

The proceeds from that book were reinvested into their latest work and it is hoped that they will continue to reinvest money into future publications.

The book is expected to prove a valuable momento for many ‘Cottonite’ families.

Philip can proudly trace his Far Cotton links through seven generations of his family.

One photo feature in the book is of his great great grandfather Councillor John Webb, who was an alderman for Far Cotton until 1900.

He explained that, until 1900, Far Cotton had its own district council and was not officially part of Northampton.

He said: “In 1900 it became part of Northampton. We were called China town and New Zealand, because we seemed so far from the town.

“Councillor John Webb was on the board of the Co-op Society, choir master at Henley Street Methodists and head of the school board. He was also a strong union man.”

The railway pictures included in the book bear testament to the importance that this industry had to the growth of Far Cotton as an area.

Member Ray Wake said: “The railway first came to this country in the 1830s but Northampton missed out primarily because certain wealthy landowners would not sell their land. It wasn’t until 1845 when they linked Blisworth with Peterborough and that is when they built Bridge Street station.”

He continue: “People needed somewhere to live and that is why many of the Far Cotton houses were built - for the workers.

“Pre 1845 we were a tiny little hamlet.”

Northamptonians of all generations will still be able to recall the terrible floods which hit areas of the town - and particularly Far Cotton - in 1998.

But the area has been a hotspot for floods for many decades; even beyond living memory.

Some of the photos in the book reveal the devastation caused by the 1939 floods, but also clearly showed that cars still attempted to use the roads, people waded about and life as normal continued as much as it could.

Ray said: “There was one lady who recorded her story - she is now 103 - and she remembered the 1939 floods. They didn’t have the emergency services coming to help them. They just moved upstairs and waited for the water to go down.”

For more information on the Far Cotton History Group, log onto www.farcottonhistory.co.uk

Copies of the book, priced £6 are available from the Delapre Abbey Tea Room or by ringing Northampton 709850 or 762952. Copies can be posted at the increased price of £8.50.

Copies can also be purchased at the Towcester Road Methodist Church bazaar on November 13 between 2pm and 4pm, as well as at Delapre Abbey’s Christmas Craft Fair on November 21.