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The Society has begun its Heritage Trail by placing plaques around the town to commemorate well-known people who have contributed to Kettering's history. So far Sir Alfred East, cartoonist Frank Bellamy, William Knibb, artist Thomas Cooper Gotch, Tony IresonJ L Carr, Charles Wicksteed and Architect and first Mayor of Kettering John Alfred Gotch  have been recognised.


Thomas Cooper Gotch Plaque on the Mission House

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William Knibb      Unveiling the Plaque in Market Street


Unveiling the J L Carr plaque in Milldale Road





Sir Charles Wicksteed (1847-1931)

Charles Wicksteed was the son of a Leeds Unitarian minister; from an early age he showed mechanical talents. After serving an apprenticeship in locomotive engineering works, he started up a steam ploughing business, which brought him to Kettering. He opened a small works in Stainford Road where he built up a successful engineering firm.

A passionate and opinionated politician, Wicksteed was to play a prominent part in the life of the towns politics, being an ardent disciple of Gladstone. Passionate, irascible and individualistic, having failed to persuade the Local Board to open a public park, in the end he made one of his own.

Although not a local man in origin, Charles Wicksteed became one of the most characteristic of businessmen of the later Victorian era. After having to struggle to make his business successful, eventually he made a good deal of money. In 1911 Wicksteed purchased 400 acres of the Barton Hall estate and in 1916 formed Wicksteed Village Trust, which was endowed with shares in his firm.

It was somehow characteristic of him to risk his business for a project he believed in. His original plan was to develop a model village of low cost prefabricated houses, but with the arrival of council houses after 1918, this idea was abandoned. Some land was sold for private housing. With the remaining 140 acres Wicksteed embarked on plans for what was to evolve into the first children's recreational park in the country.

He started with a boating lake in 1919 and a huge programme of tree felling. Two years later, the park was officially opened. By then, he had already spent £50,000. At regular intervals, new features were added. The park became popular with children and adults alike, one of its great virtues being that there was plenty of space to absorb the largest crowds. Wicksteed, always accompanied by his dog, was a familiar figure there. In 1928 he spent another £60,000 on the purchase of Barton Hall, which eventually became a hotel and later an old peoples home. Most popular at the weekend and at holiday times, the park is open every day for people to walk in. Nowadays, entry is free but there is a charge for motorcars. Wicksteed placed its future in the hands of a charitable trust and each year donations are made to charities out of the profits. Charles Wicksteed died, in 1931. His body lay in state in the pavilion in his park, the continuing existence of which keeps his memory alive.

Extract from "A History of Kettering" by RL Greenall

Sir Alfred East R.A. (1844-1913)

Alfred was born in Lower Street Kettering in 1844. He was the youngest of a family of eleven children part of the East Shoemaking dynasty. He drew and painted from an early age and this was continued when he was old enough to go to the Grammar School. However, neither school nor his family gave him any particular encouragement beyond that of recognising his talent. Despite being totally obsessive about his art his parents sent him to work in a shoe factory owned by his brother Charles.
Here he learned the rudiments of his management role in the world of boots and shoes but his heart wasn’t in it to say the least. In 1874 having married Anne Heath he was sent to Glasgow as the firms representative.
He attended evening art classes there and after a while, presumably being able to benefit from some financial security offered by the East family, he was able to decide to make art his career. Accordingly Alfred enrolled at Glasgow School of Art and later went to study in France. He returned to England around about 1883 establishing studios in both London and Cornwall.

Over the next thirty or so years he painted and travelled widely in Britain and Europe. As his fame grew he extended his travels further a field including a productive visit to Japan in the late 1880’s. Initially more acclaimed in Europe than in his native country, eventually in 1899 he was elected A.R.A. Associate of (R.A.) in recognition of his work in capturing the particular qualities of the English landscape. His work did reflect the mood of the new century and in the next decade honours were showered upon him from all over the world.
In 1910 he was given a Knighthood. This was celebrated by a banquet at the Royal Hotel. On this occasion not only did he present a painting to the town but offered the town a representative selection of his works to serve as a memorial and “out of great affection for (his) birthplace”. This generous offer, conditional upon the construction of a gallery to house the collection was not made public until early in 1911 by which time the success of the plan had been assured. The new gallery designed by architects Gotch & Saunders was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire on 31st July 1913.

Sadly Sir Alfred East who had just been elected as a full Academician (R.A.) was too ill to attend and died aged 69 less than three months later.

This short biography is indebted to “The Alfred East Gallery” an excellent little book available from the gallery and detailing both Sir Alfred’s life and the development of his gallery in some detail.


Frank Bellamy (1917-1976)

Frank Bellamy, voted at a New York Awards Ceremony as the best non-American illustrator in the world, was born in Kettering in 1917. He was brought up in Bath Road and educated locally. On leaving school he produced a regular comic strip for the Kettering Evening Telegraph’s ‘Pink ‘Un’ sports paper whilst working for William Blamir on Kettering’s High Street designing film posters for local cinemas.

Frank did his National Service in County Durham where he met his wife Nancy. In 1948 he migrated to where he needed to be- London, working as a commercial artist. After a period of doing illustration work for a variety of magazines he eventually moved into ‘comics’. His first comic was Mickey Mouse Weekly where his output was actually signed ‘Walt Disney’! He soon moved on to Swift magazine, a stable mate of the famous Eagle comic and he made his name with exciting layouts and revolutionary colour. By the late fifties he had finally become established as one of the foremost strip artists in the country.

Probably his most memorable creative work was the up dating of Eagle Comics famous Dan Dare strip. Throughout the late sixties and early seventies he contributed to many periodicals including the Sunday Times and the Radio Times. His work for Radio Times included work on Dr Who resulting in two ‘covers’ of the character.

In 1971, five years before his death he took over the Garth Strip in the Daily Mirror and later moved back to Kettering with Nancy. Frank Bellamy died of a heart attack in 1976 age 59. The Civic Society placed a memorial blue plaque on his house at Bath Road.

Biography by Robert Mercer (Vice Chairman - Kettering Civic Society 2005)


Thomas Cooper Gotch (1854-1931)

Thomas Cooper Gotch was born in the Mission House Kettering on December 10th 1854. He was the third son of Thomas Henry Gotch. Thomas Henry was a member of the well-known Kettering banking and shoe making family. One of three brothers they inherited the family wealth when their father died in 1852. Frederick William Gotch didn’t enter the business but John Davis did and lived in Chesham House, the family home just across the road. Unfortunately through mismanagement the bank collapsed amid financial panic in 1857. Thomas Henry, much distressed, left Kettering with his family that year but when in 1863 with the help of various other family members, the shoe making business was rescued and began to thrive again, he returned to Kettering to help rebuild the firm. He eventually even moved back to Chesham House being able to purchase it from his friend J.T.Stockburn in 1871.

So Thomas Cooper, now a growing boy was also back in the town and went to Kettering Grammar School in 1869 aged 15 having been up to that time educated at various private institutions. By 1873 he was working for the family boot and shoe business travelling about the country and negotiating contracts and sales. Inclined towards the arts he was however unhappy working in the firm and considering that a “life in boots and shoes would be a life lost”. As the Gotch’s had friendly connections with the families of the artists Alfred East, Edmund Whimperis and John Trivett Nettleship they asked for advice in deciding Tom’s future. In the event Thomas Cooper Gotch began his career as an artist by enrolling at Heatherley’s Art School in London in 1876, with a view to getting accepted as soon as possible into the Royal Academy Schools.

From then on his life and travels as an artist are typical of the period. He married Caroline Burland Yates in 1881 at Newlyn in an area of Cornwall that became increasingly important to him. (He even became President of the Newlyn Boy Scouts Association). His year-by-year development is admirably covered in Pamela Lomax’s book ‘The Golden Dream’, published by Sansom & Company (ISBN 1-904537-21-9) It is too detailed and varied to be repeated here. He died in London on May 1st 1931. His wife Caroline was able to come up from Newlyn to be with him after he suddenly became ill at the R.A. on varnishing day of that year’s exhibition and a memorial exhibition was held in Kettering the following year.

Biography by Robert Mercer (Vice Chairman - Kettering Civic Society 2005)


Joseph Lloyd Carr (born 20 May 1912 Thirsk Junction, Carlton Miniott, Yorkshire – died 26 February 1994 Kettering, Northamptonshire); who called himself "Jim" or even "James," was an English novelist, publisher, teacher, and eccentric.

Carr was born in Yorkshire, into a family of Wesleyan Methodists. His father Joseph, the eleventh son of a farmer, rejected farming as a career and went to work for the railways, eventually becoming a station master for the North Eastern Railway. Carr was given the same Christian name as his father and the middle name Lloyd, after David Lloyd George, the Liberal prime minister. He adopted the names Jim and James in adulthood. His brother Raymond, who was also a station master, called him Lloyd.

Carr's early life was shaped by failure. He attended the village school at Carlton Miniott, Yorkshire. He failed the scholarship exam, which denied him a grammar school education, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college. Interviewed at Goldsmiths' College, London he was asked why he wanted to be a teacher. Carr answered: "Because it leaves so much time for other pursuits." He was not accepted. Over forty years later, after his novel The Harpole Report was a critical and popular success, he was invited to give a talk at Goldsmiths'. He replied that the college once had its chance of being addressed by him.

He worked for a year as an unqualified teacher - one of the lowest of the low in English education - at South Milford Primary School, where he became involved in a local amateur football team which was startlingly successful that year. This experience he developed into the novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup. He then successfully applied to a teacher training college in Dudley. In 1938 he took a year out from his teaching career to work as an exchange teacher in Huron, South Dakota in the Great Plains. Much of the year was a struggle to survive in what was a strangely different culture to him; his British salary converted into dollars was pitifully inadequate to meet American costs of living. This experience gave rise to his novel The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.

At the end of his year in the USA Carr continued his journey westward and found himself travelling through the Middle East and the Mediterranean as the Second World War loomed. He arrived in France in September 1939 and reached England, where he volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force. He was trained as an RAF photographer and stationed in West Africa, later serving in Britain as an intelligence officer, an experience he translated into fiction with A Season in Sinji.

At the end of the War he married Sally (Hilda Gladys Sexton) and returned to teaching. He was appointed headmaster of Highfields Primary School in Kettering, a post he filled from 1952 to 1967 in a typically idiosyncratic way which earned the devotion of staff and pupils alike. He returned to Huron, South Dakota in 1957 to teach again on an exchange visit, when he wrote and published himself a social history of The Old Timers of Beadle County.

In 1967, having written two novels, he retired from teaching to devote himself to writing. He produced and published from his own Quince Tree Press (still active) a series of 'small books' designed to fit into a pocket: some of them selections from English poets, others brief monographs about historical events, or works of reference. In order to encourage children to read, each of the "small books" was given two prices, the lower of which applied only to children. As a result, Carr received several letters from adults in deliberately childish writing in an attempt to secure the discount.

He also carried on a single-handed campaign to preserve and restore the parish church of St Faith at Newton in the Willows, which had been vandalised and was threatened with redundancy. Carr, who appointed himself its guardian, came into conflict with the vicar of the benefice, and higher church authorities, in his attempts to save the church. The building was saved, but his crusade was also a failure in that redundancy was not averted and the building is now a scientific study centre.

In 1986 Carr was interviewed by Vogue magazine and, as a writer of dictionaries, was asked for a dictionary definition of himself. He answered: "James Lloyd Carr, a back-bedroom publisher of large maps and small books who, in old age, unexpectedly wrote six novels which, although highly thought of by a small band of literary supporters and by himself, were properly disregarded by the Literary World".

Jim Carr died of leukaemia in Kettering on 26 February 1994 aged 82 years.

This biography extract is courtesy of


John Alfred Gotch (28 September 1852 – 17 January 1942) was a noted British architect and architectural historian. His brother was the Pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator Thomas Cooper Gotch, who painted his portrait.

He attended Kettering Grammar School and later studied at the University of Zürich and at King's College London.

In 1879 Gotch set up a private architectural practice in Kettering, Northamptonshire which developed into the firm Gotch & Saunders by entering into partnership with Charles Saunders in 1887. They were later joined by Henry Ralph Surridge and they jointly retired in 1938. The practice still exists as Gotch, Saunders & Surridge LLP, or GSS Architecture.

As well as designing many buildings (especially for the Midland Bank) Gotch had a special interest in Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture, and became a national authority on the subject through his writings. He was the author of nine books in this field (two of which were reissued), as well as editor of a book on the history of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Apart from his renown as an architectural historian, he also achieved eminence as a public figure and representative of the architectural profession.

He was President of the Architectural Association in 1886-7, Vice-President of the RIBA in 1914-9, and President of RIBA in 1923-5: the first provincial architect to be appointed President since the formation of the Institute in 1834. In addition, he was Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries, a founder member of the Royal Fine Art Commission, a Trustee of the Soane Museum, and President of the Northamptonshire Association of Architects in 1911-22. In 1924 he received an honorary M.A. degree from the University of Oxford. John Alfred Gotch was appointed the first Charter Mayor of Kettering in 1938.

This biography extract is courtesy of Wikipedia