Walk 80: Wollaston Village Walk: “Who are you…”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: Just over 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy & all on hard paths so an ideal village walk for all seasons

Parking: We parked on road outside the Wollaston Inn near The Grove

Public toilets: The Wollaston Inn

Map of the route:


This is another village that, like Rushden, has decided to commemorate its history through the placing of plaques – in Wollaston’s case green. They were erected to celebrate the millennium & more have been added over the years

Until we did this walk we knew little about the village but, as you’ll see, it’s beautiful in parts & well worth a stroll. Located close to Wellingborough, Wollaston’s name comes from the Saxon “Wulfaf’s Town”, named after a Saxon chief of that name. It’s listed in the Domesday Book as ‘Wilaveston’

Lacemaking became the first industry in the 17th century & a pattern known as the Wollaston style developed. This contained the scallop shell that appeared on the Manorial coat of arms, which can be seen on many logos today. In common with the rest of Northamptonshire in the 19th century, Wollaston was famous for its shoe industry. Until 2003 the famous Dr. Martens boots were made in in the village. In 2007, manufacture of the “Made in England” line of Dr. Martens footwear was resumed in the Cobbs Lane Factory in Wollaston

Wollaston is also the head office of an international chemical company, founded by the Quaker Ernest Bader which is now a common ownership factory, the Scott Bader Commonwealth, making advanced resins & composite materials

It’s a bright, winter’s afternoon with a chill in the air & best to keeping moving so…

Let’s Walk!

1. We’ve parked in The Grove outside the pub now known as The Wollaston Inn…


People don’t realise the importance of this pub in British music. John Peel really promoted it & bands that have appeared at the formerly named Nags Head have been Rod Stewart & The Faces, U2, Free, Edwin Starr, The Who, Wishbone Ash, Status Quo, Mott the Hoople etc…etc…



Head round to the right of the pub where the green plaque’s on the wall…


The jubilee clock was erected to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II coronation

2. Carry on right past the pub


The area opposite was know as The Cradle as it was where cattle were kept in the 17th century



Head down Hinwick Road…


3. Stop at the house on the right


In the field behind this house the annual Village Fair was held from 19th century to 1969…


This was once an open field where the fair stood

This was once an open field where the fair stood

4. Retrace your steps, cross the road & turn right up Council Street…


Looking for a plaque on the building on the left


This road was renamed Council Street in 1895 to commemorate the Act of Parliament that instituted Parish Councils. It was previously a footpath known as Jet Way

5. Cross the road at the top of the street as there’s another plaque on the side of the showroom…



This one marks the site of the village’s first Coffee House & public reading room in 1893.

6. Turn left into the wide junction. The building ahead has the next one as it used to be Wollaston’s first shoe  factory



Pratt Walker’s factory was built in 1883 & produced ‘top-end’ market footwear until 1934. The building was used to produce armaments in World War II & then later bought by local firm Scott Bader. It was converted into flats in 2005

7. Follow St Michael’s Lane down to the right to an area that was once the Market Place…



King Henry III granted a charter for a market here in 1260. The area’s also called The Pibble due to the two large stones that used to protect the buildings


8. Cross the road into College Street & then immediately right up Queen’s Road…


Although it’s no longer there, in 1919 at No 3 used to be an old army hut that was the cinema.


The electricity was provided by a gas fired generator. Unfortunately it also caused the fire that burnt everything down in 1925

9. Continue to the top of the street & turn left into South Street


There’s a plaque on the factory on the right…


Northamptonshire Productive Society  (Shoes) Ltd (NPS) was established as a cooperative in 1881 and nicknamed ‘The Duffers’. At the turn of the 20th century NPS had grown to 80 employees &, as a result of the cooperatives, growth moved to a larger purpose-built factory on South Street , which although modified & expanded, they still occupy to this day


At the turn of the 21st century however, NPS was on the verge of collapse & was propositioned by a property developer who planned on demolishing the factory to develop the land


In 2006, village resident Ivor Tilley decided to save the factory & asked the co-operative if he could purchase NPS Shoes with the hope of both continuing its life as a shoe factory, while also preserving both the employment of local villagers & the skills & knowledge which had been accumulated during the long history of the company. The workers voted in his favour

The factory has subsequently gone from strength to strength & their Solovair footwear brand is now distributed to all four corners of the world. NPS classic footwear styles have now also been commissioned by some of the largest brands in the UK & internationally

10. Continue to the end of South Street. the house on the left has a plaque on it signifying that this is Castle Mound where a Motte Castle stood…


It was constructed in the reign of King Stephen (1135 – 1154) & demolished under King Henry II in 1154. In later years Wollaston’s first windmill stood here from 13th to the 16th century

11. Walk straight over the road into Bell End. Immediately ahead is a gate which leads into a charming little garden known as Jubilee Park



In 1833 the Lord of the Manor died & his estate was subsequently split up & sold. The portion bought by the Keep family became a farm with outbuildings. They also made a garden, including the walled garden, which now forms the Pocket Park. Local company, Scott Bader, Northamptonshire County Council & Wellingborough District Council,  updated this area to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. It would be worth coming to have a look later in the year when it would be in full bloom



12. Head down the hill. Almost immediately next door is Miss Keep’s School…


In 1870, the Keep family, landowners & possible dealers in lace, moved to Wollaston. One of the daughters, Alice, was a talented water colourist who took over the running of the little school, teaching boys painting & bible studies

Alice & her sister Margaret taught more than 800 boys over the years & the register can be seen in Wollaston Museum


Turn right down Hickmire towards the church, past The Hill Bar & Bistro which was formerly the Scott Bader Social Club


13. Ahead’s St Mary’s Church


The list of incumbents goes back to 1219 when William was vicar of “Wilavestone”. But the remains of Saxon burials suggests a church existed as far back as 1050. The earliest part of the present Church is the tower & spire together with the north transept which date back to around 1300. The medieval church was about the same size as the present

On the 13th November 1735 the body of the Church which is supported by six pillars suddenly & quite unexpectedly fell down. The noise is said to have made “horses run wildly about in Farndish, some 2 miles away”. The nave was rebuilt & Feast Sunday on 8th July 1739 celebrated the opening of the new Church

There are many historical memorials in the Church, one of the most fascinating being in the churchyard in memory of two Wollaston men who went down with the Titanic in 1912. Unfortunately we didn’t get time to visit it today

14. Follow the road down the hill to the left – this is a glorious part of the village…



The large building on the left has a plaque & is known as The Priory. It’s a medieval rectory belonging to Delapre Abbey in Northampton

15. The road descends the hill still amongst lovely properties…



There’s the next plaque on the garage on the right


This building once housed Lovell’s Workshop which was a wheel-wright & carpenters shop

16. At the junction turn left into the wonderfully named Duck End (they like their Ends in Wollaston!)


Look for the plaque on No.1. This commemorates St Bartholomews Farm which was once on this site & belonged to The Royal Hospital of St Bartholomews in London


The farm was eventually sold to raise money for the repairs to the damage the hospital had suffered caused by World War I bombing

17. Continue down Duck End into the newer part of the village…



…turning right at the bottom into Priory Road & then left into Neale Close


It seems strange to have a plaque on a fairly new house (No. 6), but it remembers Edmond, Thomas & Sir Charles Neale who were Squires of Wollaston Manor 1634 – 1734. They were founders & benefactors of the Wollaston Bread Charity for the village poor 1671 – 1995


18. Turn left into Manchester Road & walk straight to the junction at the end…


…where the next plaque’s on the wall of the final house on the left



This one marks the influence of the Independent Order of Oddfellows in this area. From 1854 – 1969 the Wollaston branch of the Prince of Wales Lodge, the Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity Friendly Society had their Manchester Allotments here

19. It’s time to head back up the hill into the old part of the village once more…


…past the village sign which gives a nod to the shoe industry


Cobbs Lane which we’re walking up now was named after one of the village’s Vicars, Edmund Cobbe, who held the position for 35 years. He was installed 1663 against the wishes of Puritanical Parishioners. One of his main achievements was making the road we’re on one of the main roads into the village

20. The factory on the right towards the top of the road quite rightly has its own plaque…



 The R Griggs Company is best known for its Dr Martens boots, buying the patent rights to make them in the UK at the end of the 1950s. In the 2000s, Dr. Martens were sold exclusively under the AirWair name & came in dozens of different styles, including conventional black shoes, sandals & steel-toed boots. AirWair International’s revenue fell from US $412 million in 1999 to $127 million in 2006

In 2003, the Dr. Martens company came close to bankruptcy. On 1 April that year, under pressure from declining sales, the company ceased making shoes in the United Kingdom & moved all production to China & Thailand. Five factories & two shops were closed in the UK as a result of this decision & more than 1,000 of the firm’s employees lost their jobs. Following the closures, the R. Griggs company employed only 20 people in the UK, all of whom were located in the firm’s head office. 5 million pairs of Dr. Martens were sold during 2003, which was half the level of annual sales during the 1990s

The plaque’s on the entrance to the factory further up the hill…


In 2004 a new range of Dr. Martens was launched in an attempt to appeal to a wider market & especially young people. The shoes & boots were intended to be more comfortable & easier to break in. Dr. Martens also began producing footwear again at this Cobbs Lane Factory in 2004. These products are part of the “Vintage” line, which the company advertises as being made to the original specifications. Sales of these shoes are low in comparison to those made in Asia, however in 2010, the factory was producing about 50 pairs per day. In 2005, the R. Griggs company was given an award by the “Institute for Turnaround” for implementing a successful restructure


Worldwide sales of Dr. Martens shoes grew strongly in the early 2010s & in 2012 it was assessed as being the 8th fastest-growing British company. Over 100 million pairs of Dr Martens shoes have been sold from 1960 to 2010 & in 2010, the company offered 250 different models of footwear. The R. Griggs company opened 14 new Dr. Martens retail stores in the United Kingdom, United States & Hong Kong between 2009 & 2011 & also launched a line of clothing during 2011

In October 2013, the private equity company Permira acquired R. Griggs Group Limited for a price of £300m

21. The plaque commemorating the Vicar is on the corner of Cobbs Lane & the High Street which we turn up…


We’re now back in the old part of the village again & across the road look for the sign to Wollaston Museum next door to Curiosity Cottage



22. The Chapel was donated to the Society in 1974, and they opened their Museum in 1979. Curiosity Cottage was in a poor state and due for demolition. The Society also purchased this property &, with the aid of Heritage Lottery Funds, in 2004 it was fully refurbished



The Chapel houses the main artefacts, with the cottage, now furnished as an early 20th century cottage, used for education as well as part of the museum. An Archive Room has been established for care & preservation of historical documents & photographs. The Wollaston Museum has a display of footwear manufacturing showing the various methods involved, including a shoemaker’s bench & tools, some of which were handmade. It has a Doc Marten area, supported by AirWair. There are many other exhibits cataloguing the village’s industrial, commercial & domestic life

23. Continue along the High Street…


There’s two plaques close by here on opposite sides of the road. Firstly on the large thatched cottage on the left which, in the 18th century was the Village Workhouse for the poor


Opposite on the right is the Farmhouse…


In the 17th century this was a farmhouse & barns. In 1871 it became a school & then from 1881 – 1898 the Registrars Office. Almost next door on the same side is The Smithy which used to be on this site until 1955


24. Pass by, or stop for a coffee at Wollaston Courtyard…



…before continuing to the junction with the end of St Michael’s Lane we haven’t visited yet. There’s a plaque on the property on the corner which used to be where Wollaston’s first manual telephone exchange was installed in 1918. It was operated by the families living at No’s 40 & 42


25. Turn right down another wonderfully named lane…Rotten Row


At the T-junction at the bottom there’s a great view right across the valley


But our route is left up the hill along London Road, stopping at the house on the corner which has a plaque. This was once an 18th century coaching inn called The Marquis of Granby…



The daily stagecoach from Wellingborough to London called there from 1776. It stopped in 1845 when the railway arrived in Wellingborough

26. Continue up London Road. The final plaque is on Cromwell House on the right…



Cromwell House was built in 1584 on the site of a previous Saxon property. To arrive back at where we started this walk continue to the top of the road passing the Working Mens Club…



…where the Wollaston Inn’s directly ahead

So…we didn’t know what to expect on this village walk as we hadn’t really been to Wollaston before. Our conclusions were that it’s quite a charming village with a proud history & is well worth a visit

Go Walk!