WELLINGBOROUGH is so plain it defies description yet the improved train service is bringing in new life blood in the form of commuters. It has a good range of major chain stores, several supermarkets including a Sainsbury’s, and a modern shopping mall – the Swansgate Centre. Schooling is good, with three state secondary schools and one private school, Wellingborough School for boys. A night out in Wellingborough used to be mean going to a pub, but the town now has The Castle theatre, an arts complex and the new Waendel Leisure Centre complete swimming pool.
The town has a mix of Victorian terraced houses, smart newish developments and some not-so-nice council estates. Developments around the railway station are popular as starter homes. A two-bedroom quad (a quarter of a house split into four) will cost £110,000; a three-bedroom semi £150,000–£170,000; a four-bedroom detached just over £190,000. There are some pleasant older properties in Northampton Road, where you could expect to pay over £180,000 for a three-bedroom Thirties’ house. For Victoriana, look in Hatton Park where houses cost £200,000 upwards. A four-bedroom modern detached house on one of the better developments – the Gleneagles Estate, for instance – would cost between £210,000 and £250,000.
Rushden, a few miles to the east, is about one-third the size of Wellingborough and rather less attractive, with some charmless early Seventies architecture and the extra dollop of houses planned which might simply add to the anywhere-land feel. The consolation for house-buyers are some reasonably-priced Victorian terraces, ranging from around £85,000 to £115,000 for two or three bedrooms. A four-bedroom detached modern house will cost over £175,000. Shopping is adequate: there is an Asda on the edge of town and a Waitrose within. The main source of local pride is the sports centre and the splash-leisure pool. There is no cinema since the old picture house was converted into a theatre for amateur dramatics and bingo. Rushden was the birthplace of H.E.Bates, who used Rushden Hall – one of the few historic buildings surviving in the town – as the model for Evensfield in Love For Lydia.
A favourite state school is Ferrers School in Higham Ferrers, four-and-a-half miles to the east of Wellingborough. The village has now become a town, hardly separated from Rushden, with an attractive High Street lined with period stone properties and new developments fanning out on either side. A four-bedroom stone house here will cost over £285,000; a rare, rambling five-bedroom terraced property on the market square, over £450,000. Some of the villages close by are worth looking at too. Wymington has a good mix of stone and thatch, with a spread of old farmhouses down the lanes, and Podington has a quality of timelessness that is very attractive. You could find a period three-bedroom stone house for around £360,000, a five-bedroom thatched home for around £800,000.
Wollaston, about seven minutes’ drive due south of Wellingborough, is centred around a cluster of old cottages, with modern developments, an industrial estate and council housing on the outskirts. The makers of Doc Martens have their headquarters here. It has small shops, a post office and its own primary and secondary schools. The conservation watchdogs of the Wollaston Society have enjoyed some triumphs, including the arrival in 1985 of a bypass to take the strain of the A509. Property prices start at £125,000 for a three-bedroom semi; £210,000 for a four-bedroom detached; and £375,000 for an 18th-century stone cottage. A four-bedroom, double-garaged, detached house overlooking the fields might cost £325,000; a seven-bedroom, 13th-century house in 2 acres recently sold for £1.5m.
For real village atmosphere you should head south to Grendon, about five miles from Wellingborough. This pretty village consists of 18th-century cottages gathered around the church, with some Victorian terraces and a few individual modern properties. Villagers get by with one pub and a good primary school. There is a limited bus service. The population of over 500 includes young families, commuters, and some elderly residents in bungalows. Village life centres around the Church Social Committee, Village Hall Committee, the WI, football and cricket teams. There is an annual church fête and periodic fund-raising ventures which attract considerable support. Expect to pay at least £250,000 for a period cottage; upwards of £140,000 for a two-bed Victorian terrace.
East of Wellingborough is Raunds, a small town not to everyone’s taste, with a 14th-century manor house and Victorian buildings surrounded by modern estates. Its tightly-knit community of about 8,000 is served by two supermarkets, a post office and smaller shops. Small terraced houses can be bought for £90,000; three-bedroom Victorian semis for £110,000; and modern three-bedroom detached houses for £150,000 upwards.
Also on this side of Wellingborough are Great and Little Addington. Both are cottagey with some modern development on the wings – mainly four-bedroom detached houses. The two villages share a vicar, a playing field, a youth club and WI, though there is still a certain amount of friendly rivalry which brings people out in summer and winter for inter-village sporting contests. Another highlight of the social calendar is the annual horticultural society show. There is a Church of England primary school and a playgroup for tots, of which there are a fair number. New housebuilding is seriously restricted here, so prices can only go up. You would have to pay around £250,000 for a three-bedroom stone cottage, possibly thatched; around £300,000 for a modern four-bedroom detached. A five-bedroom stone country house with an acre of land could cost up to £600,000. The area is so seriously horsey that estate agents say that anything with a pony paddock is bound to sell. Green wellies, Land Rovers and waxed jackets are common currency here.