There is a piece of land in Geddington, through which the River Ise flows, that is sandwiched between the A43 and Queen Street. The river is bordered by willow trees and the path that runs through the land is bordered by 6-foot high Great Willowherb plants, perhaps too many, but they are pretty when in flower in July and August. This land is most commonly known as the Meadows, although since 1992 it has contained a fenced-in dog-walking area, installed by Kettering Borough Council: the first in the Borough.This area is well used, except during winter, when it occasionally floods – it’s not called a flood plain for nothing! At one time and, in some Geddington residents’ living memory, it had a swimming pool, but that’s another story.
However, it has a much more illustrious name and history, than at first appears, for on 6th July 1977, this two and a half acres of land was donated by John, the 11th Duke of Buccleuch to the Parish Council, in memory of his father, Duke Walter. In a ceremony attended by the Duke, his wife, Duchess Jane, Kettering Borough Council’s Planning Chief, Cllr Gordon Rowe and Parish Council Chairman, the late Cllr Jim Harker, Dowager Duchess Mary of Buccleuch unveiled a copper plaque on an oak plinth in the Park, which was then named The Walter Buccleuch Memorial Park.
However, in the intervening years, the plaque disappeared and the oak plinth was on the point of total disintegration and unrecognisable for what it had been. In the winter of 2009/10, The Newsletter, the village’s quarterly magazine, asked if the replacement of both plaque and plinth could be a community project. Rather under-whelmed by the response, the Newsletter committee decided to take the lead and set about looking into what needed to be done.
Their first thought was to write to the present Duke of Buccleuch, Duke Richard, to gauge his interest. He responded with positive support and it was agreed that Mr Chris Sparrow, Estates Manager, should join the project committee. In addition, Michelle and Colin Issett, whose garden wall ran along one side of the Park, were also invited and accepted, as did Cllr John Padwick, who acted as liaison officer to the Parish Council, and Amanda McCormack, whose designs skills were well known to the magazine’s committee via the covers that she produced for each issue.
After various options were discussed as to the form that the replacement should take, one was decided upon and it transpired that £1000 would be needed for one that would survive considerably longer that the original had. The design of the replacement plinth took the form of a steel pedestal lectern with an A3 display, set in bricked concrete.
The display incorporated the name of the Meadows, the original newspaper photo and article and a copy of the copper plaque, which had been found and kept safely all these years, although it was not in a good enough condirion to be re-used.
Very soon pledges were being made: Boughton Estates pledged £100 and both County Councillor Jim Harker and Borough Councillor Jonathan Bullock offered grants from their Community Funds and the Parish Council also contributed. A number of fund-raising events were held, to which village residents responded equally as well, until the target had been reached.
The next part of the process was to have an unveiling ceremony to reflect the original one. So on a sunny, but cool autumn morning in 2010, the Newsletter committee welcomed Duke Richard to the Meadows, as well as members of the Parish Council and village residents.
In a short speech, Duke Richard spoke of his memory of coming to the unveiling of the original plaque and said, “I and my family have great affection for Geddington, which had been part of my upbringing.” He was appreciative of the efforts of so many people to replace the plaque and maintain the Buccleuch connection with the Meadow.
The plaque had been covered with a Union flag and, with a flourish, Duke Richard unveiled the Memorial.
Afterwards, and in true village style, refreshments were taken at the Chapel schoolroom.
The Newsletter committee at that time were:
Chairman Mary Slater, Treasurer Judith Burditt, Secretary Helen Chambers, Editor Pam Hopkins and Rita Foster, Carlene Lee, Veronica Richardson and Malcolm Tarleton