Northampton House, Station Road

Constructed: 1910 | Architect: John Thomas Blackwell

Northampton House, now home to Averil Phillips & Family, Independent Funeral Directors, is a substantial and attractive Edwardian building built of high quality traditional materials occupying a prominent location at the corner of Station Road and Northampton Road. It is a charming example of an office building in a domestic style drawing on secular and natural, rather than religious, sources to inspire its detailing and represents the more enlightened Edwardian epoch. It is humanist in its proportions and scale with a composure of modesty and the wellbeing of good balance. It is not a listed building but is situated within the Kettering Conservation area. It is a commanding two-storey building with the Alfred East Art Gallery, Northants Veterinary Hospital, the Almshouses, the Carnegie Library and the historic Manor House Gardens as nearby neighbours.

The house was turned down for listing by English Heritage although their assessment of the building was ‘significant within the local historic and architectural context’. The building retains features such as bespoke window fastenings, period fireplaces, cast iron radiators and Arts & Crafts style detailing.

It was built in 1910 for the local iron ore magnate James Pain (1850-1913), one of the country’s most important industrialists of that time who owned iron ore mines in the Midlands, working his way up from a quarry miner, to the head of his own company with mineral leases on thousands of acres of land in Northants and Rutland. There were ironworks in Northamptonshire in the Roman period and furnaces in the Middle Ages. The presence of iron was forgotten until 1851 with samples of iron ore from the area sent to the Great Exhibition. There was then a continuous supply or iron from the area until the closure of the British Steel Corporation’s furnaces at Corby.

The house reflects the prosperity of the county’s iron industry in the 20th century and appears to be one of the few buildings surviving from its early phase. It was also home to the Weldon and Corby Brick Company, of which James Pain was a Director. As it was an advertisement for the company it was constructed of the “best pressed and selected bricks”.

The architect was John Thomas Blackwell, well-known for the buildings he designed in partnership with E J Storry – and noted in the Conservation Area appraisal as ‘mature and confident works’. Along with J A Gotch, he was largely responsible for creating the Victorian industrial town, so prominent today. It is constructed of red brick and Ancaster stone and Weldon stone dressings with a Westmorland Welsh slate roof covering.

In 2010 Kettering Town Council planned to demolish the building to build a modern office block and residential flats. It was saved by a robust campaign by the public and The Victorian Society and continues to serve the community as part of the town’s cultural heritage.

Blackwell’s plans and drawings for the building survive in the Northamptonshire Record Office.

Further information:
A W Alexander, The Foundations of a Steel Town, Corby 1880-1920 publ. 1969
‘Obituary of John Thomas Blackwell’, The Builder Magazine, Vol. 180 (1951) p. 96
‘Death of Mr James Pain’, Kettering Leader, 10th January 1913

Researched by Maura Bright | Image by Maura Bright

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