13. John White Close

Midland Road

Why is it known as John White Close?

In 1950, John White, the late prominent boot and shoe manufacturer of Higham Ferrers and Rushden, donated £10,000, property situated in Wood Street, and an area of land in Midland Road (opposite the John White Factory and Offices), to provide affordable or free accommodation for local people.

‘The Trust’, was set up to administer the objectives, the main one being:

‘To alleviate the hardships of persons of either sex of limited means residing or who have resided in or near the Borough of Higham Ferrers. The John White Trust was following in the footsteps of Archbishop Chichele and George Newman in providing proper accommodation for people in Higham who had limited resources.

 The Trust Deed, provides for a maximum of eleven and not less than four trustees, with provision for four ‘Family Trustees’, three ‘Corporation Trustees’, The Vicar of Higham Ferrers and an ‘Additional Trustee’, to represent the non-conformist in the locality.

The specific features of the design

Proceeds from the sale of the Wood Street property financed the building of nine Trust Homes, now known as John White Close. The eminent architect, Professor A Richardson, designed the bungalows to a then very high specification. The bungalows are built from handmade bricks and each one has two bedrooms. Gas central heating was installed in 1973 and secondary glazing in 2004. In 2019 uPVC double glazed windows replaced the original wooden frames, but the character of the development remains essentially the same as when it was built in 1951.

The bungalows are built round a rectangular lawn. The pattern of the windows and chimneys gives a pleasing rhythm to the setting.
The bungalows were all furnished with high quality fittings.

The day chosen for the opening also celebrated the granting of a charter by William de Ferrers which created the Borough of Higham, when 91 inhabitants of Higham bought their freedom from him, so that they were no longer required to serve him. In gratitude the people of Higham added Ferrers to the town’s name.

Who can be considered for a bungalow today?

Today, The John White Trust Homes still provide accommodation at rents substantially below the market rates for occupants who are selected in accordance with the criteria set out in the Trust Deed as follows: 

“Each applicant for a home shall be allocated and shall be considered on his or her respective merits and those of his or her spouse and primary regard in the following sequence shall be had to:

(a) Length of residence in the Borough of Higham Ferrers aforesaid

(b) Advancing years

(c) Infirmity

(d) Hardship (financial or domestic)

(e) Such other causes and matter and things as may to the Trustees seem fit.”

In general, the Trustees have favoured couples as providing best use of the properties and at 29 September 2019 six homes were so occupied, with widows occupying the remainder.

John White’s thank you to his staff 

Celebration of the coronation of
King George Vl and Queen Elizabeth 1937

The factory was decorated to celebrate the coronation of George Vl and Queen Elizabeth. Apart from the banners and bunting, very jaunty hats were the order of the day.

Factory outings 

These were held once a year when John White would pay for everyone to have a day out. Sometimes the workers would go by coach, sometimes by train, such as the day trip here to St Pancras. In 1951 a trip for 2,500 staff was arranged to the Festival of Britain. It took 86 buses to transport all the people.

For more information

See the Higham Ferrers Town Council website and search for The John White Homes


Top three pictures courtesy Rushden and District Historical Society; search the section devoted to John White