I live in a small market town in east Northamptonshire – it’s called Raunds. A slightly unusual name which one often has to spell out to people on telephone calls; R-A-U-N-D-S. It is said to mean something akin to ‘boundaries’, perhaps because we are near where the counties of Northants, Beds and Cambs join up, or maybe because we are on the boundary of the valley of the River Nene – or maybe something else.
There is nothing really to make Raunds famous, and why should there be? Until recently I used to tell friends that there were three unconvincing partial reasons to have heard of Raunds. First, it once held, but no longer holds, the record for the highest temperature in the UK (but in these recent years that has long and far been surpassed). Second the pedestrian crossing, just down from the fish-and-chip shop may (or may not) be the shortest in the country – who knows? And then, thirdly, this was for a while the home, when a young lad, of David Frost whose father was the Methodist minister here and preached in the chapel through whose graveyard I pass to walk to the Post Office, and in which on summer days I often stop to look at butterflies.
But Ada Salter was a Raunds-born star. I only heard of her recently and I know little more of her than her Wikipedia entry. We in Raunds have a green space named after her. As mayor of Bermondsey, Ada Salter planted trees and flowers. Her slogan was ‘The cultivation of flowers and trees is a civic duty’. She was a green socialist and a phenomenally successful politician. At another time I hope to be able to visit Bermondsey and see the statues to her and her (also impressive) husband at Rotherhithe. The more I read of her, the more impressive she seems – she faced down Lenin at an international meeting.
I wonder how many readers of this blog had heard of Ada Salter or know much about her – you’re a knowledgable lot so I bet there is someone out there who does.