Tony Ireson

Veteran journalist, author, local historian and heritage campaigner Tony Ireson has died after a short illness, aged 88.

The Kettering-born writer devoted his life to his home town, working for his local newspaper, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, from 1929 to 1958. He became special features writer for the title’s parent group, East Midlands Allied Press, and later editor of Garden News magazine.

In retirement, Tony was a tireless heritage campaigner and author of local history books.

He had already established himself as an expert on his native county and during the Fifties, he was commissioned to write what is widely regarded as the definitive history book on Northamptonshire as part of the Robert Hale county series.

The initial print run of 2,500 sold out within two weeks and numerous reprints followed. He also wrote regular articles for local magazines Northamptonshire Life, Northampton and County Independent and Northamptonshire Past and Present.

But it was his love for his home town which forced him to retire early to devote his energies to the campaign against the controversial town centre redevelopment of Kettering during the Seventies.

He was a founder member of Kettering Civic Society, formed specifically to oppose the scheme to build a new indoor shopping centre at the expense of the town’s Victorian Post Office buildings and historic Beech House, a listed building dating from Queen Anne days.

Despite a lengthy public inquiry, the bitter battle failed but Tony went on to win his own fight to save his beloved home, Beech Cottage, from the bulldozers. He acquired the 18th century building in 1947 and still lived there when he died.

Old Kettering and its Defenders, his warts-and-all account of the campaign, became a best selling local book, written at the age of 71. He went on to write a further six books on the town’s history. Last year the national press belatedly picked up on the remarkable story of Beech Cottage with prominent articles in the Daily Mail, Country Life and Saga Magazine. Tony’s contribution to local history was also recognised when University College, Northampton, awarded him an honorary masters degree in history and literature.

Tony, whose wife Rene died in 1961, left no family. The Civic Society hopes to erect a memorial plaque on the cottage and is looking at possible plans to turn it into a museum in his honour.

Tony Smith

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