Friday, December 12, 2008

Junior School Football Team

In the 1950s there was very little organization of school sport so this photo, taken in the winter of 1952-3 is something of a rarity. This was the occasion of a match against another school team, either from New Bradwell or Stony Stratford. I don't remember, nor do I remember the result. We played on a field at the Top Rec. Usually during the winter months some goalposts were erected and a pitch marked out. The Senior and Junior boys played on this. 
It appears that we got a set of shirts for the occasion. I don't know where they came from nor do I remeber the colour. We wore our own shorts, socks and boots.
Mr Stevens, standing in the photograph, took all the boys for games every week and organized this match. He was also the designated disciplinarian for the school where any corporal punishment was required. If we did seriously misbehave we were sent to him for THE SLIPPER! Despite this he was respected and liked by the boys.

In the photograph:
Back row: Ian Hickson, Michael Riley (Reilly?), Trevor Griffiths, Geoffrey Labrum, Francis Old, Ronald Stones
Front Row: Richard Bailey, Bryan Dunleavy, Lawrie Chambers, James Cobley, Alan Tomlin.

Junior School


This class photograph shows 4A in about March or April 1953. It was probably taken on a day for games as some of the boys are wearing their football kit. The picture was taken in the playground. Behind the group you can see the wall which once divided the Aylesbury Street school from the Infant School playground. The prefab building behind it was the school canteen which served memorable dinners of soggy scoops of mashed potatoes, reconstituted dried peas and tapoica pudding.

Back Row: Peter Bush, Kenneth Holloway, John Alsopp, Geoffrey Woodward, Francis Old, Bryan Dunleavy, John Williams.
Middle Row: Rosa Kingston, Margaret Skinner, Annette Turner, Dorothy Bennett, Marigold Craig, Margaret Woodard, Janet Haynes, Yvonne Hewitt, Kathleen Wood.
Front Row: David Wilmin, Anne Maskell, Diane Thomas, Elaine Hayfield, Miss Kemp, Rosemary Marshall, Dorothy Humphries, Celia Pascoe, Roger Norman.
Ground Row: Ronald Stones, Raymond Bear, Pamela Bellamy, John Dilley, Ian Hickson.

The Aylesbury Street school was then divided. The ground floor was taken up by the Secondary Modern School, then under the headship of Mr Lun. It was generally called the Senior School. In addition there were three outbuildings - a cookery classroom and girls toilets, a woodwork classroom and a boys toilet. the boys toilet has been demolished but the two classrooms remain. The divisions were gender based - boys took woodwork and girls did cookery (it was called Cookery; Domestic Science, Home Economics, Food Technology were terms yet to be developed.)
The Junior School, as it was then known, occupied the upper floor. The entrance was only through the back stairs and efforts were made to ensure that the older boys and girls did not mix with the younger ones. Starting and finishing times and breaks were different for each school.
There were two streams for each of the four years, so eight classes in all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coronation 1953

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the first big event to  lighten the gloomy post war years. Everybody got very excited about it and streets organized themselves with displays of bunting, street parties and other events. 
The photo, described on the back as "Stratford Road Children's Party, Craufurd Arms, Saturday afternoon, June 6th. 1953" It has probably come into my possession through my grandparents who lived on the Stratford Road. 
Most of these children were much younger than I was in 1953 and I am not sure I can put names to any of these faces.

The Iron Trunk

The first indication of the new industrial age in Wolverton was the construction of the Grand Junction Canal around 1800. The canal skirts the Ouse Valley at a contour of about 50 feet and crosses the river by this aqueduct between Old Wolverton and Cosgrove. This aqueduct was known as the Iron Trunk.
In the 40s and early 50s working narrow boats were still a common feature of canal life. Usually the bargee and his wife would work two boats - the motor of the first towing the second. Coal was the main commodity transported by this method. Sometimes they had small children on the boat. Gliding through the country at a leisurely pace must have brought its own rewards, as I suspect they were probably paid very little for this work and lived only a little above the poverty line. A story told about my great grandfather William Webster, who kept the Red Lion in Leighton Buzzard, may illustrate this. In one of the years in the 1890s there was a serious deep freeze on ewinter and all the narrow boats were trapped in the ice at Linslade. After a few days they were out of food and would have no money until they completed their delivery, so Webster organised the community to donate food and organized a soup kitchen for the canal folk outside the Red Lion.
The Iron Trunk had a tow path on one side. The drop to the river below was 40 or 50 feet.  Some more daring boys would walk along the girder on the west side and I never heard of anyone falling.
By the 1960s, when this photo was taken, working narrow boats had gone and were being recycled as pleasure craft, like this one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Newport Pagnell Branch Line


The four mile branch line from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell was never a commercial success but it had its place and operated for 100 years. It opened in 1866 and for passengers in 1867 with stations at New Bradwell and Great Linford. the original intention had been to extend the line to Olney but this plan was abandoned and the L&NWR took over the line in 1875. Passenger traffic ceased in 1964 and closed in 1967. The trains were usually full in the morning as they carried workers to Wolverton and students to the Grammar School and Technical School and again in the evening on their return. Otherwise there were only a handful of passengers as the train shuttled back and forth. I can only remember travelling on the train once and that was to go to Newport Pagnell's open air swimming pool one summer. The first photograph shows the engine at Bradwell Station in the 1960s.



Here is the same view of Bradwell Station in 1910.
My own family had some working associations with the line. My great grandfather's younger brother, William Dunleavy, spent his last years as Station Master at Great Linford. He died there is 1908 having moved from Coalville a few years earlier. My great great grandfather Andrew Dunleavy ended his career as Station Master at Newport Pagnell in the 1880s. His previous posting was at St Albans and the reasons for the move are unknown. Perhaps he was seeking a lighter assignment in his late 60s. My great great grandmother is buried in Newport Pagnell and he took a pension in 1888.

The end of the line at Newport Pagnell.

Trainspotting

I only discovered recently that the trainspotting phenomenon was quite new when I was a boy. Ian Allen has originally set out to compile a register of engine numbers in the Southern region in the year of my birth. This was an unexpected success and led to handbooks for each of the regions.  Each book cost about 1/- and would contain a list of all the engines in service in a particular region. When a train had been "spotted" it could be underlined. I don't know how long I lasted as a trainspotter - probably not much more than one of two summers. The disadvantage of living in Wolverton was that only a certain number of locomotives ever worked the line. So after a while it was always the same engines travelling up and down the line. If the ultimate goal of trainspotting was to see and record every locomotive, the it coud not be achieved by a small boy living in Wolverton.
The favoured location for trainspotting was the Blue Bridge, although it could also be done from the canal. The Blue Bridge gave the best  view of trains coming and going as well as engines in the sidings. And from there you could watch "Nobby Newport" - 41222 - chugging back and forth several times a day.

Myxymatosis

I grew up in a town where electricity and gas on tap were taken for granted, as was indoor plumbing. It did not for one moment occur to me that there might be communities without these amenities. When I went to Grammar School I became friendly with jim Franklin who came from Beachampton. Occasionally, on a Saturday or on a day during the holidays I would cycle over to spend a day in the country. I always found it interesting because it rural life was so very different from our town experience. Jim knew a lot more about fishing than I did, for example. He knew about all the different breeds of fish and much of their habits, whereas my experience had been confined at that time to catching four inch gudgeon or roach from the canal. He knew his way around the fields as well as I knew the streets of Wolverton and we spent some happy moments exploring the land around the village. I also recall helping to build a haystack at a nearby farm one August. It was also Jim's job to pump the organ for the organist. I assisted him during one practice session. The amount of air in the organ was measured by a floating needle. Naturally we (or at least I) could not resist letting the needle fall below the line just to see what would happen. The organ died of course and we got told off.
Beachampton was a small village of a few houses along a single street. It has changed little in 50 years. the Franklins lived in a house opposite the Bell Inn, Beachampton's only pub.
One day we cycled out to talk to "Yorkie" a well known tramp who lived in a barn on the Thornton Road. He was an affable character and told us stories about things I cannot remember. I do remember being impressed by this meeting with a real live "tramp". Two years before we had been read W H Davies "Autobiography of a Super Tramp" in primary school.
This was also the period that the virus myxymatosis had been introduced and the rabbit population was being decimated or even, as we thought, wiped out. It was not uncommon to find rabbit skeletons in those fields around Beachampton or even a rabbit with a swollen head dying of the disease. In such cases Jim would despatch the stricken animal with a slug from his airgun.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beating

Wolverton was a small town and we thought of ourselves as such. Rural life was at least a generation away and largely unknown but from time to time there were connections. During the winter months my father would often go beating on the Hesketh estate. I suppose it gave him some extra money but I think he enjoyed the company and a day out in the country. Occasionally he would bring bak a hare fom the shoot as a bonus.
When I was about 13 or 14 he took me with him and I got to experience this slice of life at first hand. We would generally gather at the gamekeeper's cottage at Gayhurst, a few miles away on the northern border of the county. The gamekeeper was Mr. Crute, a wiry man who will forever remain my image of a gamekeeper. The beating was a simple enough activity but boring for a teenager. Various drives were organised through fields of kale, down Digby's walk, through copses and woods to drive the birds up. If we needed to go farther afield we would be driven in a Landrover. Lunch was a box of ham sandwiches and a crate of pale ale. The beaters ate their lunch sitting on straw bales in a barn while the shooting party ate their meal by the warmth of a fire in a farmer's house or Crute's cottage. 
This experience did expose me to the "landed gentry" for the first time. Wolverton, as I have observed before, was as close to being a classless society as was possible and there were very few middle class people, let alone families of inherited wealth. The leading and regular figures of the hunting party that I remember were Lord Hesketh himself, Tony Jackson-Stops and Brigadier General Sir Richard Gambier-Parry - "The Brig". There was a fashion in those days for maintaining military titles in civilian life, so Lord Hesketh was always referred to as Major Hesketh, which was the rank he held in WWII. He was very thin, with very pale skin drawn tight over his face. He wore a thin moustache and his thinning black hair was brushed straight back over his skull. He was always scrubbed clean and smelled of Imperial Leather soap. He was not quite 40 when he died in 1955 shortly after my encounter with him. His eldest son, the a small boy, came into the Hesketh fortune in the 1970s and used up a lot of it in Formula 1 racing with James Hunt as the car's driver. Jackson-Stops ran the very successful estate agency founded by his father in Towcester. Herbert Jackson-Stops managed the great sale of Stowe and thus made his fortune and the name of his company, which survives today. Tony Jackson-Stops was an outgoing personality. "The Brig", as my father and the other men called him, was a charismatic personality who knew how to handle men. While the beaters were mostly ignored by members of the hunting party he would invariably take the trouble to come into the barn after lunch to chat with the beaters. "How are we today men?" and then fall easily into some small talk. He was much liked and respected by the country folk who made up the beating team. He worked as a senior figure at Hanslope Park and lived in Milton Keynes - at that time a small village.

Stanton Low

Wolverton needed to expand but could not do so within the manor of Wolverton because the Radcliffe Trust were unwilling at the time to give up more agricultural land. So they acquired land to the east in Stantonbury. The new town eventually took the name of New Bradwell.

Stantonbury was no more than a scattering of dwellings but there was a church by the river opposite Haversham, known to us as Stanton Low.

The church pictured here is now a complete ruin. In my boyhood the church was still more-or-less intact. It still had a roof, doors and a font as I remember. At the time it has not been used for 60 years but it was then merely neglected rather than ruined. It was open to us and accessed by a track from the Black Horse bridge at Linford. I believe it was vandalized in the 1960s and the roof eventually caved in.

The church was dedicated to St Peter and the name survives in the local football club - Stantonbury St Peter.

The church was abandoned after the opening of the new church of St James, unfortunately the licence to marry was not transferred to he new church and the error was not discovered for some years. When it was, there was great consternation amongst those married couples who discovered that they had been LIVING IN SIN. I understand there was a rush to get married in the Stanton low church at this point. Common sense did break out when the Bishop decided to permit retroactive consecration of these marriages.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Old Wolverton




Although Wolverton is an ancient village any chance of development into the 19th century was killed off by the enclosures of the Longueville family in the 17th century. They were quite brutal in depriving their common land and customary usage and in short order the manor was depopulated, leaving only three farms on the manor. This was effectively what Dr John Radcliffe bought when he purchased the manor in ?
Some sort of settlement grew back but "Old" Wolverton was barely much older than the new Wolverton built around the station.
Holy Trinity Church was built in 1818 to replace an older church, as was the rectory. The school and the school house were constructed later in the 19th century and the pub known as the Galleon, formerly "The Locomotive" dates to the 1840s. Manor Farm and Warren Farm were old establishments, but the buildings were 19th century. In reality Old or ancient Wolverton is marked by the castle mound and the undulations in the fields that show where dwellings once existed.
My first paper round was the Old Wolverton route. It paid only 8/6d a week so as soon as a bigger round in the town came up I opted for that, and an increase to 11/6d. That too had increased to 13/6d by the time I "retired".
The route involved a lot of cycling and relatively few papers to deliver. First I would have to ride a mile from Muscutt and Tompkins to Warren Farm and the cottages then across to Rose Cottage and Wolverton Park on the corner of the Stratford Road and the Old Wolverton Road. Wolverton Park was at that time the residence of the historian Captain Sir Basil Liddell-Hart. There I much lightened my load because he took every daily paper published in those days except the Daily Sketch. His morning reading included The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The News Chronicle, The Daily Herald, The Daily Mirror, The Manchester Guardian. Along the Old Wolverton Road I took in the Schoolhouse, the Rectory, The Galleon and Galleon Cottages and the Wharf Cottage and from there to Manor Farm and Manor farm cottages and on the way back delivered to the tiny cottages along Slated Row.
And that was the length and breadth of Old Wolverton.

The Shape of Wolverton


The new town was confined by the railway line to the east, the carriage and wagon works to the north and by the Radcliffe Trust farms to the west and south. In between the town was built in terraces on a grid system. The only variant was the ancient track  of Green Lane which seemed to determine the layout of Victoria Street.  In this map from 1931 Stacey Avenue was only on the drawing board. Marina Drive and Gloucester Road followed with an extension to Windsor Street. Eton Crescent came into being somewhat later. Furze Way was constructed about 1950 - and I can remember the building of it. There was a further development to the south in the late 50s in the shape of Southern Way.
Until the incorporation of Milton Keynes this was the shape of the town.





Water Tower

I came across this photo. It's unremarkable (poor even) but it does show the water tower at the top of Osborne Street and the old cricket pavilion. The event is a sports day and is probably that of the Aylesbury Street Secondary Modern. I can't think why I would be there and I may not have taken the photo.
There were two water towers - this one (now demolished) and a slightly bigger one which still stands on Green Lane at the other end of Osborne Street. I don't know if it still in use for its original purpose of establishing a head of pressure for the town's water supply. The space underneath the tower was used to store the Council's street cleaning equipment.

The first water tanks were above the original engine shed. When the new water pumping station was built at the south end of Ledsam Street water was drawn from wells nearer to Bradwell Brook. This water tank was dismantled in 1890 and the building converted into a house for the schoolmaster.

There is a post on Wolverton's early water problems here.


M1 Motorway


A new word came into the English language at the end of the 1950s - motorway. The first of these, from north London to Crick in Northamptonshire made its route a few miles away from Wolverton at Newport Pagnell and Laing earth moving and construction vehicles became a common sight.
The average speed of travel on ordinary roads was probably about 30 miles and hour in the 1950s, largely because passage through towns seriously slowed traffic. The A5, for example, which was a major route to the north west, meant that traffic had to slow down or stop every ten miles or so. The village of Markyate, then on the A5, had a very narrow high street and lorries routinely chipped bricks off buildings.
So the motorway was much welcomed and it is surprising to look at this photograph now, taken from the bridge on the Haversham-Gayhurst road in 1960, how light traffic was.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gas Works


 The Wolverton Gas Works was nestled in between the two railway lines on the Old Wolverton Road. This photograph, taken before 1950 shows the gasometer and part of the plant on the right. On the left was a railway siding which took coal wagons down to the works.
Although gas works of this type were common enough in larger towns in the first part of the 20th century it says something for the self-contained economy of Wolverton that this Gas Works was owned and operated by the railway company. Gas originally supplied fuel for lighting and cooking, but electricity replaced gas for lighting as a cleaner and safer alternative. As a boy I can recall one surviving gas street light outside the Wesleyan Chapel on Church Street and several houses still had lighting spigots embedded in the walls.
One of my grandfathers entered the fledgling gas industry after leaving Technical School with Birmingham Corporation. Then he went to work for the GWR as a gas lighting engineer and was subsequently "poached" by the L&NWR to set up a testing laboratory at Euston. In 1930 he came to Wolverton as manager of this gas works, and stayed there until his retirement in 1952. He remained a railway employee through the LMS period and British Railways after 1948. At the same time Gas production and distribution was nationalized and the East Midlands Gas Board came into being and took over the distribution of gas - I assume through some arrangement with the railways.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

We will remember them

Remembrance Sunday 2008 will be an incidental activity for most residents of this county; in 1958 it was central. Every adult remembered the war and those of us who were born during the war knew about the austerity that followed it. Our grandparents carried memories of the earlier Great War. Most men in their 30s had seen military service and the military way of doing things influenced many areas of life. Businesses would talk of "military efficiency" as an ideal to strive for. Men's haircuts were still short and the long hair of the 1960s was a reaction against that. Organizations like TocH, founded during the first world war, still had a presence in the town. Ex-army officers tended to carry their rank into civilian life and were known as Captain or Major or Colonel so-and-so. Even Lord Hesketh, one of the local grandees, preferred to be known as Major Hesketh.
This is not to suggest that the miltary dominated people's lives; obviously everyone got on with life. But it was there in the background. In the week before Remembrance Day past wars came into full focus.
The poppy appeal was very big. Every workplace, school and street corner was organized to raise money. In the week before Poppy Day we were expected to take our pennies for the collection. For sixpence or a shilling you could get to sport a larger poppy. I remember one incident from 1953 when one of my classmates was given a huge poppy with multiple petals and leaves for a penny! All morning he was hugely chuffed with his good fortune until it came to dinner time and all he could find in his pocket was a penny where there shold have been a half-crown.
As I was in the church choir in the early 50s I became an active participant in Remembrance Sunday. The church service began at 10:30 in a packed church, the we would process along Buckingham Street to the Cenotaph in the Square. The other churches also made similar processions. The Square would then be full of active soldiers in uniform, members of the British Legion wearing their medals, veterans of both wars, the town band, church congregations, leading citizens. At 11 am two minutes of silence would be observed, then possibly a hymn and a benediction before the crowd dispersed.
The day concluded with an evening concert in the works canteen. Music was provided by the town band and various musicians assembled into an orchestra. One lady would sing a solo of Abide with me! and others intoned  recitations including Lawrence Binyon's haunting poem:
They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.

Morland Terrace - 120 years on


The end house of the terrace was originally occupied by renters. The Mansfield family occupied 4 rooms in 1891 and two young single working men occupied another four rooms. I assume they shared the kitchen and any washing facilities.
By the 1950s this had become a double-fronted shop as it is today. It was occupied by the Co-op and I think (although memory is a little vague) that half was taken up with fruit and vegetables and the other half with flowers.

The shop now occupied by AMA was for many years a butchers shop, first Dewhurst and then taken over by Baxters. My mother used to shop here for meat. The butcher was a genial chap from Leamington by the name of Fred Cross. My friend David Snow, after working as a butchers delivery boy, started his apprenticeship here in 1957 before moving on to a successful business career. 
The original occupant was Walter Scott, a coach painter, and his family.

The present Lloyds pharmacy was established as a chemists by Douglas Roberts in the early 1950s. I remember him working for Ewart Dale on the Stratford Road prior to that, presumably learning the ropes. The added string to his bow was his extra training as an optician, so he was able to offer this service in a back room, even though there was an established optician, F. Blagrove, two doors down. Roberts had an engaging personality and this must have been a great asset to him in building his business. I note that his name survives with the optician's business next door.


The house at the centre of the terrace, with the central doorway flanmed by an optician and a Lloyd's pharmacy was originally a single residence and in 1891 was occupied by William purslow and his family. He was the works manager and one of the most important men in the town. His occupancy may have coincided with the period when two of the canal-side villas were demolished to make way for workshop expansion and the construction of The Gables.


The shop frontage at number 9 has preserved its Edwardian frontage. In the 1950s the occupants were paint and wallpaper dealers, Byrne and Kershaw. In those days wallpaper was popular and the wall-covering of choice. Paint was mainly reserved for wood. These were still pre vinyl and acrylic paint days. Paint was oil-based, required a lot of preparation and took a long time to dry. The primary component of white paint was still lead oxide.
the residential occupants in 1891 were James Carter and his family. He also had two young male boarders. James Carter was an "Iron trimmer" by trade, which sounds very much like a lost occupation.

Morland terrace begins with the Newsagents at number 5. In 1891 the Biddis family lived here. Walter Biddis was a works foreman and was then 41 years old - well established with his family. In the 1950s Sid Davies ran this as a sweet shop. They sold Walls ice cream here and Woodwards across the Square sold Lyons.
Next door lived quite a small household - Henry Gamble, a coach painter, and his wife, and her younger brother, the 20 year old William Jones, a music teacher.


This corner building was not identified with Morland Terrace in 1891 and looking at the variations in architectural styling I would guess that it was erected by a different builder, possibly a year or two after Morland Terrace.
The occupant in 1891 was Richard Stapley, a 38 year-old Draper. He and his wife came from Brighton and presumably had sufficient capital to set up in business here. The older children were born in Brighton but the youngest, just 2 months old in 1891, was born in Wolverton, which would suggest that they had not been resident for very long and may well have been the first occupants of the building. This was a commercial establishemnt from the very first. Stapley also employed a 29 year old Draper's Assistant and a 13 year-old domestic servant.
As I mentioned earlier, the shop was a grocery - Dudeney and Johnston. To some degree the present occupiers have returned to Richard Stapley's trade.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Morland Terrace


The Radcliffe Street side of the Square was originally called Morland Terrace, and there is still a plaque embedded in the wall to record it as such. the huses here were variously numbered as part of Radcliffe Street or The Square, eventually settling upon the latter.
In 1891 the Buckingham Street corner was occupied by a Mr Richard Stapley and his family. He was a draper and outfitter, so from the very first this building was a shop and has continued so to this day. In the 1950s it was occupied by Dudeney and Johnston, Bedford-based grocers with a lot of branches in the region. These were pre-supermarket days, but chain grocers like Dudeneys and Sainsburys were able to offer a better selection of product, often at a better price, than the local, corner-shop style grocer. I suppose there were quite a lot of Dudeney & Johnston-style grocery chains across the country in those days. J. Sainsbury's was merely one of many, but they had a London base and were obviously able to parlay that advantage into today's supermarket. Even so, that transition took 40 years.
The other residents of Morland terrace were (in order north to south) Walter J Biddis, a foreman coach builder, and family; Henry Gamble, a coach painter, with his wife and brother-in-law, a music teacher; James Carter, iron trimmer, and family; William Purslow, manager of the carriage works, and family; Allan Mills, coach trimmer; Robert Dakin, coach body maker, and wife; Edwin Wood, Foreman, Fitting dept. and family; Heber Williams, Secretary carriage dept. and captain 1st Bucks RVC, and family; Walter Scott, Coach Painter, and family; Frederick Mansfield, Railway carriage maker, and family; John Clewett, Coach Body Maker, and William Coop, Blacksmith.

The Market Square

The only break in the north-south/east-west grid system of streets in 20th century Wolverton was the so-called Market Square. If there was ever a market held here its existence must have been very brief. There was a covered market hall on Glyn Square, but that burned down and the old school on creed Street became the venue for the Friday market until the Agora complex was constructed from the razing of parts of Church Street and Buckingham Street.
The Market Square was (is) bounded by Buckingham and Aylesbury Streets and Radcliffe Street on the east side. The inner quadrangle was dressed up with shrubbery and trees and provided benches for seating. At the south end a cenotaph was installed after the 1914-1918 war and fenced off. The configuration is not much different today except that the orginal cenotaph has been replaced with a polished granite version. Missing also is the old Congregational Church which dominated one side of the square for about 80 years.
Addresses at the Square start to appear in the 1891 census. In 1881 there is only Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Street, and of course Radcliffe Street, so I am wondering whether some houses were demolished in Buckingham and Aylesbury Streets to create the Square? Perhaps it was the intention to host the weekly market there. All the streets to the north of the Stratford Road had been demolished. Oxford Street, Cambridge Street and Green lane were developing, so this new square, far from being on the edge of town, was becoming its centre. If it was ever used as a market, its prime was short-lived.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Doctor Calls

One popular and long-running television program of the 1960s was Doctor Finlay's Casebook - a story about a Scottish country doctor of the 1920s. It developed a following because it presented an image of doctors that we could still identify with - the family doctor.
I don't know when the term "general Practitioner" (GP) came into use, but in the 40s and 50s we routinely referred to our doctors as "family doctors". There was good sense in this. If the doctor knew the family then he would have a good basis of knowledge upon which to diagnose illness. There were few tests. The only pieces of diagnostic machinery that doctors carried were the thermometer and the stethoscope.
Our family doctor was Dr. W.E. (Eric) Fildes. He had attended on my grandparents, my parents and ourselves as children so he had three generations of knowledge to work with. He and his wife Marjorie (also a medical practitioner) ran the practice at The Elms at the bottom of Green Lane. I think their son Peter later came into the practice upon qualification. Dr Fildes appeared in the Doctor Finlay mode - tweedily dressed, moustache, soft brown hat, a black pre-war saloon car  and carrying his black bag. 
House calls were a part of life. When I was ill with some childhood disease prior to 1950, Dr Fildes would arrive in his car sometime in the late morning or afternoon and once  his reassuring presence was ushered into my bedroom you knew that recovery was at hand. The routine was to take my temperature, read it, and flick the mercury back with a couple of shakes of the hand. His stethoscope was then produced from the bag and its cold plate placed upon my chest. After a few questions of my mother he would make his recommendations and scribble a prescription on his pad for my mother to take to the chemist. 
There were two other medical practices in Wolverton - Dr Delahunty at "Yiewsley" on Western Road opposite the tennis courts, and Doctor, Lawrence, Douglas, Witheridge and Brown. The latter was a Stony Stratford practice with a Wolverton surgery on the Stratford Road. I think before the war this latter practice was headed by Dr Habgood who lived at Wolverton House and then Calverton House. His son John rose to some eminence in the Church of England, becoming Archbishop of York.
As I mentioned before, the Fildes were a husband and wife team, although I am not sure that I ever met or even saw Dr Marjorie Fildes. She must have had her patients and her husband his.
Surgery hours were usually conducted at the end of the afternoon, probably between 4 and 6. This would allow the "walking ill" so see the doctor. Surgery was conducted on a first come first served basis - there were no appointments. 
After 1948 the National Health Service came into being. All the existing doctors and hospitals remained and carried on as normal - the only difference initially was that the state paid doctors directly rather than the patient. I was too young to know what my parents paid for doctor's visits, but I have since heard that it was about 10/- , not an inconsiderable sum of money.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wincyette

The favoured material for pyjamas in the 1950s was called"wincyette" a trade name I think for the material which had a nice furry pile on the inside. And boy did we need it in winter. The clothes felt immediately warm to the skin whereas most coton had a cold damp feel to it.
Houses were typically uninsulated - the nearest you could come to insulation in those days was a double cavity wall which provided and inch or two of air insulation. Stone built houses had some natural insuating properties by absorning heat from the outside during the day and radiating it inside during the night, but brick houses, which we all lived in were poor insulators.
 Glass windows were of the sash variety and were single pane - so on a frosty morning you could discover frozen condensation on the inside oof windows in elaborate "Jack Frost" patterns. 
Our house was of Victorian build and had a fireplace in every room except the bathroom and scullery. We did not light any of the fires in the upstairs bedrooms, so getting into bed meant undressing very quickly, jumping from the cold floor into bed and trying to quickly generate enough heat to take the chill off the cotton sheets. Usually i slept under three layers of blankets and an eiderdown. Sometimes my mother would make up a hot water bottle to warms up the sheets.
Coal of course was the winter fuel of choice. There were two coal merchants in town, Tilleys, on the south side of Church Street and the Wolverton Mutual next to Swain's sports shop. I don't know which coal merchant we used but every now and then the coal lorry would appear and the men unloaded black hessian hundredweight sacks into our coal bunkers. We used coal for open fires and coke for the close stove in the kitchen, which in addition to heat, provided us with hot water.
A coal fire was started with newspaper and wood kindling and once it was going gave strong heat close to it and moderate heat at a short distance. The edge of the room was always cold and typically chairs and settees were grouped around the fire. A lot of the heat, it has to be said, went up the chimney.
Electric fires were available, usually of a single or double bar. They provided immediate local heat but were expensive.
In the mid-50s everyone discovered paraffin stoves. Theye were easier to light than coal fires and much less messy and I think they were relatively economical to run. The oil companies marketed their paraffin by colour - pink paraffin or blue paraffin. Paraffin when all is said and done is paraffin so the refiners used colour to create product differentiation and I suppose there were people who believed that pink coloured paraffin was better than blue coloured paraffin.
As I write this today from my well-insulated, centrally-heated house it is hard to imagine that we lived as we did and that present day comfort has only been avaliable for 40 years. In the 1950s the technology to manufacture practical insulating materials for home was not there. In public buildings asbestos was the insulating material of choice - and we know the consequences of that. And coal (the fuel of choice) did not lend itself to central heating furnaces in domestic dwellings. I suppose it took the development of the compact gas furnace to make central heating a practical solution for English homes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strike up the Band!

In those days before TV took over our lives (and yes there was life before television) people organized their own entertainment. Music took a major role. Most Wolverton residents (and if not most, certainly many) had a piano in the front room, used by children for piano lessons and by some neighbour or relative at parties or festive occasions for a sing-song. sually the piano stool housed a small library of sheet music published by Boosey and Hawkes and probably bought from Fred Anstee on Church Street.
There were six outlets for the musically gifted in those days: the church choirs, variety shows, concerts, dance bands, brass bands, and banquets.
Church choirs were well subscribed. I can only speak from my own experience as a choir boy at St Georges in the 1950s but this choir had sixteen boys and about a dozen men. The choir practised on Thursday evening and performed Sunday Eucharist and Sunday Evensong, so it was quite a commitment.
In the 1950s we were in the last days of the Variety Show, although we did not know it at the time. This was a full evening's entertainment of a mix of acts, comics, jugglers, singers, conjurers and probably acts involving animals. The Variety Show transferred to TV in the early days - Saturday Night at the London Palladium was a prime example - but eventually withered as people lost interest. In Wolverton someone would organize such an event at the Works Canteen or the Top Club. The acts would come together according to their billing and then reappear the following week at Bletchley or Newport Pagnell. I know my father did quite a number of these shows in the 40s and early 50s until he was able to focus his singing career as an after dinner singer.
Those with a more serious interest in music could attend concerts which were organised periodically. Often they would feature oratorios; orchestral concerts were rarer.
In the early 50s we were still in the era of the big band. There was no amplification and a good sound for a dance band could only be achieved through numbers. Labour in any case was still quite cheap in those days, so a good sized semi-professional dance band could be readily assembled for saturday night performances. Two bands I recall from those days were the Tommy Claridge band and the Joe Lovesey orchestra. The Rhythm Aces, featuring the musically talented Dytham brothers, Doug and Sid, was smaller but more jazzy. Leslie Gill, who had that earthy baritone so popular with jazz bands back then, sung with them.
Music for publc functins was provided by the brass bands. The Wolverton Town Band and the New Bradwell Silver Band, were, as their name suggests, based in their respective communities. The Wolverton Band was led by Bill Blackburn. I think they regularly performed at half-time at football matches and big occasions like Remembrance Day and Christmas. They marched through the town on Carnival Day of course.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The population of Wolverton

The ancient Wolverton manor was bounded by the River Ouse to the north, the road to bradwell and Bradwell Brook to the east and south, and by Watling Street to the west. Those boundaries did not change for about 900 years when the Wolverton Urban district was created to include the parish of Calverton and Stantonbury. So it is possible to view population change in a well-defined area for a long time.
Perhaps the big surprise is the apparent lack of change between Domesday (1086) and the first 19th century census in 1801. Dr Francis Hyde, the eminent economic historian, and a local bative, estimates the population at the time of Domesday as 200 to 250. In 1801 it was 238. 
There is a reason for this. In the 17th century the Longueville family (then lords of the manor) enclosed all the land in the manor, divided it into three farms and effectively dispossessed the population from its ancient common rights. The land became depopulated and the village abandoned. Stony Stratford grew somewhat on the Calverton side.
If the enclosures had been handled in a more humane way then I suppose that Wolverton might have been a village the size of Haversham, say, but the Wolverton of 1801 would have been an empty place with only a few clusters of cottages around each farm. Most of this 238 probably lived along the Watling Street on the Wolverton side.
Another accident of history and of geography transformed this rural backwater - the arrival of the London to Birmingham Railway. Wolverton was not Stephenson's intended route; he instead wished to take the line through Winslow, Buckingham and Brackley, but the powerful voice of the Duke of Buckingham vetoed this route and the alternative was implemented. Thus Wolverton Station ended up by being exactly half way between London and birmingham, and since the engines needed to be changed and their boilers rebuilt, a works (and indeed refreshment rooms) was established. The future of the new Wolverton began here. Were it not for this I imagine Wolverton would have continued unpopulated and rural well into the 20th century.
The population jumps from 417 in 1831 to 1261 in 1841 nd then increases by about 500 per decade until 1891 when the population was 4,147. By this time New Bradwell had been built. 
1901 figures show a significant surge - up to 5,323. During this period the town extended to include Cmbridge Street and Windsor Street and in the first decade of the 20th century the town west to Anson Road had been completed.
So by 1911 the district population had risen to 7,384. There it steadied for a number of years before surging again in the 1930s. I amnot quite sure why this was so.
The population of the Urban district reached its peak at 13,426, after which other economic forces came into play.

Identity Cards


This is my father's wartime ID card found in a box. It was introduced as a wartime measure and abandoned in 1951 when the government found that the cost of maintaining the card far exceeded any cost benefits there might be. ID cards have generally been a failure in this country and have only been tolerated by the public in wartime. The only function of this one that was tolerated was its need to be produced for the issuance of food coupons.
Everything that was printed seemed to be a grey-green in those days; I wonder if this had anything to do with the recycling of paper?
My father was reassigned to work for Sperry Gyroscopes during the war and obviously lived there during the week and returned home at the weekend. I assume from the date stamp that he returned to Wolverton permanently after 9th October 1944

Creed Street


Here is a view from Ledsam Street to St. Georges taken about 1967. This was probably the first time ever that you could get this view without it being blocked by the terraces of Ledsam and Creed Street.
The streets have been demolished and the new flats erected. There is still a lot of rubble lying around. You can see the sole surviving building on Creed Street - Billinghams Fish and Chip shop. You can also see the Science and Art Institute in the right of the picture. this too was demolished a few years later.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pay day

Seeing this pay cart at the MK Museum reminded me that one of my great uncles, a senior accounts clerk, was actually responsible for the payroll in the 1930s. This cart has B.R. painted on the side so it must have been used after nationalization in 1948, although it continues to use LMS livery colour.
Workers were paid only in cash until the transition was made to bank accounts in the last quarter of the 20th century.  the pay cart was wheeled over to the bank to pick up the money and taken back under guard of course, where the money was counted out in pounds shillings and pence into each pay packet. Checked, sorted by workshop. All this work would take the betterpart of the morning, then the cart was wheeled throughout the works where the men would sign for their packets. The name, hours worked, rate and total pay was written on each packet, an open brown manilla packet with holes punched through so that the money was visible.
Pay was weekly on Friday and usually before lunchtime at 12:30. Some would go up to the building society to make their mortgage payments (probably about 10/- a week) and others would add to the lunchtime trade in the four pubs and the bottom club. 

Milk

The only source of milk, the other staple in our lives, was the Co-op. Reuben "Pop" Bremeyer had run a small dairy at 115 Windsor Street before the war, but he had retired when I knew him andhis sons had left home and his daughter Alice operated a small greengrocery/corner shop at that address.
The Co-op dairy was on Jersey road at the back of the Co-op grocery on Church Street. The building have been changed and adapted now but there were stables for the horse here and a shed for the horse-drawn dray. This was another job that required an early start and each morning Mr & Mrs Odell (I think that was the name) would don their brown smocks, harness the horse known as "Dobbin", load the dray with crates of milk bottles and work their way quietly around the town.
Milk was paid for by the purchase of tokens from the Co-op on the Square. These were aluminium disks about the size of a penny, smaller for a half pint and coloured red for special items like cream. Tokens for whatever you required could then be left on the doorstep overnight. The milk carton had yet to be invented, so all milk came in bottles sealed with cardboard caps with a pull tag - they fitted into the slightly-recessed bottle top. Later on in the 50s the aluminium seal began to appear.
Milk was either tuberculin tested (TT) or pasteurised before it was bottled. Co-op milk was pasteurised. Cream was not entirely separated from the milk and each pint bottle would have an inch or so of cream rising to the top. On the occasional frosty winter morning the milk would freeze and the expansion would pop the cardboard cap and poke up a finger of frozen milk.

Bread

In the early years of my life there was no such thing as sliced bread because it had been banned by the government as an economy measure, so it was something of a revelation to me and my contemporaries when the ban was lifted in 1950. No more diagonal cuts or "doorstep" wedges; each slice came beautifully uniform. I don't think we were conscious of the nutritional price we were paying for this machine made consistency but there must have been a dawning of understanding since advertisers a few years later were making a virtue of the addition of niacine and thiamine.
Looking back it appears that one of the unintended consequences of this government ban was to allow small bakers to survive a little longer.
Wolverton had four bakery outlets - The "Brighton" Bakery at number 6 Church Street, King's at number 41 Church Street, the Co-op Bakery at the back of the Co-op Grocery on the Square with its retail outlet on the corner of Aylesbury St and Bedford St. and Faithfull Brothers on the Stratford Road, who had their actual bakery in New Bradwell.
My mother bought her bread from King's, so I can't speak to the quality of other bakers, but I do believe that each baker had a different taste because I remember people asserting that so-and-so's bread was the "best".
Mr King used to deliver bread in the afternoon in a pony and trap very much like this photo of the bread van in the MK Museum. Of course if yu wanted oven fresh bread you would have to go down to the shop early and join the queue.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Red Cross Appeal

I am not sure that this photograph has any particular interest. It shows my grandfather, then Chairman of the UDC, introducing Lady Burnham, patron of the Red Cross in Buckinghamshire. The date is August 28th 1943 and the Red Cross Appeal is being formally announced. Volunteers in those day collected door-to-door using tins with a coin slot. Since my grandmother and mother were active in organizing this appeal I have some sense of the scale of the operation. At the end of the week volunteers brought in hundreds of tins, usually full to the brim with coins. The seal at the base was then broken and the metal catch opened to release the coins, mostly pennies and ha'pennies, threepenny bits, some sixpences and a few shillings. All of these were sorted and counted on the front room table.
I think it is true to say that there were relatively few charities in those days. The two big collections were for the Haig Fund before November 11th and the Red Cross Appeal in August. The RNLI and the National Institute for the Blind had cllections, but they were never as big as the first two. Some charities would leave collection boxes in pubs and the Salvation Army collected every week, I think.
My grandfather noted on the back of the photo that this was at the Market Hall. Probably the platform was set up in the yard facing the Royal Engineers.

Cycle Racing

I judge this photo to have been taken in the mid 1930s. In the background you can see the Gas Works and the banked cycle track. The cycle racing track was an oval round the football field and athletics track.
The bikes had fixed wheels (hence the supported start) and were quite heavy. The limits of technology at the time meant that handlebars could not be bent into the extreme shapes we now take as standard.

Dad's Army


This photograph was taken outside the Drill Hall at the end of 1944, when the Home Guard detatchment was stood down.
My grandfather has identified almost all the individuals in this picture.
From L to R
Front Row: Lt. Tompkins, Remington, Wesley, Capt. Green, Capt. Glyn Eastman (Adj.)*, Lt. Col. Hayley, Major Ansell, Capt. E.S.D. Moore, Capt. Bland, Lt. Bruce, Snaith, ? (from Castlethorpe)
Rear: CSM W. Gammon, Lt. W. Sharp, Dytham, Howgate, Allen, Gascoyne, Clarke, Williams, Percival, Carvell, QMS Withers

*Glyn Eastman was a professional singer from Bristol who was assigned to this detatchment during the war.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Corner Shops

Here's an interesting fact. In 1957 households spent 33.5% of their income on food; in 2007 that statistic had dropped to 15%. I have often wondered in this age of supermarkets how they made a living. This explains why so many corner shops were able to survive 50 years ago - Wolverton being quite typical.
The scattering of small shops across the town illustrate well how we used to shop before the car made supermarkets possible. There were other factors too. Refrigerators were uncommon and few groceries came in packages. Even then, foodstuffs had a very limited shelf life. Kitchens were simple, with only a cooker and a sink with only cold running water.

Each corner shop in Wolverton I estimate had the potential to serve up to 100 households. In practice this number would be smaller and even then not all of the food budget would be spent in the corner shop. Once or twice a week housewives would shop on the Square or the Stratford Road or at the Market on Friday.
So where were these corner shops?
On Anson Road, at No. 43 was a general grocery. There was another nearby at 45 Jersey Road and yet another at the top of Jersey Road at 105. I never went to this shop but I assume they drew their customers from Western Road and Furze Way.
Three shops in the middle of Church Street were situated quite close together - Whalleys, on the corner of Church Street and Windsor Street; Wheelers, on the east corner of Cambridge and Church Streets; in the middle, at 136, Tarrys.
Further up Windsor Street at No. 44, Sidney Smith ran a corner shop. It is still a convenience store today, much expanded in size since the 1950s. Sidney Smith had a photo portrait studio upstairs.
Alice Bremeyer had a small shop at 115 Windsor Street. It was actually the conservatory on the side of the house and the shop could barely contain two people. Her father Reuben, who had retired after the war, operated a dairy from the same premises.
Byatts ran a significant grocery shop on the corner of Cambridge Street and Aylesbury Street at No: 45. Mr Byatt retired in 1952 and the business was taken over by Mr Dimmock. What perhaps distinguished Dimmocks from the other shops was the provision of cheese, sliced bacon and ham, loose tea, biscuits from a large Huntley and Palmer's biscuit tin.
The Victoria Street stores, which served a good part of Victoria Street, Stacey Avenue, Marina Drive and Gloucester Road was probably a significant business. There was a further shop on Green Lane at the head of Oxford Street.
I can only draw on the experience of seeing my mother shop. Bremeyer's was just opposite our house so it was very convenient for her to nip across the road for odd items as needed. I think all our greengrocery came from Bremeyer's. Her main grocery shop was Byatt's (later Dimmock's) further down Cambridge Street. For meat she used the butcher's on the Square (later Baxter's) walking past the butcher on Green Lane on this errand. For her it was important to have a good relationship with her butcher in order to get the right cuts of meat. For fruit, when it was available, she would have to go to Keller's on the Stratford Road.

Muscutt and Tompkins

This was a bustling business at Number 5 Stratford Road. Newspapers were still, even in the 50s and 60s, important organs of communication and there was always a huge sale of daily morning papers, daily evening papers and weekly papers. Men and women would flood in on their way to work and after work for an evening paper, and, of course, cigarettes.
It was the railways that made the growth of national newspapers possible. They were printed in Fleet Street at night, bundled to Euston in the early hours of the morning and loaded onto the slow train for delivery at each station. By 5:30 in the morning the papers, bundled with coarse string, were deposited outside Muscutt and Tompkins. A short time after this the unwrapping and sorting began. Newspapers were piled by title and then counted out for the paper rounds. Paper boys would arrive after 6, sort their papers and be off.
In the 1950s the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror were the biggest selling titles. The Daily Mail, Daily Herald, Daily Sketch, News Chronicle and Daily Telegraph were in the middle, and The Times and Manchester Guardian sold very few copies. In those days the Times still had classified advertisements on the front page, so you could not tell what stories might be inside. It was also printed on better quality white paper. The Daily Herald used blacker, more greasy ink, and handling it always left your hands dirty.
The News Chronicle disappeared in the mid-1950s, the Herald and Sketch later. The Manchester Guardian morphed into the Guardian and set up its printing and publishing in London.
The Evening papers from London, the Evening Standard and Evening News sold moderately, but the big seller was the Northampton Chronicle and Echo.
Muscutt and Tompkins had its foundations in the 19th century. Harry Cornelius Muscutt was a shoe maker turned news agent. He may have bought the business from a man called Robert Tilley who was operating there in 1883. Anyway, it was Muscutts by 1890.
Bill Tompkins, who was very much a figure in Wolverton when I was young, married Ida Muscutt, one of Harry Muscutt's daughters and thus the business became Muscutt and Tompkins. It certainly grew as a family business during the 20th century, holding at least three shops on the Stratford Road - a tobacconists at number 3, the newsagents at Number 5 and at Number 9 a stationery shop and printing business. 
According to the Office of National Statistics the average expenditure on tobacco was 6.1% of household income. In 2007 that relative figure was 1%. Tobacco sales were good business.

The Works - Main Gate

The "Works Whistle" which was more like a hooter in sound, went off at 7:43 am, 12:30pm, 1:25pm and 5:30pm. This sound regulated the day. 
This photo shows men coming out of the main gate just after 5:30 pm. A few minutes before the Stratford Road had been empty. On or two office workers, who did not have to clock in or out, would start appearing at 5:25.
The man on his moped is probably on his way to Stony Stratford or beyond. The men with their bicycles could be heading up to the south end of the town or to Stratford or Bradwell. Buses would wait until about twentyfive to six, and then, fully loaded, would head off to Stratford and Bradwell.
The main gate has now made way for the Tesco Supermarket. The Fire Hall survives.

Church Institute and Market Hall

I have to say that this is an extremely poor photograph, taken against the light and therefore with some nasty lens flare, but it does provide some sort of record.
I think the photo dates from 1967 when I came back to Wolverton to discover the removal of the "little streets". Some high rise blocks had already been erected at the south end of Ledsam Street, so the demolition took place some time before this. 
You can see that the practice in those days was to leave the land derelict rather than green it over with grass and flower beds.
The site is now taken up with the Glyn Square shopping complex.
What you can make out from the photograph is the original height of the Church Institute wall, which has now been dropped by 3 feet.
To the right is what was then the Market Hall, formerly the Boy's School. As you can see it extends beyond its present structure - the Town Hall and Library.
The Market Hall, as we knew it, was only open on Friday, and I don't hink it was ever used for any other purpse. The entrance was through a gate on the Stratford Road. On Fridays the market was teeming. The whole of the yard and all the interior rooms were taken up with stalls on all sides. The stallholders would probably be open for business by 8:30 and remained busy until after 3. On school holidays it was a delight to us boys to go round the market to discover sources of American comics, toys, caps and other silly novelties.
United Counties would lay on extra scheduled buses from all the villages on Friday, which would allow women to come in early and leave in the afternoon. As I have remarked in an earlier blog, the weekly market was a significant event.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Church Street Shops - 1950s


In the 1950s and before the war Number 48 was "Swains" a sports equipment shop. As a gameing shop now it is more-or-less in the same tradition. The right hand window usually displayed footballs, tennis rackets and cricket bats; the left hand window had luggage on display.
Footballs in those times were made of leather panels and had an inflatable rubber bladder. When the bladder had been pumped up the nozzle was secured with string or elastic bands and then tucked into the leather casing. The opening was then laced up tight. On wet days the ball soaked up a lot of water and were hard to kick and impossible to head. Football boots were made of hard leather with leather studs nailed into the sole. As the boots wore down the nails would often come through the sole and cause discomfort to the foot.
Swains also sold indoor games such as chess sets and cribbage boards.
The owner of the shop was a Mr Willcox.
The frontage appears to be original although I am not sure about the doors. From memory, the entrance was a single door set into the porch.
Swain's business claimed to have started in 1898, but not, I think, at this address.

The bookshop next door at Number 50 used to be the Wolverton Mutual Society Coal Merchants.

52

Number 54 was variously Sykes the tailor and Greys, Gentleman's Outfitters. Number 56 was a Ladies Milliner's shop run by a Mrs Wilson.

The Estate Agent shown here used to be Lawson and Son in the 1950s. The shop sold tableware, toys and stationery. Stuart Lawson, the father was the principal; his son Barry was probably in his early 20s in the mid-50s. Stuart Lawson was a keen amateur photographer and an active member of the Wolverton Photographic Society.

The Co-op built Wolverton's only department store here in the 1930s. they must have taken down three houses in order to do so. Within this store sold furniture and drapery, and they may have had other departments. I don't think I ever had occasion to go inside. Maisies, the present occupants, used to occupy 54-6 Church Street. I don't know when they took over the Co-op store.

This block has been completely rebuilt. or refaced. judging by the type of brick used, this must have occurred at the time that the Agora was constructed.
The corner building was for a long time the office of the Wolverton Building Society. Transactions were relatively uncomplicated in those days. You saved money with the society, usually weekly. When you had sufficient money for a deposit you could apply for a mortgage. Most of Wolverton's citizenry were owner-occupiers in those days and the Building Society was therefore a key institution. Later it became part of the Northampton Building Society and subsequently the Anglia Building Society. Now it is a small cog in the Nationwide group.
The back yard, on the Radcliffe Street side was filled with a creosoted wooden structure called The Marler Hall. This was a meeting hall for the Wolverton Conservative Party who also, for a time, maintained an office above the Building Society.
I think the house at 46 was a private residence.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Buckingham Street

This is a bit of a mystery photograph. The shop was on the corner of Buckingham Street and Radcliffe Street, opposite the Gas Showroom. I cannot remember anything about it. The "Dura Glit" signs in the window suggest that it may have been an ironmongers  but that is purely a guess.
By the time this photo was taken (1968) the shop had probably fallen on hard times and closed. You can see from this photo how the wall stepped down as the road sloped down to Church Street and Eady, the butcher.

Fish and Chips


One of the weekly rituals in the40s and 50s was a mid-day meal of Fish and Chips on Saturday.  Virtually everyone did it so the queues outside Wolverton's two Fish and Chip shops were always long. I expect the practice originated out of a desire to give the housewife a bit of a break.The following morning (Sunday) she would be preparing one of the major meals of the week.
The fare was simple, undeviating and nutritious - cod fried in batter and deep fried chips. An order was placed on paper, sprinkled liberally with salt, wrapped, and then wrappedin newspaper to keep it warm while it was carried home.
As I say, there were two shops.  Lloyd (I think that was his name) Billingham  has the outlet on Creed Street. I took this photograph in the late 60s shortly after the demolition of the Little Streets. For some reason, probably because he had to carry on with his trade, he was given a stay of execution, so the shop remained for a while quite isolated amidst the rubble. In the background of the picture you can see the Training School.
In general the fish and chip shops opened weeknights and Saturday.
The second outlet was located in the middle of the block at the top of Peel Road. The St. Johns Ambulance had their headquarters here and a garage for the single ambulance. Mr Larner,a cheery man with a toothy smile, ran the shop which I think was on the ground floor of the back building. The buildings have been modified since those days so it is hard to picture it exactly.

The Square 1968-2008



The first picture was taken in the mid to late 60s - I'll say 1968. The corner shop was a Co-op grocery. The Co-op, the Wolverton Industrial and Provident Society, to use its proper name, was a dominant force in Wolverton shopping. About half the retailing outlets in the Square and a good number in Church Street were run by the Co-op.
You can see the houses that used to be part of Buckingham Street and the Gas Board showroom on the corner of Radcliffe Street. The old style corner lamppost has been removed but the post box (presumably the same one) maintains its place. The pram that the woman is holding, although smaller than those of the 40s, is of a type not seen nowadays.
1968 pre-dates the supermarket, although groceries like the Co-op and Dudeney and Johnston on the diagonally opposite corner were  offering a larger range of foods. Food shopping was still a daily occurrence in the late 60s but the acquisition of fridges and the arrival of packaged foods meant that more could be stored at home.

A Theatre Production at the Church Institute - 1958


































As this is the centenary of the opening of the Church Institute on Creed Street, and MADCAP are celebrating the event, I thought I would post this programme from 1958 - exactly 50 years ago.
The G&S production by the grammar school had been an annual event since 1949. The driving duo behind this enterprisewere Harold Nutt, the Music master (pictured above in a woodcut by Peter Lowe the Art and Woodwork teacher) and Robert Eyles, Senior Master and English teacher.
Mr Nutt was a very energetic and charismatic teacher and it was entirely due to his enthusiasm that there was a school orchestra and musical productions. Andrew Morgan, son of Donald Morgan the headmaster, has remarked elsewhere that Harold Nutt was the first music teacher employed by the school, so he was the originator of many things. As we lined up outside the music room to go into class he would invariably say "Lead on Macduff!" to the boy at the front. I only found out years later, when I actually read Macbeth, that Shakespeare wrote "Lay on MacDuff!"
Mr Eyles was a good English teacher, although he could be a little tetchy at times. One occasion sticks in my mind because I was on the receiving end of his tongue-lash. he was taking us through a poem and told us that a tabor was a musical pipe. I looked it up in my dictionary and offered, "It says here sir, that it's a drum." "What sort of dictionary is that?" he rounded on me, "A Woolworth's dictionary!" To which of course there could be no response.
Anyway, Harold Nutt looked after the musical side and Robert Eyles the acting side, also taking for himself the part that had the clever lyrics - in this case the First Lord of the Admiralty.
The pair were also good friends as well as colleagues and ould regularly meet up in the Saloon bar of the Vic on Sunday lunchtime.
The school orchestra rehearsed separately from the cast until about a week before the event. I think there were about three performances and the Church Institute hall was packed always. The orchestra took up its place in front of the stage, roughly in the area now taken up by the thrust stage and the whole cast managed on what is quite a small stage. I think the the school's G&S productions were performed in the Empire theatre in the early years, but I suspect that the cost became too high.
In 1956, G&S was dropped for a production of a play called "Lady Precious Stream" produced by the history teacher, Oscar Tapper. Music still featured, as Mr Nutt composed (or perhaps orchestrated) some entracte music for the occasion. The musical production returned in 1957 with "Lilac Time" based on the story of Franz Schubert, and of course using his music. And in 1958, the witty and popular Gilbert and Sullivan mad their return to the Church Institute stage.