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.