Wednesday, December 30, 2009

160 Years ago Today

On December 29th. 1849, this was the scene at the Engine Shed.

This etching is from the Illustrated London news and they reported that there were 1,500 there for the occasion. To give you some sense of scale, the erecting shop was about 90 feet wide.
The occasion was styled a Soiree and it was designed to raise awareness and funds for a Mechanic's Institute for Wolverton. In those days Wolverton was important enough for the ILN to send an artists and a reporter along to capture the occasion.
We don't know how much money was raised, but it was clearly not enough and the project had to wait until 1864, when the Science and Art Institute opened its doors.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Early Stratford Road Houses - 3

The two houses here look much the same as the previous two and were probably built at the same time by the same builder. Again, they have been much changed from the original.
The first occupant of Number 26 was Henry Latham and his wife and two adult children. Latham was a coach maker. Their next door neighbours were the Owens family from north Wales. Evan Owens was also a coach maker. In both cases the occupants are over 40 and one has the impression that they were finally able to afford a new and relatively substantial home.
The Owens family are still there in 1881 but Robert King, a Gas Inspector, has moved in with his family.
By the first decade of the 20th century Number 27 has become a drapery and later Number 26 became furniture dealers.

Early Stratford Road Houses - 2

Originally there were two houses here, but as you can see very little survives. The chimneys have gone (and presumably the fireplaces) in favour of gas central heating, and the slate roofs have been replaced.
The house to the left was originally occupied by William Harvey and his family. Harvey is interesting because he was the Derbyshire man mentioned in Hugh Stowell Brown's autobiography. (Hugh Stowell Brown worked at Wolverton between 1840 and 1843 as a youth and then went on to become a celebrated Liverpool preacher, and there is a statue of him in that city.) Harvey was one of his room mates at a cottage in Old Wolverton when they were both working for 6 shillings a week. Brown describes his time with Harvey and gives us a few insights into his character:

Four of us, Edward Hayes, William Harvey, William Mickle, and myself, drew together. They were journey men, but young, the oldest not more than twenty-five years. We agreed to lodge together with a peasant named Cox at Old Wolverton. Hayes was a little man, a clever, skilful workman ; he came from Manchester, and was great in phrenology, and in Combe’s ‘Constitution of Man.’ harvey was a Derbyshire man, one of the best workmen in the place, and gifted with a dry and pleasant humour. Mickle was a Scotchman, brought up in London; a boisterous but kindly fellow, whom Hayes pronounced to be a man in whom combativeness and self-esteem were abnormally developed. The four of us slept in two beds placed in one small room. We had our meals in the lower room of the cottage, which was the kitchen, and there was a small room, about eight feet square, which we converted into a study, and in which we tried in the evenings to improve our minds, which, sooth to say, sorely needed improvement. On Sundays, Hayes generally went out into the fields to meditate; Harvey went to the Methodist Chapel at Stratford; Mickle wandered from one place of worship to another; and I went to church somewhere in the neighbourhood, generally to Stratford, because there was an organ there, which, however, was very execrably played. Our studies were various. Hayes went in for philosophy; Harvey for theology; Mickle for mechanics ; I for mathematics. I don’t think we read a novel all the time we were together, and our whole stock of books was not worth £5.
William Harvey never advanced beyond his work as an engine fitter, but one must assume he was content with that. He was probably hard working and thifty. His daughter Mary became a school mistress.
The frontage and the later blocked up windows must date from the time early in the century when it was Lloyds Bank. The brickwork seems suspiciously like the brickwork of the later Lloyds Bank at 47 Stratford Road. Later this shop unit and Number 25 next door became the Electricity Board showrooms.

Early Stratford Road Houses - 1

 In 1861 new lots were opened up on Church Street and the Stratford Road for private development. The corner lot was taken by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of St Francis de Sales was built in 1865. The Presbytery, the house on the left, was built and occupied in 1871 - at a cost of £300.
The house next to it was earlier. I am not sure if the bay window was part of the original construction or a later addition. If it predates 1870 it will be one of the earliest bay windows in Wolverton. It was occupied in 1871 by George Applin, a Painter, and his family. By 1881 it was the home of the retired Station Master Joseph Parker, who moved from The Limes. He lived here until his death.
The house appears to have preserved its slate roof.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Galleon

I have just read on another blog that the Galleon has been given a face-lift. here About time. I was very disappointed when I went there with a friend about two years ago. It was dingy,scruffy, dirty, offered no food and had clearly fallen on hard times.
I have posted on the early history of the Galleon (originally the Locomotive) here

First days of the Science and Art Institute

This lithograph, which probably dates from 1865, shows the then new Science and Art Institute. As you can see the extension to the west, evident in the shell photos put up earlier, is a future development.
The buildings beyond are the Lodging House (from 1908 the site of the Church Institute) and the schools (part of which is now the library).

Creed Street Shops

This little sketch shows how the buildings at the south end of Creed Street may have looked in the 1840s. By the 1940s there was not much evidence of any of this and most had ceased business by 1900. The bakery was probably the premier baker in Wolverton in the 19th century but as the town developed to the west it was superseded by the new bakery on the corner of Radcliffe Street and Church Street and later the Co-op bakery on the Market Square.
The double unit at the far end was a Co-op grocery, one side being used as a shop and the other as a residence. People of my generation will remember this as Billingham's Fish and Chip shop, open evenings and Saturdays. The Co-op moved along to Church Street in the 1890s and a former manager ran the grocery as an independent.

The Last Days of the Science and Art Institute

The Science and Art Institute opened in 1864 and for over 100 years was Wolverton's dominant building. As you can see from the photos, it was subsequently enlarged from the original. It's history as a Mechanic's Institute goes back further, to 1840 when the Reading Room beside the canal served as a place for lectures and a library. There were various efforts at fund raising and there were earlier designs. One, still in the PRO, shows a much more modest single storey building.
Unfortunately no effort was made to restore the building.
The photo on the night of the fire comes from Eleanor Pilcher who was living on Church Street at the time of the fire, and the ones of the morning after from my brother.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wolverton's First Post Office

The arrival of the railway at Wolverton coincided with the development of a more universal postal service. The Penny Post, symbolised by the famous Penny Black stamp, was introduced byRowland Hill in 1840. The growth of railways made the post office possible.
The first Postmaster was a Stony Stratford butcher, George Gilling. He opened up a butcher's shop on Bury Street and ran the post office next door.
As far as I can tell the Post office operated here until this part of Wolverton was pulled down in the mid 1850s. The Post Office then moved to one of the first houses built on the Stratford Road. This time the franchise went to Charles Aveline the local builder.
Postal delivery in the 1840s was undertaken by Joseph Anstee who live on Cooke Street. He was probably only paid a few shillings a week for this daily task and to make ends meet had to accommodate four lodgers, as well as his family of five, in his two room house.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Three file folders

Having a bit of a clearout this morning.
Here are three images of the printed file folders the school used to issue. They track three changes of name -
Wolverton County School 1908-1945
Wolverton Grammar School 1945-1956
The Radcliffe school 1956-present
All in the same building at Moon Street until early 60s with the move to Aylesbury street site.

issued  1931

Issued 1953

Issued 1956

I should add that typically all our work in those days was done on loose sheets and kept in file folders like these.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Women's wages

1840 was very much a man's world and wages for women were pitifully low by comparison.
Let's look at the schoolteachers. In 1847 the schoolmaster was Archibald Laing. He was paid an annual salary of £100 and provided with a house for his family. His income was comparable with that of an Engine Driver who would earn about £2 a week.
Mr Laing taught the boys and the girls were taught by Emma Hassall who was paid £40 per annum. The infants teacher was Amelia Prince, then about 20 years old. She lodged with Joshua Harris the grocer.
The case of Miss Prince is interesting. She earned £30 a year for a number of years while a boy apprentice could start at 5s per week (£13 a year) and work up  to about £25 a year towards the end of his apprenticeship. At 21 he would go onto a man's wage, around £1 a week. In the meantime Amelia Prince could labour for years at the same fixed wage.
She did get some advancement, and became the schoolmistress for a £10 a year annual increase. She was on this salary of £40 a year when George Russell became the schoolmaster. He was about 6 years her junior. It appears that they were attracted to each other but this was not a situation which could be condoned by Victorian morality and Mr Russell was dismissed in October 1857. I am sure he left without a stain on his character because he immediately found a job in Poplar, but it was just that a liaison between the Schoolmaster and the Schoolmistress was not considered proper in those days. Miss Prince resigned two months later and followed Mr Russell to Poplar, where they married and later had a son.
Russell continued with his teaching career in Essex and later near Southampton.
The story does illustrate the economic position of women in the mid-19th century.

Creed Street Shops

I did say on Nov 30 that I was going to finish a watercolour of these shops the following day. Obviously that hasn't happened mainly because installing a new TV aerial and cabling for digitl became a priority. It will come.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creed Street Shops

I've been working today on a drawing of those houses at the south end of Creed Street opposite the Church and the former Science and Art Institute. I should be able to finish it tomorrow.

The company built five  cottages here, probably in late 1841. Four of them appear to have been shops from the outset. They were numbered from 612 to 616 and were likely the last houses to be built in this phase of Wolverton's development.
The corner building, detached from the rest of the terrace, was a bakery and I imagine it was purpose-built as such. It was much larger than the Bury Street bakery built a few years earlier. For most of the 19th century it was operated by the Walker family. John Walker and his father William were the first occupants and after the bakery in Bury Street was pulled down may have been the only commercial bakers in the town for a few years until the new bakery opened on the corner of Radcliffe Street and Church Street in the 1860s. I assume that many housewives still baked their own bread but a trend for commercially produced bread would have grown throughout the 19th century.  As the town expanded a new bakery started at the corner of Church Street and Radcliffe Street (now demolished) and a later one at the start of Church Street, known as the “Brighton Bakery”. The coop also built a large bakery on Aylesbury street at the back of its premises on the Market Square. But for a time John Walker’s family met the demand. After the Bury Street shops were demolished in 1857, the Co-op bakery moved. John Walker soldiered on until 1892 when he died at the advanced age of 84. Thereafter it was taken over by Hannah Smith, a 40 year-old widow, who employed a baker but ran the shop as a more generalized grocery.
The next four units were separated by a back lane.  William Lacey, ran a butcher’s shop. He was 42 at the time of the 1851 Census and probably established in his trade. He came from Bedfordshire. After his relatively early death before 1861 his widow, Lucy, carried on the trade for a while and then was succeeded by various butchers who ran this shop throughout the nineteenth century - none lasting too long. George Gilling. already described, had a shop at the south end of Bury Street, but he retired after 1857. As new lots in Church Street and Stratford Road expanded the town in the 1860s new butcher’s businesses opened in Church Street and the Stratford Road.
The next unit was residential and later in the century became the house for the church sexton. At the south end of Creed Street two buildings were always counted as one. 612 and 613. One side was used as a grocery store and the other  kept for residential purposes.  The street appearance was that of a single story building but as the land sloped back towards Ledsam Street the buildings were in fact split level. In my boyhood the former grocer's shop was used as a fish and chip shop, open evenings and weekends and operated by Lloyd Billingham. In the photo you can see the exposed beams for the second floor and where the staircase used to be there is also an internal door surviving between the two units. The end house was quite large according to mid-twentieth century photographs. It is my surmise that the building was extended while it was a prosperous grocery store in the nineteenth century.
There were various occupants during the century: Richard and Charlotte West in 1851, James and Mary Harrison in 1861,  William Culverhouse in 1871, Daniel and Sarah Russell in 1881, Herbert and Sarah Chipperfield in 1891, Daniel and Sarah Russell in 1901. James Harrison is clearly designated as Manager of the Cooperative Stores during his tenure here but he is also to be found in later censuses as a grocer on Church Street. If he was still working for the Co-op then the Co-op grocery must have moved. However, subsequent occupants are obviously managers rather than independent grocers, so the Co-op may have retained an interest until Daniel Russell , who ran the shop in 1881, returned in 1901 from his period of work in Harpenden to take over this shop as an independent grocer.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Public Baths II

I think I now have a clear picture of the evolution of Public Baths in Wolverton.
The first building was proposed in 1846 and probably built shortly thereafter. It was located between Cooke Street and the canal at the north end of town.

The plan shown here shows the northern part of the town in 1845-6. This area is now the Tesco car park. The baths are the red rectangle beside the canal. This was where they were located.

This plan shows the layout. There are two separate entrances, presumably one for men and one for omen.
These baths did not have a long history, because in the mid-1850s they were cleared along with the streets to the north of the Engine workshops to make way for workshop expansion.
At this time a new Water Works was built at the bottom of Green Lane on Ledsam Street. It was built with strongly reinforced walls to support a water tank, and it became know as the Tank House. The public baths were then relocated here and continued to provide this service until 1891 when the Public baths were opened on the Stratford Road. A new water tower was constructed further up Green Lane to provide for the expanding town, and this tower remains, although it may not now be in use. The Tank House was then converted into a reasonably spacious residence for the schoolmaster in 1892. The ground floor plan is shown below. You can see how thick the outside walls were and I imagine it was relatively warm in winter. This building went with the "Little Streets" clearance in the 1960s.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Public Baths

The Public Baths on the Stratford Road were built in 1891. The building still stands and was modified a few years ago to accommodate the offices of the Living Archive. I have been addressing myself to what existed before that.
There are some drawings in the National Archives dated 1856 for a proposed bath house to be located beside the canal at the very northern edge of the town, just to the north of Walker Street, which was demolished before 1860. I do not know at this stage if they were ever built. Certainly they could have been and functioned alongside the extended workshops.
I have also read in the Wolverton Society for Arts & Heritage website that there were baths on Green Lane prior to the 1891 baths on Stratford Road. If so I am not sure where they would be. Green Lane was not developed until the 1890s. There was however a "Tank House" or "Pump House" at the bottom of Green Lane on Ledsam Street. It housed a pump and supported a water tower but I had not heard before that this was used for public baths. It was not an especially large building and in the 1890s was converted to a residential house for the schoolmaster.
This requires further investigation

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Railway wages in the mid-19th Century

I have been looking at some of the old salary registers for Wolverton in the late 1840s. Most men's weekly age was equivalent to the cost of a daily newspaper today and if you were very well paid, such as an engine driver, yur weekly earnings would buy you a coffee at Starbucks.
However these comparisons are not very meaningful other than to show how money has become inflated over a century and a half. It is more meaningful to look at the relative incomes of the time. Currency is expressed in pounds, shillings and pence. There were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence to the shilling. So 10 shillings would be half a pound and 6s 8d. one-third of a pound.
Agricultural labourers in the 1840s could expect to earn 6s to 8s per week (and that was not always certain) so we can use this as a yardstick to measure Wolverton wages.
According to the registers Engine Drivers at Wolverton were paid between 6s 8d per day to 7s 10d per day so on a six day week they could expect to earn over £2. Firemen, who did the hard work of stoking the boilers were paid between 2s 8d and 4s 2d, giving a weekly income of over £1. Porters earned a weekly wage of 19s and tipping was forbidden. Policemen (i.e. men who did the signalling and point switching) were also paid 19s and their inspectors (the men in charge) paid £1 10s.
Clerical staff were much better paid. Babazon Stafford, the senior accountant earned £300 per annum and Alfred Blott, the Station Master, was paid £200 p.a. The schoolmaster, Archibald Laing, earned £100 p.a. and had a house provided. His female colleagues did less well. Emma Hassall, who taught the girls, was rewarded at £40 p.a. and Amelia Prince, the infants teacher, received a measly £30 p.a.
George Weight, the vicar, had a stipend of £50 and the Vicarage, but presumably he had other means to supplement his income.
All of this pales into insignificance beside Richard Creed, the Company Secretary, and Edward Bury, the Locomotive Superintendent, who were each paid a princely annual income of £1400 each.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mr Blott blots his copybook

Alfred Blott was Wolverton's first Station Master. That is not quite true because the original appointee was G. Kendall, but he was dismissed after a few weeks. Blott, who was about 20 at the time, took up his post on September 29th 1838, two weeks after the London to Birmingham line fully opened
He appears to have been quite successful in what was a brand new job. He took lodgings at Old Wolverton and when the Villas were built in 1841 moved into one of them, which thereafter became the Station Masters's house. He married in 1843 and started his family. His starting salary was £100 and by 1850 he was earning £200 a year - a big salary in those days.
So all was well with the world and he may well have seen out his career at Wolverton but for the fact that he appears to have lost his head, and perhaps his heart too, to a "young lady" whose name is probably unrecorded.
I discovered this tidbit of Victorian scandal yesterday while looking through some records at the National Archives in Kew. The year is 1851 and apparently Blott eloped with this young lady. Lter he seems to have repented this action and returned home to face the consequences. Wolverton was a small community and in 1851 this was a big scandal. His employers reprimanded him and decided to move him to another station. There was then an intervention by various worthies of the district to try to retain Mr Blott, who appears to be well thought of. The Board changed its mind and reinstated him at Wolverton. Then there was a further change of mind, possibly prompted by Blott himself, and he was transferred to Oxford where another Station Master had been sacked for fiddling the books.
Unmentioned in any of these accounts is his wife Cornelia, but she stayed with him, so one must assume that he was forgiven, even though the adventure might not be forgotten.
Blott stayed with the L&NWR for a few more years and then found a job as Deputy Bursar of an Oxford College. He died in 1868 at the comparatively young age of 50.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Reading Room

Early public acts by the London and Birmingham Railway were the building of schools for children and the establishment of a Reading Room for adult self improvement. The Reading Room was built on a corner of the first tract of land beside the canal and the new road. See plan below.

It is claimed by the developers of the new Wolverton Park housing development that the Reading Room has been preserved. If this is so, this is not in its original form.
I have taken this photograph recently which show the view from the canal of the site of the Reading Room. It shows buildings that have been much enlarged and added to over the years since 1840.

Consider these factors:
The original canal bridge must have been lower, one of the hump-backed bridges that were still common when I was young and the road had not been built up to its present level. I suggest that the road level was probably raised in 1881 when the third station was opened and it was certainly raised again in 1960 when electrification of the main line caused the railway bridge to be raised.
Plans for adaptation of the Reading Room as a Wesleyan Chapel in 1845 show only a single story building.
It is possible that the lower part of the building seen in the photo, with the blue-painted doors was part of the original but most plans from the 1840s show it set back further from the canal.
The original Reading Room became redundant when the Science and Art Institute was opened in 1864 and the Wesleyan Chapel in 1892. After that the buildings here, including the workshops, were much modified to turn them to newer useful functions.

This plan, from the PRO, shows the Reading Room in its Chapel adaptation, complete with pews. Note the number and spacing of the windows on the long side, which are by no means apparent in present day pictures.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wolverton's First Private Buildings

Wolverton was a Railway Town, to state the obvious, but what this really meant in the early years was that everything was owned by the Company. Shops as well as houses were rented from the Company, which also, as we have seen, provided public buildings.
When new land for development was finally agreed to by the Radclffe Trustees, the L&NWR had a change of policy and the new plots on the Stratford Road and Church Street were made available for private purchase. The first two sales, on August 23rd 1859, were made to Charles Aveline and John Reeve. More about these gentlemen in a moment.

This lock-up shops on the left were later built on the Engineer's property, but the group of three here, since broken into two or three units were built by Charles Aveline. He started out on Bury Street as a cabinet maker but this was his beginning as a builder. His father was a cabinet maker in Leighton Buzzard and his grandfather practised the same trade in Great Horwood. He also had an uncles in Stony Stratford and Great Horwood who were also cabinet makers. After this he did further building work on Church Street and built the new Stacey Farm house, now the MK Museum.

The next unit, numbered 9a and 9b was built by John Reeve. He was an established Stony Stratford Grocer who opened up a branch on Bury Street when those shops were built.  They were pulled down round about this time and I imagine this new building filled his need for an outlet in Wolverton.

Wolverton's First School

Wolverton Station was in its infancy when the need for a school became apparent and so the London and Birmingham Railway built a school in 1839 on the corner of Creed Street and the Stratford Road. This sketch is my rendering of how the original building may have looked. There is some guesswork here. I have arbitrarily provided chimneys on the north side for example, although the fireplaces may have been centrally-place or on the south side.
There is little available in the way of fact. There is one detailed description of the school from the 1840s, a partial plan from 1845, a plan of the extended school buildings from 1861, and some trade direcory references. There are, surprisingly, hardly any surviving photographs from its 20th century use as a Market Hall. In any case, by this time the building had been much modified and extended. I only wish I had done this ten years ago; then I would have had the opportunity to inspect the original school building on the north side, which at the time was still standing.
On balance, I think I am close to the original.
The eastern wing, that is the central section, facing east and the south-eastern corner was the boys school. The infants school was at the western end and in the middle was the girls school. The southern building, still standing as the children's library,  served, I believe, as the schoolmaster's house.
In 1851 the schoolmaster was Archibald Laing. He lived in the schoolhouse with his wife, five daughters and a son. He was paid £100 a year. The school mistress for the girl's school at this time was Emma Hassal. For her pains she was paid £40 a year and lived in lodgings. Lower down the pat scale, at £30 a year, was Amelia Prince, the infant school teacher. The attendance at this time was about 95 boys, 55 girls and 40 infants.
The main school building was about 70 feet long and 20 feet wide. There was probably a wall around the building but I have not drawn this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wolverton Park House

The house was built around 1720 in spacious grounds just off the Old Wolverton to Stony Stratford road. When the new road was cut through to Wolverton Station the Park House found itself on the corner, where it remains. It has been enlarged and added to over the years but there has not been much visible exterior change for the last 50 years.
Among the notable residents was James E McConnnell, the locomotive engineer who designed the famous "Bloomers" that were built at Wolverton Works. He succeeded Edward Bury as Works Superintentdent in 1847 and remained as chief until 1862.
McConnell was born in Fermoy, County Cork in 1815. I don't know much about his parentage but he was apprenticed to a Glasgow engineering firm in 1828, By 1837 he was working at Edward Bury's works in Liverpool and here learned what there was to learn about steam locomotive design. In 1842 he got the job of locomotive superintendent for the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway but the L&NWR recruited him in 186 to take over from Bury in Wolverton. By this time he had married Charlotte Addison, daughter of an Essex surgeoon and they moved with their into Wolverton Park House. McConnell was paid the princely sum of £700 per annum and could afford to live in some style. This probably made him Wolverton's highest earner. If you put this aside the £30 a year paid to Amelia Prince, the infant school mistress, one can get some idea of the scale of McConnell's earning power.
McConnell's locomotives were among the most successful of the period but they were not always (at least in the eyes of some Board members) cost effective and there was a parting of the ways. McConnell resigned in March 1862 and moved to Great Missenden where he practised as a civil engineer.
He was not replace. Engine building was consolidated at Crewe and Wolverton was given over to carriage building.

When I was a boy the resident was Captain Basil Liddell-Hart, the noted military historian. I had the Old Wolverton paper round and would daily deliver almost one third of my bag at his door. He took every daily paper except the Daily Sketch. In the 1950s this meant The Times, The Daily Telegpah, The News Chronicle, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Daily Mirror, The Manchester Guardian, and The Daily Herald.
Liddell Hart fought in the first world war but resigned from the army in 1927 to work as a writer and military historian. He was politically well-connected and had access to the D-Day invasions plans and was later invited by Anthony Eden to submit battle plans for the Suez invasion.  He died in 1970 and his library formed the basis of the military studies library at King College. It is called the Liddell-Hart library.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slated Row 2

I was wrong in what I wote about slated Row a few days ago. I looked at a Google Earth map, couldn't see the cottages and assumed that they had been pulled down to make way for the Trinity Road development. Sorry about that.
Yesterday I went to Old Wolverton to see for myself and they are still very much there. Some of the cottages have been joined together, others have been added-to quite significantly; however, the stone, or rubble-built structure remain. Since I remember it the path has been paved with tarmac to take cars and the outbuildings (wash-house, w.c.) have been converted to garages.
The cottages date from circa 1820.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Wolverton Cottages

I don't remember these cottages when I was a boy, but they were recorded on an ordnance survey map in the 1930s. They were located a small field away from the Old Wolverton Road and access was down the  road leading to the church. In this photo you can see Holy Trinity Church and the Vicarage on the right.
The cottages show on the earliest modern map of Wolverton drawn in the early years of the 19th century show them in situ at this time. Judging from the vernacular style of architecture the cottages probably date from the late 18th century.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity was the oldest church on the Wolverton Manor, but it was not that old. It was built new over a six year peiod and finished in 1815 for £, presumably on the site of the old church, of which there is no useful record. The tower of the old church was retained in part and rebuilt in the new style.  It is probable that there was a church dating back to Saxon times but it would take an archaeological dig to establish the evidence.
Wolverton was a poor parish, or had been since the depopulation of the manor through the enclosures of the 17th century, and did not offer a good living and from some accounts tended to attract below par incumbents. Hugh Stowell Brown is disparaging about the Rector of the 1840s in his memoirs and suggests that the church only attracted a few worshippers.
The church however looks impressive and the architect opted for a Norman or Romanesque style for the windows and doors an castellated decoration. The 19th century trend (adopted by St Georges) was for gothic, so the Old Wolverton church is something of  rarity.
In the 20th century Holy Trinity used to attract worshippers from the west end of New Wolverton - Anson Road, Jersey Road, for whom the walk was not much further than St Georges. Some preferred the smaller congregation and perhaps the atmosphere. The Church used to have a Fete every year on the raised lawn by the Rectory.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slated Row

Most dwellings in Old Wolverton were either scattered or clusterd. There was, however, one street, known as "Slated Row". The cottages were small, low and probably no more than two bedrooms. I don't know if there are any surviving pictures.
The row of cottages followed the present street that retains the name, although it was then a path with the cottages on the south side. I think (although I won't swear to it) that the outhouses may have been on the north side of the path. The path led to a gate, through which the path continued to the Stratford Road.
I don't know the origin of these cottages but they do appear on the 1830 map which suggests that they pre-dated the railway. It is also just about possible that they were given slated roofs at the outset since slates could be transported by canal to parts of England remote from the quarries. If this was the case then the cottages would have been unique for the time and probably the best-looking cottages on the manor.
As I said the cottages could only be reached by footpath, and this was quite sufficient, even in the early 1960s when few people had cars. The cottages represented a different time and a different way of living.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Wolverton

I'm going to talk about Old Wolverton for the next few days.
Prior to the coming of the railways, Wolverton was a pretty nondescript place. After enclosure by the Longuevilles in the 17th century, Wolverton Manor was divided into three farms, which still survived until quite recently - Manor Farm, Warren Farm and Stacey Bushes farm. The manor was sold to Dr John Radcliffe in 1713. A year later he died and the Trust in his name administered the manor as an absentee landlord  until it was eventually sold to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
The manor scarcely had any significant population at the beginning of the 19th century, possibly 200, no more certainly than the time of Domesday Book 800 years earlier. Early 19th century maps show small clusters of cottages around each of the farms and a few more around the Rectory. There were two mills - Wolverton Mill near Stony Stratford and Mead Mill on the Ouse at the north eastern corner of the Manor. These two mills were as close to modern industry as Wolverton would get until 1838 - and then what a change there was.

This photograph show the pub at the first few years of the 20th century.  The canal had brought some change. particularly the building  of a wharf at Old Wolverton. The owner of the wharf, Benjamin Barter, was responsible for building the pub known as The Galleon, although originally it was known as The Locomotive. The pub was still called the Locomotive at the time this photo was taken and here is covered with ivy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Joseph Walker

Men who were once prominent, perhaps even household names, gave their names to streets and then appeared to disappear from history. I have been trying to find out something about Joseph Walker who gave his name to the short-lived Walker Street in Wolverton. In 1846 he stumped up £178,500 for the LNWR so he was clearly a man of some substance. He was an early director of the London and Birmingham Railway and also of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. Other than that there are few clues to his existence. He did not appear to have the public profile of Joseph Ledsam who I wrote about yesterday.
There is one tantalizing reference to a Mr Walker in the diary of Cecile Mendelssohn:
Saturday September 16
To another local worthy, Mr Walker, for dinner. Rehearsal in the evening, the hall illuminated and splendid.
The footnote suggests that this may be Joseph Walker, proprietor of Joseph Walker and Co., Factors in St Paul's Square.
This is in part corroborated by an 1841 Census entry which records a 60 year old Joseph Walker and his wife living on the Crescent with a household of four servants, which would suggest some affluence.
This Joseph Walker, born around 1780, is certainly of an age which would have given him enough financial clout to become a director of an early railway company, but he died in late 1846 which may cast a slight question mark about his investment of £178,500 earlier in the year.
I could make a case for this man being the Joseph Walker who gave his name to Walker Street but the evidence is sketchy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Joseph Frederick Ledsam

On August 13th 1846 The Times listed the individuals who had put up money for "Railway Speculation". Any amount over £20,000 had to be declared to Parliament and therefore became public knowledge. Ledsam put up £186,000 - a serious sum of money.
The Wolverton interest is that a street was named after him, as indeed was another in Birmingham, but it has not been easy to find out much about him. According to the 1851 Census he was a landed proprietor, Deputy Lieutenant of Worcester and a JP. He was living in some comfort on the Harborne Road in Edgbaston. The Ledsams, like many successful Birmingham families, emerge during the 18th century, likely in some manufacturing enterprise. In the 19th century Thomas Ledsam and Sons were button manufacturers and Daniel Ledsam was a merchant in the mid-centry. Joseph was obviously part of the same extended family but his precise place in the family is not apparent from my brief research. What we can say is that he had some capital and was probably smart enough to invest it in the new railway. By 1846 he could easily put up almost £200,000.
The following account, extracted from "Modern Birmingham and its Events 1841-1871", a compilation of local activities, gives a clearer concept of Mr Ledsam's role in the community.

On December 28, (1861) Mr. Joseph Frederick Ledsam died in his 72nd year. Until a short time before his decease Mr. Ledsam occupied a prominent position amongst the leading inhabitants of the town, but his failing health compelled him to retire from public life.

He was a Magistrate for the three counties of Warwick, Worcester, and Stafford, and a Deputy Lieutenant of the first named county. He had also filled the important position of High Sheriff of Worcestershire. Mr. Ledsam was, however, best known from his long and intimate connection with the General Hospital, especially as regards the great Musical Festival, held every three years for the benefit of the charity. For many years Mr. Ledsam filled the office of Chairman of the Festival Committee, and only resigned it when his health finally gave way. His remarkable courtesy and kindness of manner, combined with his thorough knowledge of business and a large acquaintance with the musical world, enabled him to render invaluable services as the recognised working head of the Festival Committee ; and his enforced retirement from that position was deeply felt and sincerely regretted. Mr. Ledsam was also, for many years, an active and esteemed member of the Government Board of the Free Grammar School, and was also connected, either in an honorary or a working capacity, with many other educational, charitable and religious institutions or societies. He was likewise well-known as having a prominent share in the management of several important commercial undertakings, amongst which may be mentioned the Birmingham Banking Company, the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Company, and last, but by no means least, the London and North Western Railway Company, in connection with which, for several years, he performed the laborious duties of Deputy Chairman of the Directors. By those who knew him personally, Mr. Ledsam was highly esteemed, both as a public man and in the relationship of his private life; and the regard generally entertained for him was abundantly justified by his amiable character and his uniformly courteous and obliging disposition.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

St Georges: The beginning

For the first few years C of E services were conducted in a wing of the school on Creed Street - now the Library. A bell was erected in the grounds to announce service times. In 1844 Wolverton Station finally got its own church (although not at that time a parish) and this edition of The Times reports on the consecration.
The Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1844; pg. 3; Issue 18622; col E
     Consecration Of Wolverton Church.
Category: News

Here is a contemporary engraving from 1845 showing the initial church building and the vicarage. There have been some later additions such as the vestry and the southern chapel.

George Carr Glyn2

The Times, Friday, Jul 25, 1873; pg. 10; Issue 27751; col F
     The Late Lord Wolverton.-We have to
Category: News

Edward Bury

Edward Bury was the first locomotive engineer for the London & Birmingham Railway. He is associated with Wolverton because this was the first maintenance depot and one of its principal early streets was named after him. According to Stowell Brown relatively little was seen of him in Wolverton although Sir Frank Markham say he had a residence at Great Linford.
Bury was a Liverpool man, born there in 1794 and he set up his engineering works in 1826, under the name of Edward Bury and Company. James Kennedy, who had experience of locomotive building with Robert Stephenson was employed as his works foreman. In 1842 Kennedy became a partner when the firm expanded under the name of Bury, Kennedy and Curtis.
The first engines were built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1830. In time they refined their designs to lighter locomotives known as the "Bury type". In 1836 Bury contracted to run the trains on the London and Birmingham Railway. In 1839, just after the line through Wolverton had opened, he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent and contracted the building of engines to companies other than his own.
He continued in this role until 1847, when, shortly after the formation of the L&NWR he resigned to join the Great Northern Railway as Locomotive Superintendant and General Manager. He died in 1858.
Edward Bury married Priscilla Falkner in 1830. She was an accomplished botanical artist and her works and prints are still available.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baron Wolverton

George Carr Glyn became chairman of the London & Birmingham Railway in 1837 and was responsible for steering the railway through its early years and was there at the birth of New Wolverton. Glyn Square was named after him as was Glyn Street in New Bradwell,and when he was ennobled in 1869 he took the title from the town.
He was a leading figure in the development of the London and Birmingham Railway and when tis merged with two other railways in 1846 became the first chairman of the mighty London and North Western Railway.
During his time in office he oversaw many innovations such as the railway clearing house which managed the revenue that was shared between companies. Thus a passenger could by a ticket from Wolverton to Southampton, travel on several railways on a single ticket. The revenue would then be allocated behind the scenes.
Glyn confessed to some regrets in the 1840s that he was too cautious in the early days, not realising that the railway would become a phenomenal success. For example he resisted the opportunity to did not buy up more land around  Euston station, which severely restricted expansion in later years.
Glyn's bank morphed into Williams and Glyn's Bank in the 20th century.

He was ennobled in 1869 and took the title Baron Wolverton, which may reflect his affection for the place.

The following extract from Wikipedia outlines the history of the peerage.

Baron Wolverton, of Wolverton in the County of Buckingham, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1869 for the banker George Glyn. He was the fourth son of Sir Richard Carr Glyn, 1st Baronet, of Gaunt's House, Lord Mayor of London in 1798, himself the fourth son of Sir Richard Glyn, 1st Baronet, of Ewell, Lord Mayor of London in 1758. Lord Wolverton was succeeded by the eldest of his nine sons, the second Baron. He was a Liberal politician and served under William Gladstone as Paymaster-General and as Postmaster General. He was childless and was succeeded by his nephew, the third Baron. He was the eldest son of Vice-Admiral the Hon. Henry Carr Glyn, younger son of the first Baron. He died childless the following year aged only twenty-six, and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fourth Baron. He served as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1902 to 1905 in the Conservative administration of Arthur Balfour. On the death in 1988 of his second but eldest surviving son, the fifth Baron, this line of the family failed. The title was inherited by the late Baron's second cousin, the sixth Baron. He was the grandson of the Hon. Pascoe Glyn, younger son of the first Baron. As of 2009 the title is held by his son, the seventh Baron, who succeeded in 1988. As a descendant of both the first Glyn Baronet of Gaunt's House and of the first Glyn Baronet of Ewell, he is also in remainder to these titles.
Several other members of the Glyn family have also gained distinction. The Hon. Pascoe Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, sat as Member of Parliament for Dorset East. The Hon. Sidney Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury. The Right Reverend the Hon. Edward Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was Bishop of Peterborough and the father of Ralph Glyn, 1st Baron Glyn. The Hon. Henry Carr Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy.

[edit]Barons Wolverton (1869)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Naming Wolverton's Streets 2

Wolverton was extended westwards again in the early years of the 20th century. This meant extending Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Green Lane. Green Lane became Western Road after Windsor Street.

Three new streets were added north to south - Peel Road, Jersey Road and Anson Road. Now it was the turn of the Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust to be honoured:
Peel Road was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st. Viscount Peel;
Jersey Road after Victor Albert George, 7th. Earl of Jersey;
and Anson Road after Sir William Reynell Anson.
It may also be that Woburn Avenue, the short terrace at the top of Western Road, took its name in honour of the 11th. Duke of Bedford, who was a Trustee from 1900-1913. Otherwise this choice appears whimsical.

In the 1930s more land was taken out of Stacey Farm and larger houses were built on what is now Stacey Avenue. Gloucester Road was named after the Duke of Gloucester and Marina Drive after Marina Duchess of Kent. Eton Crescent, built around this time, seems another whimsical choice. I can only guess that the Council's thinking was that Eton, in the southern tip of Buckinghamshire, might be associated with Windsor and associated itself with the Royal theme. I should have asked my grandfather who was probably sitting on the council at the time this decision was made.

In the late 40s and early 50s Furze Way opened, so called because it was developed on the ancient field known as Hodge Furze.

Naming Wolverton's Streets

The first Wolverton streets were named after directors or officials of the London & Birmingham Railway. George Carr Glyn, who gave his name to Glyn Square, was the first chairman of the company. On elevation to the peerage he took the title Baron Wolverton. Richard Creed was the London-based secretary to the company. C.R. Moorsom was his Birmingham counterpart. Both Glyn Square and Creed Street survive today as actual addresses.

There were three short streets to the north of the original engine shed - these were Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street. Robert Garnett was part of a wealthy Manchester importing family. I have not been able to find out about Thomas Cooke or Joseph Walker. Thomas Cooke was also a director of the London & Soth Western Railway. Likewise, Walker also served on the Board of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. It is probably a fair guess that Cooke's business interests lay in London and Walker's in the Midlands.

The main street in the north part of town was Bury Street which also housed about 10 shops. It was named after Edward Bury who was the chief locomotive engineer for the L&BR until he was replced by McConnell in 1847.

The last street north of the Stratford Road was Gas Street, which had eight houses, some offices and the first Gas Works for the town.

The two other streets built in 1840 were Ledsam Street, named after Joseph Frederick Ledsam, a Birmingham businessman, and Young Street, after Thomas Young - about whom I can find nothing.
As the town spread to the west, the New Road became the Stratford Road, Church Street was built parallel. The naming is self evident.

The next road running north to south was named after the Radcliffe Trust, which owned the manor of Wolverton and therefore had a large say in how land was parcelled out for the new town. From there the town resorted to place names for its new streets, Buckingham, Aylesbury, Bedford and Oxford, and, in time Cambridge.

The next street to appear was Windsor Street. There is no obvious reason for this choice. If the town were to seek names from nearby important towns, then Northampton street might be the next obvious choice. Windsor was in the County of  Buckinghamshire at the time and was quite a large town. It is posssible that this name was chosen for its historic Buckinghamshire association, although I should point out that High Wycombe was by far the largest town in Buckinghamshire in the 1890s. Wolverton was second. Somehow, High Wycombe Street does not have the same resonance.

The next development saw the contruction of Moon Street, Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street.

Green Lane followed the line of the ancient track leading to Calverton and was already named. Victoria Street represented a new departure in naming the street after the long reigning monarch and I think (but am not absolutely sure about this) that Osborne Street comes from the same idea - the house of Queen Vic on the IOW.

More on the other streets tomorrow.

Sir Richard Moon

The first general manager of the L&NWR was Captain Mark Huish who has to be credited with laying the ground for the effective railways that it proved to be. When Huish retired in 1861 he was succeeded by Sir Richard Moon who for the next 30 years steered the company into its premier status. He was acknowledged as one of the most able managers of his age and was apparently a tough, austere character, described by Hamilton Ellis as "incorruptible and one of the most terrifying personages in Victorian private business". Hamilton Ellis further characterizes his achievement as transforming a loose amalgam of railways into "a totalitarian corporate state in nineteenth century capitalism".
He kept a gimlet eye on costs and while the railway was run with efficiency it meant that trains were not especially fast. Speed was expensive and Moon decreed that trains should not exceed an average speed 40mph. Since no other means of transport could go faster in the 19th century this may not have seemed to matter much but when rival companies began to publish faster timetables this began to matter, and in the 1880s passengers were beginning to desert the L&NWR on duplicate routes. So a speed war broke out for a few years, eventually settling down with no clear winners but a general increase in average speeds on the main line routes.
Moon left his mark on Wolverton in two ways - firstly there is the short street of fairly substantial houses leading to the school that was named after him; second his scheme to bypass Wolverton works and build a third station.
The original line followed what is now McConnell Drive and the second station was located near Glyn Square. Moon wanted the works to be integrated and separate from passenger traffic and the loop line, complete with new embankment was built at considerable expense and somewhat at odds with his known parsimony.
Local Wolverton folk did not think much of the idea and the venture was nicknamed "Moon's Folly".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wolverton Works

You would have to spend your life in a bubble not to be aware of the importance of railways growing up in Wolverton. In fact, for the first 110 years there was nothing else. It was a railway town. Railways were life and bread an play.  Oddly, as I see it now, the works had no direct impact on my life as a growing boy in the 40s and 50s. What went on behind the wall was, well, unknown, and I had no curiosity to learn. I might have learned my father's position and job title but I had no inkling about what he actually did between the daily signals of the works hooter. There was a time to learn what went on behind the wall and that would be when you undertook an apprenticeship. It was I suppose a rite of passage like a bar Mitzvah.
I have been thinking about this because of a request for photographs of the works and my subsequent discovery that the works was something I knew almost nothing about. It was not part of my world.
The wall which extended for about a mile was dominant and rightly criticized by Sir Frank Markham in his history. The aesthetic impression for any visitor to Wolverton was terrible.
The only visual relief was a gate at the bottom of Cambridge Street and a cluster of buildings beyond Radcliffe Street. These were the Public Baths, the Main Gate and Offices, the Fire Station and another set of offices at the Ledsam Street end.
The Public Baths building remains, as does the exterior of the Fire Station built in 1911. All other buildings have now been demolished to make way for the Tesco shopping complex.
There are surprisingly few available photographs but this one, taken before the building of the Fire Station, shows the big building which accommodated the Canteen and presumably offices above. The Canteen, apart from its lunchtime function, was used for all large functions like the Remembrance Day concert and the children's Christmas Party.

The second photo, taken fifty years later, show the buildings as I remember them. The Stratford Road was still relatively traffic free in those days, but at 7:30 am, 12:30 and 5:30 pm the road would have been heaving with men (mostly), buses and bicycles.

So the triple-gable building which became the main gate must have been built in or after 1911. The clockin the centre was the only public clock in Wolverton that I can recall, other than at the station. Watches were relatively expensive and often regarded as a luxury item. In fact the usual gift for a retiring employee, after 40+ years of service, was a timepiece. The irony that it would no longer be required was probably lost on the givers. "Knocker-uppers" were still employed in parts of the town in the 1940s to get people out of bed in time for work.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wolverton Park

In 1884 this patch of land between the two railway lines and the canal and the Old Wolverton Road became the town's first public recreation ground. Like so many amenities in Wolverton it was funded by the L&NWR. Previously Wolverton's first public house, "The Radcliffe Arms" and some cottages were located here. The carriage sheds were built on the approach road to the first station.
The Park, as it was known, could be reached by foot from the Stratford Road down steep steps to below canal level, or through the Park Gates on the Old Wolverton Road. There was a Park Keeper's cottage here, presumably built for 1884.
The ground level of the park area was flat but man-made embankments on three sides created the illusion of an ampitheatre and at times it could feel rather dank as it held the still damp air of winter. During football matches this phenomenon amplified the sound of the crowd into something like a roar. In the fifties Saturday afternoon attendance might have reached about 1,000, large by today's standards but quite typical for a small town in a minor league. turnstiles were in operation for football matches but otherwise the Park was open to the public.
The football ground was in the centre of an oval which was fenced on the outside. The oval, wich was banked at the north end, was a cycle racing track and out of the football season the ground was used for athletics. A bowling green and tennis courts were provided at the south end.

This photo of the Park taken before the ground was taken for housing development shows it in a state of some dereliction. The two stands had been there for many years.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Policing in the 1950s

50 years ago this house, at 97 Church Street, used to be Wolverton's Police Station. The front room was the reception/office, protected by a high counter. I am told that there was a lock-up cell in the back and a small court for inquests, although magistrate's hearings were always at Stony Stratford.
The ranking officer was one Sergeant Gee who I believe had been there since before the war. It was a small detachment of perhaps two or three young constables who would regularly walk their beat around town. What crime they uncovered I cannot imagine. Criminal activity in Wolverton in those days amounted to stealing a few shillings from the gas meter, drunk and disorderly behaviour at weekends and possibly some domestic eruptions. When there was a real crime it was almost comic, like the time some desperado robbed Sigwarts, the jewellers on Stratford Road, and then legged it to the station hoping, apparently, to catch the next train and evade capture.
I know I will not be believed today but the crime rate was very low in those days. Property was respected and because everyone in the town knew one another there was very little you could get away with. People did not lock their doors unless they went away on holiday and even if they did, they would leave the key under the doormat.
In 1960 or thereabouts a new Police Station was built on the Stratford Road at the western edge of the town. Sergeant Gee retired and was replaced by an Inspector Wanstell with a larger detachment. The police now had cars, bobbies no longer walked the beat, and the motorist became a target for police activity.
My father bemoaned the fact that the ordinary citizen was now criminalized and thought that no good would come of it. I suspect he was right.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Street Lighting

One of the pure joys of childhood was the discovery that street lighting could play wonderful tricks with your shadow - it could move ahead of you and lengthen as you walked ahead of one lamp, only to switch behind you as you came into the ambience of the next lamp. The experience used to be common but I expect non-existent with today's floodlit streets.
The lights in Wolverton were spaced at some distance apart, usually at street corners with another in the middle of the terrace. I think also that the back alleys were lit at the end. I do remember one lamp suspended over the back alley behind the West End Chapel on Anson Road.
In the 1940s and 50s they were incandescent lights and provided a pool of local light. There was enough illumination to see down the street but indeed there were very dark areas in between.
My memory of the lighting was that it was still possible to see the stars once out of the immediate lighted area. I don't think that this would be possible in any urban area today.
In the 1960s the Stratford Road lights were replaced with sodium lights which provided much greater illumination and eventually all of the old lights were replaced.
19th century Wolverton was lit by gas light, which had long gone by the 1940s, with one exception, and that light was bracketed to the corner of the Wesleyan Chapel on Church Street.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Temporary Buildings

Wolverton was a red brick town. The church of St George and the Vicarage were made of stone but with those exceptions brick was the universally favoured construction material. This, and the period of building, gave the town a uniformity which it retains today.
However, there were some other buildings in the town which offered some variety of appearance and these were all temporary buildings, no longer with us.
Wooden Buildings
There were four wooden buildings of any significance - the cricket pavilion, the Scout Hall Annexe, the Youth Club and the wooden classrooms at the Grammar School. The cricket pavilion was probably the best looking and best designed of the four with a viewing stand for the cricket on one side and for tennis on the other. It was strictly members only so I never went inside. Nearby, at the back of the Scout Hall, was a shed-like building used by the seniorscouts, then known as Rovers. I think they wore crimson beret's as a mark of their status - much more stylish than the boer war hats that boy scouts were expected to wear.
The Youth Club at the back of Anson Road was also a timber building of the period. It was quite large, probably about 20 feet wide and 40 to 50 feet in length. A old railway carriage was attached to the north side and used as an office for the youth club leader. As with all buildings of the type and period it was covered with black creosote. I am not sure when the Youth Club building was erected since it did not come into my consciousness until about 1956 when I was old enough to join, but i suspect that it was post war.
Finally the "huts" at the Grammar School. This was a longish barrack-like building with a low pitched roof of the kind seen in wartime films. It had two classrooms and a woodwork shop at the west end. We went into the huts as second-formers in 1954. They were already in pretty shabby condition then with worn floorboards and holes in the walls. We also had quite old furniture. From our point of view they were enormous fun; there was a sense of liberation at being housed apart from the main school, away perhaps from the watchful eye of school authorities.
In either 1958 or 1959 they were demolished and replaced by new "Terrapin" buildings. The "Terrapin" company had developed a new standard in the 1950s of prefabricated buildings that could be quickly erected on site. During the school expansion of the 1960s the Terrapin was ubiquitous. Their building design at the time was based on a steel frame with exterior wall panels of wood and glass. The roofs were flat.
Concrete Pre-fabs
Older fast construction techniques depended on cast concrete panels with steel window frames. Much of the emergency post-war housing was of this type and a lot were erected in the Bradville estate. In Wolverton, this type of construction was reserved for four school buildings - the school canteen serving the Aylesbury Street schools, the school canteen at the Grammar School at Moon Street, a two-classroom block at the Grammar School used for the fifth form and know as the "New Classrooms" and another two classroom unit at Aylesbury Street, which was the Nursery School.
The Aylesbury Street school was divided from the Church Street school by a wall. This has now been demolished. South of this wall, in the east playground was the Nursery School. This, as I said, was comprised on two classrooms with an office and cloakroom in the centre. The Canteen, of a similar size, was north of the wall on the western side.
The Grammar school buildings were identical and probably erected in the same post war year.
The Tin Hut
On final building which I can mention in this section is the tin hut at the Aylesbury Street end of Peel Road. This land has now been developed into housing but for many years it was an open patch of land. The L-shaped building that sat on this land for some years was covered in corrugated panels. During the war and until the end of rationing it was used as the Food Office - an institution used to issue ration books and ensure that food was fairly apportioned. When rationing ended in 1952(?) the office became redundant and part of the building was used as a classroom annexe. The back part was a billiards club administered by the Wesleyan Chapel.
Unless my memory is playing tricks, it was painted with camouflage paint, and remained a grey-green colour. It was also surrounded by steel posts and a high wire netting fence, no doubt a relic from its government use. Over the years it rusted and deteriorated and although the building was in use it maintained an air of neglect.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Level

I noticed today that one of the followers of this blog has been busy working for his A-levels. I wish him luck.
Of course this brings back memories of a time when A-level was a very new phenomenon. They were only invented in 1951 so when I came to take them in 1960 they were just about established. My mother used to talk about School certificate and Matriculation which meant nothing to me at the time, although in later years I came to understand the connection. I did do an earlier post about school certificate an O level.
Back then everything depended on the single dice throw of an examination, although in most subjects there were at least two papers and, in sciences, a practical. They were nervous times indeed and many hours were spent trying to saturate the brain with the required knowledge. The system was also very unforgiving. If you missed the exam you failed. There were no allowances for good coursework, teacher recommendation or minor illness. If you had a cold you dragged yourself to the examination hall and did what you could because it was highly unlikely that your illness would be understood or sympathized with. If you had polio or some other very serious illness then you might be considered for an aegrotat pass, but that was about as much tolerance as the system at that time had. Your other option was to take a new exam, possibly in January or the following Summer. Either way you lost a year.
The pass mark was 40%. Examiners in those days had the full range of marks at their disposal so 40% was acceptable. A mark in the 60s could get you a place in higher education and in the 70s you could be assured of a place. Marks above 80% were rare.
We took our exams in the Church Institute, in the downstairs hall. In earlier years the exams were taken in the school hall at Moon Street, which was essentially sealed of for the period with prefects enforcing silence in the vicinity.
I am tempted to comment about todays A-Levels but I won't. Things change. They changed from my parents' day when a locally issued School Certificate was an acceptable standard, to my day when a nationally monitored standard was introduced, to today's standard which has to accommodate a far larger slice of the population.