Friday, December 31, 2010

"Northampton's Loss, Wolverton's Gain" An early Urban Myth.

Wolverton as a railway town was an accident. I think I can safely say that. The original planned route from London to Birmingham would have taken the line closer to Buckingham and had this proceeded no line would have come close to the old village, but once the new route had been forced on Stephenson the course of the line took it through the Wolverton estate. If a station were to be erected there it would be with the intention of serving Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. Most of the towns on the new line were quite small. Leighton Buzzard, with a population of 3,500, and larger at the time than Watford, was by far the largest community. The only significant centres were Northampton and Coventry, and given Northampton's size and labour pool, it may have made sense to the directors to establish their service and maintenance depot at Northampton. Housing and a local work force would have been at hand.  In the end this did not happen and the route went to the east of the town and a station was established at Blisworth. 

Within a very short time the railways transformed the way people did business and Northampton, in a few years, found itself at a distinct commercial disadvantage. Four miles, which seemed insignificant in 1837, now represented a significant amount of time. In edition, the cost of cartage added to the cost of purchase and distribution.  In 1845, when the Blisworth to Peterborough line was opened, Northampton got its first station at Bridge Street. Really, the town had to wait until 1875, when a loop main line began just past Roade cutting to offer an uninterrupted journey from either London or Birmingham to Northampton.

In the meantime the London and Birmingham Railway directors settled on the greenfield site of Wolverton, at the mid-way point between London and Birmingham and with a useful road and canal link already in place, as the site for its new engine depot. It also meant that they had to face up to building new accommodation for the workers, and like good Victorian businessmen who believed that everything was possible, accepted the challenge.

Wolverton was born.

It was not long before a story was in circulation that Northampton had turned down the opportunity to host the railway in favour of protecting the coaching trade. Hugh Stowell Brown, who was in Wolverton in 1840, mentions this in his autobiography and a Times reporter, visiting Wolverton to cover the consecration of St George the Martyr, came across the story and recounted it in his article, May 29th 1844,

The circumstance under which the town was called into existence may be worth relating. When the Birmingham Company’s bill was first introduced to the notice of Parliament it was proposed to establish a central station at Northampton, a town which, from its own importance and its central position upon the contemplated line, appeared to be a most eligible position fot the Company’s works. The shortsightedness of the Northampton people, all at that time engaged or interested in coach traffic, prevented the perfecting of the arrangements. After a vast deal of opposition, attended with great expense to all parties, they succeeded in forcing the Company to abandon their project, and select another spot on which to carry on their works. As there was no other town of sufficient importance eligibly situate on the route, the managers wisely sought a counterbalance for the disadvantage. They saw that if they lost some facilities by placing their station remote from a town, they would gain by the increased steadiness and regularity of their workpeople. Accordingly, Wolverton, a healthy spot, many miles from any place of public resort, was selected as a site for a large station, and there, as we said before, the Company have founded a colony of engineers, which is rapidly flourishing while Northampton is going to decay.

This is a good story and quite plausible. Why would a main line railway bypass a town of the size and importance of Northampton? Why indeed?


The problem with this story is not its plausibility but that other than these two anecdotal accounts, which were being repeated a century later, there is not a shred of factual evidence to support this account. The kind of information you would expect to find, correspondence between the LBR Board and the burgesses of Northampton is not to be found; there is not a single board minute, not a survey, not a single enquiry regarding land purchase. There is, in summary, no official record anywhere that Northampton was considered for the route.


David Jenkinson, in his book The London and Birmingham Railway: A Railway of Consequence, makes this observation:
This town (Northampton) stands on the Nene and to reach it, Stephenson would have to descend a gradient steeper than 1:330, though in all conscience not too much steeper; even so, he ignored it, preferring instead to head through Blisworth on a near straight and level alignment and cross the Nene at Weedon, albeit at the cost of a huge cutting through soil and rock at Blisworth and a not insignificant embankment and viaduct at Weedon. (p. 16)
The probable facts are that Stephenson and his associates in this new enterprise were more concerned about linking London and Birmingham than they were about picking up trade en route. The course of the whole line scarcely touches significant centres and even where it does the stations are a mile or more away from small market towns, such as Harrow, Watford, Tring and Leighton Buzzard. Weedon may have been deliberately selected because of the important military establishment but apart from that the Company may not have given too much thought to having a station in important medieval towns such as St Albans and Northampton.

Most likely it was the astonishing and immediate success of the railway that led people to hanker after a rail line and railway station of their own and the immediate issue was addressed by branch lines to  Aylesbury, St Albans and later Northampton. In the mean time the nearby station, even up to four miles away, was regarded as "their" station. Reporters for the Northampton Herald in 1838 noted with some satisfaction that Blisworth, "their station" was to be a first class station. Similar sentiments were expressed by Newport Pagnell about Wolverton.

Thus we have an early example of what we now call an urban myth. A short time after the railway opening people may have felt some surprise that Northampton had been by-passed; someone may have suggested that it was opposition from Northampton commercial interests that led to this state of affairs an the story grew in the telling. Wolverton people may have felt some pride in getting one up over the larger town and may have been only too happy to relate the story to the Times reporter in 1844, who clearly took this at face value. The story was also told to me by my grandfather over 100 years later, so this version was truly embedded.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fenianism in Wolverton

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded in 1858 as a secret society to further the cause of Irish Nationalism and self-government. Like its 20th century successor the IRA it was impatient for results and prepared to use violence. The movement gained in popularity and its mostly young followers were known as Fenians. As the level of activity grew in the 1860s the government became more anxious and Fenians were spotted everywhere - even in Wolverton, it seems.

The Times of Thursday, December 26th 1867 has this report.
The two prisoners James Connerty and Gladwin Meehan who were arreted at Wolverton on Tuesday on a charge of treason-felony were taken to Aylesbury on the last train, in charge of a strong body of police, under the command of Charles J.C. Tyrwhitt Drake, the Chief Constable of Bucks. They were brought before Mr J.C. Senior, one of the county magistrates in the waiting room of the railway station, and the information from Superintendent Breary was read over, which stated that sedition and treasonable meetings had been held at the houses of each of the prisoners at New Bradwell. Some other important facts were stated in the information, which was not considered expedient to make public. Connerty denied in the most emphatic way that any illegal meetings had been held at his house, or that he had anything to do with Fenianism. He had been reared in this country, and he hoped he had too much sense to do anything of the sort. It was an extraordinary charge, he had always conducted himself to the satisfaction of his employers and those with whom he worked. Meehan also positively denied that there had been any meetings at his house, and asked whether bail would be accepted. He said it was a serious matter to bring a man up without any foundation for a charge. It would probably end with his being discharged from his employment, and the ruin of his family, Connerty asked that bail might be taken, and on being informed that this could not be granted, he asked for a copy of the charge against him to send to his friends. He was informed that he could write whatever he pleased, and that he might have a copy of the information. The prisoners were then remanded until today.

It all appears very serious with a full force under the command of the Chief Constable no less to escort the two men to Aylesbury. What they were up to is not related and indeed is kept secret. Four days later, on December 30th 1867, The Times reported further:
The two artisans, James Connerty and Gladwin Meehan, who had been apprehended by Superintendent Breary, of the Bucks. County Constabulary, on a charge of being concerned in a Fenian conspiracy at Wolverton, were brought up on Saturday at Aylesbury, before Mr. J.T. Senior, the Rev. James Booth, LL.D., the Rev. Joshua Greaves, Colonel Caulfield Platt, Mr. R. Rose, Mr. E. Bartlett and other justices. There were present a large number of the prisoners' fellow workmen from Wolverton locomotive works. After the opening of the court the magistrates retired to a private room to take some further evidence. In the course of half an hour afterwards they re-entered the court, where Mr. Senior, the chairman of the bench, addressing the prisoners, said, - "I have to state that the magistrates have carefully considered the evidence that has been adduced against you, and they are unanimously of the opinion that the evidence is not sufficient to justify them in committing you for trial. You will therefore be discharged." Connerty remarked that he was quite sure nothing could be proved against him if the witnesses spoke the truth. Mr. Shepherd observed that the accused had desired him to say that they had been treated with the greatest fairness by the governor and the chaplain of the gaol, as well as by other officers of the prison; and he was happy to be able to hand the bench some very high testimonials of character from their employers, who would be glad and ready to see them return to their service. This announcement of the decision of the Bench was hailed with loud cheers and clapping of hands by the prisoners' friends, but this was speedily suppressed. Meehan and Connerty were then conducted out of the hall by a private way, and on their departure by rail were cheered by the people who had assembled at the station.

What to make of this? The government was tense. Naval dockyards at Chatham, Protsmouth and Gosport were on high alert. In London, 200 men were sworn in a special constables in anticipation of a Fenian demonstration on Clerkenwell Green. Charges were laid against Connerty and Meehan but no information was revealed that the public could assess, but even the magistrates, inclined no doubt to support the authorities, could find little substance in the charges.

James Connerty and James Gladwin Meehan were both born in Ireland and had probably only recently come to Wolverton. Both were in their late twenties. It is conceivable that it was their irishness that attracted attention in those uncertain times and there was nothing more to it than that. We have recent experience where suspected terrorists re arrested with great fanfare and then quietly released without charge. It seems that Connerty and Meehan were in that category. Judging by the turn out of their fellow workmen from Wolverton in the Aylesbury courtroom, nobody but the police believed the charges.

Connerty stayed in Wolverton for a few more years. In 1871 he was living with his wife and five children in a house on Young Street. Later in that decade he moved to Liverpool. Meehan must have moved soon after the trial. He appears to have settled in Woolwich in London and lived to the great age of 80.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blog Holiday

That's enough for 2010! I am now going to do some last minute Christmas shopping and then enjoy the season with my family.
Best wishes to all readers. I'll be back in January.

Joshua Harris


Most of the new shopkeepers who opened the first shops at Wolverton were based in Stony Stratford and opened their shops as branches. Joshua Harris was the exception.
As soon as Bury Street was completed in 1840 Harris took one of the three storey buildings at a rental of 7/- a week. He and his wife Charlotte were Oxfordshire born - he from Banbury and she from Finstock. Both were born about 1812. So they were both mature and had probably had the opportunity to get some money behind them. Their first child was born only 6 months before the 1841 census was taken. We learn a little more from the 1851 Census where Harris gives his occupation as Draper, Grocer and Druggist, suggesting more of a general store. At number 414, with three stories,  he had plenty of space to accommodate his business and family. The mixture of selling groceries and drugs may seem odd to us now but grocers had a long tradition of dispensing drugs going back to the middle ages. The separate function of Apothecary, or Chemist, developed in the 16th century but plainly the function could still be combined in small communities in the middle of the 19th century. Harris was a member of the Pharmaceutical Association at this time, so this must have been a role he took seriously.
Joshua Harris died in his forties and his widow moved to Charlbury in Oxfordshire with her young family. As a "fundholder" (as she is described in the 1961 Census), presumably with capital from the sale of the Wolverton stock, she was able to support her family. It does not appear that the business survived Joshua Harris’s early death, at least in this location, because the house is occupied by an engine fitter in 1861.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Amelia Prince


Amelia Prince was the daughter of a London stonemason and probably about 23 years old at the time of Sir Francis Bond Head's visit in 1849 visit. She may already have been at Wolverton for a few years. She was born in London, the daughter of a stonemason and while at Wolverton lodged with Joshua Harris, the grocer on Bury Street. For her work as teacher of the Infant School was paid only £30 a year - not a very large sum, even in those days.
 She prevailed, and a few years later was promoted to School Mistress with a salary increase to £40 a year. In the mid 1850s the schoolmaster was replaced by a 25 year- old George Russell and somewhere around all these snippets of fact lies a human interest story.
Mr.. Russell and Miss Prince fell in love, which of course is perfectly fine but for the conventional morality of the day. The L&NWR Board Committee which had oversight of these matters  took a view which did not regard a liaison between two unmarried teachers as proper. Mr.. Russell was dismissed from his post in October 1857 and Miss Prince resigned her position two months later. Through this decision the school lost not only the amorous Mr.. Russell but also the very experienced Miss Prince who had worked there for at least ten years.
George Russell quickly found a job in Poplar so there is no suggestion that he left under a cloud and probably received good references. The future Mrs. Russell, six years his senior in age, joined him in January. They married almost immediately, later had one son, and subsequently worked in village schools in Essex and Hampshire.
We can also see the large disparity between men’s and women’s wages in those times. The schoolmaster’s annual salary of £100 put him on a par with clerks and engine drivers but the Infant School Mistress, in this case Amelia Prince, was paid little more than a boy apprentice could earn - typically between £25 and £30 a year. The boy apprentice, on achieving his manhood, could then earn £1 a week or better, whereas Amelia Prince had seen little improvement in her income after ten years of experience. Even so, when the Potterspury Poor Law Union decided to hire a teacher for the workhouse at Yardley Gobion in 1842 they were able to secure the services of a female teacher for only £15 a year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Soiree of 1849




From the earliest there were men who came to work in Wolverton who were interested in self improvement and I have already discussed the autobiography of Hugh Stowell Brown who describes his efforts, and those of his mates, towards learning. Despite working for 58½ hours a week, almost one-third as long as we typically do these days, these ambitious young men still found time to work for new knowledge.

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.

As I described in an earlier post, one of Hugh Stowell Brown’s friends, Edward Hayes, set up his own engineering works in Stony Stratford and maintained a company that became renowned for its apprenticeship training.  By 1840 a Reading Room had been built beside the canal, which offered library facilities and a lecture room. It has been said that the Mechanic’s Institute was initiated after a suggestion by Edward Bury, and that may be so, but the active leadership came from the first incumbent of the living of St George’s, George Weight. It was his energy that organized a huge banquet in the Engine Shed in 1849 to promote the idea and raise funds. The scale of this particular function, attracting no fewer than 1000 people, featured in the London Illustrated News for that year, accompanied by a drawing. The drawing gives some insight into the effort that went into the occasion. Machinery has been moved, tracks covered, and the supporting columns decorated with foliage.


I think the view of the artist is to the east with the south facing windows on the right. The light coming through the windows at 6 pm is impossible in late December. I can only conclude that the artist drew the picture or made sketches earlier in the day and added the figures later. The fact that this was reported in the ILN December 29th 1849 gives us some sense of the importance that Wolverton held nationally at that time.

Like many such occasions, everybody had a very good time but lost sight of the original purpose of the event. It was always, in the end, going to take the resources of the L & NWR to fully fund such an enterprise and they had other priorities. It took a further 15 years before the dream was fully realized and unfortunately George Weight did not live to see that day. There are plans held in the National Archives for a more modest single-storey building, probably dating from the mid 1850s, but for one reason or another the plan was never implemented. It did eventually come to pass and in 1864, the new building proudly stood on the corner of Church Street and Creed Street.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Leonora Hibbert

Before the age of television, radio, even mass-market newspapers, fame was a very limited commodity and ordinary people remained unknown outside of their own village. The railway, and with it the possibility of mass communication changed that. Improved education and literacy increased readership and it was possible to find out more about the world. One of the interesting things about the history of the 19th century is that lives were recorded in the registration of births, marriages and deaths and in the decennial census. Add to that the occasional reference in a book or a newspaper and it is possible to construct some sort of life of ordinary people.

Leonora Hibbert was married to James Hibbert, a booking clerk. She was born in Norwich in 1810 and shows up on the 1841 Census as Housekeeper at the Refreshment Rooms but in 1851 she is very clearly the Manger with quite a sizeable staff of between 20 and 30 under her. The Refreshment Rooms, as I have observed before, were unique for their time and for a decade at least were famous throughout the land. Sir Francis Bond Head, after his visit in 1848 or 9 immortalized her as the "generalissima" who made sure that this complex establishment, having to serve trainloads within the space of a few minutes, ran smoothly. From his description we get a picture of a strong-minded woman who knew how to organize people.

As far as I can tell the Hibberts did not have children and after her husband died she moved to Holyhead to manage The Royal Hotel. By this time the Refreshment Rooms were in decline as faster trains meant that they could bypass Wolverton.  She may have subsequently remarried.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Third Station



The third station opened in 1881 on the new loop line around Wolverton Works and is shown here with its entrance on the Stratford Road. It was a wooden building supported on brick pillars above the railway line. Covered staircases took passengers down to the platforms. Platform 1 on the left was the main down line. The middle staircase met platforms 2 and 3. Platform 2 was the main up line and 3 the secondary down line. There were also waiting rooms on this platform. The third stair flight went down to Platforms 4 and 5. Platform 5 was used exclusively for the "Nobby Newport" branch line.

The Stratford Road entrance took you into an entrance hall. the booking office was on the left and the parcels office on the right. Besides the parcels office stood a large weigh scale. The ticket collector stood at the gate and punched your tickets as you went through. No one was allowed past without a ticket. Even if you were going to wave someone off,  you had to purchase a "Platform Ticket", which I think cost a penny.

The upper hall always had a smell of steam, as I remember. In the 1950s there were still porters working at the station whose job it was to carry and help load luggage. There was a goods lift that went down to Platforms 2 and 3. Nobody travelled light in those days. If you went on holiday for two week you had to take all the clothes you needed because there were no self-serve laundrettes, nor had non-iron clothing been invented. Therefore a family holiday meant the packing of large trunks and suitcases, which, at the station end, could be carried by porters with trolleys.

The station was built for an age which had low volumes of road traffic. There were nearby bus stops of course but most passengers walked to the station. The odd taxi or car could stop outside the front entrance without disturbing traffic very much. In  1990 or thereabouts access to the station was changed to the car park down the hill and the wooden building which had done more than 100 years service (longer than either of its predecessors) was demolished.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Second Station

Wolverton’s function as a repair depot and its subsequent development into an important factory approaching 5000 employees somewhat overshadowed the true function of the railway which was the carriage of passengers and goods. In this respect Wolverton was initially a very important station as the service centre for rolling stock and passengers. As the century progressed and the L & NWR developed as a major national company the importance of Wolverton diminished. Wolverton was designated a first class station by the original L & BR Board while Bletchley, for example was given fourth class status, but after the construction of the important cross country line linking Oxford to Bedford, Bletchley grew in size, busyness and importance. The station at Wolverton went into relative decline and whereas express trains of the later nineteenth century would pause at Watford and Bletchley, they would speed through the one-time compulsory stopping point of Wolverton.
The initial wonder of Wolverton to the passing traveller was the Refreshment Rooms. The journey from London was a long one in the 1830s, over three hours, and not comfortable, so while the engines were being changed the passengers’ needs could also be met. But as trains became faster there was less need, and eventually no need, to pause at Wolverton. Passengers might go to Wolverton, but only on railway business. Passengers might depart from Wolverton but only at weekends or for holidays. The other factor in the decline of Wolverton Station was the sheer dominance of the railway works. There was no room for any other industry that might have used the railway on a commercial basis, so all development came from a single employer. It was good while it lasted but there was no diversity from which to develop Wolverton into a different kind of town.
The second station, which lasted for 40 years, was probably the finest of the Wolverton Stations. It opened in 1840 and probably enjoyed its heyday for a decade or so. Over time, as well as the reasons given above, it became crowded out by workshops and in 1881 the third station building, built at the level of the Stratford Road above the railway track opened for business. This one comprised a booking office on one side and a parcels office on the other. There were platform waiting rooms, but no refreshment services.
 The contemporary engraving of the second station, shown below, reveals a colonnaded, covered platform on either side with the up and down lines in the centre. The plan for the station and refreshment rooms however do show a roof over the railway track, presumably to protect passengers from the elements as they embarked or alighted. So this is an unexplained discrepancy. Either these covers were not built, or they were originally built and then taken down because of the smoke, or the artist simply left them out of the picture for artistic reasons.
This station took only five months to build but was fully featured with booking office, dining room, waiting rooms, ladies rooms and urinals at each end of the platform. There were kitchens and cellars on both sides and an ice house was constructed on the south side. To top it all there was a piggery and a small garden for vegetables.

The Second Wolverton Station 1840-1881

Sir Francis Bond Head, whose account may be found in full here , visited Wolverton in 1848 and left a very detailed and enthusiastic account of the Refreshment Rooms.
The refreshment establishment at Wolverton is composed of:
1.   A matron or generallissima
2.     Seven very young ladies to wait upon the passengers.
3   Four men and three boys do. do.
4.     One man-cook, his kitchen maid, and his two scullery maids
5.   Two housemaids
6.     One still-room maid, employed solely in the liquid duty of making tea and coffee.
7.   Two laundry maids
8.   One baker and one baker's boy
9.   One garden boy

            And lastly, what is most significantly described in the books of the establishment –

10.            An "odd-man".[1]

The 1851 census details Mrs. Hibbert as already noted - then aged 40 and probably very much a "generalissima", together with seven female assistants ranging from 26 to 16, three waiters in their early twenties and two pages, a cellarman and a cellar boy, a baker's boy, two house maids, a kitchen maid and a scullery maid, two laundry maids, the still room maid, Eliza Garrett and of course the “Odd Man”, 22 year old Thomas Bettles and his 18 year-old brother Jeffrey, the garden boy.
The Refreshment Rooms were let to the Railway Hotel Company at a rent equal to 10% of the cost of building with a review of these terms every three years. The first manager was Henry Taylor, assisted by Leonora Hibbert, the housekeeper. The various cakes and buns were the work of Giovani Solati, the confectioner. The live-in staff totaled 21 in 1841. By 1851 Leonora Hibbert is fully in charge of the operation. Her husband James, absent from the 1841 census, was a railway clerk. The live-in staff amounted to 27 in 1851. I say live-in staff for although it was customary for servants to live on the premises where they worked being expected to work and be on call all hours, There must have been employment for local residents. Refreshment Room facilities were provided on both sides of the track, on the up line and the down line. Urinals were provided at either end of the platforms for men and waiting rooms for ladies. Sir Francis Head mentions an overhead walkway over the lines but my guess is that it was not there in the early years and is certainly not apparent in the early engraving reproduced here. Each side of the track was made up of four sections, a covered siding for the trains, a platform, public rooms, and the kitchen and scullery at the back. An ice house was built into the ground on the east side and from Sir Francis Head we learn that they maintained a garden for garden produce and reared some pigs:
To the eatables are to be added, or driven, the 45 pigs, who after having been from their birth most kindly treated and most luxuriously fed, are impartially' promoted, by seniority, one after another, into an infinite number of pork pies.

Mrs. Hibbert again features in Rambles on Railways by Cusack Roney, writing in 1867. He speaks of the late Mrs. Hibbert and her redoutable reputation, tending to reinforce the “generalissima” characterization. I have to say that I regard Roney as a somewhat lazy observer. He quotes heavily from Head’s account and tends to rely a lot upon second-hand information - at any rate, in regard to Wolverton. However, we can take Head’s characterization of her as a “Generalissima” as a very good clue as to the strong character who ran the Refreshment Rooms in their heyday At the time of Head visit, around 1847, the Refreshment Rooms still enjoyed fame throughout the land. They represented a new phenomenon and attracted attention in much the same way as the Fortes motorway restaurant did when it opened in 1960 at Newport Pagnell. The bloom faded of course, and the census records a gradual decline in numbers employed. When the time came to open the third station in 1881, no refreshment facilities were provided.
The plans partially reproduced below offer some detail as to the extent of the amenities. The large refreshment room is central and there are urinals for men at either end of the platform. The ladies have their own waiting room and toilet facilities. Behind all this is a large kitchen and scullery for the quite sizable staff already detailed. The plan below is for additional refreshment rooms for the down line. The up line refreshment rooms, the first to be built, were a two storey affair with a dining room at ground level and a drawing room upstairs. As these plans have been drawn for an additional hallway and staircase, they do not show the kitchen, nor indeed any living quarters for staff, so we must guess that they were there.





Plan drawings for the Refreshment Rooms

As we have seen, between 20 and 30 staff are recorded in censuses as resident at the Refreshment Rooms, and indeed it was common practice for servants of all types to live on the premises where they worked. The workers that we would nowadays call shop assistants or catering staff were universally regarded as servants in the 1840s and treated as such – that is, they were given accommodation and board, paid low wages, and were expected to work long hours. The down line building appears to be single storey with a basement of wine cellars and cold storage. These drawings may have been made for buildings on the up line. However, the drawing shows buildings on both sides at equal height and perhaps these conflicts in the available evidence cannot be resolved.



 A waiting room at Wolverton Station

On the occasion of the visit of Queen Victoria to Wolverton in 1845 the waiting room was redecorated. I am sure there was a lot of scurrying around to get everything perfect and the visit, being recorded by the Illustrated London News, gives us an opportunity to view the interior. From the plan this room looks as if it was the upper drawing room shown in plan form above, and it looks very comfortable and pleasant – a far cry from the dingy waiting rooms the railway traveller might encounter a century later.


Here is one photograph, taken circa 1860, which although its subject is a steam engine, shows the kitchens of the station in the background.




Friday, December 17, 2010

The First Station

Although the first trains from Euston took 3 hr 15 minute to reach Wolverton there were not many stops. The first station was Harrow,  just 8 miles from Euston, then Watford, at the time a small town of under 3,000 people. They built a station at Boxmoor to serve Hemel Hempstead and another at Berkhampstead. By the time they reached Tring they were only 30 miles from London. The only stop between Tring and Wolverton was Leighton Buzzard. Bletchley had not been built. Wolverton was the half way point between London and Birmingham and for this reason was chosen at the service depot.

The first station was not a grand affair and was built on the embankment to the north of the canal. It must have become quickly apparent that it was inconveniently located and the Board soon resolved to build a more splendid station at the southern end of the new town.  Wolverton was not the only example of this early siting of stations. The temporary station at the infamous Denbigh Hall was one such, and Blisworth was provided with a similar arrangement. A drawing of this first station survives and here we can see a representation of a double flight of stairs that probably made it unpopular with passengers.


The drawing is not entirely satisfactory. The Binns and Clifford survey of 1840 shows a Goods Shed beside the wharf where the hoist has been drawn and a pumping station on the other side of the railway line. The large building on the left appears to have the height and dimensions of a pumping station but it is closer to the wharf near to where the Goods Shed was actually located and may be a representation of that Goods Shed.

In fairness it must be said that the original illustration in Thomas Roscoes “The London and Birmingham Railway” was about half the size represented here and was not indended to offer much detail.

The station lasted from 1838 to 1840.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Growing up in Wolverton - Life in the 1940s and 50s

In February, David Marks sent me a draft of his recollections of his years growing up in our small town. It came to me as a continuous narrative but I decided to post it on this blog in nine parts.

Recently I have checked the viewing stats and a rather strange pattern has emerged. There are a lot of readers for Part I and an almost equal number for Part VI; the parts in between have not registered. I'm a bit puzzled by this. I can understand people reading the first part and not bothering to go on (and I expect David would understand this too) but it makes less sense for readers to rush ahead to Part VI without, apparently, looking at the intervening chapters.

So in case there are readers who would like to read the continuous narrative and couldn't find it, I am posting the links here. Those of us who remember the "old" Wolverton will find much to entertain and nourish our memories.

Growing up in Wolverton - Part 1 Sunday Walks

Growing up in Wolverton - Part II  Growing Years

Growing up in Wolverton - Part III School Days

Growing up in Wolverton - Part IV Romantic Interludes

Growing up in Wolverton - Part V  Fun and Games

Growing up in Wolverton - Part VI The War and its Aftermath

Growing up in Wolverton - Part VII  College Life

Growing up in Wolverton - Part VIII A Proper Job

Growing up in Wolverton - Part IX Adventures in the Car Industry

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alfred Blott

Alfred Denny Blott grew up in Little Stanmore as a farmer's son. It seems hard to imagine it now but Stanmore and Edgeware was very rural in the early 19th century and farming was the main activity. Alfred Blott was typical of many who grew up on the farm and came of age at the very beginning of the railway age and found a career in this new enterprise.


He was barely 20 years old when he was given the task of Clerk-in-Charge at the new Wolverton Station, but as with so many jobs in the first days of the railways this was a new job. Nobody had done this task before. There was no experience of running a major railway in the 1830s. The job of station master was one such. The new station would clearly involve monetary transactions and records would need to be maintained so in 1838 this was a job for a man with training and experience in managing records and keeping accounts and they chose the young Alfred Blott. Mr. Blott was young  but the directors obviously thought he would do very well. Early tickets were written out by hand and passengers were required to provide their name, address and date of birth, which may illustrate that our desire to collect useless data is not so recent after all. It took some years to develop more mechanized systems of ticket issuance. The key skill was probably identified as clerical and the title of Station Master only emerged after some years of operation. It is also worth bearing in mind that Wolverton was rated a “First Class” station in 1838 so Mr. Blott must have come with glowing credentials. In fact his preferment to this position is a good illustration of how hiring was done in those days. Mr. Blott’s father, William, was a farmer in Little Stanmore, on land historically owned by the Duke of Chandos and latterly, through marriage, by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. I imagine that William Blott had a word with his landlord who was then able to recommend the young Alfred for this new position at Wolverton. In the end, Alfred Blott turned out to be quite competent, although I do not think he was the first choice. This gentleman was G. Kendall who was discharged after a few weeks and Blott took up his position on September 29th 1838, twelve days after the line opened. I should add here that the title "Station Master" was not used in these early days - that was to emerge a decade later.
 He lodged in Old Wolverton until he married in 1843 to a Swiss-born wife Cornelia His starting salary was £100 per annum and by 1850 this was £200.  I am sure that Mr. Blott would have stayed there and continued to raise his family in Wolverton. He was doing very well but in 1851 he was at the centre of one of those events that scandalized Victorian Britain - he eloped with a younger woman.
The name of this ‘young lady” is not recorded and the affair did not last long for he came back in some disgrace to face up to his discretion. The L & NWR’s Road and Traffic Committee sat in judgement on his case and initially decided to move him.
The Manager reported the conduct of Mr. Blott in reference to a late elopement of a young lady from the Wolverton Station - Letters in favour of Mr. Blott were read - also one from himself admitting the truth of the charges against him but stating extenuating circumstances - After full consideration the Committee resolved that Mr.. Blott had been guilty of improper conduct and that it be recommended that he be removed from Wolverton and be sent to Oxford as Station Master and further that he be reprimanded by the Manager.

In the meantime there were a number of interventions on Mr. Blott’s behalf from some of the worthies in the community, so the matter was reconsidered.           
Mr. Blott’s case having been again reviewed and the memorial in his favour - his contrition for this offence - together with a letter from Mr. Phillimore on the subject having been carefully considered,                          
It was resolved
That the notice to Mr. Blott of the directors intention to remove him be withdrawn, and that he be reinstated in his position at Wolverton.
But this was not yet the end of the matter:
Reports were submitted to the Directors of the misconduct of Mr. Bevan, Station Master at Oxford, from which it appeared that he had appropriated excess money belonging to the Company, had been irregular in his habits and had suppressed letters of complaint of his conduct which had been reported to the Directors – Mr.. Bruyeres stated that he had investigated the facts, and had every reason to believe that the reports against Mr. Bevan were correct whereupon it was Resolved:
that Mr.. Bevan be immediately suspended from duty as an improper person to have charge of the Oxford Station - That Mr.. Blott having expressed his willingness to go, be removed to the Oxford station on his present salary - reasonable expenses of removal to be allowed him - That Mr.. Shakespeare now at Stamford take Mr. Blott’s place at Wolverton at his present Salary, and that Mr. Boor who has for some time past done the Company’s business at Stamford take Mr. Shakespeare’s place provisionally.
So it was finally settled, and it seems that the Company came out of it quite well. They effectively reduced the salary paid to the Wolverton Station Master by £50, replaced an incompetent station master at Oxford with an able one, and removed a stain of social embarrassment from Wolverton. Blott’s wife seems to have stuck by him as she was living with him in the 1861 Census. He only spent a few more years at the Railway before becoming Deputy Treasurer of an Oxford College. He died in 1868 at the relatively early age of 50 and his widow moved to Lewisham to live with her sister-in-law near to one of her sons who practised as an accountant.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Charles Aveline

Charles Aveline was not a railwayman. He started up in business as a very young man and set up his shingle as a cabinet maker, furniture dealer and undertaker. The units were numbered 385 and 386 on Bury Street. Aveline was visiting relatives in London on the day of the 1851 Census so he does not show up in Wolverton on that date, but the trade directories of the period show him as very much a commercial presence in Wolverton. He had pedigree in the business although he was only in his early twenties at the time. His father George was a cabinet maker in Leighton Buzzard and he had an uncle Frederick established in the same line of work in Stony Stratford. His grandfather and uncle Samuel also were cabinet makers in Great Horwood. Young Charles therefore began his business with a set of skills, knowledge of the business and possibly some material support from his father. He also had an aunt who married into the Barter family who owned, amongst other things, the wharf at Old Wolverton. I don’t imagine he had much difficulty in accessing capital. A few years later he branched out into building, constructing several of the new properties on the private lots on the Stratford Road and Church Street and he also built the new Stacey Farm on the hill at the end of what is now Stacey Avenue.
The first houses on the Stratford Road are also his. They are presently numbered 6,7, and 8 and I think he was  the builder for a number of Wolverton properties. He was also the postmaster and I think the Post Office was managed by his wife and eldest daughter. The Post Office was at Number 6 and next door was leased to a grocer.  Wolverton's Post Office remained at this location until the new General Post Office was built on Church Street in the 1930s.


In 1881 Aveline was employing 23 men according to the census entry, so his activities must have been quite extensive. His name also turns up as the maker of a number of monuments in St George's churchyard. 


There were two sons and two daughters born to his wife Ann. She died in the 1880s and Charles remarried. In or around 1890 he retired and moved to Bedford. His eldest son George became a land agnet near Liverpool and his youngest son Charles Henry became a furniture dealer in Bishop's Stortford. Charles senior died in 1914 at the age of 85 and left £9,692 0s 8d in his will - a significant sum for those days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

George Spinks

George Spinks and his wife Eleanor occupied the northernmost property on Bury Street, number 384. It was beside the canal. In 1841 but they were described as running an Eating House. In 1851 the place is described as the “Locomotive Beer Shop” and it is also so described in an 1852 Trade Directory. This appears from the 1840 Binns and Clifford Survey and another plan drawn in 1845 to be a house with a corner entrance and an extension which was used for the eating house. I have made the assumption that this extension was a single storey only.
The Beer Shop, as distinct from a Tavern, Inn or Alehouse, became possible through an 1830 Act of Parliament known as the Beer Act. It was designed to promote beer as a more healthy beverage than gin and enable any rate-payer to apply for a 2 guinea license from the excise authorities to brew and sell beer from their home. They were distinct from taverns and alehouses, usually larger operations, which were still required to get their license from the Justices of the Peace. So in the context of Wolverton the proprietors of the Radcliffe Arms and later the Royal Engineer would need to make application for their licenses to the local bench, whereas George Spinks needed only to pay his two guineas to the Excise and set up his own brewing pails to remain in business. Later in the century successive acts of 1869 and 1872 brought all establishments selling or dispensing alcohol under much tighter control. In fact the presence of Spinks's Beer Shop was a source of some contention.
The agreement between the Radcliffe Trust and the Railway Company was that no pubs would be built on Railway property. Accordingly the Trust leased land where Wolverton Park now stands to John Congreve and Joseph Clare (both of Stony Stratford) who rushed into building the Radcliffe Arms. Unfortunately for them, the L&BR built a new railway station to the south in 1840 and the Radcliffe Arms was thereafter isolated. The aggrieved Congreve and Clare then prevailed upon the Trust to lease new land in a better location and then built the Royal Engineer in 1841. This building still stands on the corner of the Stratford Road but was not at the time on railway property. In the meantime George Spinks was merrily operating with his Beer Shop licence and presumably taking customers away from Congreve and Clare. There were continual complaints until the building was pulled down in 1856 and Spinks moved away.
A curious contemporary report from Hugh Stowell Brown presents a rosier view.
At the station close to the canal bank there was a small temperance coffee-house, kept by a man named Spinks. A few of us thought that we might hold a Sunday School there. We obtained the use of the room, and started the Sunday School, and I taught there on Sunday forenoon and afternoon for some time. That was the first and for more than a year the only religious service of any kind in Wolverton.
            We might conclude, that whatever leanings towards temperance Spinks might have had, commercial realities gained precedence, although, as I have already indicated, beer was thought to have more wholesome properties than some of the distilled spirits on sale at the licensed inns and Spinks may have felt that this was consistent with his beliefs. I rather think that the worldly Spinks saw an opportunity to make some money out of the young and idealistic Brown by serving food when the shop would normally be closed.
            George Spinks was born in Spalding in Lincolnshire and somehow fetched up in Caernarvonshire where he met and married his wife and where their first child was born. By some means or other he heard of Wolverton and moved there in 1840 to set up his Eating House. Given the fact that the new population was largely male and single at that time I imagine they did a good business. They left Wolverton before the 1861 Census and I have not been able to trace them in the census indexes, even under variant spellings. The youngest daughter, Janet (Jeanett), appears in 1861 as a 14 year-old house servant in Lancashire, but the rest have proved untraceable without much more effort. It is my guess that the destruction of those cottages at the end of Bury Street in 1857 brought the business to its end and that the Spinks family moved elsewhere. While in Wolverton they ran a busy household. In 1841 they had four lodgers and a servant and in 1851 five children and a servant. 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sarah Dunn

There were a few great personages who had some impact on Wolverton and gave their names to streets and so on, but in the 19th century it was really the acts of ordinary people who shaped the community. One of them was Sarah Dunn. She was the wife of John Dunn, a smith, and they were both in their early forties at the time of the 1851 census. They may not have had any children although I cannot track them down in the 1841 census which might have confirmed this view. They have a 12 year-old niece staying with them in their rented house in Gas Street and a male lodger. In 1861 they have the whole house to themselves.  John Dunn died during the next decade. I am not sure when exactly, but some interesting developments were taking place in the Roman Catholic community, of which the Dunn’s were committed members.

            From the early days of the railway the Roman Catholics at Wolverton Station were incorporated into the Parish of Aylesbury and their nearest mass was at Weston Underwood, nine miles away. Not an impossible walk for people in those days but a daunting one which meant trailing through Haversham, Little Linford and Gayhurst. Attendance at mass was in effect a whole day's commitment. After 1860 the Roman Catholic community successfully petitioned the Bishop of Northampton who agreed to establish a parish at Wolverton. Father Francis Cambours was sent there in 1864 and he succeeded in raising £1000 towards the cost of a church. A year later he was replaced by Father William Blackman who was the parish priest number of years. He first lodged with the widow Dunn at 425 Gas Street and I suspect that for a time it served as the Presbytery.

            The new church, built on its present site on the Stratford Road opened in 1867 and was built at a cost of £885. Four years later a Presbytery was built next door to the church and apparently Sarah Dunn contributed over £200, probably her life savings, to this building project. She moved in with Father Blackman to serve as his housekeeper until her death in 1884. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wolverton Blogs

When I become aware of them I do put up links to blogs concerning Wolverton and area.

The most recent is Talk About Wolverton which has connections with the Living Archive and is open to contributors.

I have also featured Matthew Taylor's blog MMT in MK. Matthew (I think) was brought up in Wolverton and writes a regular and lively account of his doings, occasionally touching upon Wolverton.

Narrow Boat Albert is written by Steve and Maggie Parkin and is an excellent blog, with first rate photos, about his comings and goings on our waterways. There are occasional visits to our part of the world and the reports are of interest.

Wolverton 152 is a blog about plans to build a model of Wolverton Station and the accompanying railway lines. One to watch with interest as the project unfolds.

I first came across Iqbal Aalam when he wrote an assessment of the Agora. Iqbal Aalam is an architect who uses his blog to reassess various recent architectural projects after some years of use. He has written about Wolverton's Agora and Stony Stratford's Cofferige Close. He has also touched on other Milton Keynes projects.

Down and Out in Milton Keynes is a newish blog written by a New Zealander who has recently come to live in these parts. There are some very insightful and thoughtful observations here from a woman trying to come to terms with her new environment.

A Darker Trantor is a very unusual blog. The author travels to derelict buildings and photographs them and records his impressions. He has of course visited the abandoned workshops at Wolverton.

William Harvey


William Harvey was one of that army of new men who came from all parts of the British Isles to work at Wolverton. He did what many of his contemporaries did - he worked hard, earned good money, settled in Wolverton and raised his family there. His life is no more remarkable than that except that we know a little about him from Hugh Stowell Brown's autobiography, and because of this, and Census records, I am able to write a little about his life. He stands in my mind as typical of those pioneers who made Wolverton what it later became.

He was born in Darley Abbey, just outside Derby in 1820 and probably came to Wolverton in 1838 when the new Engine Shed needed new workmen. Hugh Stowell Brown came to Wolverton somewhat later and eventually the four young men who also included Edward Hayes and William Mickle decided to find lodgings together. They shared a room in a tiny cottage at Old Wolverton (which probably no longer exists). The agricultural labourer who opened his house to them was William Cox, who was in 1841 living there with his wife Ann and two daughters aged 15 and 9. I imagine that they shared one bedroom and the four young men the other. Brown describes a small downstairs back room which they were able to use as a study.

Brown writes " Harvey was a Derbyshire man, one of the best workmen in the place, and gifted with a dry and pleasant humour." he doesn't tell us much more but I am left with the impression of an unassuming but industrious man - the kind who gets on with the job in hand without a great deal of fuss or fanfare.

At any rate we can follow the rest of his life through public records.
In 1844 he married Martha James and they had two daughters, Mary Jane, named after the two grandmothers, in 1847 and Ann, at the end of 1850. Harvey worked most of his life as an Engine Fitter, a job which required strength and technical knowledge. He was still working at the age of 70, but then recorded as a Brass Finisher, which was presumably lighter work.

The family first lived in Young Street but when new houses were opened up on the Stratford Road hey bought a new house at 24 Stratford Road and lived there for the rest of their lives. The house is still there and is now one of the oldest surviving houses in Wolverton.

The two daughters grew up to become school teachers until they married. Mary Jane married a Wesleyan Minister and moved to Cheshire.

Martha died in 1884 and was outlived by her husband for a further 20 years. After her death he employed a housekeeper.

Were it not for Hugh Stowell Brown's lines I don't expect I would have paid attention to William Harvey but his story stands for many of his generation who were born before the invention of steam railways and who came of age at the moment of their inception, and, who subsequently lived their lives in a railway environment.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wolverton House



There had probably always been a farm house on this site or hereabouts but in 1784 Thomas Harrison, land agent for the Radcliffe Trust and also a farmer, decided to build a substantial house at a cost of £1,800. Besides farming over 400 acres here Harrison had some significant industrial interests in an iron works in Staffordshire. I do not know much about it at present and will cover this in another post, but suffice to say that Thomas Harrison was a man of means with an income far above the £100 per annum he was paid for managing the Trust's affairs in Wolverton.

The house was completed in 1784 and occupied by the Harrison family. After his death in 1809 his son Richard continued to occupy the house with is widowed mother and own family and after Richard died, his widow and son Spencer remained as tenants until 1892, when Grace Harrison died and Spencer and his family retired to the south coast.

Wolverton House was now separated from the farm and let to suitable tenants. Amongst them in the 20th century was Dr Habgood, a Stony Stratford medical practitioner. His son John, who later became Archbishop of York, spent some of his boyhood in what he remembers as a very draughty house in Winter.

After the war it was rented to Buckinghamshire County Council, who used it as a residence for Grammar School and Technical School pupils whose parents were working overseas. After 1958 the schools combined to create the Radcliffe School. I believe that students from overseas boarded here as well. They also used some of the buildings as offices and sometimes the house was used for residential courses.

Today it is used as a pub/restaurant.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Social Responsibility in the Victorian Age

By the time of the opening of the new recreation grounds in 1885 (Wolverton Park) the L&NWR had a good reputation as a benevolent, if paternalistic employer. It did not start out this way. The London and Birmingham Railway Company understandably concentrated their efforts on getting the railway enterprise working efficiently and profitably. The creation of a new town was a necessary by product and not one which was given a great deal of thought. Even before the first terraced cottages were built around the new engine shed concerns were expressed, not about the quality of the housing but whether these houses would interfere with the window light for the workshop. Those first cottages on Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street were very basic and by the 1850s it was difficult to rent them to working families. They were demolished.

The fact is that nobody really understood the relationship between the worker's well-being and their productivity. The lessons were eventually learned but the initiative for social improvement did not start in the Boardroom.

These initiatives came mostly from the Radcliffe Trustees who were by and large well-to-do 18th century gentlemen who saw it as their duty to take care of the people living on the Manor. Later history has tended to overlook their role and attribute most of these improvements to the railway company. Even after St George's was opened The Times attributed everything to the railway company and the Secretary to the Trust, George Bramwell, had to write a stiffly worded letter of correction.

The new town had grown very quickly. Once the workshop and houses had been built on the original 8 acre site the trust sold a further 13 1/2 acres to the south for more housing and the second railway station. Within the space of two years a town had appeared which was approaching the population of Stony Stratford. There were a few shops and a pub but no other amenities.

During the bargaining for the additional land George Carr Glyn, the Chairman of the L&BR agreed to build a school on the one acre that the Trust provided on the corner of Creed Street. It was given on a 99 year lease at a peppercorn rent.

The negotiations for the church proved to be more difficult. There was a church at Old Wolverton but it was not adequate for such a large population. In addition, Henry Quartley, the vicar, was hostile to the new railway people. The Trust was initially willing to provide 2 1/2 acres for a church, vicarage and burial ground and endow a stipend for the incumbent with the expectation that the railway company would cover the cost of construction. In June 1841 Glyn offered £1,000 towards the cost of construction with the assumption that the Radcliffe Trust would pay for everything else. There was no agreement on this and as a temporary measure Glyn agreed to convert one of the schoolrooms into a temporary chapel and pay £50 a year towards the minister's stipend. The Trust put up £100 for this purpose and the Reverend George Weight was hired immediately.

Matters drifted. The Railway Company considered the issue resolved and paid no further attention. However, the Trustees were keen to push towards a permanent solution and they met on 11th June 1842 to try to resolve things. The strongly worded minute reproduced below fairly states the case from their point of view.
The Radcliffe Trust
Minute of the meeting of 11th Jun 1842

            The Trustees again directed their attention to the peculiarly distressing state of the large assemblage of persons who are attracted to the Wolverton Station by the extensive commercial operations of the London & Birming­ham Railway Company but are unhappily destitute of the means of receiv­ing adequate spiritual instruction in consequence of there not having been as yet provided any sufficient place of worship.
            This circumstance having led the Trustees to revert to the subject regard­ing the erection of a church or episcopal chapel and a minister's residence, on a site contiguous to the railway, they feel it a duty incumbent upon them to make a renewed representation to the Directors of the Railway Company and to refer to the resolutions of the Trustees dated r8th June r 840, a copy of which were at that time transmitted to the Directors, by which the Trustees declared their willingness to provide a site for a chapel, for a Minister's residence and for a burying ground, as well as a permanent endowment for a Minister, and moreover to defray hereafter the expense of repairing the chapel and Minister's House.
            To this offer the Trustees added the expression of their hope that the costs of erecting the Chapel and a Minister's House would be provided for by the London & Birmingham Railway Company out of their funds or by voluntary contributions.
            The Trustees observe with regret that little has yet been done to meet the wants of the 1,500 persons at present representing the population of the Station at Wolverton.
            It appears that since the meeting of the Trustees in June 1841 and in consequence of the Resolutions then entered into, the Revd. George Weight has been nominated and licensed by the Bishop of Lincoln as the Chaplain of the Station.
            That a School Room capable of holding 250 persons has been there fitted up as a temporary place for the performance of divine service, but it is found to be very inconvenient and quite inadequate for the purpose.
            It is manifest therefore to the Trustees that every effort ought to be made to remove the evil by providing a becoming and suitable place of worship to be effected by building a plain but substantial chapel capable of holding 600 persons with a burial ground attached thereto and a house for the residence of the Minister.
            The Trustees cannot but entertain the belief as well as hope that the Railway Company will participate in this sentiment and will feel that inde­pendently of religious considerations, it would be even in a merely secular point of view most advantageous that the population which have settled at the Station should have afforded to them the comforts of religious con­solation and the benefit of receiving such spiritual instruction as is deemed to be essential even in the smallest and least populous parishes.
            The Trustees have therefore determined to make a proposal to the Direc­tors of the Railway, the acceptance of which will enable them with greater confidence to apply to the Court of Chancery for permission to devote a proportion of their Trust Funds to the accomplishment of so great and necessary an object.
            The Trustees calculate that the sum of £4,000 will be sufficient to build the Chapel, the Minister's House, and the wall surrounding the burying ground.
            In addition therefore to what the Trustees expressed their willingness to do towards the attainment of these purposes .... they now propose to appropriate £2,000 out of the Trust Funds towards a Building Fund, and earnestly invite the Railway Company out of their Corporate Funds or by private subscriptions to contribute a similar sum with the assurance that as soon as the Railway Company are prepared to lodge in the hands of a Banker £2,000 the Trustees will immediately make an application. 
Presented with this resolution the L&BR agreed to put up £2,000. This money was paid to the Trust and work began in 1843 on the new church and vicarage. It was completed in May 1844.

The other feature of this side of Wolverton's early life was the construction of the Reading Room which also doubled as a chapel for the Wesleyans. This building was erected beside the canal at the Railway Company's expense.

Within a few years of the birth of the new town there were three buildings dedicated to the social, moral and intellectual improvement of the new population. Notice, however, the absence of government. Early Victorian governments were happy to pass Acts of Parliament which gave assent to various enterprises but would have no part in the funding or management of them. Such amenities as Wolverton had came from the paternalistic benificence of two private organizations.