Monday, May 31, 2010

The Gables

Phillip Webb mentioned that there had been ye another fire at The Gables and suggested that it may be time to tear it down. Perhaps. It's been there for almost 50 years and other than affording a fine aerial view of Wolverton and district I doubt if it has much more to recommend it.

It does occur to me that after all this time few people in Wolverton know why this particular high rise block of flats is called "The Gables". Here is a brief history.

The premier job in Wolverton was that of Works Manager. The first works manager, Edward Bury, lived at the Parsonage at Great Linford after May 1841. He was succeeded by J E McConnell, who lived at Wolverton Park House. His successors lived in one of the villas. Richard Bore lived in the much enlarged Villa 338 until he retired and it was then pulled down to make room for workshop expansion.  I should mention here that the construction of a suitably large house for Richard Bore was discussed by the Board at the time of his move from Saltley, but there was no action taken when Henley Villa became available.
The new house, called The Gables, on an acreage south of Ledsam Street was a substantial house although not a large house by 19th century standards. In dimensions it was approximately 40 feet square with a large kitchen and scullery addition. The downstairs plan provided for a Morning Room, Drawing Room, Dining Room and Study. Upstairs offered three large bedrooms, a dressing room and a bathroom and the attic floor provided quarters for the servants. So while The Gables represented Wolverton’s largest house it was by no means palatial and was in keeping with Wolverton’s democratic foundation. It has to be said that although there was a hierarchy of workers in Wolverton, everyone was a worker, a circumstance that had a great bearing on the political leanings of Wolverton in the 20th century. Apart from the Villas, which I will discuss in the next chapter, larger houses were scarce in Wolverton. A few three storey terraced houses started to appear in Church Street in the 1860s but Wolverton would have to wait until the 1890s for roomier housing stock. In that decade more spacious houses were built on the Square, in between Cambridge and Windsor Streets on both the Stratford Road and Church Street, and on Green lane the two large houses known as The Beeches and Yiewsley.

            Richard Bore retired as Superintendent in 1886 and moved back to Birmingham with his third wife. He was replaced by the young Charles Archibald Park, then barely 30 years old, who became the first occupant of The Gables. He was a single man on his appointment and the 1891 Census records only a housekeeper and servant; Park was staying with relatives in Haworth Yorkshire on that day. He was the son of John Carter Park, himself an eminent mechanical engineer. In 1891 he married his cousin Marion Redman, the daughter of a Yorkshire mill owner and by the time of the 1901 census they had two daughters and a vastly expanded complement of servants.

            Park may take the credit for transforming Wolverton Carriage Works into the leading factory of its kind in the country. When he took over from Richard Bore the L&NWR was lagging behind its competitors in both the quality and design of its carriage stock. Park changed that. Not immediately, because he had to come out from under the controlling thumb of the Chairman, Sir Richard Moon. Once Moon retired in 1891, Park was free to implement his designs, which were built on a frame supported by six wheel bogies and were equal in quality to the American Pullman Cars. The designs were first applied to dining cars and sleeping cars which then led to the concept of the corridor train where travelers could access the dining cars from any point in the train on their journey. It was in part because of its dominant position as a railway company and in part because it had most of the major trunk routes that the L&NWR designs began to set the standard, but C.A. Park can take credit for leading the Company, and Wolverton, from its somewhat secondary position in the 1880s.

            The Gables survived for less than 100 years and it was demolished in 1963. The tower block is hardly a worthy successor and one doubts that it will last even as long as its eponymous predecessor. This consent for its demolition, like so many of the decisions affecting buildings in Wolverton, was a company decision - by this time British Railways. There were no public hearings, nor was there any public outcry.


andrewbore said...

Fascinating. My great great grandfather was Richard Bore, who lived in 338, Henley Cottage. One small mistake, though. It was his third wife, my great great grandmother, that he took to Birmingham and later to Leamington Spa.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Thank you for the correction. What I put up on the blog was an extract from my book "The Lost Streets of Wolverton" which was more concerned with reconstructing the early town. I did some rudimentary research on Richard Bore but I did not go too deeply into his life. It was interesting to encounter exceptional people like your gg grandfather who came from an agricultural background but intuitively understood the potential of mechanical engineering - possibly like today's generation who see potential in things like the iphone.

John Price said...

Hi Andrew
My great, great, grandfather was a second cousin to Richard Bore
I intend to visit his grave in Leamington Spa soon
All the best

Andrew Bore said...

Hi John
What was your gg grandfather's name?