Monday, July 26, 2010

Haversham Bridge

My attention has just been drawn to the Haversham Bridge when I was reminded that the older road bridge was washed away in a flood in 1939. This photograph, taken on October 18th 1939 from the Wolverton side, shows the result.

This bridge was then replaced by a "Bailey Bridge". These were a wartime cantilever design used by the army in WWII and it was a fast and sensible solution to link Haversham and Wolverton - and Castlethorpe and Hanslope too. Unfortunately this temporary solution, which was a very narrow bridge, lasted for about 20 years. Two small cars, say Austin A30s, could pass, but for a van or lorry it was a single lane. Traffic was very light in those days and so no traffic lights were needed. 
In about 1958 or 9 work started on a new bridge. The contractor, Caffins, had their trailer parked there for a least a year and it seemed to me that the building took an extraordinarily long time. As I say, traffic was light in those days, so it was not a major inconvenience.
Two of Wolverton's most notorious drunken roustabouts worked on this project. I won't mention their names, but you could pick up the Wolverton Express on any given week and find one or the other up on a charge of assault or affray in the Magistrate's Court. I am told that they were barred from most pubs in the district.
The road to Haversham was re-routed several times. Originally it turned off the Old Wolverton Road to the west of the old railway line and crossed the river beside Mead Mill. The drawing below, prepared by George Stephenson, shows the diversion and takes the new road alongside the east embankment, probably joining the old wooden bridge shown in the engraving further below. As you can see from the pencil marks the route of the old road was typical in that it went round fields rather than cutting a straight path. The new viaduct and railway line did bring about some straightening.

After the loop line was constructed in 1881 (now the present railway line) the road was moved again, now joining the Bradwell-Wolverton Road half way up the hill by the Drill Hall. It is possible that a newer bridge on brick pillars was built at this time. Mead Mill had in any case been abandoned at this date and there was no need for the bridge to be closer to the viaduct.


And finally, a view from an engraving of 1839, which shows a ramshackle old wooden bridge that probably served well in the era of horse and cart.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Comedians

Travelling performers had been a feature of European life since at least the Middle Ages so it is no particular surprise to find a group showing up in Wolverton in the 1851 Census, although it is pure chance. Travelling players could have been in Wolverton on any other week in a ten year period and we would be entirely ignorant. There are, to my knowledge, no surviving playbills or contemporary accounts of such goings on, and local newspapers were yet to be invented in that part of the world. This accidental vignette does show us that there was money to be made in what must have been a hard life on the road. I imagine that after a 56 hour working week, Wolverton's citizens were only too happy to be entertained.
On the night of the census in 1851, both the Radcliffe Arms and the New Inn accommodated the players.
The Rogers family were at the nucleus of this group, spanning three generations: Thomas and Mary Rogers, both 64, their son, also Thomas, with his wife Ann and four children, their daughter Caroline and the man she later married, John Wade Clinton, and two actors in their early twenties, just starting on a career, Charles and Caroline Brown. There was certainly enough of them to form a small acting company, capable of taking on most of the popular dramas of the day. The emphasis was on "light" entertainment and heavy tragedy left to the sophisticates of the London stage. The melodrama was the great favourite. These plays had a plot line which usually boiled down to Dick Dastardly threatening the Virtue of the pale, innocent and defenceless heroine, but thankfully foiled by the manly hero. In addition they might perform short sketches from the Commedia del Arte tradition and do a few comic "turns". They are all recorded in the Census as "Comedians", which would mean that they would perform the repertoire described above rather than do stand-up comedy as we would understand it today. In later censuses the women style themselves as "Actress" and John Wade Clinton gives his profession as "Lecturer and Comedian" which might suggest some changes in their repertoire.
Thomas Rogers the elder was born in Christchurch, Hampshire in 1786. His wife Mary was born in London so it is fair to assume that they met while touring. The family turns up in Warminster in 1841, all of the part of the family business. Their son Thomas is married to Ann with the beginnings of their family. There are three daughters, Amelia, 20, Augusta, 18 and Caroline, 15. Amelia and Augusta disappear from the Census after this date, presumably due to marriage. It is possible they continued their careers.
Some measure of the itinerant lifestyle can be taken from the places of birth of the children of Thomas and Ann Rogers -Agnes in Arlesford, Lavinia in Wimborne, Leonard at Henley in Arden, Amelia at Christchurch, Alfred at Wimborne, Clara in Somerset. After Caroline married John Wade Clinton, their children were born in Arlesford, Shaftesbury, Stallbridge and Bridport. In every census they are staying at Inns or in lodgings.
Thomas and Mary Rogers probably died with their acting boots on but the next generations appear to move towards more settled professions. Thomas Rogers the younger, his wife Ann, and two of their daughters settle as Innkeepers at Wootton Basset in their 60s. One son, Leonard became a telegraph supervisor in derbyshire and another, Alfred, a bank manager. John Wade Clinton started up a photography business in London's West End. I have not been able to follow Charles and Caroline Brown.
On 30th March 1851, Thomas, the elder and Mary Rogers, John Wade Clinton and Caroline Rogers were staying at the Radcliffe Arms. The New Inn put up Thomas and Ann Rogers and their four children as well as Charles and Caroline Brown. We don't know how long they stayed - I suppose for as many performances as could be booked, possibly a week. I imagine they performed at the Reading Room at Wolverton, this being the only building (apart from the school) able to accommodate this sort of activity.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bradwell Windmill



There is something very attractive about windmills and they appear to generate more interest than watermills. Bradwell Windmill still stands after two centuries but it was only used for 71 years of its life as a working mill, closing in 1876.
I have reproduced the text below of a duplicated sheet produced by the Council. It is dated 1956 and someone in my family paid 3d for it. One curiosity is the last paragraph: No responsibility can be accepted by the Council for any accident, injury, or loss sustained by any person while in, or in the precincts of, the windmill. Obviously this disclaimer was sufficient in 1956 to protect the Council from lawsuits.



WOLVERTON URBAN  DISTRICT

BRADWELL WINDMILL


The Windmill is built of stone and dates back to the late 17th or early 18th century. It is the oldest tower mill in Buckinghamshire and is included in the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest which has been compiled under S. 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.

The Mill is old enough to be of interest both on account of its design, and as an example of how grain was milled in bygone days.

When in use the Mill was driven, by four sails with a span of about 52 feet, on which there were sailcloth “curtains” that the miller could draw across at will.

As reconstructed the sails are shortened to reduce their weight.
All the roof cap rotated, and the miller kept the sails into the wind by
means of gearing and the wheel and chain still to be seen.

The mill has two main floors above the ground, The first floor carried two sets of grindstones, one for wheat and the other for barley; a flour dresser consisting of a drum of perforated metal in which long brushes revolved; and the main vertical driving shaft from the sails. An interesting feature was the governor arrangements which increased the pressure on the millstones as the speed of the sails quickened, and acted conversely when the wind dropped. The millstones have been lowered to the ground floor for safety, but parts of the flour dresser and governors can still be soon.

The second floor was the garner, which contained most of the hoisting gear and the hoppers from which the grain was fed down through shutes to the centres of the millstones below, the flour then emerging from the periphery of the stones.

An extra section of floor has boon laid at the top of the mill to give access to the huge brake wheel, sail shaft, and other gearing and mechanism.

When in 1949 the mill was acquired by the Council the roof had collapsed, the sails were beyond repair and the interior was in decay.            

Gradually the mill has been restored by pointing the tower; building a now roof of traditional design; reconstructing the sails; and repairing the mechanism, floors, timbers and ladders.

The cost of acquiring the mill was £80 and that of restoring it, £1,910.
Towards the latter, a sum of £500 was contributed by The Pilgrim Trust and £558 by the Bucks County Council and £180 came from other outside sources; leaving an amount of £752 which was met locally.

The Council appeals to visitors to respect the property which is maintained at public expense.

No responsibility can be accepted by the Council for any accident, injury, or loss sustained by any person while in, or in the precincts of, the windmill.

Council Offices, Market Square, Stony Stratford, Wolverton, Bucks.
1956.


The mill was built by Samuel Holman in 1805 and operated by him until his death in 1825. Thereafter it was run by his widow and son.
It was probably sold after this and the  millers thereafter appear to be tenants.
In the 1841census William Carr is the miller. He appears to come from the long standing family of millers at Haversham Mill, sometimes known as Carr's Mill. He iis recorded here with his wife Frances, both with given ages of 50. They have two sons, John, aged 14 and William 12. They also employ a 20 year old William Lambert to assist with the working of the mill.
A few years later they moved to Castlethorpe Mill, where they are recorded for the next two censuses. I don’t know much about mills, but I would imagine that a watermill (as Castlethorpe Mill was) would have been more productive than a windmill, due to a constant source of power.
The miller in 1851 was George James, born in Bradwell 33 years earlier. He has with him a 24 year old wife Mary and their 1 year old son Edwin. They employ a 13 year old female domestic servant Harriet Morris and John Colley, a 20 year old miller’s assistant. But by the next census he has changed his trade to that of carpenter and the mill is in the hands of William James, 55, possibly an older brother.
The 1871 miller was Robert Saxby from Kent. He was 50 and with quite a large brood with him. There are 9 children ranging from 22 to 1.
Saxby was certainly a career miller. Starting in Kent, he moved to Weston underwood for a few years prior to his move to Bradwell. After 1876 he moved with his large family to the Eling Tide Mill in Hampshire. In 1881 it is occupied as a residence  but not as a working mill. 
The turnover would suggest that this was not an economic mill, except perhaps in its early days.
It was pretty much derelict for the first half of the 20th Century. As can be seen from the above document, the Council acquired it for a mere £80 in 1949, which was possibly all it was worth.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Carnival Parade

Judging from my father's appearance in this photo I would estimate the date of this to be 1927 or 1928. This is obvioously part of  Summer tradition of parading floats around Wolverton. I don't know if this happens nowadays. Clearly there was a Dutch theme to this float.
The photograph was taken by F Bavey, 100 Anson Road.

More theatricals


I've just turned up this postcard. It's inscribed Souvenir photograph of Grand Pantomime "Cinderella".
It is dated Wolverton October 1928. I think I can see my aunt in this. She was then about 19. I don't know any of the others, although it is possible that some of the younger ones in this picture are still alive.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Bradwell in 1851

Prior to the new railway houses what later became New Bradwell didn't amount to much. There was a Windmill House above the canal occupied by George James, the miller, and his family. Nearby, and still occupying this site, was the New Inn, and there were two houses listed at Bradwell Wharf, which I think may have been on the east side of the Bradwell Road.
The area also records a "Roadside Cottage" and a "Grove Cottage", although there is no way of determining the location from these documents. A Toll Gate House  is presumably located on the Newport Road - then called the Turnpike. The only other occupied house in this area, occupied by Thomas Clarridge and his family and some lodgers is called "Puddle House" in the 1851 Census. The same house is unnamed in 1861, although occupied by the same family. Clarridge was employed by the Grand Junction Canal, so it is safe to assume that he was living beside the canal.                

The making of New Bradwell

On March 9th 1853, a sub-committee of the L&NWR Works Committee met at Euston to review tenders for a new development at Wolverton. The committee of four included Joseph Ledsam, Richard Moon, Admiral Moorsom and the Honourable P. Pierrepoint. Ledsam and Moorsom had both been involed with the railway from the early years and Richard Moon was subsequently to become Chairman of the Company. Wolverton needed to expand but the Company had reached an impasse with the Radcliffe Trustees who felt that they had given up enough land and refused to part with any more. Accordingly, the L&NWR had acquired 19 acres from Earl Spencer of Althorp in Stantonbury, just down the hill from Wolverton Station. 15 acres of this was a sloping field bounded by the Newport Road, Bradwell Road and what later became St James Street, and at the south end, a line bounding the canal property. A further 4 acres was later developed as Corner Pin.

The minute reads:
In accordance with Minute of Locomotive Committee Feby 22nd. 1853 Tenders were received by advertisement for Houses and Cottages at Wolverton including,
14 Houses for Foremen
4 Cottages with shops
60 First Class Cottages
40 Second Class Cottages
Total 118

Fifteen tenders were submitted ranging from £20,611 to £28,632 and the lowest, from a Mr. Parnell for  £20,611 9s 4d was accepted and recommended to the General Committee. It is noteworthy that the committee were careful to ask their own engineer to make an estimate for comparison with the bids. His was £21,516.
Additional tenders for roads and drains were also scrutinied and again the lowest bid from Mr. Firbank for £1341 4s 8d was recommended.

The first parts of the new village were the south side of the High Street, Spencer Street and Bridge Street. These streets were not so imaginatively named originally, being High Street, Middle Street and Top Street. Middle Street and Top Street were renamed Spencer and Bridge Streets at the end of the century.

At the same time as construction of these new houses was going on three streets to the north of the Engine Shed in Wolverton, Garnett St., Cooke St. and Walker St., were being demolished to make room for worskshop expansion. This amounted to approximately 40 cottages, which were in any case much inferior to the new ones in Stantonbury, so I expect the new cottages were filled as quickly as they were built.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Living Archive


Last Thursday I met with Eve Watson, the Archivist at Wolverton's Living Archive project. She was kind enough to show me the range of artefacts they had collected over the years, tape recordings, photographs, letters and other paraphernalia. She also introduced e to some of the volunteers who were beavering away at the huge task of digitizing this archive.
Later I met the enthusiastic and imaginative Roger Kitchen, one o the co-founders of this proect, which began an astonishing 26 years ago. So at the very moment that Milton Keynes was coming together as a recognisable entity there were people with the vision to understand that there was a cultural history pre-Milton Keynes which ought to be preserved. I regret that those of us from earlier generations did not have the same foresight. As I noted in my previous post we were not much interested in what we saw as our immediate past.
Eve and Roger and other staff members at the Living Archive are now working to get their accumulated material together with other submissions. You can find the Living Archive here, and The online site here.
I think the site is still under development but it is my understanding that once you register you can submit your own archival material directly to the site. Nothing, in my view, should be considered too trivial or insignificant; it is the accumulation of these artefacts that builds a better picture of the past and helps to correct erroneous assumptions.

Spencer Street


First, a confession. When I heard that there was a movement to preserve these houses when they were planning to demolish these streets back in the late 1960s I was incredulous. Why on earth, I thought, would anyone want to preserve these characterless terraces constructed in (to my aesthetic) a rather ugly yellow brick? Well, I was wrong (not for the first time in my life) and the campaigners more visionary than I gave them credit for.
The planters and the greenery and the absence of car parking at the front does a great deal for the appearance of the terrace, but the rather sickly yellow ochre colour of the brick has acquired a patina or has perhaps been neutralized over time to a more acceptable beige. I like it.
I had a brief conversation with a young man sporting hair that had been dyed white and pink and he told me that he enjoyed living there and that there was a good community spirit in new Bradwell. I would note from the wide open windows in all houses on this rather sultry day that insulation is not as good as it could be.