Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10,000

A milestone of sorts. Today the counter on my site clicked over 10,000 page views. I am sure that this is not remarkable, but it is interesting to me.
I started this blog two years ago in September 2008 for the reasons I state on the masthead, but with no idea whether it would be even remotely interesting to more than six people, but, as Magnus Magnusson used to say, "I've started, so I will continue." There is still lots of interesting stuff out there and could keep me going for a few more years.
I added the counter on September 24th last year, so I have no idea what the readership was before this. I assume  it takes time. There wasn't much activity in April and May, either on my part or by my readers, but  since then hits have exceeded  1,200 a month.
In the wide kingdom of blogoland this is probably very small beer indeed, but I am glad there is interest and thank you for reading my witterings.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bartholemew Maps

Ferreting around in a flea market in Wimborne today I came across a collection of Bartholemew's Half Inch Maps. I loved these maps when I was young. They were easy to read and detailed enough for a cyclist and the scale meant that they covered sufficient territory that one map was all you needed to take with you. The contours were coloured so that you could take in the terrain at a glance. Contour lines on OS Maps were always the same colour and sometimes hard to read. The other nice feature about these maps was the mounting of the printed paper panels on cloth so that they could be folded without damage.
This map is dated 1957 and originally cost 5s - 25p in today's monetary translation. My original disappeared years ago, so I replaced it today for £2.50!

Here we have the Milton Keynes area pre-Milton Keynes. It's all very rural. Coffee Hall and Bleak Hall were just farms. Willen, Broughton, Milton keynes, Wavendon, Woughton, Walton and Woolstone were all tiny villages. Only Bletchley was growing. The land between Bletchley and Fenny Stratford had been infilled and new estates had been planted at Denbigh hall, Beltchley Park and Water Eaton. Galley Hill at Stony Stratford is curiously marked, although it was open fields. The Old Wolverton Road had no industrial development.
Wolverton itself shows the extension of Windsor Street and Gloucester Road and Marina Drive. You can also see the Bradville Estate where it says Stanton High.
All in all, a very underpopulated part of England compared to the present.

Another Wolverton

Slightly off topic this, but I was cycling through northern Hampshire yesterday and when I saw a sign indicating Wolverton, I thought I would take a little detour - just for comparison purposes.
It turns out that this Wolverton is a scattered village, not unlike Wolverton in Buckinghamshire used to be, but without any development such as Stony Stratford on its fringe.
It turns out that this was once a royal manor, subsequently held by various magnates and in the 19th century became one of the Duke of Wellington's properties. It is still part of the Wellington estate, and this probably explains why it has scarcely developed beyond a few cottages for estate workers.



Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Population in 1086

The Domesday description of Wolverton gives us some way of estimating the population almost 1000 years ago.
Land for 20 ploughs; In lordship 9 hides; 5 ploughs there.
32 villagers with 8 smallholders have 10 ploughs; a further 5 possible.
10 slaves; 2 mills at 32s 8d; meadow for 9 ploughs.
The villagers were most likely the villeins, that is those whose right to the land were tied to service on the lord's demesne. The smallholders were probably freemen whose use of the land was not tied to service. The slaves probably worked the mills, the "morter pitts" and performed other functions on the lord's demesne. The two mills were likely to have been on the sites of later mills - Wolverton Mill and Mead Mill, which disappeared in the middle of the 19th century. This latter mill was close to the present railway viaduct.

These numbers record men only so if we take an average of 4 per family, these 50 men might translate into a population of 200, surprisingly, about the same number of inhabitants in the parish in 1800. There are reasons for that which I will discuss in another post.

The impact of the Norman Conquest

The so-called Domesday Book of 1086 offers us an interesting insight into the totality of the change after 1066. The entry in the survey records this:
Three thanes held this manor. One of them, Godwin, Earl Harold's man, had 10 hides; the second, Thori, one of King Edward's guards, had 7 1/2 hides; the third, Aelfric, Queen Edith's man, had 2 1/2 hides; they could all sell to whom they would.
I should pause to explain the hide - a unit of measurement now unfamiliar to us as we subsequently measured land in acres and now apparently in hectares, which are about as much as a mystery as hides! The hide was understood to be the amount of land that could support a household and is generally considered to be 120 acres. The measurement could be elastic. A hide of poorer land would cover more actual terrain than a hide of good arable soil. The hide was used for tax assessment purposes. In Wolverton's case we can take the 120 acre measurement as pretty close since it was assessed at 20 hides and the measured coverage of the Wolverton Manor is about 2,500 acres.

After the Conquest Maigno le Breton acquired some 15,000 acres, most of it in Buckinghamshire, but some in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Herfordshire. The best of it may have been Wolverton and this may be in part why he centred his barony here.

The three thanes were well-connected. Godwin served King Harold (always referred to as Earl Harold in Domesday since William did not acknowledge his title to the throne); Thori was one of King Edward's housecarles and Aelfric was a guard for Queen Edith. Aelfric does not appear anywhere else in Domesday, so his 2 1/2 hides was a relatively small holding, although sufficient to maintain himself as a fighting man. Godwin's 10 hides, or 1200 acres, also appears to be the limit of his landholdings, but Thori owned the Manor of Thornborough and a few other parcels which gave him about 2,800 acres. I don't think we can accurately determine which parts of the manor each had, but we could deduce that Godwin had the northern land based on Manor Farm, Thori, the western part based on warren farm, and Aelfric, the smaller eastern part based on Stonebridge House farm, or possibly Bancroft.

The significant phrase "they could sell to whom they would" meant that their rights to the land were not tied to service as it became after the conquest. In other words it was understood that they had free title.
This became meaningless after the Conquest because the land was simply appropriated by the invaders. It is highly probable that all three men and their brothers and sons were part of the army that tried to resist the invasion. They may not have survived, but even if they did, they were dispossessed. What happened to them and their families is unrecorded.

One of the important distinctions between Saxon and Norman society lay in land ownership. Thanes were granted land by the king for their service. This land could be inherited by the Thane's heirs and in this way some families built up extensive estates. Burgred of Olney, for example, not only had the manor of Olney but also possessed several manors in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. His son, Edwin, owned the manors of Lathbury and Sherington, so there were indications of dynastic growth. The Norman's changed this. William appropriated everything to the crown and then allocated most of it to his tenants-in-chief. They in turn let their holdings to their supporters. The land could be, and was, taken back by the king for any treasonous or disloyal behaviour, so nobody really "owned" anything. People enjoyed customary rights to land which could be passed to their inheritors but their was no land ownership in the sense that the Saxons understood it nor as we would understand it today. This system held until the 19th century.

Land ownership by the Thanes meant that their land could be and was subdivided, for example between two sons. The system of primogeniture practised scrupulously by the Norman aristocracy was not necessarily a part of Saxon culture. The consequence of this can be seen in the rather large number of Thanes with relatively small landholdings. There were about 4,000 Thanes recorded in Domesday - all in the top rank of Anglo Saxon society (at least in theory) but in many cases little better off economically than the average Ceorl. (A Ceorl rented but did not own land.)

Governance must have changed. Three smaller lords on the manor were replaced by a powerful magnate. The interests of Wolverton were now a part of a much larger estate. The transformation may have been akin to Parish Councils being replaced by more centralized bodies in the last century.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Common Lands


As I have already mentioned the great part of the manor to the south was not considered suitable arable land in earlier centuries. The Greenleys area, the Ardwell Fields (from OE aeord - meaning rough), the Furzes and the Bushy Fields were given over to pasture for the cattle and pigs. After enclosure these fields were used for sheep grazing, which was highly profitable when wool was about the only substance used for textiles. 
While the open field system was still in operation this land would not have been enclosed and may have resembled a heath. 
The land enclosure took a number of years as the Longuevilles exercised their seigneurial prerogatives but it was certainly complete by 1654. At this time the Parson was given a plot of land just beyond the present cemetary, appropriately named "Parson's piece".

I wonder now if the development of Wolverton might not have been different if the original Engine Shed and houses had been built in Three Bush Field. The Railway Company would still have had access to the canal and Green Lane could have been improved as a good road from the Newport Road to Stony Stratford. What difference would this have made? Well, Wolverton could have been built on the less productive land and it is possible that the Radcliffe Trustees may have had less objection than they did have when Wolverton grew on its most productive land.
In 1837 however, no-one was thinking that far ahead.

The Lord's Demesne

A lord was the pivotal figure in the manorial system which emerged after 1066. His wealth came from appropriating the best land for himself and requiring the peasantry on his manor to work his land for him. You could view this as a modified form of slavery or as a kind of tax in kind. In return the peasant got sufficient land for himself and his family and a certain security of tenure. Most scholars now believe that the so-called Feudal System never quite operated in the pure form I have described and that certainly after the plague years in the middle of the 14th century the old system gave way to one based upon money.
The first invader, Maigno le Breton, established a motte and bailey castle near to the present site of Holy Trinity church and laid claim to the adjoining land for his demesne (domain). This would include the later fields, Great Dickens,  Ratcliffe Close, Fiddler's Butts, Morter Pitts, Home Park, High Park, Park Meadow, Low Park, Kiln Close and Ludwin's Closes.
Fiddler's Butts was probably used for archery practice and Francis Hyde suspects that Ratcliffe Close was also used for recreational purposes. The Morter Pitts would have been used to extract lime and there were obviously kilns on the present site of Wolverton Park House. Low Park was the original village settlement.

The Open Fields

Medieval Farming was based upon large open fields which were communally farmed. The lord controlled rights of access to the land, usually in return for payment of a portion of produce, or services, or money, or sometimes a combination of all three. From the labourers point of view these rights were customary and could be passed from father to son and so on. Typically 30 acres was held to be sufficient to support a family. The local picture was often more complicated than this, but as a general description this is how the manor worked. The large fields were divided into strips and crops were rotated each year. I think there was originally a two field system, but in time this gave way to a three field system, so that a field could be left fallow one year in every three.
Francis Hyde explains that one of the fields extended from Stony Stratford to the mill drive and was bordered to the south by the Wolverton Road. Thus all the fields named Rylands - a good giveaway to the arable properties of the soil - were in this field.

The second field was to the south of the Wolverton Road, starting at the corner turn and encompassing Barr Piece and Barr Close, Marron Fields, Dean's Close,  Roger's Holm and Lower Slade.  This, as you can see from the overlay, is mostly covered by the Railway Works, McCorquodale's and the 19th century town.
Barr (OE baere) means barley and plainly takes its name from what was grown there. It is likely that the name Atterbury, often found in Wolverton and area, can trace its origin from this or a similar named field in the area. When surnames originated in the 14th century people were quite as likely to take thier name from the place where they lived. Thus John atte Barre (John at the Barley Field) became in time, Atterbury.
I am not certain of the origin of Marron, but it may possibly come from the Old English maere, meaning great


The third field included Colt's Holm, Linces, Upper Hey, Kent's Hook and Debb's Hook and the Severidge. Great Dickens (great diggings) was probably part of the lord's demesne. Linces, from linchets meaning ledges of ploughed earth gives us a clue as to how this land was traditionally used. Kent's Hook and Debb's Hook, meaning Kent's and Debb's corner respectively are also ancient Saxon names.

Nash Meadow, beside the river, was always pasture land.

Field Names on the Wolverton Manor

After discussing the Pancake Hills and the Happy Morn, I thought I would look into the names of the fields  around Wolverton. As I remarked before, just as we now name streets, our predecessors named fields and local landmarks, like "Two Mile Ash" for example.
The pioneering history on this subject was undertaken by Dr. Francis Hyde, formerly a professor of Economic History at Liverpool University. He was, I believe, a Stony Stratford boy who went to the Wolverton County School at Moon Street and from there to university. He wrote a small 40 page history of Wolverton about 1939 (I am not sure of the date) and collaborated with Sir Frank Markham on a History of Stony Stratford in the 1940s. In his subsequent academic career he became an expert in the 19th century shipping trade to the Far East.
The Wolverton Manor was cleared by the ruling de Longueville family in the 17th century. It was one of the earliest land clearances and thus there are no legal records. In fact the predatory Longuevilles appropriated most of the land illegally. I'll return to this subject in another post.  After The Radcliffe Trust took over in 1713 the manor came under more responsible management and a map of all the fields was drawn up in 1742. Many of these field names date from Saxon times.
Some of these names have been preserved in the names of housing developments, first by Wolverton UDC and latterly by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation. Stacey Avenue, built in the 1930s, took its name from Stacey Farm, which had previously taken its name from the field called Stacey Bushes. In the 1940s, the post war construction of Furze Way, was named after the fields known as Hodge Furze. More recently, the 1960s development of Fuller's Slade, took its name from one of the fields in that area, and the subsequent development of Greenleys assumed the name of the fields over which it has been built.
The names of these fields tell us that this higher land was probably not the most fertile on the manor. "Stacey" comes from the Old English word stocc, meaning stock or stump. So Stacey Bushes would have meant stumpy bushes - land which had been partially cleared of woodland but leaving a lot of stumps in the ground and some growth of bushes, and presumably mainly used as grazing pasture. Those of us who remember the Moon Street school in its earlier years will recollect how rough and undulating some of the playing fields were, as was the field rising up to Stacey Farm.
Furze is a common name given to spiny evergreen shrubs which still grow abundantly today on waste land. One can therefore infer that Hodge Furze, presumably named after a man named Hodge, was more or less waste ground. Much of Hodge Furze was built up in the first half of the twentieth century, while parts were converted to allotments - so there must have been some fertility in the land.
Greenleys covers a number of fields with slight variations in name - Great Greenleys, Greenleys, Greenleys Ten Acres, Little Grindley and Front Grindley (bordering on the Watling street). This was green meadow land - pastures.
A slade (OE slaed) is a patch of green land, sometimes in a valley, but probably in this case between wooded area. The name possibly comes from the man who owned it - Fowler, perhaps.
I have taken a 1930s map and drawn over the field boundaries in yellow. With the exception of the development of Wolverton and parts of Stony Stratford, the field boundaries were virtually unchanged from the 18th century. Many of these fields have now gone with the last half-century's development. Only the northern part of the manor retains some of its fields, and even now these are quickly disappearing.
Francis Hyde describes a large area of waste land, starting at the marshy West Moor by the Stony Stratford Bridge, working along the Watling Street and encircling Warren Farm and taking in most of the southern part of the Manor beyond Green Lane, including Stacey Farm. Brook Fields, to the east, where the remains of Bancroft Villa are to be found, was fertile. All of this land was probably common grazing land or was wooded in medieval times. The three great open fields, farmed communally in the Medieval system, were in the north, mostly beyond the present Stratford Road.
I will show larger versions of sections of the map in subsequent posts and describe them in more detail.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Happy Morn


On the general topic of place names arising for no obvious reason I present you with the "Happy Morn", or , as spoken by most Wolvertonians, "The 'Appy Morn".
This was a small copse or spinney beside the Stratford Road opposite what used to be the Old Wolverton turn. I have marked it on the map with a green dot.  The copse had no special significance that I know of. It was gated at the Stratford Road and at the field entrance to the footpath. The footpath, an ancient right of way, led to the old Green Lane beside the Cemetary.
There is no known reason why this copse should be so named, although I could think of some fanciful ones. It harkens back to an agricultural age where every field had a name, as did every wood, copse, spinney or pond - these places having the same need to be named as our streets do today.

The Pancake Hills

I was asked this week how the "Pancake Hills" got their name. The truth is, I don't know and I suspect it is yet another case where a name emerges, is quickly adopted, and then becomes commonplace, while the origin is forgotten.

For those of you who don't know, Wolverton's "Pancake Hills" were mounds of earth beside the canal in the field where I have placed the green oval.  They were probably dug out from the canal cutting when it came through in 1780 and surplus to any need to build embankments and such. As hills they would seem big enough to a small child but an adult would see in them no more than a large mound of earth. I suspect some wag called them the "pancake hills" because as hills go they were "as flat as a pancake."
The name stuck. A century and a half later you could mention the pancake hills in Wolverton and everyone knew exactly where they were.
I understand that this is going to be a new housing development. It may be that these new houses rise higher than the pancake hills ever did.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Bradwell Pubs

I've remarked before about the comparative abundance of pubs in New Bradwell compared to Wolverton's meagre rationing and I am not sure why that would be the case. In any event those numbers are much reduced today.

The New Inn was pre-existing when the Stantonbury development began and I have described it in an earlier post.

The first of the new pubs was probably The Railway Tavern on Glyn Street. I say probably because there is conflicting evidence. Marion Hill, in her book on the history of Bradwell dates The Forester's Arms at 1854 as the first pub and the New Bradwell Heritage site dates the Railway Tavern at 1864.
The Railway Tavern on Glyn Street
I may have to return to this subject, but this is what I have found. The early plan of the town shows one public house on what later became Glyn Street. At that point the section of town to the east of the Bradwell Road - Harwood Street, North Street and Thompson Street had not been developed. Both the Railway Tavern, under the landlordship of John Harris, and The Forester's Arms, under the landlordship of Thomas Copson, are recorded in the 1861 Census. The LNWR Board minutes of 1854 make reference to only one public house, so it would be my guess that the Railway Tavern was the first new public house, followed by the Forester's Arms a few years later.  As in the development of Wolverton, pubs preceded church or chapel. The Railway Tavern  probably opened for business in the latter half of 1854. It did close around 1959 and has been replaced by new housing.
Moira Courtman's map showing the new development c. 1860

Similar confusion seems to prevail over the dates of  The Cuba Hotel and The County Arms. Dennis Mynard in his book on Milton Keynes give a date of "about 1854" for the County Arms, as does Marion Hill and I have seen a date of 1879 recorded. The date for the Cuba is given as 1864. Neither place is recorded in the 1861 Census, but the Kelly's Directory of 1864 records both The County Arms (landlord, Richard Hepwell) and The Cuba Hotel (landlord, William Harding). Since the data for the 1864 directory was likely collected in 1863 it seems fair to assume that both were built between 1861 and 1863. Croydon's Weekly Standard records aa auction sale of 20 Corner Pin lots held at the County Arms on 2 May 1864. I can't find any earlier mentions. However it would be reasonable to conclude that the hotel was built in the early 1860s at the same time as the Corner Pin development.

The Forester's Arms as it appears today, not much changed


The Forester's Arms is still operating after 150 years on the Newport Road as is the Cuba. The Cuba has walled up its corner entrance. It has a very exotic name and I am not sure how it originated. I would be very interested to find out.
The Cuba Hotel at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. It also doubled as a Post Office at this time.


The County Arms at Corner Pin, at that time actually on the Newport Road, which was later re-routed, was perhaps the largest of the Bradwell pubs and is still an imposing building.
The County Arms about 100 years ago.


The last pub to be built on the Newport Road in New Bradwell was the Morning Star, at more-or-less the limit of where anything could be safely built on the Ouse flood plain. It is no longer there. It was left derelict after a fire in the 1960s and pulled down in the 1970s.

The Morning Star


The last Bradwell pub was built at the same time as the Bradville estate on the hill. It was unsurprisingly called The Bradville. In more trendy times it enjoyed a spell under the name of The Jovial Priest, supposedly remembering the Reverend Newman Guest, the colourful vicar of St James for the first part of the 20th century. Today it has been re-named as Halley's Comet. 



The Brewery

There was no Brewery in Wolverton. I hadn't given this much thought until now but Wolverton may be unique as the only town of its size in England without a brewery in the 19th century.
Beer doesn't (or at least didn't) travel well and until the invention of motorized vehicles could only be delivered by horse-drawn dray. So speeds of 5 to 8 miles per hour were a serious restriction on the range of delivery, so I imagine that access to Northampton or Bedford beers were out of the question in the 19th century, unless the railway was used.
Traditionally, ale houses brewed their own beer. Malt (the tricky ingredient) was obtained from a Maltster and from there on the fermentation process was fairly straightforward. I assume the quality of the product was highly variable. Breweries began to develop in the larger cities in the early 18th century and gradually spread to the provinces. There was a brewery in Newport Pagnell dating from 1780. It was not apparently very successful, undergoing a series of bankruptcies, but limped along through a series of different owners until it was bought by Charles Wells of Bedford in the 1920s, largely for the pubs associated with it, and closed down.
There was a brewery in Stony Stratford that was purchased by the Phillips family in the 1850s and then known as The Britannia Brewery. The Phillips family had extensive brewing interests in Bicester, Monmouth, Coventry and Northampton (the Northampton Brewery Company). I cannot find any reference to a Brewery in Stony Stratford in the 1839 Trade Directory, although there are two Maltsters, William Golby on the High Street and Thomas Ward on Horse fair Green.  In the 1842 Pigot Trade Directory, Thomas Carter of the High Street is listed as a Brewer. In 1854 the brewery is in the ownership of Revill and Thorn. There was also a Maltster and Brewer in Cosgrove, and it would have been possible (although I have no evidence of this) for barrels to be delivered by canal, even as far as the Black Horse.
It is most likely that the Stony Stratford brewery supplied Wolverton's needs.
In the 20th century, improved and faster road delivery meant that the larger town breweries could expand their empires. As far as Wolverton, Stony Stratford and New Bradwell were concerned this meant the Northampton Breweries and Charles Wells Brewery at Bedford. By the mid century Phipps, Northampton Brewery Company (NBC) and the Abington Brewery Company (ABC) - all from Northampton - were supplying most of the pubs. Charles Wells supplied The New Inn, which may at the time have been the outer limit of its delivery route.
Beer was still supplied in wooden barrels and the beer was unfiltered to help extend its "shelf life". This meant that after being rolled around and shaken up the barrels had two rest on the stills for a couple of days so that the sediment could settle before serving. The life of a barrel of beer was about a week.
The quality of beer was variable from pub to pub. Thus a pint of Phipps bitter could taste quite different from one pub to another, depending very much on the care of the landlord.
The invention of the pressurized metal keg in the early 1970s changed this. Filtered beer, with a longer shelf life, could be delivered direct from the brewery, served immediately, and required no special tending by the landlord. The only problem was the quality of the flavour.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beer at Home

In 1955 the Davenport Brewery in Birmingham began a series of television advertisements offering home delivery of beer and other bottled products. I imagine that delivery only took place in the Birmingham area, but it was a revolutionary development in its time.
Before that there was the Off Licence which had been made possible by the 1872 Act - yet another government measure to control the consumption of alcohol. Most of the pubs had an off-sales area, often just inside the door, outside the public bars, with access to purchases through a hatch. Thus the purchase was not technically made on licensed premises.
Wolverton's first Off Licence was at the Station Refreshment Rooms - that is the second station beside Glyn Square. It was known as "The Hole in the Wall" and is recorded as such on the 1880 OS Map. When the station moved a few years later it closed down.
The second Off Licence was also a literal hole in the wall and could be found at the back of the Stratford Road house by the Cambridge Street back alley. The house is now numbered 44. At the time it was on the very western edge of town and was number 1. The building at the back was always a separate building and was first operated by a man named Sinfield who ran his off licence there for many years. It continued to run as a going concern in the twentieth century until changes in the licensing laws allowing supermarkets and convenience store to sell alcohol made such places redundant. It was always known as The Drum and Monkey. I have no idea where this name originated.
The only other off licence in Wolverton could be found at the corner of Oxford Street and Green Lane. It is still there, a single storey building with an entrance on the corner.
Off Licences were only open in the evenings. You could buy draught beer in both places but you had to bring your own container, usually a white enamel jug, and take home a pint or a quart of beer to consume of an evening. I doubt if health and safety regulations would allow this practice today.
My sense is (and it's only a guess) that there was not a lot of drinking at home prior to the coming of television. Pubs were not that expensive and most men would go to the pub or the club for the middle part of the evening. Some of the wives might get a jug of ale or a bottle of stout from the off licence, or send their husbands or one of their older children out to buy an evening's supply.
Davenport was a far-sighted man. In 1955 it was not immediately evident that men would spend more time at home and less time in the pub, but so it has proved to be.

The Beer Shop

Today the media headlines are all about binge drinking and the apparently low cost of alcohol. Citizens are concerned. Governments are concerned. Something must be done!
It was ever thus.
In 1830 Parliament passed the Beer Act. There were serious concerns in those days about the consumption of cheap gin, then a fairly recent invention. The act 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. The Beer Shop was born. 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, the owner of the Locomotive Beer Shop 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.
Wolverton only ever had one beer shop. It was located at the very north end of Bury Street beside the canal. It probably opened in 1840, as soon as it had been built, and operated as an Eating House and Beer Shop until it was pulled down in the later part of the 1850s to make way for workshop expansion.

The shop was operated by George Spinks and his wife Eleanor. 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.  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. Given that the front room was taken up by shop activities there was very little living space for the family.

Hugh Stowell Brown, who worked in Wolverton as a young man from 1840 to 1843 and later had a career as an eminent Baptist preacher in Liverpool offers us this little vignette: 
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.
I suppose that his description of the establishment as a "temperance coffee-house" reflects the prevailing view of the day that beer was not essentially a harmful drink. 




Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Working Men's Clubs

One of the amazing things about our 19th century forebears was their ability to organize quite impressive institutions. The Co-op stores were all started and developed on local initiative as were Mechanic's Institutes, Brass Bands, Worker's Educational Associations, Schools, Charities, Football Teams, Friendly Societies and so on. Working Men's Clubs were a part of that general trend of community self-improvement and Wolverton and New Bradwell were well represented.
According to Sylvia Mead the Wolverton Working Men's Social Club was founded in 1872 at 72, Church Street. I have looked through the censuses for the period and can find no reference to a Club Steward so I can only assume that the Club was run by volunteers until they acquired their new building at 49 Stratford Road in 1898. I don't know either if this 72 uses the 19th Century numbering system or the present one which began in 1900 and I don't at present have the resources to identify which house was used.
At any rate the institution thrived and in time expanded and in 1901 has a full-time steward in the shape of one George Brown from Hoxton.
In 1907 a second club was built on a new block on Western Road. It was a large complex which incorporated a stage and dance floor upstairs. It was officially the Central Club but was always known as the "Top Club" and of course the Stratford Road establishment became the "Bottom Club".
The function of both clubs were largely recreational and social and in the bars one could play cribbage and various popular card games. Both clubs had tables for billiards and snooker. Beer was probably a penny a pint cheaper than in pubs.
For the first seventy years of the 20th Century Working Men's Clubs were thriving institutions.  They had a strong membership and therefore a good customer base, but various social forces have since pushed them into slow decline. We may in time come to look upon them as an historic phenomenon, much as we do 18th Century London Coffee Houses. Of course there are many activities which now compete for our attention but I think the decline of the clubs can in part be attributed to a loss of community cohesiveness. In Wolverton's case the precipitous decline of the railway works has been a major factor but in my mind it is also part of a disappointing trend in this country which has allowed government to take on all aspects of community life and professionalise public service.
The Top Club closed its doors a few years ago and I am not sure what state the Bottom Club is in. I think the New Bradwell Club has also closed down.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wolverton's Pubs

For reasons that are not easy to explain, Wolverton never had many pubs. At the most there were only four at one time and of course the two large Working Men's Clubs. Possibly, the presence and popularity of the "Top Club" and "Bottom Club" in the 20th century deterred the development of any pubs in Wolverton. Stony Stratford, I am told, had over 40 pubs at one time and certainly 50 years ago it had about half that number. New Bradwell, which grew under the same governance as Wolverton and had a much smaller population, had about seven pubs after The Bradville was opened.
Wolverton started with The Radcliffe Arms, located where the Wolverton Park development now is. It's precise location can be determined from an 1880 OS map but the structure and associated buildings is unclear. I do not know of any archaeological work that has been done on this.

This drawing has been copied from a letter written by George Weight (the first incumbent of St George's) to The Radcliffe Trustees on June 15th 1846. "Clare's Buildings" are The Radcliffe Arms presumably owned and operated by Joseph Clare, the owner of The Cock Inn at Stony Stratford, although he may have been in partnership for this venture with John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor.
The pub was built on Radcliffe Trustee land and as Wolverton developed to the south it became increasingly isolated. It was pulled down in the 1870s.
During its brief life span it developed a notorious reputation and was known as "Hell's Kitchen". Drunkenness and fights were common and various letters from the disapproving authorities testify to this.
By contrast The Royal Engineer, opened in 1841, had a quieter reputation if I can judge from the absence of bad reports. The building is still there on the corner of the Stratford Road and is therefore, together with part of the school, one of Wolverton's earliest surviving buildings. It ceased to be a pub several years ago and has been variously reincarnated as a restaurant.
The North Western appeared during the 1860 expansion of Wolverton and survives as a pub today after 150 years.
The next development was even grander. The Victoria Hotel was built as Wolverton's premier  establishment in the 1860s. I don't have any information about it's first owners but in 1871 the landlord was Henry Hicks, who had cut his licensed victualling teeth as a barman at the Radcliffe Arms. "The Vic" seems to have fallen on hard times in recent years. Parts of it have been sold off and it has operated as a night club. I am not sure at the time of writing about its exact status.
Wolverton's last pub was The Craufurd Arms which opened in 1907 on its present site on the Stratford Road. It was originally planned for a site on Green Lane, which would certainly have givven a  better distribution, but the application was opposed by the owner of the Off-licence on Green lane and eventually the Stratford Road location was agreed. This left those who lived in the expanding south end of the town a long walk to their local; nevertheless, that walk was always timed with precision, so that on Sundays they would always arrive a few seconds after the pub doors opened at noon. In the "respectable" Wolverton of those years it was not the done thing to be seen hanging about outside the pub waiting for it to open.
Licensing laws restricted pub opening on Sunday lunchtime from 12 to 2 pm. This gave rise to a curious phenomenon. A few minutes before Noon the streets were deserted. Men materialised and by 2 minutes past twelve the bars were full and heaving. The streets were again deserted until 1:25 when men started to filter out of the pubs to get home for the Sunday roast, scheduled by decree in most households to start at 1:30.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Short History of the New Inn

The New Inn circa 1920




Like most pubs which have “New” in the title, the New Inn is actually old - over 200 years  and pre-dates the town of New Bradwell. It was built as a canalside hostelry in 1804 to serve the bargees on the Grand Junction Canal, which itself had only been operational since 1790. It is a stone rubble-built building with thick walls. It is not always easy to come up with a detailed history of an old building but since I lived there between 1958 and 1963 when my father was the landlord there, I can probably piece together the development of the building.

The building today shows three gables, but I suspect the original structure had two – the stone-built part of the Inn. The walls were (are) very thick and this helped to retain warmth in winter and keep the place cool in summer. Downstairs there were four rooms with a central stairway leading to five bedrooms.  Two rooms on the street side filled the public bar function as they still do to this day. The two rooms on the west side were probably living quarters for the landlord.
A bill for its sale in 1828 boasts “a large and commodious wharf, Stables for 30 horses, Corn Granaries, Coke and Salt Houses, Pigsties, Brewhouse, Wash-house, other detached Offices and a large garden.” The house had a “spacious Kitchen, Bar, large Dining-room, Back Kitchen with pump and a good Well of water.” There was cellarage for 100 Hogsheads,  which seems an optimistic amount of beer to consume in a week. The “offices” was a contemporary euphemism what we would now describe as toilets.

The brick addition to the south, which is shown as having a barn door in this 1920s photograph was probably a late nineteenth century addition. When we arrived in 1958 it housed a Gents toilet on the street side and a Ladies toilet on the west side with an open courtyard in between. Upstairs was a large room which could be reached by an outside stair flight on the west side, or internally from the residential part. This was known as the “Club Room” and it extended into the former back bedroom area. In 1958 this part was derelict. The roof had been leaking for many years and the floorboards were rotten. At my father’s insistence the roof was repaired and a new floor laid. Thereafter it was used for Bingos run by the New Bradwell St Peter’s Football Club and various wedding functions and parties. Some time after we left it was converted into a restaurant.
Up to 1958 the pub entrance was on the street side, but my father closed this off to open up the bar a little bit and cut out the draughts. The canal side entrance then served as an entrance to the Public Bar and the Lounge Bar.

As I have already mentioned the New Inn was built to accommodate the bargees on what was once a busy commercial waterway. There was no “New Bradwell” in 1804 and local inhabitants would have been few. The 1841 Census lists several publicans in Bradwell but is a bit vague about which pub was occupied by whom.

In the mid century the pub was operated by William and Hannah Millward, he from Birmingham, she from Cheshire. Their lodgers on March 30th 1851 were two acting families whom I have described in The Comedians, The other half of this acting troupe stayed at the Radcliffe Arms on this night. In 1861 there are seven lodgers recorded, all male and presumably sharing room. Most of them are railway employees but one, James Heritage, was an itinerant bookseller. By 1871 Millward’s son Daniel is running the place so the Millward family were fixtures there for about 30 years.  Daniel Millward continued his career at the Railway Tavern on Glyn Street.

One puzzling element in what I assume is a long period of Millward tenancy is a minute I discovered in the minute books of the L&NWR Works, Construction and Estates Committee for 1854.
            It was ordered
That the terms and conditions of proposed tenancy of New Inn at Bradwell by Mr J. Smith, be reported to the committee before being finally concluded.
I have not found any record of the railway company acquiring the New Inn, although that does not mean that they did not, but this minute makes little sense in view of the apparently uninterrupted tenancy of the Millwards. I can only conclude that the reference to “New Inn’ is not “The New Inn” but rather the new building on Glyn Street which was subsequently named the Railway Tavern.

It is noticeable that guests and lodgers at the New Inn start to drop off after 1871. A number of cottages had grown up beside the wharf  in the previous decade and New Bradwell itself was growing. One might guess that there was sufficient local pub trade to provide a living,  As if to confirm this view, there is only the Tooth family living there in 1881. Tooth stayed there for about twenty years and  practised as a butcher on the side. I wonder if the addition described above was constructed in these years. This would have given him room to hang meat.

By 1901 the pub is down to a 70 year old widow Sarah Radbone and her 40 year old daughter. The club room is let out to a family and there are two New Inn Cottages that appear on the Census. I don’t know where these were located but clearly there was no evidence of them 50 years later.

In 1864 the short branch line from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell was completed and The New Inn became popular amongst the navvies working nearby. It is said that the pub was nicknamed the “War Office” on account of the number of fights that broke out there. It was certainly not that way in the 1950s but as a Public House it only delivered a part-time income. Some regular cutomers came up the hill and some down from the Bradwell Road, but New Bradwell was well supplied with pubs in those days. The pub then, as now, was owned by Charles Wells Brewery at Bedford. There was not a lot of choice. You could either buy Bitter or Mild on draught and some bottled ales – Light Ale Brown Ale, IPA, Strong Ale and Guinness. In the way of spirits, Scotch Whiskey and Gin were staples and there was some demand for Rum and Vodka, often mixed with tomato juice, orange juice or lime cordial was entering a phase of popularity. Typically men only used the Public Bar and on Saturday and Sunday the men would bring their wives and girlfriends to the Lounge bar.
This was the very successful New Inn darts team of 1959/60.
Back Row: Vic Ewins, Tom and Mick Emerton, George "Nobby" Odell, Ron Frost, Arthur Godfrey
Front Row: Sam Tuckey, Tom Howard, Bill Taft, Geoff Odell
The pub darts league ran every Monday night and was very popular.


Goodman’s scrap yard was opposite and the Goodman brothers also rented some of the New Inn land. The frontage to the canal was overgrown. Barge traffic was rare and leisure craft had barely started. The concept of a pub as a place to go for a sit down meal had yet to be invented.
Today The New Inn looks a lot prettier. Bay windows have replaced the old sash windows and the interior has been much modernised. There is now a lawn sloping down to the canal.