Thursday, September 30, 2010

A History of Shopping in Wolverton Part I

With the development of supermarkets, shopping malls and out-of-town shopping outlets, the shopping landscape has changed much over the past 30 years. Over the last 170 years the changes have been even more dramatic. So I am going to develop a series of posts to trace the change and development of shopping in Wolverton. I have touched on some of these matters before, but I hope to give a more coherent account here.

The history of shopping in Wolverton really begins in Stony Stratford, which in 1838 was a small coaching town with a population of about 1,500. There was a full range of trades and services, some which have survived to the present, like Bakers, Butchers and Ironmongers, and others, such as Basket Makers, Straw Hat Makers, Glovers and Tallow Chandlers, which have not.

Stony Stratford held a market every Friday and most of those living on the Wolverton estate probably walked to Stony Stratford for weekly shopping. In addition, Stony Stratford held two annual fairs, one on August 2nd to sell toys and hardware and another on the first Friday after Michelmas Day (end of September) for hiring servants. The hiring Fair was a characteristic of early 19th century England and a remnant of an agricultural economy which was fast disappearing.

The development of New Wolverton meant that the new settlement could support some shops of its own. Accordingly, the London and Birmingham Railway provided for 8 specialized shop units at the north end of Bury Street. They were mostly populated by Stony Stratford traders.

There are no pictures of these buildings which barely lasted 20 years but this sketch here may give some idea of their appearance.

At the very north end, beside the canal, was the "Locomotive Eating House" described in this post. Locomotive Eating House  Next door, occupying two units, was Charles Aveline, then a young man, son of a Leighton Buzzard Cabinet Maker and nephew of Frederick Aveline, who already had an established business in Stony Stratford. The next unit was occupied by Thomas French, a boot and shoe maker. At this time the Northamptonshire shoe manufacturing industry was just drawing its first breath and shoe-making was still a made-to-measure hand-made business.

John Reeve, a Stony Stratford Grocer and Tea Dealer set up a branch in the next unit and George Gilling, a Stony Stratford Butcher, set up shop here and appears to have run the new Wolverton Post Office next door. The last in this row was a Bakery, operated by George Kightley, also from Stony Stratford.

This Bakery may have been a Co-operative Bakery for some of these years but evidence is hard to come by. There is just the vaguest reference, so it may have been an independent concern to start with and a Co-op later. The Kightley family were an established Stony Stratford baking family.

At the other end of Bury Street, two more shops were opened in the three storey houses. William Boyes, a Stony Stratford Draper, opened up a branch here which lasted for the rest of the century. And in another house Joshua Harris, who had come from outside the area, opened as a Grocer and Druggist. If that seems a strange combination let me note that Grocers were originally druggists in Medieval times, but by 1600 the Apothecaries had broken away to form their own guild. However, old customs die hard, and plainly men like Joshua Harris were continuing in this field. He was a bona fide member of the Pharmaceutical Association.

These early shop establishments tell us a lot. Bakers and Butchers were essential. A Grocer would sell tea, sugar, flour and various potions for home remedies. The Draper would sell cloth to make clothes, which you could either do yourself or take to a tailor or dressmaker. Your local cabinet maker would provide you with tables, chairs, beds and storage chests and drawers - all made to order.

Vegetables may well have been purchased at the Friday market in Stony Stratford. Milk was probably delivered in a pail directly from the cow to the door. Pasteurization, Tuberculin testing, and even bottling had yet to be invented.

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