Monday, September 27, 2010

The Radcliffe Trust and Wolverton - Part VI The Final Century

The arrival of the railways was a watershed moment for Wolverton. The old agricultural world which had sustained the manor for centuries was no longer truly viable. The Stony Stratford properties had been sold off in 1802 to redeem a £16,000 Land Tax. Land had been sold off for the new railway town (which continued to grow), there was now only one water mill on the estate. More alarming for the Trustees was the relative decline of agriculture as a primary wealth producer.

In 1847 a London surveyor, Henry Crawter, was engaged to survey the estate. He concluded that the Stacey Bushes farmhouse near Bradwell Brook was beyond repair and that a new farmhouse should be built at the centre of the farm. He advised that Park Farm was no longer a viable unit and that the land should be divided between Manor Farm and Wolverton House Farm. The pasture land known as Great Hodge should be divided between Stacey Bushes Farm and Brick Kiln Farm.

Accordingly Stacey Farm was built by Wolverton's builder, Charles Aveline, and today it forms the nucleus of the Milton Keynes Development Museum. Park farmhouse was leased to James Edward McConnell, the Locomotive Superintendent, and subsequently to a succession of tenants. The house has been known as Wolverton Park since that time.

A further survey by Jeremiah Matthews in 1858 proposed that Wolverton House itself should be separated from the farm and leased as a country mansion. This, however, did not become possible until the Harrison family finally vacated the house in 1892.

This required the building of a new farmhouse for the land that had formerly been farmed from Wolverton House and in 1892 a new farm house was built beside some farm buildings and cottages at The Warren. This now became known as Warren Farm.

Stonebridge House Farm was itself rebuilt in 1855.

Agricultural prices continued to decline in the 19th century with some years of real hardship. Matters improved in the first two decades of the 20th century, only to slump again in the 1930s. Against this backdrop the pressure for Wolverton's town expansion could not be ignored and between 1903 and 1906 more land was sold for housing development. The new streets thus created honoured three of the Radcliffe Trustees, Viscount Peel, the Earl of Jersey and Sir William Anson.

The demand continued, and Radcliffe Street was extended in 1928 and 1929. In the 1930s another 100 acres were sold to provide for new recreation grounds and Marina Drive and Gloucester Road. After the war they released another 174 acres which created the extension of Windsor Street, Furze Way and subsequently Southern Way, Woodland View and St John's Crescent.

By 1966 the writing on the wall was plain. The government had decided on a new city development which would incorporate Wolverton and Bletchley and much of the land in between. The Wolverton Manor would be subject to compulsory purchase.

The agreed price for the entire estate, with the exception of Wolverton House, Wolverton Park and Wolverton Mill, was £900,000, and on September 29th 1970, all was conveyed to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.  Wolverton House was sold to Buckinghamshire County Council and Wolverton Park to a private buyer. The Mill was retained, but I believe has been sold for development more recently.

1970 marked the end of the Manor's history, which stretched back for more than 1,000 years and it also brought to an end the Trust's involvement in the affairs of Wolverton, which had begun in 1713.

The memory is preserved in Radcliffe Street and in The Radcliffe School, created from a merger of Wolverton Grammar School and Wolverton Technical School in 1956. There are three, or possibly four, street names that have some connection with the Radcliffe Trust.

And that is the end of the story.

1 comment:

downnoutmk said...

What a delight it is to find your blog, and see I have much reading to catch up on. I'm sure by the end I will have more than a glancing interest in the development of Wolverton. These may be the sunset years for your period of historical interest but as a modern historian this is where the plot picks up for me. I'm glad to see some cross over of interest in the Victorian era. Thank you.