The first library of sorts came to Wolverton quite early, and this account from Sir Francis Bond Head, writing in 1849, provides us with some detail:
A reading-room and library lighted by gas are also supplied free of charge by the Company. In the latter there are about 700 volumes, which have mostly been given; and the list of papers, &c. in the reading-room was as follows: Times, Daily News, Bell's Life, Illustrated News, Punch, Besides the above there is a flying library of about 600 volumes for the clerks, porters, police, as also for their wives and families, residing at the various stations, consisting of books of all kinds, excepting on politics and on religious controversies. They are despatched to the various stations, carriage free, in nineteen boxes given by the Company, each of which can contain from twenty to fifty volumes.Wolverton's birth came at a time when there was a great hunger for knowledge and self-improvement. The very young Hugh Stowell Brown gives us a flavour of this:
On Sundays, Hayes generally went out into the fields to meditate; Harvey went to the Methodist Chapel at Stratford; Mickle wandered from one place of worship to another; and I went to church somewhere in the neighbourhood, generally to Stratford, because there was an organ there, which, however, was very execrably played. Our studies were various. Hayes went in for philosophy; Harvey for theology; Mickle for mechanics; I for mathematics. I don’t think we read a novel all the time we were together, and our whole stock of books was not worth £5.He describes his efforts to learn Greek and while at work cleaning boilers would scratch Greek words into the limescale to help himself remember.
The Reading Room no longer really exists in any recognisable form but its location can be seen beside the canal and the Stratford Road bridge.