Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alfred Blott

Alfred Denny Blott grew up in Little Stanmore as a farmer's son. It seems hard to imagine it now but Stanmore and Edgeware was very rural in the early 19th century and farming was the main activity. Alfred Blott was typical of many who grew up on the farm and came of age at the very beginning of the railway age and found a career in this new enterprise.

He was barely 20 years old when he was given the task of Clerk-in-Charge at the new Wolverton Station, but as with so many jobs in the first days of the railways this was a new job. Nobody had done this task before. There was no experience of running a major railway in the 1830s. The job of station master was one such. The new station would clearly involve monetary transactions and records would need to be maintained so in 1838 this was a job for a man with training and experience in managing records and keeping accounts and they chose the young Alfred Blott. Mr. Blott was young  but the directors obviously thought he would do very well. Early tickets were written out by hand and passengers were required to provide their name, address and date of birth, which may illustrate that our desire to collect useless data is not so recent after all. It took some years to develop more mechanized systems of ticket issuance. The key skill was probably identified as clerical and the title of Station Master only emerged after some years of operation. It is also worth bearing in mind that Wolverton was rated a “First Class” station in 1838 so Mr. Blott must have come with glowing credentials. In fact his preferment to this position is a good illustration of how hiring was done in those days. Mr. Blott’s father, William, was a farmer in Little Stanmore, on land historically owned by the Duke of Chandos and latterly, through marriage, by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. I imagine that William Blott had a word with his landlord who was then able to recommend the young Alfred for this new position at Wolverton. In the end, Alfred Blott turned out to be quite competent, although I do not think he was the first choice. This gentleman was G. Kendall who was discharged after a few weeks and Blott took up his position on September 29th 1838, twelve days after the line opened. I should add here that the title "Station Master" was not used in these early days - that was to emerge a decade later.
 He lodged in Old Wolverton until he married in 1843 to a Swiss-born wife Cornelia His starting salary was £100 per annum and by 1850 this was £200.  I am sure that Mr. Blott would have stayed there and continued to raise his family in Wolverton. He was doing very well but in 1851 he was at the centre of one of those events that scandalized Victorian Britain - he eloped with a younger woman.
The name of this ‘young lady” is not recorded and the affair did not last long for he came back in some disgrace to face up to his discretion. The L & NWR’s Road and Traffic Committee sat in judgement on his case and initially decided to move him.
The Manager reported the conduct of Mr. Blott in reference to a late elopement of a young lady from the Wolverton Station - Letters in favour of Mr. Blott were read - also one from himself admitting the truth of the charges against him but stating extenuating circumstances - After full consideration the Committee resolved that Mr.. Blott had been guilty of improper conduct and that it be recommended that he be removed from Wolverton and be sent to Oxford as Station Master and further that he be reprimanded by the Manager.

In the meantime there were a number of interventions on Mr. Blott’s behalf from some of the worthies in the community, so the matter was reconsidered.           
Mr. Blott’s case having been again reviewed and the memorial in his favour - his contrition for this offence - together with a letter from Mr. Phillimore on the subject having been carefully considered,                          
It was resolved
That the notice to Mr. Blott of the directors intention to remove him be withdrawn, and that he be reinstated in his position at Wolverton.
But this was not yet the end of the matter:
Reports were submitted to the Directors of the misconduct of Mr. Bevan, Station Master at Oxford, from which it appeared that he had appropriated excess money belonging to the Company, had been irregular in his habits and had suppressed letters of complaint of his conduct which had been reported to the Directors – Mr.. Bruyeres stated that he had investigated the facts, and had every reason to believe that the reports against Mr. Bevan were correct whereupon it was Resolved:
that Mr.. Bevan be immediately suspended from duty as an improper person to have charge of the Oxford Station - That Mr.. Blott having expressed his willingness to go, be removed to the Oxford station on his present salary - reasonable expenses of removal to be allowed him - That Mr.. Shakespeare now at Stamford take Mr. Blott’s place at Wolverton at his present Salary, and that Mr. Boor who has for some time past done the Company’s business at Stamford take Mr. Shakespeare’s place provisionally.
So it was finally settled, and it seems that the Company came out of it quite well. They effectively reduced the salary paid to the Wolverton Station Master by £50, replaced an incompetent station master at Oxford with an able one, and removed a stain of social embarrassment from Wolverton. Blott’s wife seems to have stuck by him as she was living with him in the 1861 Census. He only spent a few more years at the Railway before becoming Deputy Treasurer of an Oxford College. He died in 1868 at the relatively early age of 50 and his widow moved to Lewisham to live with her sister-in-law near to one of her sons who practised as an accountant.


Stephanie said...

Here is Alfred Denny Blott's grave in St Sepulchre's Cemetery, Oxford:

Bryan Dunleavy said...

How clever of you to discover that! Thank you.