Friday, January 7, 2011

The Soiree of 1849 Part IV - The Aftermath

The event of December 21st 1849 had been organized on a vast scale. 1,500 people were catered for at a cost of between 6d. and 1s. A goodly collection of dignitaries attended. The event was reported in The Times and The London Illustrated News. Possibly as much as £1,000 was raised. No doubt there was great enthusiasm after this event.

None of this enthusiasm translated into concrete action and the project lingered for another decade. The reasons are not clear, but land acquisition may have been an issue as The Radcliffe Trust were reluctant to open up more land for development. In 1860 more land was acquired for development and the Stratford Road and Church Street could begin. A plot of land at the corner of the new Church Street and Creed Street was earmarked for the purpose by 1861. At the time the Science and Art Institute fund held £1,200 and the L&NWR was prepared to contribute £500 as long as the Institute held no debt. A plan was submitted at an estimated cost of £3,000.

A foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Sutherland in 1862 but the project stalled again. The projected cost was too high and the plans were sent back to the architect for re-drafting. The revised plans were submitted in May 1863 and approved. Only then did construction begin in earnest and the long-awaited Mechanics' institute opened on Whit Monday, 16th May 1864. The building was enlarged in 1891.

It had been a long time coming but the result was perhaps Wolverton's finest Victorian building and one to which many generations of Wolverton and North Bucks people owed the foundations of their education.

The ending was sad. In 1970 a fire burnt out the building. Photographs are here. No attempt was made to restore the building and it was demolished shortly after.

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