Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Old Wolverton Road

The road from Stony Stratford to Newport Pagnell followed a perfectly sensible path along the Ouse Valley until it reached the hill where a climb to Stantonbury, either east or south was necessary. Hence the toll gate at the bottom of this hill. As you can see from the map below the road goes more-or-less directly to Stony Stratford avoiding the hill to what became Wolverton Station. This map was surveyed in 1830 and the railway line and Wolverton Station was added as a reprint in 1839. There are two additional roads - a road from the Old Wolverton Road along side the railway to access the station and the Radcliffe Arms, and a track over the canal, straight down the hill to Stonebridge house farm. Later this road took a trun towards Haversham and then continued east by the Drill hall.

The railway also caused a change in the Haversham Road turn-off, as can be seen from this drawing. The course of the original road can be seen in the faint drawing.

After 1860 the Stratford Road at New Wolverton was cut through to make a direct link. This became the main road between Stratford and Newport Pagnell and the Old Wolverton Road became a quiet byway. This changed in the 1960s when the land north of the canal was opened to industrial development. The road was widened and more industry has moved into the area.

After Milton Keynes road and residential development the corner by Wolverton Park House and Primrose cottage was made into a cul-de-sac and a new road cut through to a roundabout by the Wolverton-Stratford Road.

If you click below a Google map will show the present road configuration.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Toll gates

Despite the advance in railways and rail speeds, road traffic continued to trundle along at the same pace as it had in the 18th century. The difference they would have noticed is that road surfaces had improved greatly. Many roads in the 18th century and earlier were impassable at certain times of the year and the cost of upkeep was borne entirely by the parish. And since they did not see this as fair as they often got little profit from it, the work was easy to neglect.

This changed with the Turnpike Acts, starting in 1706. In fact the Turnpike Trust for the road from Fonthill to Stony Stratford along the Watling Street was the first Tutnpike Act in the country. I have discussed this turnpike here.

Lesser roads, such as the road from Stony Stratford to Newport Pagnell had to wait another century for improvement. The Turnpike Trust for the Stratford to Newport road did not come until 1833, a few years only before the arrival of the railway at Wolverton. The Trusts were responsible for the upkeep of the road and were permitted to charge road users - thus building a up a fund to keep the road in good repair.

There appear to have been two toll gates in our district. One was on the Wolverton Road near to the Wolverton Mill turn-off and the other was at Stantonbury, at the foot of the hill going up to Old Bradwell. At each place a cottage was built for the toll collector and his family.

The first record of a toll collector was in 1841. I don't imagine the job was well paid and the gate had to be manned at all hours. It appears that husband and wife teams were able to manage the work between them. The Wolverton toll gate  shows Samuel and Rebecca Bull, both 30, with four small children in 1841. A decade later  Joseph and Elizabeth Marlow, both in their late 50s, were operating the toll gate between them. In 1861 George Goodman was the toll collector. He lived there with his wife Mary and three children. By 1871 tolls were no longer collected and the house was occupied by William and Hannah Reynolds and their two small children. There is no reference to any habitable building there in 1881 and it may have been pulled down.

There is a similar pattern of occupancy at Bradwell. Nobody held the job for over a decade. The next toll was at Newport pagnell.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 6 King Richard III

The period known as the Wars of the Roses furnishes the most interesting stories about the exploits of kings and their association with Stony Stratford. Richard III was probably one of history's most notorious kings and his seizure of his nephews at Stony Stratford on 1483 is a key moment in English history.

The origin of this civil war is found in the usurpation of the throne in 1399 by Henry of Lancaster. He deposed his nephew Richard II and reigned as Henry IV. He was succeeded by his son Henry V but he died in 1422 leaving an infant son Henry VI who left the throne exposed to competing dynastic claims. The hapless Henry VI was never strong enough to unify the country and the leading claimants to the throne came from Richard of York, descended through his mother from Edward III's second son and through his father by Edward III's fourth son, Edmund of York. The Yorkists maintained that their descent through the second son had precedence over the Lancastrian descent from the third son. The Yorkist cause eventually prevailed and Richard's eldest son Edward was crowned in 1461 after a decisive battle against the Lancastrians.

Edward IV did not have a particulrly stable reign either. He was deposed in October 1470 and regained the throne six months later. He probably had Henry VI quietly murdered and also had his brother George executed in 1478 for plotting against him. It has to be said that his youngest brother Richard was always loyal to his eldest brother.

Upon Edward IV's death in 1483 at the relatively early age of 41 Richard acted swiftly and ruthlessly. Upon the news of Edward IV's death on April 9th 1483, the twelve year old Edward was at ludlow and Richard was at Middleham in Yorkshire. Messages were exchanged between Richard and Earl Rivers, the young king's Woodville uncle and at Richard's suggestion they agreed to meet at Northampton. Rivers and Richard met in Northampton on April 26th although by this time young Edward and his brother had moved on to Stony Stratford. The following day Richard arrested Earl Rivers and other members of his retinue and despatched them to Potefract Castle. He then went to Stony Stratford and picked up the two boys and accompanied them to London where he placed them in the tower "for their own safety". Richard then methodically proceeded against the Woodville camp by launching an undoubtedly false accusation that they were plotting against the crown. The Woodville clan by the way had enough enemies for Richard to find sympathetic ears. Richard was appointed Protector of the crown and over the next two months continued with his campaign to discredit the Woodvilles and advance his own claims to the crown. He was crowned on July 6th 1483 at Westminster Abbey.

Richard organized a judicial deposition of Edward V. Parliament voted for his deposition on the grounds that he was the illegitimate son of Edward IV - the secret marriage of Edward and Elizabeth was declared non-existent. Edward V and his younger brother Richard were held in the tower and were murdered either on June 22nd or June 26th 1483.

Richard III lost his life and his throne at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. He was replaced by Henry Tudor who claim to the throne was more tenuous than any of the other claimants. He was in fact descended from one of John of Gaunt's bastard sons by Katherine Swynford. However as Henry VII he secured the state and his own dynasty which prevailed throughout the 16th century.

Richard III was portrayed as a monster by black Tudor propaganda. He was said to be deformed - a hunchback, although there is no contemporary evidence that even hints at this. However it suited Henry Tudor, by no means secure in his own claim to the throne to blacken the name and reputation of the man he had replaced. Further fuel was added to this fanciful fire by Shakespeare's chilling portrayal of Richard III.

Partly because the Tudor propaganda was so extreme various modern historians have tried to rehabilitate Richard III. Although he almost certainly eliminated his two young nephews his behaviour may have been no worse than many other Plantagenet and Tudor kings. This does not excuse it, of course.

Richard's reign was short because discontent centred around Henry Tudor and because Richard precipitously engaged with the small Tudor force at Bosworth. Had Richard waited for reinforcements from the north our history may well have been different.

It is claimed that the two princes stayed at the Rose and Crown. there is no written evidence for this - only hearsay. The name of the inn itself may be a clue which we should take into account.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 5 King Edward IV

Up to the 15th century references to kings and Stony Stratford have been only the briefest mentions in official documents. In the reign of the Yorkist king, Edward IV, we can discover a full blown story which was a sensation in its day.

On April 30th 1464 King Edward IV and his party stopped overnight at Stony Stratford. We don't know which Inn the king himself stayed at but it is likely that the king's entourage was a large one and they probably used up all the inn space at Stony Stratford between them. So far nothing remarkable, but the following day Edward quietly slipped away and rode out to Grafton where the Woodvilles or Wydvilles had a house. His objective was the beautiful widow Elizabeth de Grey (formerly Woodville) and apparently that day they were secretly married. The King returned to Stony Stratford and said he had been hunting, that he was tired and went to sleep. The following day he returned to Grafton for three days and each night he and Elizabeth came together for a secret assignation.

This is about the only fact we have although as one would expect there is a great deal of legend. It has been said that he first encountered her at the "Queens Oak" in Whittlewood forest while hunting. It is also said that she had resolved to approach the king over the forfeited estates of her previous husband. There may be some gain of truth here but it leaves room for questions. Had the king encountered Elizabeth Woodville while hunting it would have happened in a very public environment with the likelihood of other observers and reporters on the meeting. There are however none, and the marriage itself was kept secret for 6 months. It is of course possible, given Edwards established womanizing reputation, that his courtiers paid no especial attention to his apparent fling with the de Grey widow.

On balance I am inclined to take this view. Kings led very public lives and were rarely out of sight of anybody. Any dalliance with Elizabeth de Grey would have been noticed. However if it were thought no more of than an affair nobody would have paid much mind to what was going on. The announcement on October 4th that he was married must have been a sensational revelation.

These details come from a contemporary chronicler, Robert Fabyan.

It was a marriage that astonished his contemporaries and historians have generally been at a loss to explain Edward's choice other than sheer impetuousness. It is not even clear when Edward first met Elizabeth Woodville and became enamoured of her. He did spend three days in Stony Stratford in 1461 when he pardoned Lord Rivers and this has been suggested as a time for a first meeting, but if so one wonders why it took three years for Edward's passion  to incubate.

The point is that Edward could have, should have made a marriage which was more dynastically important. In fact, even after the secret marriage negotiations continued for a French marriage. Edward must have been conscious that his marriage would cause dismay, to put it at its mildest, amongst the English nobility, because he kept his secret until October when the French marriage plans had reached a point of decision.

And what of Elizabeth Woodville? She was a beautiful woman and at the time of here marriage to Edward a 27 year-old widow with two young sons. Her fist husband was Sir john Grey of Groby who had been killed at the Battle of St Albans in 1461 fighting on the Lancastrian side. As a widow she was relatively impoverished which might in part explain why men were not lining up to marry her. The usual tale that is told of the whirlwind pursuit by Edward is that she virtuously resisted his advances and the only way of breaking don her resistance was to propose marriage. This may be so, although we simply have no way of knowing.

Elizabeth Woodville brought with her a set of difficult problems for the monarch, partly through her own rather icy personality and partly through the preferment of her very large family. Elizabet, although beautiful, lacked warmth and generosity of spirit. She bore grudges for a very long time and worked tirelessly and often unscrupulously to enrich her own family. And that family was very large. She had 11 brothers and sisters and waged a constant campaign to see that they married into money or were given honours that brought in great wealth. A certain amount of self help in this area was to be expected and tolerated, but the Woodvilles were greedy and resentment gradually increased to the point where the Yorkist regime was fatally undermned. It was as much the prospect of Elizabeth Woodville and her family running the monarchy that shifted significant support to Edward's brother Richard of York. It can be argued that were it not for the Woodvilles sudden rise to power, the Yorkist dynasty may well have continued and the Tudor name would not have come into our history.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 4 King Edward I

It is highly probable that medieval kings traveled through Stony Stratford on a number of occasions, given their itinerant lifestyle. Unfortunately, at this distance in time we can only work from actual surviving records. King John issued a charter at Stony Stratford on 22nd February 1215 so we know he was there. His son Henry III may have passed through Stony Stratford several times during his long reign, but there is no record.  Edward I must have travelled up and down this road on many occasions to reach the north of England or North Wales, but the only recorded time was after the death of his wife Eleanor of Castile. They were married in 1254 and by all contemporary accounts the marriage was a happy one. She accompanied him everywhere and managed to give birth to 16 children over a period of 30 years. The last born in 1284 became Edward II.

She died at Lincoln on November 28th 1290 and her grieving husband accompanied the funeral cortege from Lincoln to London. The route went from Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham. Westcheap in London  and finally Charing, now of course known as Charing Cross. Each of these places was an overnight stop.

Edward ordered that a cross should be erected at each overnight stop. They were originally wooden, but after a few years each was replaced by a stone cross. The Stony Stratford Cross, which was probably on the High Street at the entrance to the town remained there for a few hundred years until it was destroyed during the civil war. The base of the cross remained for some time after and was then removed. Nobody knows when.

The slight widening of the road here shows that houses were built round the cross.
The location suggests that they stayed at the nearby inn, probably Grik's Herber, later known as the Barley Mow.

The cortege travelled from Hardingstone the previous night, about 14 miles away. One wonders what sort of accommodation could be found in Hardingstone and why Edward did not stay in Northampton. Perhaps he stopped at Hardingstone and his retinue stayed in Northampton. The Hardingstone Cross is one of three survivors. The Stony Stratford Cross was probably similar.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 3 King John and his travelling court

John was the youngest of the children of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was born, more-or-less as an afterthought, in 1167 when his mother was 45. Eleanor showed no interest in him and he spent most of his growing years with his father and was Henry's favourite son. John adopted some of the worst characteristics of his father, namely his deviousness but seemed to be unable to sustain a coherent policy. It has been suggested that John was manic-depressive, or in modern terms, bi-polar. He would have periods of frenetic energy followed by periods of extreme lassitude.

His reign was full of difficulties, usually of his own making, and the unintended legacy of his reign is the Magna Carta. At the time of his death, possibly of a heart attack, the country was in a state of civil war and John's early death brought to an end a very troublesome reign.

John was a very mobile king.He had no permanent centre and his court was constantly on the move. The whole adminstrative structure of john's reign moved around England, Ireland, Wales and France which also meant that the treasury moved with him. The story about John losing his treasure in the Wash while crossing it is true, but it could only happen to a king who had no permanent centre.

It is possible to map John's movements over the whole of his reign and in the various places he stopped he had to conduct court business; For this reason a charter survives that was issued and witnessed at Stony Stratford. This charter considers the appeal of one Godfrey Blundus of Northampton for some rights that were his due on the death of Roger Harengus and is dated 22nd February 1215. John stayed at Stony Stratford from 19 February 1215 to 5 March 1215.

The details of this charter have little meaning for us, but the fact that John lodged at Stony Stratford during this period tells us that there were a sufficient number of inns in Stony Stratford to accommodate the Royal retnue.

In December of that year, with his army of foreign mercenaries, John set forth on a campaign of terror up to the north of England in an attempt to bring the barons to heel. We know from the rolls that he followed a route through St Albans and Dunstable, but instead of taking the road through Stony Stratford he went  to Newport Pagnell en route to Northampton. John revealed the nastier side of his character during thins campaign and did not restrain his troops from sacking and looting every town they passed through, as well as destroying crops in granaries. There is no record of what was done to Newport Pagnell, but we can assume that Stony Stratford and Wolverton had a lucky escape.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 2 King Richard I

King Richard I made his reputation as a warrior king and sat on the English throne for 10 years. This is not literally correct. He was King of England, as well as being Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou and Duke of Brittany. England was of less significance to Richard and during his whole reign he spent less than 6 months in the country. The governance of England was left in the hands of deputies who turned out to be very good adminstrators. While Richard was away looking after his territories in France or on a Crusade or locked in an Austrian castle the kingdom of England was seemingly well governed.

It was during his reign that Stony Stratford came of age. Up till then it had been a growing collection of inns and dwellings on the Wolverton side and the Calverton side to service travellers. However in 1194, under King Richard's seal, Stony Stratford was given the right to hold a market - a much-prized licece in those days as it allowed  community to grow economically.

The first charter was issued to Gilbert Basset and his wife Egelina on 30 April 1194 and this charter was confirmed with the king's seal on 20 January 1199 for a Sunday market at their manor of Stratford. (my italics)

This would appear to suggest that part of the Wolverton manor had been sold off at an earlier date. Later references to a third manor between Wolverton and Calverton might associate this land with The Mallets, as it was later called in the 16th century. At any rate this appears to be the beginning of Stony Stratford as an entity. The grant was confirmed by King John on 21 Mar 1200.

These years marked the beginning of a transition from an entirely rural economy to an economy which included commercial centres - subsquently known as towns or market towns. King John in particular encouraged the growth of new market towns, largely because he was able to see the tax-gathering potential in such a move. Liverpool, for example, was his own personal creation on his own land. There were great attractions to these new towns for those who wished to free themselves of the bondage of being tied to the land. From this point Stony Stratford begins to grow as a commercial entity and starts to outstrip both Calverton and Wolverton in population.

Two generations later the Earl of Oxford, who owned the Calverton Manor, muscled in on the market business and obtained a charter for an annual fair on 15 September 1257. Later he acquired 40 acres on the Wolverton side around the church of St Mary Magdalene and received a second charter on 1 June 1290 for an annual fair. it is probable that this land was also The Mallets.

In time the fairs shifted to the Calverton side, obviously in the Market Square and Horse Fair Green, but also at Cow Fair in between - now known as Silver Street.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 1 Edward the Elder

Stony Stratford's location on one of England's main thoroughfares meant that it had more that one encounter with kings of England so I'm going to run a little series on Stony Stratford's royal connections.

A Stony Stratford website claims that Edward the Elder, King Alfred's son fought a battle against the Danes here. It is possible. The River Ouse marked the border of the Danelaw for many years and Stony Stratford did lie on a road from Buckingham and Bedford - both important forts. However, I have not been able to find the source of this story.

Edward the Elder, as he is known, was born about 871 or 2 the second son of Alfred, King of Wessex. He became king in 899 on the death of his father. Under his rule the power and influence of the Wessex kings grew  and he was able to absorb the kingdom of Mercia in 918. He did win several battles against the Danes and was successful in pushing them further north.

In 917 he began a general offensive against the Danes. He occupied Towcester in April that year and was able to repulse a Danish attack and later beat them off at Bedford.

Stony Stratford did not exist as an entity at this time so there will be no references to it. We do find that Edward came to Passenham in the Autumn of that year and set up his headquarters there. Passenham has been very much off the beaten track for centuries but 1100 years ago it would have been a strategic post, close to the river and to the highway. Towcester was reinforced with a stone wall at this time and the Saxon army moved up the Ouse valley to Huntingdon where they were able to occupy the Danish fortress there. In all of this campaign there is no mention of any fighting in the Stony Stratford area.

The Stony Stratford website  offers the information that Edward the Elder fought a battle against the Danes at Stony Stratford. I have not been able tofind the source of this information. There were certainly battles at Towcester.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Girls and Infants School

Ten years after the new Boys' School the Board of Governors opened a new school on Aylesbury Street. The whole block between Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Windsor Street and Jersey Road was now occupied by the two schools. The Radcliffe Trust also decided at this time to develop new streets for Wolverton. Within a few years the schools were now surrounded by houses.

The new school was a two storey building with two entrances, one marked Girls and the other marked Infants. In 1949 this designation puzzled me, but I'll come back to that later.

The school appears to have been built with expansion in mind.  The rooms were large enough for 40 pupils, (although judging from the 1908 photo I referenced two days ago, they may have held more. There are 51 girls in that picture.).

When I went to the school in 1949, it had been adapted to two schools. The Junior School was  upstairs and the Secondary Modern (colloquially known as the Senior School downstairs. The upper floor had four years with A and B streams, and could therefore accommodate 8 classes. The same was true downstairs. The Secondary School also had 8 classes in 4 years. By this time an outbuilding had been constructed as a Cookery classroom. This building is still there adjoining a toilet block, which back then was used by girls only. There was also a wall dividing the Aylesbury Street School from the Church Street School. That has since been demolished.

As I recall, school times were arranged to minimize contact between senior and junior pupils and break times were staggered. The lower playground was shared between the Infants and the Boys. The Senior girls used the upper playground on the east side and the Junior School used the playground on the west side, and their entrance was through the Jersey Road back alley.

As you can see from the photographs, wrought iron railings surrounded the schools.

When I attended these school in the late forties and early fifties all Wolverton schools had just become co-educational - that is boys and girls were taught together in the same classroom. I had no appreciation of this revolution at the time because as a child I just accepted everything as if it had always been this way.

I should also mention that after the war two pre-fab buildings were erected on the site. They were both single storey concrete slab buildings with metal window frames and a zinc corrugated roof. they were, I think, just bolted together. It was a fast post-war solution to building and there were even houses (such as on the Bradville estate) that were built in this way. One of these buildings was placed in the eastern upper playground and became a Nursery School. It had two rooms with a central staff room. I suppose this must have been a new educational experiment at the time and my cohort may have been one of the first years to use it and were thus exposed to school at the tender age of four. I don't remember much. We did things with wooden building blocks in the morning, had lunch and then slept on folding canvas "camp beds" in the afternoon. I imagine our school day was over by 3 o'clock.

The second pre-fab was erected on the Jersey Road side at the top of the lower playground and this became the school canteen where school dinners were administered.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Second Boys' School

The school on Creed Street was gradually outgrown by the population and in 1896 a new school, also built by the L&NWR, was erected on Church Street, the on the western edge of the town. Once again, there was a complex relationship with the Radcliffe Trust - the Radcliffe Trust leasing the land and the L&NWR taking responsibility for the building.

Wolverton had been very fortunate in its educational provision. The railway company had built the first school and paid the salary for the teachers. After the 1870 Act when the Government made school attendance compulsory the cost of operation was born by ratepayers. However, the capital funding by the L&NWR must have taken a great load off the community. After 1880 attendance was compulsory up to the age of 12. This was later increased step by step to 13, 14 and 15 after the 1944 Education Act. The school-leaving age was last increased to 16 in 1973.

Once the new school was opened the girls and infants continued to use the old Creed Street School.

The Church Street School is a single storey building and as far as I know has not been enlarged in its history. Later, a woodwork classroom was built in the grounds beside the Windsor Street back alley. The boy's toilets were also built alongside the back alley.

The building was used as a boys school until after the 1944 Education Act which created the Secondary Modern School. Thereafter the schools became co-educational and the Secondary Modern was opened at Aylesbury Street (which I will discuss tomorrow). The Boys School then became an Infants School, and was such when I started in 1947. I haven't been inside the building since 1949 so all my memories are from the perspective of a small child. Everything seemed very large and it was impossible to see out of the windows, since they were so high. One larger room could be divided by folding doors and the resulting double room be used as an assembly hall. I also recall that one room on the south side had a stepped floor.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The First School on Creed Street

I have written about the Creed Street school before, but I want to put up this post as a prelude to writing about the later schools on Church Street and Aylesbury Street.

For some reason the first school, built here in 1841, has been barely photographed. The building at present functions as a library and town meeting room. The 1841 building has been enlarged and reduced in its lifetime and ceased to operate as as school in 1906, when a new school building was opened on Aylesbury Street.

In this view here the white northern section was at one time the central hall of the school buildings which were built on a U-shaped plan. This plan drawing from 1860 will show the extent of the original.

As far as I can gather, the east facing part of the building was used as a Boys' School while the north wing was used for a girls' classroom and an infants' classroom. The southern wing was a house for the schoolmaster. The buildings on the left were later 19th century enlargements.

A new Boys' School was built on Church Street in 1896, then on the outskirts of the town, and the Creed Street School was used only by Girls and Infants. This state of affairs continued until 1906 when a new Girls and Infants School opened on Aylesbury Street.

I don't think there were any immediate plans for the Creed Street building, but that year there was a fire in the old Market House on Glyn Square which left it gutted, so the Friday Market activities moved into the empty building. It was used for this purpose until the Agora was opened in 1980.

Here is a contemporary description of this first school written by Sir Francis Bond Head in his book Stokers and Pokers.
For the education of the children of the Company's servants, a school-house, which we had much pleasure in visiting, has been constructed on an healthy eminence, surrounded by a small court and garden. In the centre there is a room for girls, who, from nine till five, are instructed by a governess in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, and needlework. Engaged at these occupations we counted fifty-five clean, healthy faces. In the east wing we found about ninety fine, stout, athletic boys, of various ages, employed in the studies above mentioned (excepting the last), and learning, moreover, mathematics and drawing. One boy we saw solving a quadratic equation—another was engaged with Euclid—others with studying land-surveying, levelling, trigonometry, and one had reached conic sections.
            At the western extremity of the building, on entering the infant-school, which is under the superintendence of an intelligent looking young person of about nineteen years of age, we were struck by the regular segments in which the little creatures were standing in groups around a tiny monitor occupying the centre of each chord. We soon, however, detected that this regularity of their attitudes was caused by the insertion in the floor of various chords of hoop iron, the outer rims of which they all touched with their toes. A finer set of little children we have seldom beheld ; but what particularly attracted our attention was three rows of beautiful babies sitting as solemn as judges on three steps one above another, the lowest being a step higher than the floor of the room. They were learning the first hard lesson of this world—namely, to sit still; and certainly the occupation seemed to be particularly well adapted to their outlines ; indeed their pinafores were so round, and their cheeks so red, that altogether they resembled three rows of white dumplings, with a rosy-faced apple on each. The picture was most interesting; and we studied their cheerful features until we almost fancied that we could analyze and distinguish which were little fire-flies—which small stokers—tiny pokers—infant artificers, &c.

The earlier post on this school can be found here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An old school photograph from 1908

I am indebted to another blog for a photo of the Wolverton Girls School taken in 1908, very soon after they moved to the new building in Aylesbury Street. You can go to the blog and view the photograph and read the detail here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wolverton County Secondary School 1929

Here is another of those panoramic school photos from the now distant past. This one from 1929, courtesy of Ingrid Austin.
I can identify some teachers here, but no-one else.
In the middle photo, second from left -
Reginald Long, Physics teacher
Robert Eyles, English Teacher, later Senior Master
in the centre with the mortar board, E.J. Boyce, Headmaster
four places to the right of him, Zillah Full, then Games Mistress, later Senior Mistress
The other interesting feature of this photo is that it is arranged with Moon street at the back and you can see the slight slope of the field from left to right.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - XII A Conclusion of Sorts

Let me bring this twelve part trawl through Church history to some sort of conclusion.

The earliest inhabitants in the Wolverton area met their spiritual need s through various pagan rites - of which we know very little. Once Christian conversion was complete people followed a uniform code, worhsipping one God through one religion and through one rite - in this case the Roman church.

There were reform movements in the 14th century but it was not until the 16th century Reformation that a break from the Roman Church became possible - and then it was either-or; peaceful co-existence between Christian sects seemed not to be possible. Only in the relatively more tolerant 18th century would society allow different Christian sects to practise side-by-side. Even then there were difficulties. When the early Baptists built themselves a Chapel in Fenny Stratford in 1707, the Lord of the manor was mightily offened and had the chapel torn down, which he was legally entitled to do since he was the law.

Even so, apart from the odd practitioner of the Jewish faith, who might have appeared in Wolverton or Stony Stratford from time to time, Wolverton, like most other parts of England was almost universally Christian.

In the later part of the 20th century this began to change and practitioners of separate religions entirely began to populate the country. Wolverton was no exception and adherents to the Islamic faith have adapted the old General Post Office as a Mosque.

So it's obviously not the end of the story and I assume there will be many changes in the future. What these will be we cannot know.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - XI The Non Conformist Churches

From the time of the Reformation there were those who wished to move further away from the Roman rites than the majority. The Church of England, with its Book of Common Prayer, became a compromise between the conservative Roman Catholic tendency and the reformers. There were those reformers who wanted to go further and many of these tensions came to the surface in the 17th Century Civil War. In the 18th century passions cooled and preachers such as ~John Wesley were able to gain adherents without being executed for treason. They were however known as Nonconformists and their activities were restricted. They were, for example, not allowed to perform legal marriages and all births and burials had to be entered in the Church of England Parish Register. Nor were prospective ministers allowed to study at either Oxford or Cambridge until 1850.

Nonconformism means that they did not conform to the mainstream churches in the UK, either the Church of England or its predecessor the Roman Catholic Church. It is essentially a negative description and in no way describes their attitude to worship. Sometimes they were called "dissenters" - another negative appellation.

Under this umbrella term came the various methodist groups, baptists, quakers and the Salvation Army. In essence, all of these groups, whatever their particular differences, believed that the individual could communicate directly with God without the intercession of a priest.

In Wolverton there were two Methodist Churches, a Congregational Church, and Emmanuel Hall, which may have been a Baptist Group. The Wesley brothers had great success with their preaching in North Bucks and the 19th century buildings for the wesleyans were amongst the first and largest. A chapel was built in Stony Stratford in 1844 on what is now Silver Street. The picture below shows the first Wesleyan Chapel on Church Street in Wolverton, minus spire I think.

The Methodists in Wolverton at first met in a colleagues home or went to Stony Stratford. Within a few years the Reading Room was converted for their use on Sunday and in 1870 a new church chapel was opened at the eastern end of Church Street. This was redevloped and enlarged in 1892 - the building you see here in this photograph.

This building is no longer used, but the twentieth century West End Methodist Chapel on Church Street at the corner of Anson Road is still in use.

History of Emmanuel Hall

Emmanuel HallThis description taken from the Emmanuel Hall website.

In 1922 a group of evangelical Christians, who had formed themselves into a church and who were meeting together in a rented upstairs room in the back way between Church Street and Stratford Road, decided to acquire a permanent place of worship. They purchased two adjacent properties in Church Street and built a meeting room across the rear gardens. This small meeting place, originally known as Emmanuel Chapel, was later referred to as a gospel hall rather than a chapel, but today it is called Emmanuel Hall.
This group had come together, having withdrawn their membership from the other free churches of the town whose doctrinal position was becoming increasingly influenced by liberal theology. These believers maintained an active gospel testimony in the years that followed and were supported both by The Mission Hall at New Bradwell (in Caledonian Road) and the Mission at Stony Stratford (linked to Fegan's Homes).
Mainly due to the disruption caused by the outbreak of war, the fellowship disbanded and transferred its allegiance and trusteeship to the Bradwell Mission Hall. Emmanuel Hall was taken over by the Wolverton local authority for use as an employment exchange. Under the new city reorganisation, a job centre was established in the Agora centre in 1979 and Emmanuel Hall put on the market by its trustees.

Emmanuel Hall

Congregational Church

The Congregational Church came into being in 1878 but didn't even make its centenary, being pulled down in 1970 as part of the authorized demolition of Wolverton landmarks post Milton Keynes. The church, in red brick held a commanding position at the top of the square. I belive the manse for this church was on Moon Street. the church was replaced by a supermarket with some provision for church activity in an upper room. In this photograph, dating from the 1950s, you can see the old Cenotaph, fenced off with a low wrought iron railing.

I have been conscious, while writing this section, how little I know about the Nonconformist churches. More surprising to me has been the difficulty of finding information on their history. If there is anyone who can enlighten me and add to the discussion, I would be grateful

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wolverton's Ecclesiastical History - X Expanding Denominations

The Christian church history of the Wolverton Manor is plainly a long one - stretching back over 1,000 years. We know that a church was built on the site of Holy Trinity in the 14th century and that it must have replaced earlier structures. The church was completely rebuilt in the early 19th century, although the 14th century tower was retained. The dramatic expansion of Wolverton Station in the 1840s led to the construction of St George the Martyr, consecrated in 1844, and a further chapel at the "Wolverton End" of Stony Stratford in 1865. Technically the church of St Mary Magdalene, long abandoned of course, was on the Wolverton Manor, but that is more properly discussed under Stony Stratford churches. The other part of Wolverton's ecclesiastical history is the Bradwell Priory, built on land owned by the Baron Meinfelin, but just outside the Wolverton Manor. I have described the history of the Priory here.

Christianity had a long run as a single denomination. Churches first of all owed their allegiance to Rome and after the Reformation of 1534 to the Church of England. In the 18th century the preaching of John Wesley led to the Methodist movement, which was popular in North Bucks and led to a number of chapels being established in Wolverton and Stony Stratford in the 19th century. I'll discuss the Roman Catholic revival here and the protestant churches tomorrow.

St Francis De Sales

 Roman Catholics had been consigned to the fringes since the reformation but were enjoying some resurgence in the 19th century. The influx of new workers from Scotland, Ireland, Lancashire and the North East of England brought many of the Roman Catholic faith to Wolverton. From the early days of the railway the Roman Catholics at Wolverton Station were incorporated into the Parish of Aylesbury and their nearest mass was at Weston Underwood, nine miles away. Not an impossible walk for people in those days but a daunting one which meant trailing through Haversham, Little Linford and Gayhurst. After 1860 the Roman Catholic community successfully petitioned the Bishop of Northampton who agreed to establish a parish at Wolverton. Father Francis Cambours was sent there in 1864 and he succeeded in raising £1000 towards the cost of a church. A year later he was replaced by Father William Blackman who stayed there a number of years. He first lodged with the Sarah Dunn, recently a widow, at 425 Gas Street and I suspect that for a time it served as the Presbytery. 

The new church, built on its present site on the Stratford Road opened in 1867 and was built at a cost of £885. Four years later a Presbytery was built next door to the church and apparently Sarah Dunn contributed over £200, probably her life savings, to this building project. She moved in with Father Blackman to serve as his housekeeper until her death in 1884.  Pastoral care was administered from Aylesbury and Weedon under various arrangements for the first twenty five years and it was not until 1864 that a priest was assigned to the town. A year later Father William Blackman arrived and in 1867 the local congregation were able to open their new church, at that time on the western fringe of the town. The church remains today on the corner of Radcliffe Street and the Stratford Road.

Roman Catholics arrived from the earliest in noticeable numbers.  This was probably the first influx of catholics since the reformation who had probably been few in number in North Buckinghamshire, apart from those small pockets supported by the local ruling family. Wolverton and Stony Stratford were strongly protestant, and it is possibly for this reason (and I have no certain knowledge of this), that the founders of the church dedicated it to the 16th century Swiss divine, St. Francis de Sales, who had great success in restoring his Calvinist countrymen to the Roman Catholic Church.

It appears that the church was originally planned as a school. In the mid-1860s Wolverton had second generation catholics who were starting their families, and schooling may have been uppermost in their minds. It may have been the intent to have a school room which could double as a place for worship and later build a church on the remaining land. This may explain the architecture, which is more school-like than church-like, and the orientation, which is from north to south, rather than the traditional east to west. Needless to add, whatever plan was in the founders’ minds did not come to pass.

A second church, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, was built in the 1970s.