Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road - 1

When New Wolverton, or Wolverton Station as it was first called, was built in 1838, the Stratford Road as we later knew it did not exist. The road from Newport Pagnell to Stony Stratford skirted the hill and followed the line of the Old Wolverton Road. The new railway housing filled a narrow strip of land that was bordered on the west side by Creed Street. The rest of the land was farm land still under the control of the Radcliffe Trust.

It is possible to walk along the Stratford Road, from east to west and see the progress of building the town from 1840 to the present day. Let me take you on this tour.

There were three early encroachments on this farm land: the school on the corner of Creed Street, built in 1840; the Royal Engineer, a little beyond that built in 1841, and the Church of St George's, built in 1846. The Royal Engineer became the start of the Stratford Road, but its construction was more-or-less accidental.

When the Radcliffe Trust sold land to the London and Birmingham Railway it was subject to the condition that they built no inns or hotels. I suspect they were primed by some of their Stony Stratford tenants in this regard and shortly after the line opened Joseph Clare, proprietor of the Cock Inn at Stony Stratford in partnership with John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor built the Radcliffe Arms in 1839 on land they had leased from the Radcliffe Trust on the site of Wolverton Park Recreation Ground. It was opposite the first station and no doubt Messers Congreve and Clare expected to make a killing. They were taken by surprise when the railway company two years later dismantled the first station and built a new one to the south of the canal. The Radcliffe Arms was isolated and became progressively more so as the railway works developed. The shocked pair of entrepreneurs made representations to the Radcliffe Trust who reduced the rent on the land occupied by the Radcliffe Arms and leased an acre of their own land on the western edge of Wolverton Station. Thus the Royal Engineer came into being in 1841.

This plan here, drawn in December 1861, shows the Royal Engineer buildings and yard at that date. The block on the right, marked "1", is the site for Number 6 Stratford Road, which I will come to tomorrow. The space in between, now filled with four lock-up shops, was not built until the end of the 19th century.

So this building, which has been a restaurant for a number of years, is the oldest building on the Stratford Road and one of the few surviving from the 1840s. For 20 years it stood on the edge of a field and there was no Stratford Road in existence.

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