Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wolverton's Street Names - I

The Northern Streets

1838 not only brought the railway to Wolverton but also the need to address the naming of streets. Wolverton had existed for 1000 years without the need for street names. The row of cottages at Old Wolverton was originally given a description - Slated Row - rather than a street name, and Stony Stratford had functioned with a single street and a few back lanes. New times and a new building program confronted the railway company with a new problem - how to distinguish between these new streets laid out on a grid pattern. At first there was no interest in naming the streets but after a few years, probably due to demands of the new postal service, the directors addressed the issue and on October 14th 1842 directed the Estates Committee to come up with a system of names and numbers. What seems to have happened is that the Estates Committee, which included Garnett, Cooke, Walker and Young, named some of these streets after themselves. Bury, Creed, Glyn and Ledsam were prominent in the company and were given the names of the larger streets

Here are the northern streets and a little information about the men who gave their names to them.


Bury Street - a long street north of the Stratford Road to the canal, originally Wolverton's principle shopping street.
Garnett Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street - short streets about 6 or 7 cottages in length between the north end of the Engine Shed and the canal.
Gas Street - six cottages parallel to the south side of the Engine Shed and, as the name suggests, the Gas Works.

Garnett Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street and part of Bury Street was cleared in 1856 to make way for new workshop development. The south end of Bury Street and Gas treat survived until the 1890s when they too were consumed by works expansion.

Edward Bury


Edward Bury was the first locomotive engineer for the London & Birmingham Railway. He was born in Salford in 1794 and in 1826 set up his engineering works in Liverpool, under the name of Edward Bury and Company. He employed James Kennedy, who brought the necessary experience of locomotive building with Robert Stephenson as his works foreman. In 1842 Kennedy became a partner when the firm expanded under the name of Bury, Curtis and Kennedy.

            Their first engines were built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1830. In time they refined their designs to lighter locomotives known as the "Bury type". In 1836 Bury contracted to run the trains on the London and Birmingham Railway and in 1839, just after the line through Wolverton had opened, he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent at the rather handsome salary of £1400 a year. He contracted the building of engines to other companies as well as his own.

            He continued in this role until 1847, when, shortly after the formation of the L & NWR he resigned to join the Great Northern Railway as Locomotive Superintendent and General Manager.  He was married to Priscilla Falkner, an accomplished botanical artist, and her works and prints can still be found for sale in the Art market. According to Hugh Stowell Brown, the renowned 19th century Baptist preacher who worked in Wolverton as a young man, relatively little was seen of him in the works - an unsurprising observation considering that he had responsibilities at his own works in Liverpool as well as duties up and down the line. Wolverton’s role in these years was maintenance and repair of engines and Bury was probably content to delegate the overseeing of this task. Sir Frank Markham does mention that he had a residence at Great Linford, which rather suggests that he was prepared to spend some time in Wolverton. He died in 1858.



Robert Garnett


Robert Garnett was a son of a Manchester merchant family who did extremely well in trade in the far-east and as an early speculator in railways Garnett probably enhanced his fortune. He then followed the well-worn path of many wealthy Victorian industrialists and bought land (and the status it bestowed) in the Wyre Forest area near Lancaster and his descendants thereafter enjoyed the lives of country gentry. Robert Garnett was once a candidate for MP, although he did not get elected.


Thomas Cooke


Thomas Cooke put a huge amount of money into the railway, £219,000 according to The Times of 1846, so it is perhaps no surprise that his name was honoured in the name of a Wolverton Street. Curiously, other than he was also a director of the London and South Western Railway, little else brought him to prominence and it is hard to find much mention of him in any historical record apart from Committee minutes.


Joseph Walker


Joseph Walker, who gave his name to the short-lived Walker Street in Wolverton, may be one such. In 1846 he was able to put up £178,500 in share capital for the L & NWR so he was clearly a man of some substance. He was an early director of the London and Birmingham Railway and also of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. Other than that there are few clues to his existence.

            There is one tantalizing reference to a Mr.. Walker in the diary of Cecile Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, then on tour with her brother, the composer Felix:

            Saturday September 16
To another local worthy, Mr. Walker, for dinner. Rehearsal in the evening, the hall illuminated and splendid.

            The editor of these diaries suggests that this may be Joseph Walker, proprietor of Joseph Walker and Co., Factors in St Paul's Square. This is in part corroborated by an 1841 Census entry, which records a 60 year-old Joseph Walker and his wife living on The Crescent with a household of four servants. This address in itself would suggest affluence.

            This Joseph Walker, born around 1780, is certainly of an age which would have given him enough financial clout to become a director of an early railway company. It is possible that he was more active in the 1830s and hence became a candidate for a street name. He died in late 1846, but unlike his fellow Birmingham railway speculator, J.F. Ledsam, left little to be remembered by. This is a rather sketchy case for this Joseph Walker being the man who gave his name to Walker Street; it could easily be another man of the same name.





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