Saturday, September 28, 2013

Development along the Stratford Road

Although the new road had been in use since 1843, there was no development on the road until 1860 when new lots were made available for private development. The Royal Engineer stood where it still stands since it was erected in 1841 but the Radcliffe Trust had resisted any requests for residential expansion until 1859, which is why New Bradwell streets had been built some six years earlier. The plan below shows how the first lots were drawn up. In this post I will concentrate on the first ten lots on the Stratford Road.

Of the 10 lots that were available for development in 1860, 5 were built and inhabited by the time of the census in 1861. According to the plan here, Number 9. sold to Joseph Lepper a grocer on Gas Street, was perhaps the first to be built. The others were Lot 1 (now Nos. 6,7,8); Lot 2 (No.9); Lots 4 and 5 (Nos. 13 and 14).

Once development started, Wolverton began to look like this.
The first three buildings on the Stratford Road - the Royal Engineer (1841), Nos 6-7 and 9, built in 1860
The house on Lot 1 was built by Charles Aveline who had set up business as a cabinet maker on Bury Street in 1840. He also got the Post Office franchise and for many years this was Wolverton's Post Office. It would appear that Number 8 was built in the 1890s to fill up the terrace.
6-7 Stratford road built in 1860 as a single house. 8 was added in the 1890s
At the same time Lot 2 was occupied by Abraham Culverhouse who ran a grocery from here.

9 Stratford Road, built in 1860.
The rather odd-looking Number 10 was built in the 1890s (hence the bay window) and blocked off street access to the North Western yard.
Two 3 storey houses built in 1860

The three storey buildings were initially large private houses (one was called Belvedere House) but they quickly adapted to a commercial function.
18-19 Stratford Road, built in 1860 as a grocery
The buildings now numbered 18 and 19 was built as a single dwelling as you can see by the design of the upper windows. I believe that the upper storey is still a single flat, but long ago the lower part was divided into two shop units.

During this first decade most of the front was filled in. The North Western Hotel was opened in 1864 on Lot Number 3 with space on either side, presumably for access for horses. However, before 1871 one of these spaces was filled by an attached property, now Number 12.
Built in 1864. Originally it had a central doorway with access to the yard on either side.
Lots 6, 7 and 8 were also built in this first decade. These are now numbered 15, 16 and 17.
15 and 16 Stratford Road, built in the 1860s

17 Stratford Road, built on Lot 8 in the 1860s
The corner lot, number 10, was first occupied by George Applin, who had a painting business. This corner house has accommodated many businesses over a century and a half.
20-21 Stratford Road. Although this operated separate businesses for well over a century, it was built in the 1860s as a single building.
The last phase of infilling happened in the 1890s when the lock-up shops were built between the Royal Engineer and the Aveline house; the house now numbered 8 was built, and the access to the North Western yard was blocked off.

Lock-up, flat-roofed shop units built in the 1890s
The shops at one time sported a rather fine looking balustrade. Only the posts remain but you can see its original appearance in the mid-century photograph below.
The Front looking west c. 1960s

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Beginning of the Stratford Road

The road we knew as the "Old" Wolverton Road followed a natural contour for a valley road, obviously avoiding the hill up to what became New Wolverton on its way to Newport Pagnell. The arrival of the railway changed this. Increased traffic from the Stony Stratford direction had to follow the old road and then negotiate a fairly steep incline for the last few hundred yards. So it then made sense to cut a new direct road which offered a longer and gentler slope to Stony Stratford. The approach from the east was unchanged.

A 1770 Map showing the pre-railway roads

The Turnpike Trust (roads were still managed in this way until the County Councils assumed responsibility later in the century) set about building the new road in 1843 and the old road was left to local management.  Curiously, when Queen Victoria visited Stowe over the Christmas season of 1844 she (or those managing the transport) chose not to take the new road and instead travelled by the old road. Some angry letters were posted to newspapers, one of which I reproduce here.

The Dangerous turn on the new road to the Wolverton Station
To the editor of the Northampton Mercury, Saturday 18th January 1845
Sir: Having been informed by some of the parishioners of Wolverton that the Old Road by Stonebridge House and Mr. Horwood’s, in the said parish, has been given up by the Trustees of the Newport and Buckingham Road as a Turnpike, in consequence of the so-called new and improved one going over the railroad, and by the Royal Engineer Inn; will some one of your correspondents do me the favour to inform me if such is the case?
If so, was it by the wish of the said Trustees, or at the suggestion of some kind friend anxious for the safety of our beloved Queen, that she took the Old Road, rather than hazard her personal safety by venturing that most dangerous turn over the railroad through part of New Wolverton on her journey from the station by Stony Stratford to Stowe; thus leaving a Turnpike Road and going into a private one.
I am Sir,
Your obedient Servant,

Some explanation may be required here. The railway station at the time was on the south side of the Stratford Road and could be reached by an approach road on the eastern side. There was already a canal bridge, possibly lower than the present bridge, and a road bridge over the rail line. The approach road was between the two. What the letter writer appears to be exercised about was the very sharp turn from the approach road to the rail bridge. Plainly this was believed to be a dangerous turn for carriages.

Nevertheless, the new road prevailed and tolls were collected at a bar just outside Stony Stratford. The other toll bar remained at the junction of the Bradwell and Newport Roads. I should mention that New Bradwell did not exist at this time. There was only a wharf up the hill by the canal, some cottages, The New Inn and the Windmill.

There was another fall out from the creation of the new pad. A decade earlier a new cast iron road marker had been placed on the Wolverton Road one mile from Stony Stratford.

It reads, as you can see, "Buckingham 9 and Newport 5" at the top and "Stratford 1" on both sides. Depending upon which direction you were travelling, the sign made perfect sense. You were in Wolverton (that is "Old Wolverton") and you were either 1 mile from or 1 mile to Stratford. When it was moved across to the new road, fairly close to the Happy Morn, someone painted "Wolverton 1" on the Stratford facing side. This was again sensible. "New" Wolverton was now 1 mile away.

Why am I labouring this point? Well here is a small instance of history being re-written to fit a 20th century narrative. The British Heritage site which lists monuments asserts that an error was made in the casting in 1833 and the sign had to be painted over to correct it.
An error was made on the original mould and the right side bottom lettering should have read WOLVERTON 1. This was corrected by painting WOLVERTON below STRATFORD. The Milepost was restored and reset in its original location by the Milton Keynes Museum of Industry and Rural Life and the casting error was left without the corrective over-painting.
Not so. In 1833 the railway had not arrived, Wolverton was not 1 mile away, it was where the milepost was

There was to be no development along the Stratford Road for many years. The only building that stood on this road for many years was the Royal Engineer. Only in 1860 did the Radcliffe Trust allow development and the first houses date from this time. This development I will describe in the next post.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The evolution of Wolverton's First School

In the first two years of "railway" Wolverton the new town grew rapidly. By 1840 the northern streets (Bury, Gas, Walker, Cooke and Garnett Streets) are fully inhabited and work had started on Creed Street, Ledsam Street and Glyn Square. A school was now a necessity so in 1840 the London and Birmingham Railway Company put up the money for construction and the school was built in 1840 on Radcliffe Trust land on the west side of the new Creed Street.
The school as it may have appeared in 1840

There were essentially three wings to the building illustrated here. As far as I can gather from contemporary reports the northern section housed the girls and infants schools, the central section accommodated the boys and the southern part was housing for the schoolmaster and his family. The first schoolmaster, Archibald Laing, was paid £100 a year. This was not a bad salary for the times. The average worker in the works earned half that, although some clerks on the railway could earn as much or more. The girls teacher was paid £40 a year and the Infants teacher paid a measly £30 a year. Women still had a long way to go to achieve pay equality.

The school went through some expansion over the century as the town population grew. You can see from this mid-20th century photograph, that the school had sprouted a number of additions.

This photo shows the buildings when they were used as a Market Hall

In the early 1890s the "Tank House" at the end of Ledsam Street was converted from public baths and a water pump house into a residence for the schoolmaster. The former schoolhouse was reclaimed for classroom space.

But before long even that was inadequate. Wolverton was undergoing a rapid expansion in the 1890s. Cambridge Street, Windsor Street, Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street all date from this period. So it was resolved to build a new school. Accordingly, again on the western edge of town, a new Boys School was opened in 1896 beside Church Street. The Girls and Infants continued to use the old school on Church Street.

A decade later, a new two storey school opened on Aylesbury Street for the Girls and Infants and the original school was abandoned. It is not known if there was any intended use for it, but in that same year there was a fire at the old Market House beside Glyn Square and it was decided that the Friday Market should occupy the original school.

And so it came about that the building that many of us remember as the Market Hall came into being and every Friday for almost three quarters of a century these buildings bustled with activity until 1980 when the new Agora opened and all such activity was transferred there.

The market now abandoned,

The building remained empty for a while and became vulnerable to damage and fire but a decision was then taken, probably by the council, to renovate and adapt the building. The northern wing and the walls were pulled down. The rest of the buildings were modernised and converted to offices. A travel agent occupied the central wing (the old Boys School) and another company occupied the rest of the building. In the first decade of this century the council reclaimed the building for its own purpose. The  Library was moved from Church Street and the remaining buildings were converted to meeting rooms.

The present day appearance. The white painted section is the original Boys School

This is now the oldest surviving building in Wolverton. Somebody should put a plaque on the wall.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The River Diversion

When the viaduct was built in the 1830s the river had to be diverted from its natural course. One casualty was Mead Mill (Meadow Mill) which had operated here for 1,000 years. It was on the river close to the new railway embankment but once the river was diverted Mead Mill was immediately out of business. I assume that by this date the Radcliffe Trust decided that one mill for Wolverton was adequate and the West Mill became Wolverton Mill. Mead Mill was inhabited for about 20 years after this but it no longer functioned as a mill.

Looking at this early 20th century photograph today I realised that the evidence of the new man-made river channel survived for a long time after it was dug - the regular width, ditch-like banks, little vegetation on the bank side. If you take a look at the bank on the other side of the Haversham bridge, for example, you can notice a marked contrast in the bank development and the course of the river.

Map showing the River Diversion of 1838

On this map you can see the location of Mead Mill, now some distance from the river. The new course cut through an S-shaped bend that rejoined the river on the west side.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wolverton's First Day

George Carr Glyn must have been very excited as he rose early on Monday morning, September 17th 1838 to take his carriage to Euston. This day would mark the opening of the uninterrupted London to Birmingham railway line – a full journey of 112 miles that could be completed at double the average speed of the fastest stagecoach. As chairman of the London and Birmingham Railway Company from its formation he had steered the new venture through the difficulties of parliamentary acts, raising massive capital, negotiating land acquisition and overcoming massive engineering problems. The last of these, the difficult construction of the Kilsby tunnel and issues with the Wolverton Viaduct had now been surmounted. From this day through passengers no longer had to alight in the no mans land of Denbigh Hall on the Watling Street, and proceed by stage coach to Rugby before resuming their rail journey to the Birmingham destination.

He could feel pleased with himself and as he met his fellow directors and chief officers for a 7 o- clock departure from Euston. The conversation must have been lively and self satisfied.

The train passed over Denbigh Hall bridge on to new rail for the first time – at least officially, and a further 8 miles brought them to Wolverton, the first station after Leighton Buzzard, and at that time in a fairly rudimentary state. A wooden station had been erected on the embankment and an approach road from the Stony Stratford to Newport Pagnell turnpike had been cut alongside this embankment. Passengers had to climb a long flight of steps and although we have no record of it there must have been a lot of grumbling. This may have stimulated the directors to build a new station on newly acquired land to the south only two years later.

We know little about this station. Some plan drawings from 1840 survive and there is a rather rudimentary line engraving with little detail that was published at the time. Subsequent redevelopment has probably destroyed any archaeological remnants.

Some facts can be asserted. Work had already started on the new engine shed and surrounding railway cottages. A wharf was built on the south side of the canal, and a well had been sunk to over 300 feet and a pump house built over it. Steam engines were thirsty machines and the proximity of the canal would not have guaranteed a sufficient supply, although as it turned out this well water was extremely hard and had to be diluted with canal water to minimize scale.

So the painting here is largely imaginary while depending on some salient facts.  The canal course has not changed and the embankment of the original line survives, as well as the bridge. The engraving above shows some station buildings. The rest is mostly conjecture. Te land to the north of the canal was still a field, probably used for pasture in 1838. It was soon leased to two Stony Stratford men who built the first Radcliffe Arms on this spot to cash in on the railway trade. The inn was trading in 1839 but it became something of a white elephant after the removal of the railway station in 1840 and its subsequent isolation from the new town.

We know from newspaper reports that a substantial crowd gathered to marvel at the new phenomenon of rail travel, many from nearby Stony Stratford who depended on the pre-eminence of coach travel for their livelihood. Little did they know.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Works Open Day - September 15th

Here I am watching over my book and card stand at the Works Open Day on September 15th. The company has recently been taken over by Knorr-Bremse and they are in the proces of setting up a new assembly line. I hope it all goes well for them.

 It was quite cold, which may explain the grim expression on my face. Anyway, the ay was interesting and I met some old friends and some new ones. Sales were steady and I sold all the copies of First Impressions I brought with me, as well as the last remaining few copies of I Grew Up in Wolverton and The Lost Streets of Wolverton.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buckingham Street

Buckingham Street began the third phase of Wolverton's development. In the first phase in the 1840s all the cottages were built by the railway company.

In 1860, when the Stratford Road and Church Street was opened for development, the building was left to private contractors.

In the 1870s, the LNWR returned to building their own cottages and renting them to employees, but in Buckingham Street this was only done on the north side, so you can see here an identikit terrace of houses, all built by the same contractor.

However, on the south side, the plots were open to private development, which is why you see slight variations in the architecture, usually reflected in the design of doorways and windows.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A New Book on Wolverton's Railway History

175 years ago the first train, carrying important dignitaries, steamed to Wolverton from London to mark the opening of the new railway line to Birmingham. Well over 1,000 people walked, rode or took a carriage from Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell and the neighbouring villages to witness this new phenomenon. It became the occasion for what the newspapers described as a rural feast. There was much celebration and the passage of this train was to transform Wolverton and North Bucks.

So what do we know about Wolverton in those early years? The answer is much more than you might expect. Wolverton was an important stopping point for the refreshment of passengers and a change of engines and this new town excited a great deal of national interest in its first decade.

Bryan Dunleavy has collected much of this material into a single volume which is now published in Wolverton’s  175th anniversary year as First Impressions: Contemporary Accounts of Victorian Wolverton.  The collection includes newspaper reports, traveller’s accounts, memoirs, Board minutes, letters, engravings, trade directory extracts, reports, journal articles, salary registers, census extracts. The intention is to provide eye-witness to the first decade from 1838. The result is an authentic picture of the new Wolverton as it appeared to early Victorians.

The paperback is 234 pages and retails at £10. It will be on sale in Wolverton from September 15th. If you would like an early copy you can place an order at 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More on the Radcliffe Arms

I've written about the Radcliffe Arms,Wolverton's first pub, built in 1839 before. Mainly here. The evidence I had at the time was a little sketchy but as I have uncovered more I believe I have a more complete story.

As I wrote before, the new inn was built in haste soon after the opening of the railway and was open for business in 1839. A year later the railway company decided to build their permanent station south of the canal, rather than on the original site to the north. So in 1840 the Radcliffe arms was effectively stranded in what later became Wolverton Park.

I subsequently discovered a plan of Wolverton made in 1847 which showed the"proposed site for the new Radcliffe Arms" beside to the main road between the canal and the later third railway station. This made sense of course and I wrote about it in this blog post. The owners of the Radcliffe Arms were not going to make any money from a pub in the middle of a field. However I could not assume from this alone that it was built until I discovered this advertisement.

Northampton Mercury Saturday 20th July 1844
To Builders and Contractors
Wolverton Station
Plans and Specifications for BUILDING a new PUBLIC HOUSE, near to the Railway Station, WOLVERTON; or for REMOVAL of the present Public-house, called “THE RADCLIFFE ARMS,” and  RE-BUILDING the same, with considerable additions, in a more convenient situation, are lying at the Cock Hotel, in Stony Stratford, for the inspection of Persons willing to Contract for execution of the work.
Tenders for building an entire new House and for Removal of the present House (sealed up) to be addressed to Mr. Clare,  Stony Stratford, before the 2nd day of August next.

The advertisement would indicate that the original Radcliffe Arms had been closed up and was not functioning although it was certainly a very lively place when Hugh Miller, the Scottish writer, visited in 1844, and there are surviving letters talking about "disgraceful" scenes  at the pub.

The dates are still not easy to reconcile. The date of the advert of 1844 would  tend to indicate that building would not start until the Spring of 1845 at the earliest. And the Driver map of 1847 suggests that the new site was just that at that stage. So perhaps there was some delay and a change of mind about pulling down the original building. In the 1861 and 1871 censuses there are "Radcliffe Arms Cottages" recorded, which would suggest that the original pub was converted into housing.

What we might conclude is that a new Radcliffe Arms was built beside the Stratford Road and the first building was converted into four cottages. When the railway loop line was constructed in the late 1870s the "new" Radcliffe Arms was demolished. The original pub still showed on the OS map of 1880, but that disappeared within a year to make way for the new Recreation Park.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Murder of a 3 year old boy in 1851

This story comes from the Northampton Mercury of Saturday, August 2nd. 1851, and tells a rather tragic tale of Sarah Irons, who, if this report is to be believed, drowned her own three year old son. The drowned body of the boy was found in the canal on the west side, just beside the Surgeon's house. This is now where the Secret Garden is. The body was left at the Radcliffe Arms over the bridge on the other side of the canal. This was more-or-less where the Park entrance used to be.
Sarah Irons doesn't appear in the 1851 census in Wolverton, but a 23 year-old of that name was working as a cook in Stanmore. Her son does not show at this address but may have been deposited with relatives. Fromthe reports below it does appear that she presented herself for these jobs as a single woman and had obviously arranged for her son to be lodged elsewhere. This stratagem fell apart when the woman who was caring for the boy presented him on the doorstep of Mr. Rogers' house saying that she could not keep him any longer. The Sarah Irons of Stanmore  could be the same woman.

Wolverton.— Alleged Murder.—On Monday last, Sarah Irons, a single woman, was brought in custody of Superintendent Driscoll, at the Magistrates' Clerk's office, Newport Pagnel, on the charge of murdering her illegitimate child, boy about three years of age, by drowning him in the Grand Junction Canal, at the Wolverton Station of the London and North-Western Railway. The Magistrates present were the Rev. George Phillimore and W. G. Duncan, Esq. It should be premised tbat on the previous Tuesday coroner's inquest had been held on the body, and an open verdict of "Found drowned" returned ; but tbe circumstances of tbe case having come to the knowledge of the Magistrates of the district, they deemed it necessary that the affair should undergo further investigation. A. warrant was accordingly placed the hands of Superintendent Driscoll, who apprehended the prisoner in London on the following Wednesday evening. Mr. Arrowsmith, solicitor, of Newport Pagnel, attended for the accused. Several witnesses were examined, the substance of whose evidence will be found in the following narrative. It appeared that the prisoner had been in the service of Mr. Rogers, surgeon, of Wolverton, as cook, for a period of about seven weeks. On the morning of Saturday, 19th inst., John Tyler, a police-constable on the London and North-Western Railway, was going his rounds at half-past six in the morning, when he perceived the body of child lying in the water a short distance from the bank of the canal. The spot where the body lay was nearly opposite a small wicket gate opening from Mr. Rogers's garden upon a narrow footpath leading along the canal bank—the towing path being on the opposite side of the water. The constable removed the body to the Radcliffe Arms Inn, and from some information he received, went Mrs. Rogers's and saw the accused. He asked where the child was, and she replied at Bradwell. a village about a mile and quarter distant. On his stating his intention of taking her into custody, she said, " I'll tell you the truth, was taking the child to Bradwell on Tuesday morning, and being unwell, let go my hand, and fell into the canal. From the evidence of two of the prisoner's fellow servants, seemed that the deceased had been taken to Wolverton some weeks since by a person from Bedford (of which town prisoner a native) with whom she had left it at nurse. It was afterwards placed with a party at Haversham, and finally with a woman named Franklin. The last named person kept it but a night and day, and then returned it to the prisoner, who concealed it in her master house. The last time was seen alive was on the night of Monday, 14th inst. It was likewise given in evidence that the prisoner had remarked it would be a happy release for her if the boy were dead. She had also been heard to say that she never liked the child, for she never had any love for his father. On the 17th inst., two days previously to the body being found, she appeared very merry, and accounted for by saying she had received a letter that morning informing her that she should have no more trouble about the boy. She had sold its clothes on this day to a rag dealer, and they were now produced by Superintendent Driscoll, and identified by both her fellow servants and Mrs. Franklin, who had the child at Bradwell. Messrs. J. S. Gent and J. M. Freeman made post-mortem examination of the remains they gave a very detailed description of the internal appearances, and both gentlemen were of opinion that deceased had not died a natural death, and that tbe appearances, congestion of the lungs, &c, were consistent with the fact that death had resulted from drowning. The prisoner having had the usual caution read to her, said she awoke about four on the Tuesday morning, and finding the child did not move or breathe, and not having the means to bury it, she took it to the canal and threw it in. She was then fully committed for trial the next Assizes, and Superintendent Driscoll was bound over to prosecute. The prisoner was soon after taken off to Aylesbury Gaol.

A more detailed account appeared on the same day in the Bucks Herald.

NEWPORT PAGNELL, On Monday last, a young woman named Sarah Irons, was brought before the Rev. Geo, Phillimore and W. G. Duncan, Esq., charged with the murder of her illegitimate child, three years of age. John Tyler, constable of Wolverton, deposed that Saturday evening, the 19th July, about half past six o'clock in the morning, he discovered the body of male child in the canal, near to the bridge which leads to the Wolvcrton Station from the Newport Road. It had on only a shirt. It had apparently been the water some days. There were no external marks of violence about it. Witness went shortly afterwards to the house of Mr. Rogers, the surgeon, at Wolverton, in whose service the prisoner then was, and questioned her about the child, which she said was at Bradwell. On his telling her that child had been found in the canal, and he had reason to believe it was hers, she said she would tell him all about it, and she then said that on Tuesday morning, she was going to take the child to Bradwell, when it slipped into the canal, and she was afraid to say anything about it. She afterwards made another statement to the effect, that on Tuesday morning she awoke early and found the child nearly dead, and that she took it down the garden and threw it into the canal. Witness took her into custody, and detained her until an inquest was held on the body, when she was released, a verdict of found drowned having been returned by the jury. Ann Harriett Whiffen, a fellow serv ant of the prisoner's, stated that the prisoner came into Mr. Rogers's service about seven weeks ago—about four weeks ago some one brought child to her at Mr. Rogers. She told witness it was her child. The woman who brought it refused to keep it any longer. The child remained at Mr. Rogers's, with the prisoner, for one night, and the next morning she told witness she had taken the child to Bradwell. A fortnight ago last Saturday, the child was again brought back to Mr. Rogers's to the prisoner. It remained there until the following Monday. It was kept in the prisoner's bed-room, and the door was kept locked. Witness saw the child between five and six o'clock on the Monday evening, it looked thin and pale, but appeared as well as usual. The prisoner went to witness between 11 and 12 o'clock the same night and told her the child was ill. Witness went to the prisoner's room, and found the child dressed and lying on the floor, with its head on a pillow, its mouth open, and it was making a choking noise in its throat. Witness did not stay long, and prisoner said if the child was worse she would call her. She did not do so, and at seven o'clock the next morning, on enqniring about the child, the prisoner said it was better, and she had taken it to Bradwell at five o'clock. On the following Thursday, the prisoner said she had received a letter from a person, and she should not have to pay for the child much longer. She would not tell who the letter came from. On the same evening, she said, it would be happy release for her if the child was to die. She said she had no love for it, as she had none for its father. About half-an-hour afterwards she said, all of a sudden, "it's enough to make one think of doing what they wouldn't do." Witness saw the child, which was found in the canal, and has no doubt it is the child she saw with the prisoner. William Todd, groom in the service of Mr. Rogers, identified the child as being the same one had seen with Sarah Irons. She told him it was her cousin, and wanted him to take charge of it for 2s. a week, but witness declined doing so. Mr. J. J. Gent, of Stoney Stratford, surgeon, said that he was called in about 12 o'clock on Saturday, the 19th, to examine the body of male child, about three years old, which was stated to have been found in the canal. He made then merely an external examination. The general appearance was healthy. It appeared to have been in the water some days. The mouth was partially open, and the tongue protruding. The pupils of the eyes were much dilated. the following day Mr Gent of Stoney Stratford, surgeon, made post-mortem examination. On removing the scalp there was red appearance on its internal surface on the left temporal muscle, and immediately above and behind the ear a slight extravasation of blood was perceptible between the integuments and the cranium. The blood vessels were found generally gorged and tended. The vessels of the brain" were turgid, and in that part corresponding with the external appearances extravasation of blood was found, indicating that some injury had been inflicted during life, but witness did not consider it sufficient to cause death. The stomach was free from appearance of inflammation. The heart also was healthy. The lungs were congested, and there was escape of frothy mucus from the nose and mouth. Witness was of opinion that the child did not die natural death. Mr. Freeman confirmed the statement made by Mr. Gent, and was also of opinion that the child did not die a natural death. Witness thought if the child had been thrown into the water after death there would not have been congestion of the lungs or water in the bronchial tubes. Sarah Franklin, Bradwell, gave evidence to the fact of having had the care of the child a few days at the request of the prisoner, who told her it belonged to woman living at the station. John Daniells, a general dealer at Newport Pagnell, said that Thursday, the 17th instant, he bought a child's frock and petticoat and a pair of shoes of the prisoner, at Wolverton. She said they belonged to the child she had asked him to get a home for the week before. Witness asked her where the child was. She said she had sent long way off, as she did not wish to be bothered by the parties who had the care of it. The prisoner, in reply to the charge, said the child died in her bed-room about four o'clock in the morning—that she awoke and found him very silent —he was not breathing, and being alarmed she dressed herself and put the child into a basket, intending to take it to Bradwell, but not being able to do it she went part of the way and turned back, and not having any money or any friends to assist her she was afraid of making an alarm, and not knowing what to do she put it it into the water, but she could say with a clear conscience that the child died a natural death her bed-room. She was committed to take her trial for wilful murder.
OnTuesday, March 2 1852,Sarah Irons was brought for trial at Aylesbury before a jury. Witnesses were sworn, including the local police constable, Tyler, and the evidence above was presented the jury. However, the jury chose to be compassionate and delivered a "Not Guilty" verdict.  What happened to Sarah Irons after that I do not know.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wolverton's First Builder - Charles Aveline

The title of this post is not true in any literal sense. Wolverton had builders going back to the middle ages and there were of course all the railway workshops and housing. However, these were built by outside contractors. Strictly speaking Charles Aveline was Wolverton's first local builder.

Charles Aveline proves to be an interesting character, very much the entrepreneur, and at the very beginning of the New Wolverton was able to seize the business opportunities it offered. 

He was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1829, the son of a cabinet maker, George Aveline. He had an uncle Frederick established in the same line of work in Stony Stratford. His grandfather and uncle Samuel also were cabinet makers in Great Horwood. Young Charles therefore began his business with a set of skills, knowledge of the business and possibly some material support from his father. He also had an aunt who married into the Barter family who owned, amongst other things, the wharf at Old Wolverton. I don’t imagine he had much difficulty in accessing capital.

We are told that Charles Aveline built the new farmhouse at Stacey Hill in 1848. This is probably what brought him to Wolverton and one suspects that he got the nod rom the Radcliffe trustees  through the contacts of his uncle Frederick and the Barter family. It is astonishing that he was under 20 at the time and if this was his  first building project it was very adventurous. (See my footnote below.)

Stacey Hill Farm as it appears today

In the 1851 Census he shows up in two of the shop units on Bury Street, numbers 385 and 386,  as a cabinet maker, furniture dealer and undertaker.  Aveline was visiting relatives in London on the day of the 1851 Census so he does not show up in Wolverton on that date, but the trade directories of the period show him as very much a commercial presence in Wolverton. 

In the next decade there were no building opportunities in Wolverton. The land had been used up and the Radcliffe Trust were not minded to allow expansion. New Bradwell was built by outside contractors. So for a period Aveline's building career was put on hold.

In 1860, when new lots were opened up on the Stratford Road and Church Street he was able to resume his building activities. He almost certainly built the first new house on the Stratford Road, now numbered 6, 7 and 8, which he inhabited. He also took on the job of  postmaster and I think the Post Office was managed by his wife and eldest daughter. The Post Office was at Number 6 and next door was leased to a grocer.  Wolverton's Post Office remained at this location until the Aveline retired and it moved further west, next door to "Foster's Corner." The General Post Office was built on Church Street in the 1930s.
The First Houses built on the Stratford Road

I cannot directly attribute specific houses to Aveline but one suspects that a number of the houses along the Stratford Road and Church Street built in the 1860s and 1870s originated with him. In 1881 Aveline was employing 23 men according to the census entry, so his activities must have been quite extensive. His name also turns up as the maker of a number of monuments in St George's churchyard. 
A View from the Radcliffe Street corner, c. 1910

There were two sons and two daughters born to his wife Ann. She died in the 1880s and Charles remarried. In or around 1890 he retired and moved to Bedford. His eldest son George became a land agent near Liverpool and his youngest son Charles Henry became a furniture dealer in Bishop's Stortford. Charles senior died in 1914 at the age of 85 and left £9,692 0s 8d in his will - a significant sum for those days.

(A footnote to the building of Stacey Hill Farmhouse. I was told some years ago by Bill Griffiths, Director of the MK Museum, that the farm was built by Charles Aveline. I have seen no documentary evidence. I raise a question here because of the youth of Charles Aveline in 1848. While it is not improbable that he built it, it does suggest that he had not only mastered the skills of building at a precocious age, but also had made a powerful case to convince the Radcliffe Trust land agent that he could successfully do the job. I wonder, for example, if Aveline might have been responsible for later additions but not the original building.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stacey Bushes Farm

Farms, as such, probably emerged in 1654 when the land enclosure was finally completed. Stacey Bushes farm is very remote from Wolverton so we might speculate that there had been some operation on this site prior to that. Nearby Bancroft was a much more ancient farming settlement and it is unlikely that the land in this area was ever completely abandoned.  The land that slopes down to Bradwell Brook, although a heavy clay soil, is quite good for arable farming, although the uplands, mostly bush and at one time common land, was used for grazing livestock.

The farm house and outbuildings was located on the north side of Bradwell brook and it can be seen on early maps. This map from 1825 shows its location clearly.
The earliest records of the farm date from 712-13 when the Wolverton estate was up for sale. A careful inventory of all the assets, including the farms and their rents, was compiled and at this date the tenant was William Harding. he held 289 acres for an annual rent of £180. This was not an insignificant amount of money in 1713. Those who were dependent on the parish for welfare would be paid from 1/6d to 2 shillings a week; if they were sick or disabled or widowed in the long term this would amount to no more than £5 a year. Against this figure £80 was a large sum.

But no doubt William Harding made more than enough money in the year to pay his rents and his workers an provide for his family. He was probably, among the five other farmers and some of the innkeepers on Stony Stratford High Street, a member of Wolverton's small middle class.

Nevertheless this was not a good period for farmers. The years 1725 to 1728 were extremely wet and yielded poor harvests, and even the years before that were not especially productive. The farm did not stay in the Harding family and after 1722 it was leased to Richard Gleed. Possibly his son William took over but since he had taken over part of what was to become manor Farm, it is possible that the Gleed family interests moved to the more fertile land in the north. At any rate richard Godfrey took on the tenancy in 1766.

The tenancy after that is not altogether clear but in the 19th century the Battams family, who also had interests in the inn trade, appear as  tenants. Thomas Battams was the tenant at the end of the 18th nd beginning of the 19th century and it was probably when William Battams, either his son or grandson,  was a tenant  that a decision was taken in 1848 to build a completely new farmhouse on the hill at the centre of the farm.

The reasons for this decision are not completely clear from the mites but it seems that the old farmhouse was past saving and a new build was necessary. It is possible that the farmer and the land agent felt that a more central location mad for better administration, and so Stacey hill farm came into being and the old Stacey Hill Farm was demolished. I am not sure that anyone in the past bothered to look for any remnants of the old buildings, but if there was something there it is now lost to recent development.

The new farmhouse, which is now part of the MK Museum, was built by Charles Aveline, Wolverton's first builder. I may have a follow up post on Aveline's legacy.

The building today has been enlarged over the centuries.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Westward Movement of Wolverton

For the first 20years of Wolverton's life Creed Street marked its western edge. the Church of St George, the school and the Royal engineer were all built on Radcliffe Trust property. Everything else was farmland. So until 1860, the Royal Engineer, from where this photo was taken, was about as far west as you could go.
(By the way, this photo and the other in this post have been kindly offered by Will Hawkins, who is busy building his photographic record of Wolverton)

In 1860 the Radcliffe Trust finally relented and allowed building along the new Stratford Road and Church Street. Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Street followed a decade later. The back alley that now exists to the east of Cambridge Street the marked the western edge of the town.This situation prevailed until the 1890s when Cambridge Street and Windsor Streets were built.
The back alley to the east of Cambridge Street

In the early 20th century the Radcliffe Trust decided to get into the property business themselves and opened up all the land from the old Palace Cinema to the back alley to the west of Anson Road. Most property owners in this section of town will find that the Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust, those who gave their names to Peel Road, Jersey Road, Anson Road and Woburn Avenue, are named on the property deeds. Once more this was a new western edge of Wolverton for the next 40 years until an extension was added to Aylesbury Street along with Eton Crescent. McCorquodales also extended their  operations across the road at the end of Church Street.
The residential houses with the bay windows were the last of the Edwardian phase of development.

In recent years McCorquodales has disappeared and new residential development has replaced the factory buildings on the south side of the Stratford Road. In the following photo created by Will Hawkins shows the old Edwardian end of Church Street, completed by 1910, and the new extension built a century later.

It doesn't look too bad at all!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The White Queen or the Ice Queen?

With the TV series The White Queen coming up on TV tonight I am minded to review Stony Stratford's moment in the sunlight of Plantagenet history.

HEdward IV was the eldest son of Richard, Duke of York, who was actually the first to style himslef with the surname Plantagenet. While historians have conventionally labelled the dynasty that began with Henry II in 1154 as "Plantagenet", the name was not actually used before the last two kings of that long line. The choice of the name was political. Richard of York claimed descent from Edward III's second surviving son Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and was able to advance a superior claim to the throne than his cousin Henry VI, who descended from the third son, known as John of Gaunt. None of this would have mattered much if Henry VI had been competent and had he put the talents of Richard (who was undoubtedly very able) to good use. In the end it came to war and Richard was killed at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30th 1460.

Edward succeeded to his titles on that day and continued the cause. He had better luck than his father and after the very bloody battle of Towton on March 29th 1461 emerged triumphant. He was quickly proclaimed king by Parliament after the deposition of Henry and was crowned on June 28th 1461. He was just 19 years old.

The throne was not yet secure but Edward had some things going for him: he was a tall and commanding figure, he had proved himself on the field of battle, he was personally charming, and he proved himself to be a god administrator. Over the next decade he introduced measures to translate the country's finances from a parlous deficit to a healthy surplus. He modernised government by introducing able and educated officials into the various offices of state and he introduced policies that enabled and encouraged foreign trade. The merchant adventurers, who spearheaded the growth of English trade in the succeeding centuries, owe their origin to Edward IV.

With all this in his favour and being increasingly secure on the throne by 1464, his impulsive marriage to Elizabeth Woodville is difficult to explain in any terms other than it was a headstrong act. Even Edward himself knew it because he kept the marriage secret for several months while negotiations proceeded for his potential marriage to a foreign princess until the very last minute when, essentially the game was up. His contemporaries were astonished and some were very resentful indeed. It could be argued, with the benefit of historical hindsight, that this marriage fatally undermined the Plantagenet dynasty. Were it not for the Woodville party, which the Queen had built up over the years, and the countervailing anti-Woodville party, it may have been less likely that Richard of Gloucester could have assumed power and Henry Tudor would have got nowhere near the throne. But this is idle speculation. The marriage did happen and there were consequences.

Elizabeth Woodville was born at Grafton circa 1437, the daughter of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the widow of John, Duke of Bedford. John was the second son of Henry IV. Jacquetta could claim a high lineage for herself, even descent from Charlemagne. This was not true of her second husband. One can only conclude that this was a love match. Woodville was the son of the Duke of Bedford's chamberlain and the widowed Ducchess, although expected to remarry according to the conventions of the time, would certainly have been presented with a good selection from those higher up the social scale. However, remarrying at the age of 19 she went on to bear 12 healthy children, the eldest of whom was Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's first marriage at the age of 15 to Sir John Grey of Groby was quite a good match; at that time the Greys were related to many of the most prominent families in England. She bore two sons before she was widowed on February 17th 1461 when Sir John Grey was killed at the Battle of St Albans. He was on the Lancastrian side.

So by the time she came under the roving eye of Edward she had been widowed for four years and had shown no inclination to remarry. We don't know, but must assume that various members of the Northamptonshire gentry had tried their luck without success.

The chance that brought them together does feature Stony Stratford. Edward and his entourage were heading north to deal with a small uprising and stopped overnight at Stony Stratford on April 30th 1464. Early the following morning he saddled his horse and rode the few miles north to Grafton, presumably with the intention of trying his luck with the beautiful widow, who, it is suspected, he had met before. It should be noted here that Edward already had a reputation for chasing women. Writers of the period, such as Dominic Mancini, who was an Italian envoy or perhaps a spy, made this comment:
he was licentious in the extreme. He pursued with no discrimination the married and the unmarried, the noble and the lowly; however, he took none by force.
The outcome of this visit was that Edward and Elizabeth were married that day in the presence of Jacquetta and four or five other witnesses. They then went to bed and Edward later returned to Stony Stratford and pretended that he had been hunting. He was now no longer in a hurry to continue his journey north and for the next three days he trotted out to Grafton to spend time with his new wife.

As I mentioned earlier, contemporaries were astonished when the news did emerge in October that year. It could not be explained in political and social terms and nobody was pleased except the Woodville family. The story that was current at the time and was first committed to paper in 1468 was that Elizabeth would in no way yield to his advances before marriage. With his blood up Edward cast aside diplomatic considerations and yielded to her demand. Youthful impetuosity overcame rational judgement. Knowing the queen's personality and observing that Edward waited months before eventually admitting openly the fact of the marriage this seems to be the most plausible explanation.

After the news came out in October the two were at last able to live together as man and wife. Edward also had to provide for the Woodville and Grey clans, who both had plenty of members. The men were ennobled, manors were acquired, jobs with perquisites were handed out and marriages were made to men of wealth and status. Some of these arrangements stretched credulity. In 1465 the Queen arranged for her 20 year old brother John to marry Katherine Nevill, the wealthy dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Katherine Nevill was probably happy enough with the arrangement - she was 65 years old!

There is no escape from the fact that Edward's queen was a steely and flinty personality. Her superficial beauty covered a hard and unforgiving nature. Personal slights were remembered for a long time and vengeance was often taken as a dish served cold.

The earl of Desmond, Deputy Lieutenant for Ireland, appears to have been one victim. In May 1465 while on a visit to the mainland he was in a hunting party with the king. Edward asked him frankly what he thought of his marriage to Elizabeth, and Desmond, equally frankly, because he was an intelligent and cultivated man who got on well with the king, replied that although he esteemed the Queen's beauty and virtues he felt that the king could have done better by marrying a princess who may have brought a foreign alliance. The king acknowledged this and took it in good part, not feeling slighted at all, and later mentioned this to the Queen. Elizabeth quietly absorbed this and waited for her moment.

This came two years later when the Earl of Worcester became Deputy Lieutenant in Ireland and agreed on behalf of the queen to bring Desmond to court on trumped-up charges. It was said that the Queen used the king's signet to seal the death warrant. Some time later the earl's two young sons were murdered in mysterious circumstances.

Another unfortunate was Sir Thomas Cook, a very wealthy merchant and Lord Mayor of London. The vendetta against him may have originated in his refusal to sell a valuable arras to Elizabeth's mother Jacquetta "at her pleasure and her price". He was subsequently accused of treason and imprisoned. Whilst in prison the servants of Lord Rivers and Sir John Fogge (a kinsman of the Queen) raided Sir Thomas Cook's house and too away the arras together with valuables worth a further £700. While they were there they also helped themselves to a large quantity of wine.

This was only the beginning for Cook who at his trial was found guilty, not of treason, but of the lesser charge of misprision of treason, that is he was aware of treason but failed to report it. This was not the verdict the Queen wanted and she turned her fury on the judge, Chief Justice John Markham. He was dismissed from his post for securing the wrong verdict. Nor had they finished with Cook who was ordered to pay a monumental fine of 8,000 marks and the Queen, under some ancient right of "queen's gold" secured a further 800 marks for herself and a number of gifts for members of the council, many of them her relatives.

It is also said that Queen Elizabeth was also instrumental in persuading her husband to execute his brother George, Duke of Clarence. She certainly bore a grudge against George, but it may be that Edward needed no special prompting to remove his wayward and unreliable brother.

I don't know what Philippa Gregory's portrayal of Elizabeth Woodville will be like, but I suspect that the events I have related above will not make for a good romantic tale of love at first sight under a tree at Potterspury. She was only the white queen in that she represented the white rose of York. In her personality she was more, in my view, the ice queen.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Wolverton 80 years ago

Wolverton looking west
This photograph, taken in the 1930s, is a reminder that Wolverton was not a static development and that the development after Milton Keynes came into being just accelerated the pace of change.

This is the Wolverton of my parents and grandparents. Victoria Street marked the southernmost limits of Wolverton and the residents on the west side of Anson Road had their gardens backing onto open fields.

Stacey Avenue and Marina Drive and Gloucester Road are yet to come, as was the extension of Windsor Street. Eton Crescent and Aylesbury Street West were also developments that just preceded my birth. I can also remember Furze Way being built in the late 1940s, The cemetery appears quite isolated in the south west corner.

The Carriage and Wagon Wworks and McCorquodales were probably at the peak of their development in this photo.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Feeding and clothing the poor

The Poor Law Act of 1834 created Poor law Unions and also the Workhouse. Up to that time the responsibility for administering to the poor rested with the Parish. The Poor Law Act grouped parishes into unions so that this business could be administered centrally. The workhouse was createdbecause early Victorians believed that people should work for whatever charity they received from the state. It became a hated institution by those who experienced its tough regime at firsthand.For reasons which are entirely down to the Duke of Grafton's influence the union for part of North Bucks and South Northants was established at Potterspury and the workhouse was built at Yardkey Gobion.

The two advertisements here are from the Bucks Herald of September 8th 1838. Suppliers of bread, staple groceries, clothing and coal are invited to tender. I don't imagine the Workhouse overseers were looking for the best quality or for the highest prices.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

More early Railway Accidents.

One of the first and unfortunately tragic consequences of introducing a heavy machine able to move at speed was that it took some time for people to become aware of the danger. Here are some reports from 1839, the first year of continuous operation of the London and Birmingham Railway. there were many more, but I have only included those that involved Wolverton

Yorkshire Gazette Saturday 14th September 1839

On Sunday night the mail train for London left Birmingham at its usual time, and proceeded with safety until near the station at Wolverton when a sudden outcry was raised that someone had been run over. The engineer immediately stopped the engine, and the guards ran back, when one of the stokers was found lying across the rails literally beheaded. It is supposed that the unfortunate man, while on the look out, must have slipped off the tender, and the wheels of the train passed over his neck.

The Champion Sunday 15th September 1839

We regret to state that another dreadful and fatal accident occurred on the London and Birmingham Railway on Monday morning last. It has been endeavoured to keep the matter strictly secret, but from the enquiries our informant has instituted the following particulars have transpired: - It appears that on Sunday night the mail train for London left Birmingham at its usual time, and proceeded with safety till near the station at Wolverton, when a sudden outcry was raised that someone had been run over. The engineer stopped the engine, and the guards ran back, when a dreadful sight presented itself, one of the stokers being found lying across the rails literally beheaded. It is supposed that the unfortunate man must have slipped off the tender, and the wheels of the train passed over his neck. The body was removed to Wolverton, where it awaits a coroner’s inquest. The above is, we understand, the third accident on this railway within eight days, a man at the commencement of last week having his foot torn off by a train; and on Friday last, at the Wolverton station, Inspector Watts was crushed in a most dreadful manner, death terminating his sufferings almost immediately.

Coventry Herald Friday 5 April 1839

An accident took place on the line of the London and Birmingham Railway, near Wolverton, on the morning of Saturday week, in consequence of which a man named White, an engineer in the employ of the Company, sustained injuries of an extensive and distressing nature. It appears that White had been entrusted to bring a train from Birmingham station to Wolverton, where he ought to have taken it on the opposite rail and there left it. On the contrary, however, he kept it on the same line upwards of two minutes after his arrival. Before he had quitted the up-train from Birmingham was observed approaching at full speed, leaving White no time to get out of the way. The consequence was, before ay check could be put on the speed of the up-train, it came into violent collision with that in which White was. The force of the concussion caused the engine to be detatched from the tender, which in its progress was turned off the rails and precipitated over the iron bridge into the canal that passes under it. White was discovered lying on the bank of the canal below the bridge, with one of his arms severed from his body, and his right thigh shockingly lacerated, besides having received several other severe contusions. Medical aid was procured, and amputation of the arm close to the shoulder was deemed indispensable. The train proceeded without any inconvenience save slight damage to one or two of the  carriages by breaking the windows.

The Champion Sunday 20 October 1839


The mail train from the north on Monday morning was thrown off the rails about a mile from Fenny Stratford, in consequence of running over two cows. The travelling post-office was much injured, and the horse box, in which the great portion of the mail bags are deposited, was nearly broken to pieces, as well as another carriage. An engine and a second class carriage were immediately sent for the conveyance of the mails to London, where they arrived two hours and forty minutes after the proper time. In consequence of the travelling office being broken, all the letters for the towns between Wolverton and London, and for the post towns on the line on each side the railway, were unavoidably brought on to London, from which place they were again dispatched by day mail to their destination. Fortunately the two clerks and the guard employed in the travelling post-office escaped without injury.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Would you recognise this Wolverton?

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Arthur Mee's book on Buckinghamshire for £1. It was a volume in a monumental pre-war work which covered every county in its own volume and was called The King's England. The format is an alphabetical arrangement of articles on each town and village. New Bradwell, by the way, was not included. This volume was first published in 1937. This is the Wolverton entry.

Wolverton. We may wonder if we could not write half the story of our land round Wolverton, from the Saxon mound to the traffic lights at Oxford Circus. Certainly it has a very great story for this age of ours, and it comes out of the far past when the Saxons threw up the mound by the church. 
The church, with two fine cedars before it, throws its shadow over the mound and looks out into the meadows of the Ouse valley. There may have been a church here as old as the mound itself; we know there was a Norman church, for one of its carved stones is in the rectory, the patriarch of the village houses, with fluted Corinthian columns at the door and the arms of the Longuevilles on the pediment. The inner doorway of the rectory has grotesques in its spandrels and the head of a heraldic greyhound in its tympanum.
But the Saxon church has gone completely, and all that is left of the Norman church is the queer head carved by a Norman mason and a consecration cross which was fixed in the wall when the church was made new last century.
Of the mediaeval church the 14th century tower remains with its arches intact, and the grotesque Norman head is in its stair turret. There is a marble monument with one of our first baronets on it, Sir Thomas Longueville of 1685. But for the rest it is modern—a brass portrait of a vicar's son killed in his teens while flying in France (Bouverie St Mildmay), a graceful font canopy with a golden eagle in flight as the pulley-weight, saints and angels on the reredos and Fathers of the Church on the pulpit, and a painting of Christ and the children above the tower arch.
But we think of Wolverton not for what we see here but for what has happened here in days that seem to us so very long ago yet are still in living memory. The great works of the LMS have here transformed a village into a busy town. It is halfway from London to Birmingham, and it happened that it was a convenient place in the early days for teaching railways traffic control. Strange it seems to us today, but in the early days of trains there were men on the lines giving signals. It chanced that there were an unusual number of signal-posts near Wolverton station, and here men came for training. Here they were taught to stand erect for a signal if the line was clear, to wave a red flag before the engine if there was danger, and to bring the red flag smartly to the shoulder as the engine passed. They are scenes from Wolverton's past which seem to give it a place of its own in the history of transport.
We have been able also to see copies of the private time-tables that were once used here, in the days before Greenwich had linked the country with its own time. Then they set times down in their tables in terms like these:
Arrive Wolverton:
London time 10.25; Local time 10.20.
And so it is that Wolverton, beginning its story with the Saxon mound in the shadow of the trees, has not only something old and new for us to see, but something curious for us to know.
It would appear that the writer spent a little time at Old Wolverton inspecting Holy Trinity and the Rectory and is able to give it a few paragraphs, but he must have taken one look at the town and concluded there was nothing interesting to say about it. He probably collared some likely-looking character on the Stratford Road who then gave him this entirely fanciful tale that the origin of the town depended on it being a training centre for signalmen.