Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wolverton Works and the Station in 1863

Plan of Wolverton in 1863 (from Harry Jack's book)

The above plan shows New Wolverton on the 25th anniversary of its creation. The original workshop expanded to the north in the late 1850s to wipe out three streets of houses and as you can see it is also starting to take up farm land to the west. What we later knew as the Stratford Road and Church Street is a new development and you can still see today those buildings from the early 1860s. Glyn Square is still an actual square with terraced houses on three sides. The Market House, which was burned down in 1906, is on the site of the present two storey building.

But let me turn my attention to the station, built in 1840 and was to remain in service to 1881. It was, to judge from drawings from the 1840s, quite an impressive building and was celebrated for its refreshment rooms. In ts heyday in the 1840s Wolverton was a mandatory stop so that engines could be changed and passengers could refresh themselves in more ways than one. There was a staff of over 30 to administer to the needs of travellers and since the stopover was only ten minutes speed an efficiency were paramount. The organization was presided over by Mrs Leonora Hibbert, who was described by Sir Francis Bond Head as the "generalissima". She later moved to a hotel in Bangor.

As engines became faster and more reliable, the necessity of stopping off in Wolverton diminished and the refreshment rooms went into decline. Plans to build a hotel on this site were scrapped.

South of the railway line you can see the six villas, now the site of the "Secret Garden". Originally the approach road to the station ramped down from the canal bridge, but after 1881 that whole area was hidden away in anonymity. On this side of the railway they built the first paint shop and the second Gas Work were sited here before being moved to the Old Wolverton Road in 1881.

Below are two photographs taken in December 1861 from the east. You can see the spire of St Georges in the background. Behind the engine is a water tower and the southern end of the station buildings.

New Bloomer engine awaiting a paint job.
Express Goods Engine 1861

Both engines appear to have been lined up for a photograph before being backed into the Paint Shed for painting, by hand in those days, and using lead-based paints.

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