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.

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