Friday, December 19, 2014

The Inns of Stony Stratford

Just going through the final stages of proof reading and correction, but, after a long period, the book will be published in January.
Should be a good way to start the year.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Origin of the "Tin Hut"

Those of us who are a certain age will remember the "Tin Hut" on an undeveloped patch of land at the corner of Aylesbury Street and Peel Road. It belonged to the Wesleyan Methodists and was used as a social and meeting centre, More importantly to me as a teenager it had two billiard tables and it became a favourite haunt of myself and my friends for a period in our lives.

During the second World War and after, when rationing was in force,  it was used  by the Ministry of Food to hand out ration books and process coupons. In the 1950s part of it was used for classroom space by the Secondary Modern school across the road.

I am indebted to John Taylor for digging out this account from Wolverton Express reports from the period. This is how it all came about.

At the corner of Peel Road and Aylesbury Street, on Saturday, September 20th 1919 a T shaped memorial hall was opened by the Wolverton Wesleyan Methodists. This was to be a centre for young people to meet and socialise, and having been reconstructed from two Army huts, bought at a Government auction sale at Ampthill, the dismantling and re-erecting had been voluntarily carried out by the members. As for the money, friends had lent £400 for two months interest free. Following that friends and members of the Church had lent sums of between £1 and £10 for a longer period whilst gifts had amounted to £26 with weekly collections raising £60. The cost had been £412 with cartage at £58 5s and sundries £39 14s 5d. Equipped with heating and lighting the accommodation measured 51 feet by 23 feet with the interior being match boarded and varnished, and the roof covered with felting and corrugated iron. There was also the provision of a lean to, containing the ladies’ kitchen, lavatories and cloakroom. Supported by Mrs. E. J. Penny, Mrs. Penny junior, Mr. F. Beach and Mr. G. Hyde, in presiding at the opening ceremony the Reverend Howard said that following the Armistice they thought that especially for the young they should have something tangible to mark their appreciation of God’s gifts to them. They wanted to express in a permanent way their sense of obligation to those of their brave men who had fallen, and there were two branches to this memorial scheme. One part related to the renovation of their Church and the other part was to provide a greater accommodation on the social side for the returning ‘boys,’ where they could find healthy recreation in a suitable place. The hall was therefore intended to be a branch of the Church in ‘the other part of the town,’ and soldiers had told him about the quality of the Ampthill huts. In a suitable address Mrs. Penny then declared the facility open, following which Miss Flossie Hyde presented her with a bouquet. Also on a floral theme in connection with the opening a flower show, arts and crafts exhibition and eisteddfod was held and from now on the meetings of the PSA would be held in the new centre. (In December 1921 the Wesleyan Church raised £153 towards liquidating the debt on the memorial hall.)
The picture here shows the hut in the background in a derelict state at the end of its days.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wolverton and district in 1824


Very little of the Wolverton area from the early 19th century is now recognisable. Even the Watling Street has now been broken up.

This map was published in 1825 and based on a survey of 1824 by a man called A. Bryant. Little is known about him, not even his first name, but the map survives and pre-dates the Ordnance Survey by a decade.

The Wolverton Road followed its old course along the valley. It was at that time a toll road and toll houses were to be found just outside Stony Stratford, at the Haversham turn and at the turn at the bottom of the hill at what was later New Bradwell. New Bradwell did not then exist and houses could only be found by the canal at the wharf, the New Inn and the Windmill. There may have been more people at that time living in Stantonbury.

There was a direct track from Wolverton to Bradwell, probably going through the Happy Morn and the Haversham road was in a slightly different place, having been moved to the east when the railway embankment was built. The course of the river was also changed at the same time.

Note also the direct track from Stonebridge House to Calverton. This was one of the ancient cross country roads, a ridgeway. Parts of it survive at Wolverton as Green Lane and the track between the Top Rec and the Cemetery.

Stony Stratford was also somewhat different. The Back Lane, now Russell street, had houses of sorts on it and could reach the High Street through Ram Alley, which was demolished later in the century to become New Street.

The main farms were at Brick Kiln, Wolverton Park (now known as Wolverton House), Manor Farm (marked here as Wolverton House), Stacey Bushes Farm (at the time the farmhouse was beside Bradwell Brook) and Stonebridge House Farm. there were also some smaller farms such as Debbs Barn near Stony Stratford and another farm which was later occupied by McCorquodales ad the western end of the Works.

Much of this map could still be recognised by those of us who grew up in the pre-Milton Keynes era, but I rather thinks that as development continues and roads change their course, very little of it can be positively identified today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

News from 1753

This is an extremely gruesome story. I expect that today this would have commandeered several pages in the tabloids but in the Derby Mercury, 19th October 1753, it only merited four lines. The impact was the same.

Last week Elizabeth Robbins, a girl about nineteen years of age, was committed to Reading Gaol, upon her own confession, for the murder of her bastard child at Woolverton, near Stony Stratford, Bucks. She had buried her child in a lay-stall, where it was discovered by a hog's eating the lower part of the belly.

Friday, August 22, 2014

WWI Soldiers from McCrquodales

Recently I became aware of a book that had been prepared and printed by McCorquodales to commemorate their former workers who served in the 1914 - 1918 war.

This copy, which is by now extremely rare, was salvaged from a skip by a New Bradwell history teacher, Tanya Kenny, at the time that McCorquodales was being demolished. Tanya has agreed to share this with a wider audience and I asked Steve Clarridge to photograph the book. Here are photographs from the Wolverton section.

The men range in age from the very young to men like Edward Beard who enlisted in August 1914 in his mid-thirties and saw almost four years of action before meeting his end in 1918.

Names and details are included with each photograph.



















Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two 18th century inns on the Market Square


This great find turned up yesterday - a rarely photographed corner of the Market Square at Stony Stratford taken before demolition. On the right of the photo is the present Market House (no. 8) and a private dwelling (no 7). The rest has been redeveloped.

The two houses at numbers 5 and 6 were probably one building in the 18th century and was known as the Green Dragon. The Green Dragon closed in 1756 and it is not known if it was subsequently licensed under another name.

The building at the back of the White Horse was probably The Plough. This was operating for most of the 18th century, as the Plough until 1764 and the White Lion until 1784. The Sun on the London Road was re-named the Plough two years later and had retained this name ever since.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Opening Days of War

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first hostilities of what was sometimes called the Great War and now generally known as the First World War. Over the following days the media and various military historians will explain how the world got itself into this mess, but here, reported in the Wolverton Express 1914 Aug. 28th, was one account (anonymous, as no name was given in the paper0 of how a group of holidaymakers found themselves more-or-less stranded at the outbreak of war.
“We started on Thursday, July 30th, a party of ten, from Charing Cross railway station, to join a conducted tour under the auspices of the London Polytechnic, through beautiful Italy. Nothing eventful happened on our outward journey, and it never really dawned upon one of our number of the adventurous journey we should experience before we placed foot again on English soil. 
Our first stopping place was Lucerne, a city well known to tourists in Switzerland. After a short stay we left Lucerne on Saturday with a total party of 40, passing through the Bale customs all right. 
Arriving at Genoa on the north-west coast of Italy, we spent one day sight-seeing, continuing the next day to the famous city of Rome. The first news of the war cloud threatening Europe was made known to us when in this Roman city. The news came with startling effect upon our party and caused great anxiety, especially by the fact that the way we had come was now closed to us for the return journey. Following this news came a telegram advising us to economize, warning all tourists not to spend any money, as it would probably be a long time hence before they could leave the Italian capital. 
We at once commenced to cut our expenses, to such an extent that our midday meal consisted of a penny glass of soda, two bananas, and one apple, which was not a sumptuous repast. The next day came further startling communications, the British Consul announcing that Britain had declared war on Germany. The party, realising to the full extent the nature of the situation, immediately sought to get their credit notes etc., cashed, but a disappointment here awaited them, as every bank had closed its doors. An English sovereign fell from 25 to 20 francs - thus we lost nearly 4/2 in the £. Our party included Americans and Australians, and everyone rushed to their respective ambassadors and consuls to seek advice. All were eager to leave Rome, and all advice was angled for in order to make our departure. 
When we arrived at the British Consul’s Building we were plainly given to understand that we could not leave the country, neither could we have any money sent to us as all telegraphic communication was held by the military. Upon the return to the hotel where we were staying, our guide called a meeting and read a telegram from the headquarters instructing him to take no responsibilities, but let the party decide if it would remain in Rome or continue the tour. After some deliberation we ultimately decided to remain for a week. This period we spent in visiting the various sights of the famous city. By the end of the week the party, one by one, began to be affected by the heat and the rumours of the war which were broadcast. 
It was then decided to go on to Venice, the ‘Queen of the Adriatic.’ Two days were spent here, when the party heard of a possibility of getting to Lucerne via Chiasso (a town on the Italian and Swiss frontier), which was a rather out of the way route. So with this news in mind we were a little relieved of our anxiety, and started next morning with light hearts on our journey. Arriving at Chiasso about mid-day, we passed the customs officials all right. But here we received a severe check by the train on which they were travelling being commandeered by the military, and the news that we could not proceed any further. At this point our guide ceased to have anything to do with the party, so we split up into small parties, and our party, whose adventures are being related, consisted of eight. After putting up at a hotel for dinner, we went to Como, a lake city in the north of Italy, by tram. At this place we had news of an early train departing the following morning at 5 o’clock, for Lucerne. The journey would take 14 hours’ travelling where under ordinary circumstances it would occupy about six hours. 
Everybody was up next morning without knocking, and we caught the train, arriving at Lucerne about 7p.m. This was Saturday, and we were now three days over our time. No news reached us from the British Government as to our train. (The train referred to here is the special train chartered by the Government for the benefit of all British tourists.) At Lucerne we found a British Committee set up for the purpose of taking names of British subjects and to give any advice which was required. Our party consisted of a Scotch gentleman and his two sisters, a gentleman and his wife, and myself and two sisters, and we all went to seek advice. Here we received another check by being informed that on no account could we leave Lucerne. Determined to do our utmost to continue our journey home, we went for fresh advice to the Consul, who gave us our passports. We visited Cook’s Tourists’ Office, enquiring relative to a train. We were given to understand that there was one departing for Geneva next morning. Whether it would get there or not they could not state. However, we took our tickets for Geneva, which is direct west of Lucerne, practically on the Swiss and French frontier. Geneva was our first stopping place on our way to Paris. 
Strange to relate, when we arrived at the Railway Station at 5a.m., we found two or three of the British Committee, a man from Cook’s, and the representative from the Polytechnic, who had all advised us to stay in Lucerne and yet they all seemed eager to take their departure! All went well until we reached Bellegarde, where we again had the ordeal of the rather inquisitorial attention of the customs, which we passed again all right. Immediately we had reseated ourselves for the continuation of our journey we met another of our small parties from Lucerne who had travelled all night. After about nine hours’ travelling we arrived at Embericu, where we were ordered out of the train and instructed to take our luggage outside the station, where we remained for four hours. 
During this time the train was utilised for the conveyance of wounded who were brought in. Most of the unfortunate fellows seemed to have been shot in the legs and arms. When this work was finished we were allowed to entrain, and our journey was comfortably resumed as far as the ancient town of Dijon in the east of France, arriving at 9p.m. Here again we had to change. 
Things now took an exciting turn. Everybody was determined to get home, and in many cases our fellow travellers apparently forgot the phrase of “Ladies first.” This was seen at the arrival of the next train, when a mad rush was made for the accommodation. Two of our ladies and a gentleman were knocked down. We decided to wait for the next, which came along at 2a.m., and which took us safely to Paris after a journey occupying 30 hours and changing about eight times. 
We stayed in Paris for the night, but Paris was not the Paris we were used to. All theatres and shops were closed, and cafes were ordered to be closed at 8p.m. At Paris we paid our first penny to the War Fund which was paid on the hotel bill as a penny “extra.” It had been decided upon in Paris to charge the extra penny for the War Fund on all hotel bills and theatres. We left Paris next morning at 6 o’clock, arriving at Boulogne safely and crossing between two rows of battleships to Folkestone, relieved to a certain extent from all war rumours and anxiety. The ladies of our party have decided to stop in England for some time to come after these adventures. The nearest we got to the war zone was Belfort station. (Belfort is a fortified town in the east of France on the German frontier.) The fight was some 17 miles away, and being so close, the party was made to detrain and go by a loop line about 12 miles out of our way.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Murder on the Watling Street

Road travel was quite unsafe in the 18th century. Apart from accidents, there was the ever present risk of robbery. Despite the romance of legend, highway robbery was a thuggish activity, as these reports show.

Northampton Mercury October 1st 1774
On Thursday last, about six in the Morning, was found in the High Road between Shenly and Stony Stratford by two Men going to Work, the Body of one James Wills, a poor industrious Man, most barbarously murdered. He belongs to Woolverton, near Stony Stratford, and had been to a Statute held near Fenny Stratford selling Nuts and Cakes. His head was so terribly beat and bruised by a Slate  of a Stake Rail, that on moving him his Brains dropp'd out. He has left a Wife and seven children. Diligent Search is making after the Murderers.

Northampton Mercury 2nd March 1778
Dennis Ryan, charged on the Oath of Thomas Kelly, with having beat him on the Turnpike-Road, between Shenly and Stony-Stratford, and robbing him of one Guinea, ten Shillings, a few Halfpence, two Farthings and a thread Purse. 
Northampton Mercury Monday 18th August 1783
Last Monday evening, between Nine and Ten o'Clock, as William Haddon of Pisford in this County was travelling between Stony-Stratford and Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, with a Team, he was knock'd down by two Men, who beat him in a cruel Manner, and rifled his Pockets of 8 Guineas and a Half in Gold, between 3 and 4 Pounds in Silver, and his Watch - Makers Name Hemmen.

Newspaper notes from the 18th Century

Here's a selection of newspaper reports from the later part of the 18th century wen the Northampton Mercury began to publish. This collection is a miscellany of odd notes which show that in many ways human behaviour does not change, although our understanding of it does.

Northampton Mercury Saturday June 23rd 1798

The Malpas family were quite prosperous in Stony Stratford at this time, owning several properties and businesses on the Market Square. This advertisement was placed several times in the paper by William Malpas, presumably to cover himself. I guess there must have been some family quarrel and Joseph had stormed out. there was obviously some worry that young Joseph might collect on a few of his fathers debts to provide himself with some finance.

A CAUTION
The Customers of WM. MALPAS of STONY STRATFORD, Bucks, Wine and Brandy Merchant, likewise Pin-maker, are desired not to pay any Money to the Account of the said Wm. MALPAS, to his Son, JOSEPH WILLIAM MALPAS, who has been used to receive for his Father; the said Joseph William Malpas having absconded from his Parents yesterday without Notice.
Dted Stony-Stratford, June 15th, 1798.

Northampton Mercury Saturday 5th April 1788

I assume John Cox was young and probably got carried away with the brilliance of this prank one night. He may not have been alone (moving gates single-handed would be hard) but he seems to have been the one to answer for it. He may have come from a respectable family and his father saw to it and paid the attorney Stamp Garrard to come up with a mechanism that kept his son from a criminal record.
8th MARCH 1788
WHEREAS I JOHN COX, of the Parish of Calverton, in the County of Bucks, Higler, did, in the Night of the 29th Day of January last, take several Gates from the Posts of the neighbouring Fields, and wantonly and mischievously set them up, in the middle of the High Road, leading from Stony-Stratford to Fenny-Stratford in the said County of Bucks, without considering how much I endangered the Lives of Passengers, and the InjurybI might have occasioned to the Horse and Carriages traveling the Road, by this wicked Proceeding, and for which a Prosecition has been commenced against me; but the same has been withdrawn, on my acknowledging the Improprirty of my Conduct. - Now I do hereby most humbly beg Pardon of the Public, for the indiscreet Part I have acted, and hope this full Acknowledgement of my Offence, may prevail on the Humanity of my Prosecutors and the Public, to pardon me, and to believe, that I will not only never againnbe guilty of such wanton and wicked Acts myself, but as far as lies in my Power, most zealously prevent the Commission of them by others.
JOHN COX
Witnesses to the Signing by the said John Cox;
Stamp Garrard, Stony Stratford
William Etheridge.

Northampton Mercury Monday 30th March 1772

Arsonists about?

WHEREAS on Saturday evening the 14th. of March, about eight o'clock, a FIRE broke out on the Thatch of a house untenanted in Stony-Stratford, Bucks; and as there is the greatest Reason to believe the said House was wilfully set on Fire, whoever can or will discover the Person or Persons that actually did set Fire to the said House, shall, on Conviction thereof, be paid TEN GUINEAS, by Abraham Chapman, of Stony-Stratford aforesaid, Agent to the Sun Fire Office.


Northampton Mercury Monday 23rd September 1776

James Biddel, colourfully described here as "carbuncle-faced", enlisted (took the King's shilling) on September 5th and deserted in Stony Stratford on the 20th. I presume that after 15 days he found the military life much less appealing than it must have seemed on the 5th of September.

DESERTED from Captain Hamilton's Recruiting-Party, belonging to the 14th Regiment of Foot, at Stony-Stratford, Bucks, on the 20th September, 1776, JAMES BIDDEL, aged 27 Years, five Feet seven Inches 3-qrs. High, swarthy Complexion, lank black Hair, Carbuncle-faced, strait and stout made, born in the Parish of Kingston in the County of Somerset, by Trade a Gardener, insisted at Northampton the 5th inst. had on, when he went away, an old dark-ble Coat, brown Waistcoat, dirty linen Breeches, a new pair of Pumps, and a black silk Handkerchief about his Neck.
Whoever secures the above-said Deserter, in any of His Majesty's Gaols, and gives Notice thereof to Captain Hamilton, or to Messrs Ross and Gray, Agents to the said regiment, in Conduit Street, London, shall receive TWENTY SHILLINGS, over and above what is allow'd by Act of Parliament for apprehending Deserters.

Northampton Mercury Saturday 4th August 1787

This is one of those really sad and tragic stories that seem to occur in any century. In the 18th century this could only be accounted for by fits of madness ("temporary Phrensies") without any understudying of the causes.

And on Friday 27th, another Inuisition taken at Stony Stratford, in the said County with the same Coroner, on View the Body of (illegible) Reynolds, an Infant about twelve Months old who was drowned by her Mother in a Bucket of Water. It appears that the Mother (Susannah, the Wife of J. Reynolds, of Stony-Stratford, Labourer) is subject to temporary Phrensies, and has not the Use of Reason at certain Periods. - The Jury brought in their Verdict that the Mother was guilty of the wilful Murder of the Infant, and was accordingly committed to His Majesty's Gaol at Aylesbury.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"He died by the visitation of God."

Here is a curious report from Northampton Mercury Saturday 19th May 1792.
The Coach and Horses, now a dental clinic at 124 High Street, was an old inn and has probably witnessed many bizarre incidents before this one. I assume that the man died of a heart attack, but 200 years ago they were content to describe it as a "visitation of God."
On Saturday last, another inquisition was taken at Stony Stratford before the same Coroner, on view the body of William Pearson, a traveller, who died suddenly as he was sitting in the chimney-corner at the coach-and-horses public house in that town. - Verdict, That he died by the visitation of God.

More accidents from the age of horse and carriage

Road travel was still a risky business in the 18th century, as I have noted in other posts.

The Northampton Mercury  of December 8th 1783 reported on this Coroner's inquest:
On Monday 24th November, an Inquisition was taken at Sony Stratford, Bucks, before James Burham, Gent. His Majesty's Coroner for the said County. On view the body of James Connelly, a Sailor, one of the Passengers in the Basket of the Liverpool Stage Coach, who, being intoxicated with Liquor, fell out of the Basket, of which Fall he languished about 20 Minutes, and then died. The Jury brought in their Verdict, Accidental Death.
As I remarked in an earlier post, the term "dropping off to sleep" actually originates in such accidents, where a drowsy slumber might catch the seated occupant unawares with a headlong plunge to injury or death.

This report from the Northampton Mercury of Saturday April 19th 1788, describes another, less fateful accident.
On Sunday morning last, about Three o'clock, Banks, the driver of one of the Chester coaches, by a sudden Jolt of the Carriage, was thrown from the Box, near Stony Stratford, by which Accident both his legs were broke. The Horses went on with the Coach through Stony-Stratford and brought it safe to Old-Stratford, notwithstanding they passed a Waggon on the Road, without the Passengers knowing Any Thing of the Accident.
I don't know when the crash helmet was invented, but in 1790 we were a long way off from such an invention. Deaths from falling off or being tossed off a horse were almost commonplace. This is not the only example.

From the Northampton Mercury 30th October 1790
On Wednesday the 20th instant an Inquisition was taken before James Burham, Gent, his Majesty's Coroner for the said County, on view the Body of one John Adams, who, as he was retiring home from Stony Stratford visitation, fell from his horse and fractured his skull, of which fracture he languished about two days and then died. Verdict. Accidental Death.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another Early Map of Wolverton


Sometimes little gems turn up in unlikely places. I found this plan, folded, in a box of Radcliffe Trust documents in the Bodleian Library
in Oxford. Let me explain why the plan was made and then I will comment on what it tells us.


The early inhabitants of Wolverton, having no back gardens, were given allotments. In the 1840s this was about the only way of organising your own vegetable supply, there being no greengrocers in Wolverton. The first allotments were laid out in the eastern field by the canal at some distance from the houses. However some of the Bury street residents, quickly realising that their back yards opened directly onto a field decided to help themselves. This is the field coloured in red on the plan. Some even kept pigs.

The farmer complained to his landlord, the Radcliffe Trust and the Trustees called in Mr John Driver to investigate and make a report, which he did on April 14th 1847. He did recommend selling more land to the LNWR for allotments, but his more sensational recommendation was to build a six foot hush brick wall around the railway property. This was to be built at the railway company's expense and I suspect that it was never built.

What Mr Driver did leave behind is this interesting plan of Wolverton in 1847. The green coloured area was the extent of railway Wolverton at the time, although it may not be entirely up-to-date as the second Engine Shed, on the east side of the line was certainly started in 1845, and the Gas Works had also moved by this time. So there are some curious anomalies here. The Royal Engineer, for example, is outside Wolverton on Radcliffe Trust land. This is because it was a condition of sale to the railway company that no licences premises would be permitted on railway property. This also explains the location of the Radcliffe Arms in that field which later became Wolverton Park.

I have told the tale of the Radcliffe Arms before, where two enterprising Stony Stratford businessmen  took out a long lease on these four acres and rushed to complete their new hotel by 1839, next to the first railway station, only to learn the following year that the railway company had moved the station to a new location. The Radcliffe Arms was thus isolated from the town, and indeed travellers, but what this plan shows is that they finally had decided to build a new Radcliffe Arms beside the road. This is pretty much the spot where the third station was built n 1881.

We can also note from this map that the extension of Creed, Ledsam and Young Streets is about to start. Some rough pencil lines indicate the proposed terraces.

The new road to Stratford had been cut through in 1844 but the approach road to the station still comes from the west, as if carriages would come from the Od Wolverton Road. It seems that this was certainly the case when Queen Victoria arrived here to spend the Christmas of 1844 at Stowe. Instead of taking the new direct road she processed down to the old road and thence to Stony Stratford. I suppose the hairpin bend shown on this map caused some royal nervousness!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Early Wolverton Plan


Here's a plan of Wolverton Works and the northern Streets circa 1850. I've cleaned it up a bit.

The quadrangular building in the centre is the first Engine shed and the main reason for Wolverton's being. On the right is the new Engine Shed built about 1845.

This is what it looked like from the bridge in the 1960s.

The three short streets of cottages to the north are (from the east) Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street. They had a very short life. They were cheaply built with one room downstairs, and a scullery with a sleeping platform above and although they were cheap to rent they were generally unpopular. When the time came for workshop expansion in the mid 1850s they were unceremoniously levelled.

The long street on the eastern side, Bury Street, had about 40 houses and shops. There were 8 shop units at the north end and 6 larger, 3 storey houses at the south end, rather like the house preserved on the corner of Spencer Street in New Bradwell. Starting in the mid 1850s, these house sites were gradually reclaimed for industrial purposes and by the 1890s only one house, for many years a drapery, was left standing at the south end.

The fourth street in this section, on the south side of the Engine Shed, was known as Gas Street, after the gas Works that were originally on this street. These gas works were relocated to the east of the second station in the 1840s and in 1881 to the old Wolverton Road. The buildings for these gas works are still there, although in a somewhat derelict state. There were 8 house units on this street of better quality than many of the other early builds and they lasted until the 1890s.

Another point of interest on this plan is the first bath house at the north end beside the canal. This moved to the south end of Ledsam Street after 1856 and to the Stratford Road in the 1890s.

Just to the south of the stratford Road you can see the school building on the west side, the beginnings of Creed, Ledsam Streets and Glyn Square. The isolated rectangle, just to the north of the Gyln Square terrace, was the first Market House. This was used regularly from the 1840s until it was damaged by fire in 1906.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Highwaymen

Travel in the 18th century was a risky business. This story shows how travellers were willing to take the law into their owns hands where necessary to make sure that highway robbers did not get away with it. This story is told about an enterprising clergyman who did not hesitate to exact justice on the highwayman he chased.

From the London Caledonian Mercury, 2nd July 1766

Letter from a Gentleman at Coventry, June 25th
"The account of the officer being robbed on the Towcester road was as follows. I happened to pass soon after and saw the dead body:
"On the Thursday the officer was riding alone between Towcester and Stony Stratford; the highwayman attacked him and robbed him of seventeen guineas; the Captain immediately galloped away to Stratford, hired a couple of post horses, and a boy to accompany him and went in pursuit of the highwayman; he overtook a clergyman on the road who agreed very readily agreed to accompany him; they soon overtook the fellow, when the clergyman called out several times to him to surrender, which he swore he would not do, and was getting out one of his pistols to fire at him, when the post boy, who rode almost even with him, desired the parson to fire, otherwise, he said, the fellow would shoot one of them; accordingly he did so, and shot him in the back; he rode a few yards, and then fell off his horse dead. He swore, when he set off in pursuit of him, that he would have him dead or alive.

Wolverton's First Brewery?

Brewing beer is an ancient and simple craft that doesn't require sophisticated equipment and can be a cottage industry. In fact it was not until the 18th century, when larger breweries started up in London, that brewing began on an industrial scale. Inns and alehouses typically brewed their own beer and this practice was still common in Stony Stratford in the early part of the 19th century. As you might imagine quality control could be erratic. The specialist part of beer making, producing the malt, was made by maltsters who had the facilities for roasting the germinating barley. There were two maltsters in Stony Stratford.

When New Wolverton came into existence in 1838 there were new opportunities for those wishing to serve the drinking public. First into the field were Joseph Clare, owner of the Cock, and John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor, who quickly formed a partnership to build the Radcliffe Arms adjacent to the site of the first station. In their enthusiasm to make a quick fortune they built too hastily, because the station was moved to the south in 1840 and the newly built Radcliffe Arms was isolated. (The full story can be read here.) They then prevailed on the Radcliffe Trustees to lease another acre outside Wolverton and they built the Royal Engineer in 1841.

One peculiarity that Wolverton suffered from the beginning is that the Radcliffe Trust made it a condition of sale that no licensed premises were allowed on railway property. I suspect the early intervention of Messrs Congreve and Clare behind the insertion of this covenant. Whether or not this is true or that there was some purer motive behind this clause, the fact renaming that both the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer were built outside Wolverton as it then was.

This was not a very good environment for brewing, or was it?

Let me briefly explain the Brewing Act of 1830. This was designed to encourage the drinking of beer rather than more harmful beverages like gin and also to break the monopoly that local magistrates had over licensing. The new act allowed anyone to brew beer and sell it on the premises on payment of a fee of 2 guineas (just over £2). By 1840 some 45,000 people had taken advantage of the opportunity. Most of these places were known as beer shops.

Wolverton was a special case. With a population quickly equalling that of Stony Stratford there was clearly a market, but there was the issue of the covenant. Congreve and Clare had established a monopoly in public houses but this did not apparently stop the creation of beer shops, and therefore small breweries.

Thomas Carter, who had a small brewery in Stony Stratford on the High Street, moved to Wolverton in the early 1840s. It is not known where he set up shop, but since 8 properties were built at the north end of Bury Street expressly for shops it is likely that it was one of these. It was a retail as well as manufacturing operation and those who can remember the old off-licences, where people could take a  jug along and have it filled with beer will understand the set up. Thomas Carter, who was about 50 at the time, may, with some fairness be claimed as Wolverton's first brewer.

 Also in the same period Benjamin Blakey had a beer shop in Wolverton. Neither man was there in 1851 so it would seem that their enterprise was short lived.

One who did prevail was a man called George Spinks. He was an early arrival in Wolverton and established his Locomotive Eating House at the very north end of Bury street beside the canal. He did not immediately establish a beer shop and the temperance-minded Hugh Stowell Brown wrote approvingly of him in his later memoirs. Spinks at any rate did establish a beer shop in the late 1840s and judging by the letters written by Congreve and Clare to the Radcliffe Trustees he must have been serious competition to the licensed pub owners. Beer shop owners did sneak in under the radar. The licence was granted by central government and magistrates had no power over them. The railway company did not care to get involved and Spinks and others were probably free to sell
unimpeded. The only recourse that Congreve and Clare had was to get the Trust to put pressure on the railway board. Eventually they did, and there are some letters written in the 1850s to ask the railway company to investigate.

Nothing immediately came of this and one gets the impression that the railway board were reluctant to get involved and to work on the assumption that on a technicality at least they were not breaking the covenant. Had they wished to so anything about it they had a simple remedy as landlords of the property that Spinks was renting, but plainly they chose to do nothing about it.

The matter was only resolved in about 1856 when three northern streets of houses and that part of Bury Street where Spinks had his shop were demolished to create space for more workshops. George Spinks then moved his family and his business to Lancashire.

By this time local brewing operations were no longer necessary. There were two breweries in Stony Stratford, one in Newport Pagnell and Phipps and NBC in Northampton had been established. In time many small breweries were absorbed and the idea of pubs brewing their own beer was out of date. However, for a brief period, Wolverton did have a brewery of sorts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last seen alive at Stony Stratford

On Thursday 5th December 1822 William Cooke got into the coach at Stony Stratford to continue his journey south. He didn't get ut by himself. By the time they arrived at Dunstable he was found dead.
At the coroner's inquest a few days later it was learned that he looked very ill when he got into the coach at Stony Stratford and needed assistance to climb in. The surgeon who gave evidence was of the opinion that he had been ill for some time. the verdict was that he died of natural causes.
William Cooke was described as a poor man and apparently at death had only one shilling in his pocket and a few papers. No information was given of his origin or family.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A beer dray crash in 1915

In 1915 the Newport Pagnell Brewery was still a going concern and on February 1st of that year two men, Job Griffin and Henry Stanton, set out with their dray loaded with barrels for delivery to Bradwell, Wolverton and Stony Stratford. Their vehicle, interestingly, was steam operated.

On the way back to the depot at 1:30 pm., presumably having completed deliveries to Stony Stratford, the vehicle skidded on the  rise going up from Creed Street to the bridge going over the former railway line, now McConnell Drive. The report described the road surface as "greasy" but it does not say what was on the road to cause the skid. As the vehicle was not loaded down with heavy barrels the back wheels went out of control and the lorry crashed into the corrugated iron railings on one side of the bridge.

The vehicle crashed down some 20 feet onto the railway line pinning the men beneath the wreckage.
When the crane arrived to lift the wreck they found Henry Stanton already dead and Job Griffin with serious injuries. he was taken to Northampton Hospital where sadly he died four days later.

An inquest was held into the accident later at the North Western Hotel. Griffin had a reputation as a careful and experienced driver and no fault was found.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Neighbours? The Story of the Royal Oaks

After the Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War, the defeated Prince Charles escaped the scene with the Roundheads on his tail. He managed to reach Bishops Wood in Staffordshire, where he found an oak tree, known locally as the Boscobel Oak. He climbed the tree and hid in it for a day while his obviously short-sighted pursuers strolled around under the tree looking for him. The hunters apparently did not look up and gave up. Prince Charles later climbed down and escaped to France. Nine years later was became Charles II on the Restoration of the Monarchy. To celebrate this good fortune, his birthday 29 May was declared Royal Oak Day. After that innkeepers who were caught with patriotic enthusiasm put up inn signs for The Royal Oak.
With this in mind we should not look for any of the Stony Stratford Royal Oaks until after 1660. The first Royal Oak of record appears in the 1753 licensing records for one year only. The licensee was  Diana Williamson. This is a fragmentary record since the recording of licences in Buckinghamshire began only in that year, but from this we may reasonably assume that the inn had some prior history.  We might guess that Diana Williamson was a widow who had taken over from her deceased husband and operated the inn for a few years until either she found it too much for her or died in harness, as it were. The inn or alehouse may have gone out of business in 1754 or may have changed its name under a new innkeeper.
After that, no Royal Oak makes an appearance until 1776, and then to confound us all, a second Royal Oak emerges in 1780. One of them, the Royal Oak on Horesfair Green we know about because it had a life until the 20th century; the second, also in the Calverton Parish remains a mystery. Sir Frank Markham  believed that the house was further north on Silver Street, or Cow fair as it was known at one time.


Let me mention here that the old parish boundary followed a line from the Watling street down the middle of Horsefair, tuning north along Silver Street to Horn Lane and the down Horn Lane to the river. Everything to the south and west of this line was within the parish of Calverton.
Both Royal Oaks appear in Calverton’s licensing records. In 1753 there were three licenses held in Calverton - Francis Cave, who had no inn sign and only lasted a few years, Comfort Roberts, who was at the sign of the Cheshire Cheese until 1756. And Edward Samson (sometimes written as Sampson, Simpson, Sympson) who was at the sign of the Swan until 1767. For a decade he was the only license holder in Calverton and the he was joined by Henry Nokes, a new licensee in 1765. Nokes was only in the picture for three years and since no inn sign was recorded it is impossible to deduce anything from these entries.
Once again, we cannot know where the Swan was located, but since the village itself, at least in Lower Weald could probably support an alehouse, it is probably fair to say that the Swan was located there, possibly on the site of the future Shoulder of Mutton.
By 1768 Calverton is back to a single licensee, Sands (Alexander?) Johnson, who emerges a few years later when the recorder returns to noting the name of the inn, as the proprietor of the Green Dragon. In 1776 Mary Ganthorne is the licensee of the Green Dragon and the Royal Oak makes its appearance in that year with John Jeffs as the landlord.
This now looks straightforward. The Green Dragon continues until 1778 and in 1779 a new landlord William Maydon makes his entrance as the landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton. John Jeffs is still at the Royal Oak. Therefore we are not pushing the evidence too hard to conclude that the Green Dragon, previously The Swan, became the Shoulder of Mutton in 1779. It bears this name today.  If this is so then Calverton’s second inn would most probably be found at the Calverton End of Stony Stratford. Horsefair and Cow Fair were lightly populated at the time but if, as may be likely, the Calverton parish had more benign regulations for alehouses, there would certainly be an advantage to setting up on the border of St. Giles parish.


It would therefore be easy to identify the Royal Oak opened by John Jeffs in 1776 as the pub which was still there in the 20th century but for an anomaly which crops up only a few year later in 1780 when George Lineham established another Royal Oak in Calverton. John Jeffs’ Royal Oak is now described as the “Old Royal Oak”. Quite why the new house would want to take the name of an existing house is something I will try to address a little later.
To make matters more confusing the licensee register of 1781 records Jeffs at the “New” Royal Oak and Lineham at the “Old” Royal Oak. However, for the next few years no such distinction is drawn between the two and they are both simply Royal Oak. In 1786 Jeffs disappears for a year but is back in 1787 as the New Royal Oak, leaving Lineham with the claim to the old. Those distinctions continued for the remainder of their joint history.
In 1798 Thomas Palmer replaced George Lineham at the Old Royal Oak and John Jeffs continued at the New Royal Oak. In the 19th century new landlords come and go but the designations which were established in 1787 were fixed by the tradition established in 1781.
The last mention of two Royal Oaks is in the 1830 Pigot Trade Directory: The New Royal Oak, Thos Powell; The Old Royal Oak Jas. Ridgeway.
One of them had closed by 1841 when Bartholemew Higgins is listed in the census as an innkeeper. He is also in the 1844 Pigot as the landlord of The Old Royal Oak. Thereafter there is only one Royal Oak.
To sum up this confusing story, the first, and at one time the only, Royal Oak in the Calverton Place area, was opened by John Jeffs in 1776. In 1780 a second Royal Oak appeared, nearby. After a few years jockeying for precedence the John Jeffs’ Royal Oak became the New Royal Oak and George Lineham’s Royal Oak became the Old Royal Oak. These designations continued to the 19th century until one of them closed in the 1830s. Which one closed is impossible to say. The survivor was briefly styled the Old Royal Oak and then settled into becoming the Royal Oak. This one we know about and its location, but there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not it was the one founded by Jeffs or Lineham.
As to why this unusual duplication came about we can only speculate. Possibly there was some rivalry between Jeffs and Lineham, perhaps even a vendetta. Lineham’s choice of the same name for his neighbouring house must have been deliberate and perhaps was intended to spite Jeffs. Jeffs was certainly the first licensee to use the name  but Lineham must have felt some entitlement. He may have been a descendant of the Williamson family of the previous generation and believed that this family had first claim on the name which John Jeffs had usurped, and the evidence that we do have does suggest that they agreed that Lineham could use the “old” designation. After years passed and landlords changed this no longer mattered but the names stuck and no one made any effort to change them.
The surviving Royal Oak building has undergone much change and renovation. The original thatched roof has been replaced and bay windows were added at the front. There is evidence from the wall at the back that the original was timber framed with brick infill. There are some outbuildings, one of which was probably used as a brewhouse. This building is now a private residence. The adjoining cottage to the north is also a private residence but at the back is a rubble stone and brick building which was once a brewhouse. The British Listed Buildings Register describes both buildings as dating from early to mid 18th century. If this is accurate then both pre-date the opening of the Royal Oaks.
There may be some piece of evidence out there which will tell us where the second Royal Oak was actually located but for the moment we are left with the intriguing possibility that the two rival houses were next door to each other. The cottage at 34 Silver Street is not very big, but in an age where people required less private space it could have functioned as an alehouse. There are some hints in the existing deeds to the property at No. 34 that the Royal Oak had an interest in the property so it is possible that Bartholemew Higgins settle the matter of two Royal Oaks by purchasing both houses in the 1830s.

From 1841 the story of the surviving Royal Oak is straightforward. There were several changes of landlord but within the family. Bartholemew Higgins, as noted above, was the landlord in 1841 and his successor was probably a nephew, Charles Higgins, aged 25 in 1851 and the son of a Stoke Goldington farmer, who went on to become a farmer himself in Tattenhoe a few years later. John Bliss, who was most likely a relative of Charles Higgins’ wife, Caroline, succeeded and was followed by Francis H. Bliss.
We may get some idea of the extent of the brewing activity here when the landlord Henry Willison in 1877 styles himself as a publican and brewer. Presumably he was brewing on a small scale for some of the beer shops in Stony Stratford and district.
In 1883 Mrs Emily Smith was the landlord and she was succeeded by George Banton who held it until1895, when Thomas Gee entered possession. The Gee family were there until 1911 when Frederick Washbrook took over. Harry Gable was the landlord in the 1920s until Joseph Jelley, former manager of the Co-op, purchased the property in 1928 as a retirement project. One of his sons, Percy, carried on until the 4th August 1961 when the license was allowed to lapse, thus concluding its almost 200 year history as a licensed public house. 




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Accidents from the 18th Century

Here are some reports of accidents from the 18th century. This is about the time that newspapers started to publish and therefore these stories are a matter of record.

This first accident describes the accidental death of a woman who was riding on one of the horses pulling the coach. This was a common enough practice; in order to take more passengers, people were placed on top of the coach and a light person, such as a woman, could be placed on one of the leading horses. The report doesn't say why she fell off but it was not uncommon for people to fall asleep on a tiring journey - and this is where the term "drop off" to sleep originates.

On Monday last a young woman on a journey from St. Albans to Cheshire, to see her mother, who was ill, riding a horse belonging to a stage-waggon, fell backward off the horse, between Fenny and Stony Stratford, and the wheels of the wagon running over her, killed her on the spot.
Derby Mercury 1st November 1754
Here is a similar story, with an equally tragic outcome.
Wednesday night was buried one of the outside passengers who fell off one of the early stages that went through the town the preceding morning, and at day break was found dead with his skull fractured; the coachman he went with did not miss him until he came from the next stage, by whom we hear that he was a half pay officer and lived at Stony Stratford.  Stamford Mercury 8th May 1766

And to show that sink holes are not new.
On Thursday last some men digging in a stone-pit, in Whittlebury forest in Northamptonshire, the ground fell in, whereby one was killed and the others much bruised.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Swan and the Swan with Two Necks - A revised opinion

Some while back I discussed the name changes at the old Swan on the High Street The post is here.

However, after looking at new evidence from the 18th century licensing register I have changed my opinion.

Let's start with the facts. The Swan, located on the High Street at what is now Nos. 92-94 was almost certainly a medieval foundation, although it does not appear in documentary records until 1526, or possibly in an unnamed document cited by Markham, 1470. It was always a part of the Wolverton Manor and remained so until the end of the 18th century. Therefore it was always rented to tenants. It was never owned by anybody other than the Lord of the Manor. This point is actually crucial, and I will come to it in a minute.

The will of Michael Hipwell, probated in 1609 after his death contains a reference to his house the "Swan with Two Necks" which he bequeathed to his wife. This place was identified by Sir Frank Markham in his 1948 book as identical to the former Swan, and was merely a change of name. I accepted that until I came across 18th century licences naming both the Three Swans (as it was then called) and the Swan with Two Necks, both under different landlords. Furthermore, the Swan With Two Necks, is identified in 1754 as being on Stony Stratford's west side. The Swan or Three Swans was always on the east side.

I then realised that the The Swan, if it had ever been in Michael Hipwell's hands, was not his to bequeath to anyone. It was rented property. He could have happily bequeathed all the furniture and contents of the house but not the buildings themselves. They were always the property of the Longuevilles and later the Radcliffe Trust.

It is plain now that the Swan With Two Necks, which was probably Stony Stratford's wine shop for many years, was a separate building and nothing at all to do with the Swan or Three Swans.

The Three Swans finally ceased to trade in 1782. The sale of all the contents, the furniture, the linen, the plate and so on, took three days. Mrs. Ann Whittaker, a widow and the last licensee, then retired. There were probably no tenants available to run the premises as an inn and they were converted to residential use. The Radcliffe Trust sold it in 1802.

The Swan with Two Necks meanwhile, survived to 1790. It had been run for several years by Ann Mulliner (sometimes written Mullender), herself a widow. At the moment I have no idea where it was located or what became of the building.

William Laurie Field's War - Part 15

“Sept. 12th - Your letter reached me in the trenches, but I could not write for a few days, we were not able to do anything like that, being only 70 yards from the Germans, we have had a very trying turn in continually dodging bombs, absolutely ??? our lives the whole of the time, and bombs now are very different from what they used to be at the first; they are like high explosive shells, and burst with such force that the concussion can be felt 40 or 50 yards away. We call them “Rum Jars,” because they are as big as rum jars; and very much like them in appearance. Of course, sleep at night, was out of the question, we have to be ready every minute to dodge the things. So when we left the trench, we all breathed most hearty sighs of relief, because to be on the continual alert, just expecting a bomb and knowing that not to dodge it, means walking into the next world, makes one very nervy. Ȃ Until to-night, I had not had my boots off for eight days and nights, and I feel dog tired, through having only three hours sleep in the 24 hours. … I wanted to write as I knew you would be anxious. You would be surprised to see how much fellows age, when they have been out here a few months. If ever I do have the luck to come home on leave, I dare say you will notice, that I look more than a year older than when you last saw me. … I will enclose a photo of Ypres (in ruins). I recognised the buildings, now mere shells, on it. We passed them, as we went right down the main road, which you can see in the photo. The Cloth hall had not been touched then, and only houses here and there shelled. The Cathedral, too, was quite sound. … I did not know about Pte. Miles. Is he at home yet? I knew a fellow was hit, as we had one wounded and one killed at the same time, but I had no idea it was Mr. Miles’ son. - Good night.”

Sept. 20th. “First of all, this letter must be short as I have very little time. I was jolly glad to receive your letter, but was very sorry for Mr. Gregory. I will do my best to have a look in the G------ little graveyard, for his son’s grave, if it is there. I might say the graves are kept so very nicely. It will be difficult, but I will do my best, however. I can’t tell when it will be. It will not be possible to send a photograph (even if I came across it) as all cameras have been sent home by special army order, long since. If it is where you think (and I feel sure it must be there as I have found out he was killed there), the graveyard is not a mile from the Germans, so it may be difficult to get permission, even if we are near. However, I will do my best, and as soon as I can. … I expect writing will be very difficult for some little time now, but I will send F.S. Post Cards just to let you know I am still well. … Please in future don’t tell me any home news. It is absolutely disheartening and we get all the news now, and discuss things at home; also the Zep raids. I always look for your letters to cheer me up and encourage me to stick things. We hate to read about these wretched unpatriotic strikes. I believe it discourages the soldiers out here more than anything - to think of all they are going through for their families and people at home, and those who have a nice easy job are striking for another extra shilling or two, we shall never win unless the people at home realize that we are at war. I wish the leaders could be put into the trenches during the cold weather and be in a bombardment, they might wish then that they had never been born, and I am sure would be glad enough to go back for half their salary. … Just where we are now I have my best friends in France, very nice people, I believe refugees from La Bassee, but of a better class, and their relations who live here. … My little Marie Therise and her brother Omer. … they have just put on their “nighties” for bed, and I guess you would love to see them, such nice little kids they are, but can’t understand my watch shining in the dark.”

“The enclosed verses were found in a trench we occupied a short time ago, evidently scribbled down by someone to pass the time.

“Dear Wife, while all my comrades sleep
And I, my two hours lonely vigil keep.
I think of you, and all across the foam.
Glad of no scenes like this at home.

Here Desolation reigns as King,
Where many happy homes have been:
And dotted round me where I stand
Some hero’s resting-place marks the land.

Just here the village school once stood,
The scene of childhood’s happy days;
But now, alas, all that remains
Is crumbling ruins, and sad Decay.

As through an orchard now I stray
I pass, what once had been the farm:
No Human Vengeance can repay
Vile Huns, who first raised War’s Alarm.

While slowly pacing to and fro
And silence reigns supreme:
What’s that? The star-shells’ brilliant glow:
The flash - the deadly sniper’s rifle gleams.

Perchance to find its bullet true,
The hissing bullet sped.
And crouching low, in front of you.
Your chum remarks, “It’s just gone overhead.

While Dawn arises in the East.
The fact on me is thricefold bourne
No truer words were ever said:-
“Man’s Inhumanity to Man, makes countless thousands mourn.

But when we lay ourselves to rest:
A smoke, a yarn, and we’re complete
We think of our dear ones at home.
Most sure of “Kaiser Bill’s” Defeat.


(Scribbled while on guard at 11p.m., “somewhere in France.”) Wolverton Express 1915 Oct. 8th

Friday, February 28, 2014

In an age before children had rights.

This story from almost 100 years ago shows us a very different world and one can't help thinking that the parent and the child would get a very different hearing today. Of the three schools mentioned here, the Church of England school was at Stony Stratford of the High Street, the Council school was the building on the corner of the Wolverton Road and the Secondary School was the new County School on Moon Street. It is now Bushfield School. It was in those days a fee paying school.
At the Petty Sessions on Friday, December 1st 1916, with Mr. F.W. Woollard in the chair, Samuel Purser, a labourer of the town, was summoned for not sending his boy to school. Mr. Herbert Bentley, Chief School Attendance Officer, Aylesbury, represented the Bucks Education Authority, and representing the defendant was Mr. Charles Allinson, a solicitor of 89, High Street. Mr. Bentley said there had been no attendance since the summer holiday. The boy had answered a teacher at school which caused some laughter, and the schoolmaster reprimanded him for his conduct.  
The boy was said to have committed some breach of discipline and the teacher reported it to the headmaster. The parents had applied for the boy to be transferred from the Church of England School to the Council School, but having twice considered the case the school managers each time concluded that ‘it would be a breach of discipline and have great weight amongst other children.’ However, the parents would not send the child back, and he supposed that they were prepared to send him to the Council School provided the Committee gave him a transfer. Mr. Bentley then read a High Court of Justice decision on the matter, which he contended applied to this case. In cross examination he said the boy had been refused admission to the Council School, whilst as to the fact that the lad had attended for a fortnight, but was then ‘fetched away,’ he said he instructed the teacher that the pupil had been wrongly admitted. He had no authority to exclude a boy from school. 
In his questioning Mr. Allinson said that 103 attendances out of a possible 115 had been made up to March, and the boy’s conduct was fair. When asked if he knew that the boy suffered from mental aberration Mr. Bentley denied any knowledge. Then in the continued questioning, 
“He has never been punished in any shape or form?” 
“I had no knowledge of it.” 
“Has he ever had his head banged on the table or been hit on the head?” 
“I could not say.” 
“Has the lad ever been told by the teacher he was only fit to feed pigs?” 
“I am not aware of it.” 
“What is your power to refuse a transfer?” 
“So far as the legal obligation to a transfer there is such a thing as discipline.” 
“Did you lay my letter before the Committee?” 
“I did not.” 
“Don’t you think it was your duty to have done so?” 
“No, sir.” 
“You decided it on your own?” 
“No, sir.” 
“What did you do then?” 
“I consulted my chief, Mr. Watkins.” 
“Are you willing to give the boy a transfer to a school where he will have a different environment?” 
“The case would have to be considered by the Committee.” At this point the Magistrate’s Clerk, Mr. E.T. Worley, pointed out that in the Bye Laws not a single word was said about transfers. 
Mr. Bentley then said “For your enlightenment, I might say that the Government regulations were drawn up by the Board of Education. There is one observation which speaks of capricious removals which are not allowed. It is a matter of upholding the discipline of schools.” 
Mr. Allinson then said he was justified in the face of the doctor’s certificate in saying there was a reasonable excuse for not attending school as required by the Act. This was a case where the boy was made a butt of because he went to help in a piggery. He was bullied by other boys and the teacher ‘took it.’ Counsel further alleged that when it came to thumping the boy’s head it was time to intervene, and he thought the father was justified in respectfully asking for a transfer for the boy. The lad had put in full attendance at the Council School for a fortnight. There was no doubt he would still have done so, if an officer hadn’t told the teacher not to admit him. In order to get the boy educated, and save him any further misery, his father then went to the Secondary School at Wolverton, being quite prepared to forego luxuries and pay the high school fees there. However, they required ‘a two years character,’ which the headmaster on being applied to refused. Consequently Mr. Allinson’s client was glad to be in court that day to define his position. 
Evidently the County Council ‘in their wisdom’ would refuse the boy admission into any of their schools, despite the headmaster of the County Council School being perfectly willing to take him, as he was a quiet pupil. Mrs. Faith Ellen Purser, the wife of the defendant, then made a complaint about the children ‘calling’ him at school. He seemed very unhappy, and in the middle of a meal “he absolutely lost himself and was absent minded.” She said that one day there was a slight bruise on the boy’s head when he came home from school. 
When the chairman asked if she thought that the boy’s health and comfort was being interfered with by attending this school, she replied “I do, sir.” 
To this the chairman said “That’s the point. To my mind it is the greatest tyranny on the part of the school or the teacher to interfere in such circumstance.” 
For the defendant Mr. Allinson said that if the facts had come to their knowledge they would have granted a transfer, for which they had pressed. Lamenting that no master was present, the chairman said that in some 50 cases of this kind from these schools only once had a master taken any interest. Mrs. Purser stated that she had applied numerous times for a transfer on the grounds that the child suffered certain mental aberrations. She wrote some of the letters to the Committee and her husband had written some. She told the headmaster as soon as began to notice it, but when asked if she had made such a statement in any of the letters she said she hadn’t put it like that. “I told them he suffered from his head a lot.” Asked if she had any medical evidence previous to the certificate, which bore the current day’s date, she replied “No, because I took care of the child.” After a brief retirement the chairman announced that having considered all the evidence the Bench were unanimous in dismissing the case.

William Laurie Field's War - Part 13

“July 11th. … I am answering your two letters and parcel together, but I suppose it is all the same. The parcel was fine - thank you. We came out of the trenches to-night and I received it on arrival at our billet. It had the effect of making glad the heart of this man. You always send me everything I like, so do not worry. We generally go a little short of food in the trenches, living mostly on bread and jam, and perhaps a little bully beef. … We had an exciting time dodging bombs. The Germans are using a bomb now, about as big as a jam jar. … Someone shouts, “bomb,” left or right, as the case may be, and you have to run in the opposite direction. So long as you see the thing, you get plenty of time to dodge it, because they go right up into the air, but they make a deafening noise when exploding, and our fellows call them “nerve shakers.” … Last Sunday I went to a service at 6.30p.m., and I wondered if you were at Church at home at the same time; we had eight or nine hymns, and it was very nice indeed. Also in the morning we had an early service too, in the back room of a theatre fitted up with an altar by our own chaplain. He has made it into a little church which he intends to keep standing, so that we may be able to use it any time we are resting at the place. … My air pillow is done for - I think - so send me another. R---- tells me I am a lucky fellow to get standard bread - I would willingly change places with him - … Fancy we are in exactly the same houses that we were in last February, on the same duty. It seems strange to come back to the old place and find the houses more knocked about than ever. When we first came to them the furniture and belongings were all scattered about everywhere, but that has practically all been cleared away now, and of course new reserve trenches have sprung up and everything improved for defence; it is quite interesting to see it all again. We don’t seem to take any notice of ruined houses now they are such common sights.”

“July 19th. … I was glad to get your letter, which I received in the trenches. I always look forward to a letter and as it was Sunday night it was particularly nice to hear from home. … I may soon have the chance of a holiday as they are working out leave, and if my service in the Bucks counts, I shall be the next but two in our platoon. Anyhow, if the Germans don’t cut up rough and everything goes on as it should, I ought to get my turn at least within the next four or five weeks. … Do you know, I am writing this in exactly the same trench as I was in during February last, also we are in exactly the same billet when we go back. Of course, we have looked up a lot of our old French friends and they all seem glad to see us, but I should think that quite half of us, who were here before, are now either in England or have been killed, still of course, we have had many drafts to keep up our number. I found that one of my French friends, had been killed by a shell, when we got back here again; it seems hard luck for civilians to get killed, but there are hundreds within quite easy shelling distance: I suppose they hate leaving their homes, and after all, they can clear out into a field when shells come too close, or go right away if things become too hot. There are many more houses occupied now than there were in the winter, but of course some have been raised to the ground by the shell fire. The destruction to private property must have been tremendous, and along the present line it gets worse and worse. Each time we go back, we notice that such and such a house has been knocked down whilst we were in the trenches, and this goes on every day, and we have held this line for nine months, so you can form some idea of the enormous amount of damage that has been done. … There are some shells knocking about and I can’t concentrate my thoughts when shelling is going on, you would understand if you had been under shell fire.”


“July 21st … We have just arrived here after a march, which we did with scarcely a halt, but being in perfect condition, I enjoyed it. … We often have things which require the section commanders to toss up for their sections, but lately we have discovered certain French pennies (deux sous) have two tails, so we usually resort to cards now. I had heard of two headed pennies, but not until I came out to France did I hear of the two tailed ones. … By the way, going up to the trenches the other night, I could hardly believe my eyes - for there behind a house and within quite easy shelling distance, was a real live English coffee stall. Well, I did have thoughts of home, and I felt that I wanted to fall out there and then, and indulge just for the very joy of the thing. A good many fellows were taking advantage of it, and to me it “almost” seemed homely. I believe it was run by the Motor Kitchen people, and it seems real good to see anything like that out here. … I told you we were in the same trenches as we were in last Feb. - but what a difference - hundreds of fresh trenches have been dug, and notices of direction all about, lots of bridges and new roads across fields, and bridges over streams, and hundreds of shrapnel proof “dug-outs,” have sprung up, or down, as the case may be. Of course the houses have suffered more from shells, and now in the trenches at the slightest sign of a light at night, or a spade or a pick, over comes a shell (which species we call “zip bangs”). The officers call them “pip squeaks.” They are so-called because the guns must be actually in the trenches, for you hear no shrill whistle of the shell as it is coming for you just ‘zip’ and then bang, all in a second or so. Rotten things they are though, and capable of doing a deal of damage. … The last day I was in the trenches I actually saw the missiles in the air, as they went by and burst about 50 yards to the rear of our trench, it is very seldom though, you can see a shell in the air.” Wolverton Express 1915 Aug. 6th