Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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
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.