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.”