Friday, May 15, 2015

Wolverton's War Memorial

On Saturday July 10th 1921 a huge crowd gathered in the Square to witness the unveiling of the permanent War Memorial. It was made of Portland stone and stood 28 feet 8 inches high. The cost was £500 and the money had been entirely raised by public subscription.

There are some interesting observations to be made about the preparations for this day, almost three years after the end of the war. There was an almost universal desire immediately after the war, and not only in Wolverton, to build some lasting memorial. A committee was formed to raise the money and decide on the nature of the memorial and the process was initiated in November 1918.

Various proposals were considered - a memorial hall, a bandstand, and, strikingly, a proposal for a public swimming pool. That particular dream took another 40 years to realise. After much discussion over two years, and consultation with the general public, the memorial cross became the preferred option.

There was a debate about the location. One opinion, from Old Wolverton's Reverend Mildmay, was that the memorial cross should be at the Old Wolverton turn, mid way between Wolverton and Stony Stratford. It was his view that Wolverton would grow to meet Stony Stratford in 30 years! His vision has almost come to pass but it has taken a lot longer than one generation.

The favoured location was the Square, which at that time was relatively new. It was land owned by the LNWR and they had not really done much with it. Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Streets had been developed in the 1870s and 1880s. Moreland Terrace was built in the 1890s, made up of above average properties, and there was probably an intention that the owners should enjoy an open view, rather like Glyn Square 60 years earlier. The Congregational Church commanded the southern side and the western side was made up of houses of mixed size. Briefly, this was called Market Street, so there must have been at least the germ of an idea in someone's mind that the Square could be used as a market. The old Market House beside Glyn Square remained in use until 1906, when it was largely destroyed by a fire. The old school on Creed Street became available in that very year, and the market immediately transplanted itself. No further consideration was given to the Square.

Accordingly the Memorial committee approached the LNWR and persuaded them to grant the land to the Council for the memorial. In everyone's mind at the time this became a sacred space, and this probably explains why, over 90 years later, no other building has set its foundations on the Square. Not even the Agora was allowed to trespass!

This memorial was actually the second. A wooden memorial was erected in 1919 while the process of developing a permanent memorial took its course.

Over time the limestone deteriorated due to the ravages of atmospheric pollution and in the later part of the last century it was torn down and replaced by a third memorial.

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