Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Royal Engineer

The building that was formerly the Royal Engineer has stood at the beginning of the Stratford Road since 1841. In fact it pre-dates the Stratford Road by 3 years. With the exception of part of the Library (built in 1840) it is now Wolverton's oldest surviving building, although I doubt if it gets much credit for that. 

The Engineer was something of an afterthought  The Stony Stratford businessmen who sought to establish a monopoly in Wolverton  John Congreve and Joseph Clare, persuaded the Radcliffe Trust to place a covenant against the building of pubs on railway property  and further to lease them about 4 acres of land beside the railway line. This was the land which later became the park and was directly opposite the first railway station. They lost no time in building the Radcliffe Arms and having it up and running in 1839.

They were too hasty. In 1840 the London and Birmingham railway moved their station further to the south, leaving the Radcliffe Arms isolated.


Angry at this turn of events but not beaten, Congreve and Clare prevailed upon the Trust to lease another acre of landau the back of the school. At this date this was outside railway land (just) and would not be subject to the embargo against pubs on railway property.

The first licensee was James Salmon who stayed there until 1863 when the license was transferred to William Webb. The house was supplied by the Stony Stratford Brewery operating as Revill and Thorne from the back of the Bull Hotel. Edwin Revill owned the hardware business next door to the Bull and in 1863 it was sold to James Odell. It is of course still in the family today. In the adjoining wall between the two properties you can see a blocked-up doorway which once allowed access to the brewery.

After Edwin Revill died in 1853 the brewery passed into the hands of Thomas Phillips. He was a member of a brewing family with extensive interests across the land. He renamed it the Britannia Brewery and was run for about a year or two until he foundedfounded the Northampton Brewery Company with his brothers. It is no surprise perhaps that NBC had a close interest in the Engineer and later in the century they became leaseholders. (The land was still the property of the Radcliffe Trust.)


This plan here, drawn in December 1861, shows the Royal Engineer buildings and yard at that date. The block on the right, marked "1", is the site for the house which Number 6-7 Stratford Road The space in between, which would make up the one acre, may have been used for the grazing or the exercise of horses. In the 1890s the hotel was extended and the space filled with four lock-up shops. 


So this building, which has been a restaurant for a number of years, is the oldest building on the Stratford Road and one of the few surviving from the 1840s. For 20 years it stood on the edge of a field and there was no Stratford Road in existence.

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