Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Monorail City



The first plan for the new city was developed by Buckinghamshire County Council and was known as the "Monorail City". It was the brainchild of Fred Pooley, then the County Architect. He envisioned a series of residential districts, each of about 5000 people. Each district would have its own shops and primary schools, and the whole would be connected by a monorail light railway, which would continuously loop the new city. It was very futuristic.

‘The envisaged city is based on a free public travel monorail system, as it becomes even clearer that traditional cities and streets are now showing themselves incapable of handling the car. A new town must look beyond car saturation point and deal with the problem of alternative means of transport. The plan brings a new lease of life to North Bucks which has for long been regarded as the frozen and forgotten north, and has come about because the south of the county has almost reached saturation point.’

The Pooley Plan was called ‘A City for the 70s’. Housing and industry was to be planned around the Monorail routes. No dwellings would be more than five minutes walk away from work and amenities, and high density housing areas, each of 5,000 people, would be developed around the Monorail stations. Between these areas light industry was to be accommodated with - in order to considerably minimise travel - heavy industry situated within its own areas. Open space would be enclosed by the monorail routes as an amenity, and also to provide sites for schools, clinics and hospitals. No dwelling would be in excess of a 10 minute walk from the school by which it was served, and these areas would be completely free from vehicular traffic. The monorail system would be free to passengers, with 15 minutes as the maximum journey time from outer terminus to city centre. Shopping facilities and the city centre would be built both over the main lines of communication and at the interchange point of the monorail system, and to offer the maximum choice all shops, except housing area corner shops, would be built in the city centre. 

In the 1960s dense high rise housing was seen to be the answer to England's housing problems. What could possibly be wrong with multi-storey buildings? Most cities were affected by this idea. Old 19th century streets were bulldozed to be replaced by high rise flats. Even Wolverton and Bletchley were not immune from this concept and it was about this time that the Little Streets were flattened to make way for high rise buildings.

We have since learned to our cost that this type of housing is socially disastrous and about 30 years after they were built these new blocks of flats were themselves demolished.

Perhaps we should also remember that car ownership (although increasing at the time) was nowhere near as common as it is today and much of society was still geared to walking to work or taking the bus.

When the Milton Keynes Development Corporation was formed Bucks County Council and the local councils were sidelined. MKDC brought in some top town planners and they quickly jettisoned the Pooley Plan - and a good thing too.

One wonders also how Bletchley and Wolverton, which were left out of this plan, would have fared as satellites of the new city. Hmmmm!

Frank Atter, a leading councillor in Wolverton at the time was scornful of the Pooley Plan.

“They (monorail systems) have never proved to be an economic proposition anywhere,” being only acceptable to “a government of architectural maniacs.” Of Fred Pooley’s three schemes he described the city proposal as “fantastic” whilst the option of a regional centre with ‘satellite housing-only towns’ “really gets my back up.”

As to what to preserve in the area, he said that frankly there wasn’t much worth preserving in Wolverton or New Bradwell. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Half a million page views

At some point recently this Blog notched up 500,000 page views. I don't always check this so it was only this morning that I saw that it had reached 514,595 page views. This must tell us something about the interest in Wolverton.

I started this in a fairly inexperienced way in September 2008. At first very few people noticed, as you might expect, but traffic slowly built up. After a few months the blog was clocking about 1000 views a month, but by the middle of 2012 this had built to 10,000 page views a month - sometimes more. Towards the end of 2013 traffic tailed off when I was blogging less frequently but in the last two years the visits average 6-7,000 a month.

The largest number of visitors come from the US at 238,715 , surprisingly ahead of the UK at 189,092 There are quite a lot from Germany and smaller numbers from France, Australia and Canada, but what beats me is that Russia is logging 5,579 visitors.

What I probably didn't realise when I started this over 8 years ago is the extraordinary information there is about Wolverton and how many stories there are to tell, so I think there is plenty to keep me going for more years to come. I won't be blogging with the kind of intensity that I was five years ago, but I will try to keep up a reasonably steady flow.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Queen Victoria's Christmas

Queen Victoria and her husband were the guests of the Duke of Buckingam at his palatial establishment at Stowe at the beginning of 1845. The journey would take the by railway from Euston to Wolverton and thence by carriage to Stowe. For the railway and North Bucks residents this was a great occasion and great efforts were made. A waiting room was re-decorated for her Majesty and the roads were scraped and levelled. Most of the towns and villages along the route were decorated. This report from the Morning Chronicle details the return journey.
The newly refurbished waiting room at Wolverton


Morning Chronicle January 20 1845

Her Majesty’sVisit to Stowe
Return of Her majesty
(From our reporter.)

The principal entertainment provided for her Majesty at Stowe on Friday evening by the care of her noble host, was a concert in which the Messrs. Distins were the performers.
To this concert the invitations were very numerous. The list was given in Saturday’s paper.
As the company arrived, something like a drawing-room was held – the guests, on being announced, passing in long array before her majesty, who occupied a throne-like chair in one of the principal apartments.
The Earl of Delawarr and the Duke of Buckingham stood on either side of her Majesty.
During the evening the Queen, observing that some inconvenience was experienced by several of the ladies and gentlemen as they were introduced in approaching sufficiently near to the place she occupied, rose, and herself attempted to move her seat to a more desireable position. The motion was of course anticipated by the watchfulness of her Majesty’s attendants, and the position of the chair duly altered.
The concert went off extremely well, her majesty expressing herself as much gratified. The following was the programme:-
Quintet: “Robert toi que j’aime” Meyerbeer.
Quartet: Prize glee, “Harmony” Beale
Fantasia: Trumpet, Mr. Distin, “The Soldier Tired,” accompanied on the pianoforte by Mr. James Perring Dr. Arne
Quintet: Etude, “Le Penitent Moir” Bertini
Quintet: “Fra poco a me” (Lucia) Donizetti
Quintet: Air de Joseph Meehul
“God Save the Queen.”
About half-past elen o’clock her Majesty and the Prince, attended bythe Duke of Buckingham and the Duchess, passed into the supper room, where they remained for about half an hour.
Shortly after twelve o’clock the Queen and the Prince retired for the night, and the company generally took their departure shortly after one o’clock.
Stowe House in 1829

At an early hour on Saturday morning the note of preparation for the departure of the Queen and her Royal Company was sounded.
The portion of the Bucks Yeomanry not selected for escort duty was drawn up near the mansion of Stowe.
The artillery troop took up a favourable position for firing a royal salute.
In Buckingham something like the bustle for the day of arrival was visible. From an early hour the church bells tolled merrily. The flags and banners, which had been kept flying, and the arches and evergreen decorations which had not been removed,looked as fresh and gay as ever. Most of the inhabitants wore ribbons and favours, and the stand erected for spectators was again partially crowded.
Shorty after ten o’clock the royal cortege left Stowe, both her Majesty and the Prince having expressed their delight at the reception they had met with, and their appreciation of the efforts made for their entertainment by their noble host. Bothe The Duke of Buckingham and the Marquess of Chandos rode alongside the royal carriage.
The party passed through the double lines of the yeomanry, the artillery meanwhile saluting, and the band playing the National Anthem.
At Buckingham they were met by townspeople in procession, formed into a somewhat similar order as on the day of arrival.
The usual demonstrations of loyalty and affection were vociferously bestowed on all hands.
After leaving Buckingham, the party proceeded rapidly towards Wolverton.
The escort duty was arranged as before.
At the different arches along the road, groups of the peasantry living in the neighbourhood had assembled, and vociferously cheered the Queen and Prince as they passed by.
At Page-hill the Duke of Buckingham stopped and took leave of his royal guests, returning to Stowe. The Marquess of Chandos accompanied them to Wolverton.
At Stony Stratford, the royal party was met by Lord Carrington, the lord-lieutenant of the county, on horseback. The cavalcade proceeded slowly through the little town, the denizens of which greeted it right loyally. As at Buckingham the evergreens, flags, and ivy still decorated the streets.
The distance from Stony Stratford to Wolverton was soon accomplished, and the cortege drove to the station at a rapid rate.
Inside the station, the staff of the Royal Bucks Militia, and a dismounted party of the yeomanry, under Major Lucas, were drawn up. A number of respectable people had also been admitted to view the arrival and departure of royalty. The usual preparations had been duly made. Crimson cloth was laid over the platform, and the apartment destined for the reception of her Majesty arranged as on the journey down.
Mr Glynn, the chairman of the company, Mr. Creed, the secretary, and several of the principal officials of the railway were in attendance.
The royal party arrived shortly before twelve o’clock.
Her Majesty and the Prince retired for a short time to the apartment provided for them, and then, the special train being reported in readiness, proceeded to the royal carriage. On the platform they took leave of the Marquess of Chandos and Lord Carrington. Prince Albert conversed for some time with the former nobleman, who stood close to the door of the royal carriage.
At twelve o’clock the train was set in motion. Mr. Berry drove the engine. The distance from Wolverton to Euston square, fifty-to miles, was performed in an hour and twenty-five minutes.
On the arrival of the train Mr. Boothby, one of the principal directors was in attendance to receive it, and many ladies were assembled on the platform to greet her Majesty on her return.


The whole of the coachmakers and other mechanics working at the terminus, as well as the servants of the company, were also assembled, amounting in all to between three and four hundred, drawn up on the platform. The assemblage cheered lustily as the train stopped, and her Majesty and the Prince stepped across the platform into the apartment provided for them.

Cheap Beer

This rather wry announcement was printed in the Leighton Buzzard Observer, Tuesday 19th October 1869.

CHEAP BEER Mr. E. Garnett of No. 1, Stratford Road, Wolverton, having recently obtained a licence to sell beer of the premises. the Stratford town-crier paid Wolverton a visit on the morning of Saturday week, announcing that all persons who purchased ale from Mr. Garnett on that day, would receive a pint and a half as a pint, and those who ordered a quart would receive three pints, and so on in proportion. in consequence of this somewhat startling announcement a very great number of persons availed themselves of this very liberal offer.

Garnett was an auctioneer who had moved to this address some five years before. The house still stand, and its annex, which was later known as the Drum and Monkey. Since 1900, the address has been 44 Stratford Road, when a new numbering system, moved Number 1 to the east end - The Royal Engineer in this case.

Clearly Garnett was only too aware of the effectiveness of giveaway offers. He was not wrong. The Drum and Monkey lasted for 100 years.