Friday, September 26, 2008

A Gora Blimey!

Today I stepped inside the Agora. I was shocked. My expectation, given that the planners of the day had seen fit to demolish  complete sections of Church Street and Buckingham Street and isolated the Square from Church Street and the Front, was that the interior would be an indoor shopping centre. Instead I encountered a warehouse. I see now that it must have been the planner's intention to replace the traditional market with a new superstructure in the middle of the town.
Well, let me say this. The project is an abject failure.
The market that ran every Friday in the Market Hall was a vibrant living organism. Many traders of all stripes set up their stalls inside and out and I don't recall many vacancies. United Counties scheduled buses from all the outlying villages on Friday morning and returning at lunchtime. They were mostly full and the Friday market was a very crowded place.
One job which I took on in my teens was to help one trader, Harry Tooth, to unload his rugs, tablecloths and bedlinen from his van. I would help him unload before school in the morning and load up after 4 in the afternoon. So he got in a full day's trading at Wolverton market.
Fifty years later I still see town markets flourishing so I see no reason why the old Wolverton market could not have continued to thrive.
Wolverton had certainly grown in an unusual way because of Railway Board decisions. Once Bury, Garnett and Walker Streets had been razed, the commercial traders had to move but before too long the Front and Church Street had formed a new shopping centre ith residences to the east, south and west. When the little streets were flattened in the 60s the eastern side was gone and the town became once more lop-sided.
The planners and builders of the Agora could have justified their decision had they built a shopping centre with important tenants - but a warehouse doesn't cut it!


Anonymous said...

I remember the old market in the building which is now the library etc and it was bustling and lively. The Agora is an abomination and should never have been allowed. Wasn't there plans to demolish it and replace it with something more worthy of a Victorian town centre.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

There was talk about rebuilding, but my guess is that in the present economic climate it won't happen and will remain as a monument to town planner's insensitivity.

Andrew said...

When the Agora was originally built its main function was as a roller skating rink complete with bar and cafe. I recall the building involved assembling the roof on the ground and then lifting it into place using four mighty cranes. This was reported on Anglia TV news (and in the Wolverton Express) as "the biggest ever one piece roof lift in Europe". Such a fuss was made that we were led out of Bushfield school and down to The Square to have a look. Shame it was all downhill from there.