Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wolverton's First Private Buildings

Wolverton was a Railway Town, to state the obvious, but what this really meant in the early years was that everything was owned by the Company. Shops as well as houses were rented from the Company, which also, as we have seen, provided public buildings.
When new land for development was finally agreed to by the Radclffe Trustees, the L&NWR had a change of policy and the new plots on the Stratford Road and Church Street were made available for private purchase. The first two sales, on August 23rd 1859, were made to Charles Aveline and John Reeve. More about these gentlemen in a moment.

This lock-up shops on the left were later built on the Engineer's property, but the group of three here, since broken into two or three units were built by Charles Aveline. He started out on Bury Street as a cabinet maker but this was his beginning as a builder. His father was a cabinet maker in Leighton Buzzard and his grandfather practised the same trade in Great Horwood. He also had an uncles in Stony Stratford and Great Horwood who were also cabinet makers. After this he did further building work on Church Street and built the new Stacey Farm house, now the MK Museum.

The next unit, numbered 9a and 9b was built by John Reeve. He was an established Stony Stratford Grocer who opened up a branch on Bury Street when those shops were built.  They were pulled down round about this time and I imagine this new building filled his need for an outlet in Wolverton.

Wolverton's First School

Wolverton Station was in its infancy when the need for a school became apparent and so the London and Birmingham Railway built a school in 1839 on the corner of Creed Street and the Stratford Road. This sketch is my rendering of how the original building may have looked. There is some guesswork here. I have arbitrarily provided chimneys on the north side for example, although the fireplaces may have been centrally-place or on the south side.
There is little available in the way of fact. There is one detailed description of the school from the 1840s, a partial plan from 1845, a plan of the extended school buildings from 1861, and some trade direcory references. There are, surprisingly, hardly any surviving photographs from its 20th century use as a Market Hall. In any case, by this time the building had been much modified and extended. I only wish I had done this ten years ago; then I would have had the opportunity to inspect the original school building on the north side, which at the time was still standing.
On balance, I think I am close to the original.
The eastern wing, that is the central section, facing east and the south-eastern corner was the boys school. The infants school was at the western end and in the middle was the girls school. The southern building, still standing as the children's library,  served, I believe, as the schoolmaster's house.
In 1851 the schoolmaster was Archibald Laing. He lived in the schoolhouse with his wife, five daughters and a son. He was paid £100 a year. The school mistress for the girl's school at this time was Emma Hassal. For her pains she was paid £40 a year and lived in lodgings. Lower down the pat scale, at £30 a year, was Amelia Prince, the infant school teacher. The attendance at this time was about 95 boys, 55 girls and 40 infants.
The main school building was about 70 feet long and 20 feet wide. There was probably a wall around the building but I have not drawn this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wolverton Park House

The house was built around 1720 in spacious grounds just off the Old Wolverton to Stony Stratford road. When the new road was cut through to Wolverton Station the Park House found itself on the corner, where it remains. It has been enlarged and added to over the years but there has not been much visible exterior change for the last 50 years.
Among the notable residents was James E McConnnell, the locomotive engineer who designed the famous "Bloomers" that were built at Wolverton Works. He succeeded Edward Bury as Works Superintentdent in 1847 and remained as chief until 1862.
McConnell was born in Fermoy, County Cork in 1815. I don't know much about his parentage but he was apprenticed to a Glasgow engineering firm in 1828, By 1837 he was working at Edward Bury's works in Liverpool and here learned what there was to learn about steam locomotive design. In 1842 he got the job of locomotive superintendent for the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway but the L&NWR recruited him in 186 to take over from Bury in Wolverton. By this time he had married Charlotte Addison, daughter of an Essex surgeoon and they moved with their into Wolverton Park House. McConnell was paid the princely sum of £700 per annum and could afford to live in some style. This probably made him Wolverton's highest earner. If you put this aside the £30 a year paid to Amelia Prince, the infant school mistress, one can get some idea of the scale of McConnell's earning power.
McConnell's locomotives were among the most successful of the period but they were not always (at least in the eyes of some Board members) cost effective and there was a parting of the ways. McConnell resigned in March 1862 and moved to Great Missenden where he practised as a civil engineer.
He was not replace. Engine building was consolidated at Crewe and Wolverton was given over to carriage building.

When I was a boy the resident was Captain Basil Liddell-Hart, the noted military historian. I had the Old Wolverton paper round and would daily deliver almost one third of my bag at his door. He took every daily paper except the Daily Sketch. In the 1950s this meant The Times, The Daily Telegpah, The News Chronicle, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Daily Mirror, The Manchester Guardian, and The Daily Herald.
Liddell Hart fought in the first world war but resigned from the army in 1927 to work as a writer and military historian. He was politically well-connected and had access to the D-Day invasions plans and was later invited by Anthony Eden to submit battle plans for the Suez invasion.  He died in 1970 and his library formed the basis of the military studies library at King College. It is called the Liddell-Hart library.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slated Row 2

I was wrong in what I wote about slated Row a few days ago. I looked at a Google Earth map, couldn't see the cottages and assumed that they had been pulled down to make way for the Trinity Road development. Sorry about that.
Yesterday I went to Old Wolverton to see for myself and they are still very much there. Some of the cottages have been joined together, others have been added-to quite significantly; however, the stone, or rubble-built structure remain. Since I remember it the path has been paved with tarmac to take cars and the outbuildings (wash-house, w.c.) have been converted to garages.
The cottages date from circa 1820.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Wolverton Cottages

I don't remember these cottages when I was a boy, but they were recorded on an ordnance survey map in the 1930s. They were located a small field away from the Old Wolverton Road and access was down the  road leading to the church. In this photo you can see Holy Trinity Church and the Vicarage on the right.
The cottages show on the earliest modern map of Wolverton drawn in the early years of the 19th century show them in situ at this time. Judging from the vernacular style of architecture the cottages probably date from the late 18th century.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity was the oldest church on the Wolverton Manor, but it was not that old. It was built new over a six year peiod and finished in 1815 for £, presumably on the site of the old church, of which there is no useful record. The tower of the old church was retained in part and rebuilt in the new style.  It is probable that there was a church dating back to Saxon times but it would take an archaeological dig to establish the evidence.
Wolverton was a poor parish, or had been since the depopulation of the manor through the enclosures of the 17th century, and did not offer a good living and from some accounts tended to attract below par incumbents. Hugh Stowell Brown is disparaging about the Rector of the 1840s in his memoirs and suggests that the church only attracted a few worshippers.
The church however looks impressive and the architect opted for a Norman or Romanesque style for the windows and doors an castellated decoration. The 19th century trend (adopted by St Georges) was for gothic, so the Old Wolverton church is something of  rarity.
In the 20th century Holy Trinity used to attract worshippers from the west end of New Wolverton - Anson Road, Jersey Road, for whom the walk was not much further than St Georges. Some preferred the smaller congregation and perhaps the atmosphere. The Church used to have a Fete every year on the raised lawn by the Rectory.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slated Row

Most dwellings in Old Wolverton were either scattered or clusterd. There was, however, one street, known as "Slated Row". The cottages were small, low and probably no more than two bedrooms. I don't know if there are any surviving pictures.
The row of cottages followed the present street that retains the name, although it was then a path with the cottages on the south side. I think (although I won't swear to it) that the outhouses may have been on the north side of the path. The path led to a gate, through which the path continued to the Stratford Road.
I don't know the origin of these cottages but they do appear on the 1830 map which suggests that they pre-dated the railway. It is also just about possible that they were given slated roofs at the outset since slates could be transported by canal to parts of England remote from the quarries. If this was the case then the cottages would have been unique for the time and probably the best-looking cottages on the manor.
As I said the cottages could only be reached by footpath, and this was quite sufficient, even in the early 1960s when few people had cars. The cottages represented a different time and a different way of living.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Wolverton

I'm going to talk about Old Wolverton for the next few days.
Prior to the coming of the railways, Wolverton was a pretty nondescript place. After enclosure by the Longuevilles in the 17th century, Wolverton Manor was divided into three farms, which still survived until quite recently - Manor Farm, Warren Farm and Stacey Bushes farm. The manor was sold to Dr John Radcliffe in 1713. A year later he died and the Trust in his name administered the manor as an absentee landlord  until it was eventually sold to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
The manor scarcely had any significant population at the beginning of the 19th century, possibly 200, no more certainly than the time of Domesday Book 800 years earlier. Early 19th century maps show small clusters of cottages around each of the farms and a few more around the Rectory. There were two mills - Wolverton Mill near Stony Stratford and Mead Mill on the Ouse at the north eastern corner of the Manor. These two mills were as close to modern industry as Wolverton would get until 1838 - and then what a change there was.

This photograph show the pub at the first few years of the 20th century.  The canal had brought some change. particularly the building  of a wharf at Old Wolverton. The owner of the wharf, Benjamin Barter, was responsible for building the pub known as The Galleon, although originally it was known as The Locomotive. The pub was still called the Locomotive at the time this photo was taken and here is covered with ivy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Joseph Walker

Men who were once prominent, perhaps even household names, gave their names to streets and then appeared to disappear from history. I have been trying to find out something about Joseph Walker who gave his name to the short-lived Walker Street in Wolverton. In 1846 he stumped up £178,500 for the LNWR so he was clearly a man of some substance. He was an early director of the London and Birmingham Railway and also of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. Other than that there are few clues to his existence. He did not appear to have the public profile of Joseph Ledsam who I wrote about yesterday.
There is one tantalizing reference to a Mr Walker in the diary of Cecile Mendelssohn:
Saturday September 16
To another local worthy, Mr Walker, for dinner. Rehearsal in the evening, the hall illuminated and splendid.
The footnote suggests that this may be Joseph Walker, proprietor of Joseph Walker and Co., Factors in St Paul's Square.
This is in part corroborated by an 1841 Census entry which records a 60 year old Joseph Walker and his wife living on the Crescent with a household of four servants, which would suggest some affluence.
This Joseph Walker, born around 1780, is certainly of an age which would have given him enough financial clout to become a director of an early railway company, but he died in late 1846 which may cast a slight question mark about his investment of £178,500 earlier in the year.
I could make a case for this man being the Joseph Walker who gave his name to Walker Street but the evidence is sketchy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Joseph Frederick Ledsam

On August 13th 1846 The Times listed the individuals who had put up money for "Railway Speculation". Any amount over £20,000 had to be declared to Parliament and therefore became public knowledge. Ledsam put up £186,000 - a serious sum of money.
The Wolverton interest is that a street was named after him, as indeed was another in Birmingham, but it has not been easy to find out much about him. According to the 1851 Census he was a landed proprietor, Deputy Lieutenant of Worcester and a JP. He was living in some comfort on the Harborne Road in Edgbaston. The Ledsams, like many successful Birmingham families, emerge during the 18th century, likely in some manufacturing enterprise. In the 19th century Thomas Ledsam and Sons were button manufacturers and Daniel Ledsam was a merchant in the mid-centry. Joseph was obviously part of the same extended family but his precise place in the family is not apparent from my brief research. What we can say is that he had some capital and was probably smart enough to invest it in the new railway. By 1846 he could easily put up almost £200,000.
The following account, extracted from "Modern Birmingham and its Events 1841-1871", a compilation of local activities, gives a clearer concept of Mr Ledsam's role in the community.

On December 28, (1861) Mr. Joseph Frederick Ledsam died in his 72nd year. Until a short time before his decease Mr. Ledsam occupied a prominent position amongst the leading inhabitants of the town, but his failing health compelled him to retire from public life.

He was a Magistrate for the three counties of Warwick, Worcester, and Stafford, and a Deputy Lieutenant of the first named county. He had also filled the important position of High Sheriff of Worcestershire. Mr. Ledsam was, however, best known from his long and intimate connection with the General Hospital, especially as regards the great Musical Festival, held every three years for the benefit of the charity. For many years Mr. Ledsam filled the office of Chairman of the Festival Committee, and only resigned it when his health finally gave way. His remarkable courtesy and kindness of manner, combined with his thorough knowledge of business and a large acquaintance with the musical world, enabled him to render invaluable services as the recognised working head of the Festival Committee ; and his enforced retirement from that position was deeply felt and sincerely regretted. Mr. Ledsam was also, for many years, an active and esteemed member of the Government Board of the Free Grammar School, and was also connected, either in an honorary or a working capacity, with many other educational, charitable and religious institutions or societies. He was likewise well-known as having a prominent share in the management of several important commercial undertakings, amongst which may be mentioned the Birmingham Banking Company, the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Company, and last, but by no means least, the London and North Western Railway Company, in connection with which, for several years, he performed the laborious duties of Deputy Chairman of the Directors. By those who knew him personally, Mr. Ledsam was highly esteemed, both as a public man and in the relationship of his private life; and the regard generally entertained for him was abundantly justified by his amiable character and his uniformly courteous and obliging disposition.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

St Georges: The beginning

For the first few years C of E services were conducted in a wing of the school on Creed Street - now the Library. A bell was erected in the grounds to announce service times. In 1844 Wolverton Station finally got its own church (although not at that time a parish) and this edition of The Times reports on the consecration.
The Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1844; pg. 3; Issue 18622; col E
     Consecration Of Wolverton Church.
Category: News

Here is a contemporary engraving from 1845 showing the initial church building and the vicarage. There have been some later additions such as the vestry and the southern chapel.

George Carr Glyn2

The Times, Friday, Jul 25, 1873; pg. 10; Issue 27751; col F
     The Late Lord Wolverton.-We have to
Category: News

Edward Bury

Edward Bury was the first locomotive engineer for the London & Birmingham Railway. He is associated with Wolverton because this was the first maintenance depot and one of its principal early streets was named after him. According to Stowell Brown relatively little was seen of him in Wolverton although Sir Frank Markham say he had a residence at Great Linford.
Bury was a Liverpool man, born there in 1794 and he set up his engineering works in 1826, under the name of Edward Bury and Company. James Kennedy, who had experience of locomotive building with Robert Stephenson was employed as his works foreman. In 1842 Kennedy became a partner when the firm expanded under the name of Bury, Kennedy and Curtis.
The first engines were built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1830. In time they refined their designs to lighter locomotives known as the "Bury type". In 1836 Bury contracted to run the trains on the London and Birmingham Railway. In 1839, just after the line through Wolverton had opened, he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent and contracted the building of engines to companies other than his own.
He continued in this role until 1847, when, shortly after the formation of the L&NWR he resigned to join the Great Northern Railway as Locomotive Superintendant and General Manager. He died in 1858.
Edward Bury married Priscilla Falkner in 1830. She was an accomplished botanical artist and her works and prints are still available.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baron Wolverton

George Carr Glyn became chairman of the London & Birmingham Railway in 1837 and was responsible for steering the railway through its early years and was there at the birth of New Wolverton. Glyn Square was named after him as was Glyn Street in New Bradwell,and when he was ennobled in 1869 he took the title from the town.
He was a leading figure in the development of the London and Birmingham Railway and when tis merged with two other railways in 1846 became the first chairman of the mighty London and North Western Railway.
During his time in office he oversaw many innovations such as the railway clearing house which managed the revenue that was shared between companies. Thus a passenger could by a ticket from Wolverton to Southampton, travel on several railways on a single ticket. The revenue would then be allocated behind the scenes.
Glyn confessed to some regrets in the 1840s that he was too cautious in the early days, not realising that the railway would become a phenomenal success. For example he resisted the opportunity to did not buy up more land around  Euston station, which severely restricted expansion in later years.
Glyn's bank morphed into Williams and Glyn's Bank in the 20th century.

He was ennobled in 1869 and took the title Baron Wolverton, which may reflect his affection for the place.

The following extract from Wikipedia outlines the history of the peerage.

Baron Wolverton, of Wolverton in the County of Buckingham, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1869 for the banker George Glyn. He was the fourth son of Sir Richard Carr Glyn, 1st Baronet, of Gaunt's House, Lord Mayor of London in 1798, himself the fourth son of Sir Richard Glyn, 1st Baronet, of Ewell, Lord Mayor of London in 1758. Lord Wolverton was succeeded by the eldest of his nine sons, the second Baron. He was a Liberal politician and served under William Gladstone as Paymaster-General and as Postmaster General. He was childless and was succeeded by his nephew, the third Baron. He was the eldest son of Vice-Admiral the Hon. Henry Carr Glyn, younger son of the first Baron. He died childless the following year aged only twenty-six, and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fourth Baron. He served as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1902 to 1905 in the Conservative administration of Arthur Balfour. On the death in 1988 of his second but eldest surviving son, the fifth Baron, this line of the family failed. The title was inherited by the late Baron's second cousin, the sixth Baron. He was the grandson of the Hon. Pascoe Glyn, younger son of the first Baron. As of 2009 the title is held by his son, the seventh Baron, who succeeded in 1988. As a descendant of both the first Glyn Baronet of Gaunt's House and of the first Glyn Baronet of Ewell, he is also in remainder to these titles.
Several other members of the Glyn family have also gained distinction. The Hon. Pascoe Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, sat as Member of Parliament for Dorset East. The Hon. Sidney Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury. The Right Reverend the Hon. Edward Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was Bishop of Peterborough and the father of Ralph Glyn, 1st Baron Glyn. The Hon. Henry Carr Glyn, younger son of the first Baron, was a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy.

[edit]Barons Wolverton (1869)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Naming Wolverton's Streets 2

Wolverton was extended westwards again in the early years of the 20th century. This meant extending Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Green Lane. Green Lane became Western Road after Windsor Street.

Three new streets were added north to south - Peel Road, Jersey Road and Anson Road. Now it was the turn of the Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust to be honoured:
Peel Road was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st. Viscount Peel;
Jersey Road after Victor Albert George, 7th. Earl of Jersey;
and Anson Road after Sir William Reynell Anson.
It may also be that Woburn Avenue, the short terrace at the top of Western Road, took its name in honour of the 11th. Duke of Bedford, who was a Trustee from 1900-1913. Otherwise this choice appears whimsical.

In the 1930s more land was taken out of Stacey Farm and larger houses were built on what is now Stacey Avenue. Gloucester Road was named after the Duke of Gloucester and Marina Drive after Marina Duchess of Kent. Eton Crescent, built around this time, seems another whimsical choice. I can only guess that the Council's thinking was that Eton, in the southern tip of Buckinghamshire, might be associated with Windsor and associated itself with the Royal theme. I should have asked my grandfather who was probably sitting on the council at the time this decision was made.

In the late 40s and early 50s Furze Way opened, so called because it was developed on the ancient field known as Hodge Furze.

Naming Wolverton's Streets

The first Wolverton streets were named after directors or officials of the London & Birmingham Railway. George Carr Glyn, who gave his name to Glyn Square, was the first chairman of the company. On elevation to the peerage he took the title Baron Wolverton. Richard Creed was the London-based secretary to the company. C.R. Moorsom was his Birmingham counterpart. Both Glyn Square and Creed Street survive today as actual addresses.

There were three short streets to the north of the original engine shed - these were Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street. Robert Garnett was part of a wealthy Manchester importing family. I have not been able to find out about Thomas Cooke or Joseph Walker. Thomas Cooke was also a director of the London & Soth Western Railway. Likewise, Walker also served on the Board of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. It is probably a fair guess that Cooke's business interests lay in London and Walker's in the Midlands.

The main street in the north part of town was Bury Street which also housed about 10 shops. It was named after Edward Bury who was the chief locomotive engineer for the L&BR until he was replced by McConnell in 1847.

The last street north of the Stratford Road was Gas Street, which had eight houses, some offices and the first Gas Works for the town.

The two other streets built in 1840 were Ledsam Street, named after Joseph Frederick Ledsam, a Birmingham businessman, and Young Street, after Thomas Young - about whom I can find nothing.
As the town spread to the west, the New Road became the Stratford Road, Church Street was built parallel. The naming is self evident.

The next road running north to south was named after the Radcliffe Trust, which owned the manor of Wolverton and therefore had a large say in how land was parcelled out for the new town. From there the town resorted to place names for its new streets, Buckingham, Aylesbury, Bedford and Oxford, and, in time Cambridge.

The next street to appear was Windsor Street. There is no obvious reason for this choice. If the town were to seek names from nearby important towns, then Northampton street might be the next obvious choice. Windsor was in the County of  Buckinghamshire at the time and was quite a large town. It is posssible that this name was chosen for its historic Buckinghamshire association, although I should point out that High Wycombe was by far the largest town in Buckinghamshire in the 1890s. Wolverton was second. Somehow, High Wycombe Street does not have the same resonance.

The next development saw the contruction of Moon Street, Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street.

Green Lane followed the line of the ancient track leading to Calverton and was already named. Victoria Street represented a new departure in naming the street after the long reigning monarch and I think (but am not absolutely sure about this) that Osborne Street comes from the same idea - the house of Queen Vic on the IOW.

More on the other streets tomorrow.

Sir Richard Moon

The first general manager of the L&NWR was Captain Mark Huish who has to be credited with laying the ground for the effective railways that it proved to be. When Huish retired in 1861 he was succeeded by Sir Richard Moon who for the next 30 years steered the company into its premier status. He was acknowledged as one of the most able managers of his age and was apparently a tough, austere character, described by Hamilton Ellis as "incorruptible and one of the most terrifying personages in Victorian private business". Hamilton Ellis further characterizes his achievement as transforming a loose amalgam of railways into "a totalitarian corporate state in nineteenth century capitalism".
He kept a gimlet eye on costs and while the railway was run with efficiency it meant that trains were not especially fast. Speed was expensive and Moon decreed that trains should not exceed an average speed 40mph. Since no other means of transport could go faster in the 19th century this may not have seemed to matter much but when rival companies began to publish faster timetables this began to matter, and in the 1880s passengers were beginning to desert the L&NWR on duplicate routes. So a speed war broke out for a few years, eventually settling down with no clear winners but a general increase in average speeds on the main line routes.
Moon left his mark on Wolverton in two ways - firstly there is the short street of fairly substantial houses leading to the school that was named after him; second his scheme to bypass Wolverton works and build a third station.
The original line followed what is now McConnell Drive and the second station was located near Glyn Square. Moon wanted the works to be integrated and separate from passenger traffic and the loop line, complete with new embankment was built at considerable expense and somewhat at odds with his known parsimony.
Local Wolverton folk did not think much of the idea and the venture was nicknamed "Moon's Folly".