Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road - 1

When New Wolverton, or Wolverton Station as it was first called, was built in 1838, the Stratford Road as we later knew it did not exist. The road from Newport Pagnell to Stony Stratford skirted the hill and followed the line of the Old Wolverton Road. The new railway housing filled a narrow strip of land that was bordered on the west side by Creed Street. The rest of the land was farm land still under the control of the Radcliffe Trust.

It is possible to walk along the Stratford Road, from east to west and see the progress of building the town from 1840 to the present day. Let me take you on this tour.

There were three early encroachments on this farm land: the school on the corner of Creed Street, built in 1840; the Royal Engineer, a little beyond that built in 1841, and the Church of St George's, built in 1846. The Royal Engineer became the start of the Stratford Road, but its construction was more-or-less accidental.

When the Radcliffe Trust sold land to the London and Birmingham Railway it was subject to the condition that they built no inns or hotels. I suspect they were primed by some of their Stony Stratford tenants in this regard and shortly after the line opened Joseph Clare, proprietor of the Cock Inn at Stony Stratford in partnership with John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor built the Radcliffe Arms in 1839 on land they had leased from the Radcliffe Trust on the site of Wolverton Park Recreation Ground. It was opposite the first station and no doubt Messers Congreve and Clare expected to make a killing. They were taken by surprise when the railway company two years later dismantled the first station and built a new one to the south of the canal. The Radcliffe Arms was isolated and became progressively more so as the railway works developed. The shocked pair of entrepreneurs made representations to the Radcliffe Trust who reduced the rent on the land occupied by the Radcliffe Arms and leased an acre of their own land on the western edge of Wolverton Station. Thus the Royal Engineer came into being in 1841.

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 Number 6 Stratford Road, which I will come to tomorrow. The space in between, now filled with four lock-up shops, was not built until the end of the 19th century.

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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Shop Window Display from Hobbies, 28 Stratford Road

One of the great boyhood pleasures from the 1950s was building model aeroplanes from balsa wood, thin plywood and tissue paper. Usually this was an activity for a cold and wet winter's day. Inevitably this meant taking over the kitchen table.

Lake Brothers, at 28 Stratford Road, as Wolverton's retailer of such kits, was therefore a favourite destination during my early teens when I was interested in such things.  Lakes covered quite a range. It was an ironmongery and you could buy paint, wallpaper, tools and wood. They also sold shotguns and I think the rather fine glass cabinet in the window was used to keep shotgun cartridges under lock and key. It was probably because they sold guns that the entrance had a wrought iron locking gate. Of more interest to me as a boy was the range of models kits.

Keil Kraft (and you can see a box in the picture) were the premier company for this kind of model building. The kits were designed by stamping out sheets of balsa wood with the necessary struts. These could be easily cut using a Swann-Morton or Xacto knife. If plywood reinforcing sections were required in the model they were pre-cut shapes. The balsa struts were glued together with Balsa cement - a transparent glue made from plastic dissolved in acetone. It's probably not on the market today in this form.

Once the frame had been assembled, it was covered with tissue paper, held in place with wallpaper paste, I think.  What followed was the dramatic part. A cellulose product, which came in small jars, was painted onto the tissue paper, which immediately became transparent. It dried quickly leaving a reasonably tough skin on the fragile tissue paper. It was known as "dope"

I am set to wondering today if these products are still available to children. You know, Health and Safety and all that. They were certainly highly aromatic and I think there were instructions about using in a well-ventilated area, but nobody back then bothered too much about potential health risks. These things we took in our stride, and I am, after all, still alive to tell the tale.

In some respects the times were more innocent. A friend and I decided one day to try our hands at making gunpowder, so we went off to Dales the Chemist and bought a few ounces of salt petre, flowers of sulphur and scraped some soot out of the chimney for the carbon component. Then we set about making gunpowder in the garden shed at my friend's house. I have to tell you that we were unsuccessful. We got the salt petre to burn, but we never got the ingredients in quite the right proportions to produce a satisfactory explosion. Probably just as well.

Well, we were kids and we were curious, but what amazes me, looking back, is that we were able to get the chemicals we needed from our local chemist with no questions asked!

I'm pleased to see that Lake Brothers shop has survived in some form and the present owners are to be commended for respecting tradition with their window display. After the Lake Brothers retired, their long term employee, Vic Old, took over the shop and ran it until his own retirement.

Keil Kraft closed as a factory around 1980. I don't know why, but perhaps they did not change with the times. In the late 1950s Airfix made their appearance in the market place with cast plastic model kits that could satisfy the model building urge and provide more detail and possibly more authenticity. The Keil Kraft models reflected the first half of the 20th century. Some of the Keil Kraft aeroplanes were powered with a twisted rubber band which would allow the plane to fly from a hand launch for a few yards. Inevitably they crashed and needed repair and maintenance. More satisfactory, were the little 1 cc petrol engines that powered the craft.. These were controlled with two wires held by hand which allowed the model plane to fly around in a circle, while the controller could move the ailerons and make it soar and swoop. I think radio controlled model planes were beyond most people in those days.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Liverpool Connections

When I was writing about McCorquodales it occured to me that there was more than one Liverpool connection with Wolverton.

Brabazon Smyth Stafford, the Works first chief accountant, came to new Wolverton in 1838 and stayed until his retirement, whereupon he went to Liverpool.

Hugh Stowell Brown worked in Wolverton as a boy and young man from 1840 to 1843. He then went on to some fame as a Baptist preacher in Liverpool, where a statue was erected in his honour. His autobiography gives us several very interesting insights into the early Wolverton.

Edward Bury, Wolverton's first Locomotive Superintendent established his locomotive building works in Liverpool.

George McCorquodale, as I wrote the other day, was also a Liverpool man.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Changes in the Stratford Road

The first photo was probably taken mid-1960s with a telephoto lens - hence the foreshortening. McCorquodale buildings are on the left and of course the wall continues endlessly throughout Wolverton.

On the right you can see the Regent petrol sign at Michael Pages Garage at the corner of Jersey Road. Beyond is the old sign for the Craufurd Arms.

In the 1960s there was a huge increase in the volume of traffic on the Stratford Road as freight moved from the railways to the road and large trucks, known as "juggernauts" thundered down the road, shaking the house foundations.

Post Milton Keynes, new by-pass roads left the Stratford Road more-or-less open to local traffic only.

Some of the roof lines on these Stratford Road houses have changed and the lamp standards are newer. The north side has undergone a complete transformation with steel and glass buildings replacing the Victorian redbrick.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What is this box?

In this picture (which I featured yesterday) there is a big box standing in the middle of the pavement behind the foreground figures. What could it be?

If I tae the lamp post as a fixed reference point, the box may be opposite the old Post Office. (I am assuming here that lamp posts will always stay in roughly the same position even if they are replaced.) If this photo was taken before the Post office moved to Church Street, this box may have something to do with that.

I'd be interested in any ideas or suggestions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Street photographer in Wolverton?

Years ago when film was expensive and cameras were a luxury item there was  phenomenon known as Street Photographers. They were enterprising chancers who would snap passers by and give them a ticket. If they wished, they could pick up their photo a couple of hours later from a booth somewhere. Usually you found these types at seaside resorts or in London's tourist areas.

I was reminded of this by Lee Proudfoot who has kindly shared some photos with me. They were probably taken in the 1930s. The first one here of my grandmother walking past Sigwarts and the North Western, probably on her way to the London Central Meat butchers, next to Muscutt and Tompkins. You can see the number written on the negative as the photographer's reference. The size of each image is 2 3/4 x 3 1/4, so probably taken on a 120 roll film.

Now I can't imagine my grandmother bothering with any of this. They had a camera which was used for holiday photos etc and there are a number of studio portraits in the box of old photographs. This one is a bit of an anomaly. I would therefore suspect that the photos were snapped on the offchance of a sale, sample images, such as this were done as contact prints in the hope of the sale of an enlargement. I don't know if there was a cost to the customer of picking up the sample, but there is no evidence that my grandmother ordered a photograph.
Annie Moore walking past North Western

The same may be true of these photographs from Lee Proudfoot's collection, as you can see the number marking on the right hand corner of one of them.  These photos were obviously taken on different days, so whoever was taking the photos was there for more than one day. Possibly he (I asuume "he") was a local photographer trying to drum up some business, although the photo in my possession has no name or address markings on the back. It strikes me that as a business enterprise this activity was doomed. The London and Seaside street photographers had some advantages in that they were picking out tourists who might want a memento of the occasion. Photographing residents of Wolverton in their familiar surroundings doesn't appear to me to have a lot of business potential.
Gertrude Old and Renee Moore beside North Western

Renee Moore walking along the Front
The photographs are valuable as a record of "The Front" in the 1930s. You can note the wicker shopping baskets, the old-style push chairs and the fact that people dressed up to go shopping.
You can also get a glimpse of the "Little Streets" in the distance and the frontage of the North Western is different from its present appearance. Cars were scarce.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The McCorquodale's Strike of 1915

I watched a film a while back based upon the efforts of Dagenham women workers to get equal pay with men. It was a good story and it was well told but you would come away from this film believing that this was the first time women had taken industrial action. This was the 1960s but in 1915 the women of McCrquodales at Wolverton were out on strike for better pay and conditions.

This was the period of the Great War of 1914-18 or World War I as it is sometimes known. Many men signed up and many unfortunately did not come back. The war changed Wolverton as many of its railway workshops were diverted to war production. The work load increased at McCorquodales because increased government activity resulted in increased demand for printing services.

These pressures were put upon the work force, which would have been fair enough, except that it was not fair enough. Women had  traditionally been paid less than men, the argument being that the man was the breadwinner and his higher pay took account of these responsibilities. But 1914 brought about a huge social change. The traditional bread winner was at the war front risking life and limb and their wives were left at home with the responsibility of making ends meet.

Ends could not meet. Living costs were rapidly rising and wages were - not for the first time - not keeping pace. The first representations by the women were largely ignored but the trigger for the strike came when it was learned that the relatively few men working at McCorquodales were being paid a 'war bonus". The women mobilised. Over 500 of them joined the Paper Workers Union.

The Wolverton Express reported:

The work girls and men at Messrs McCorquodale’s works were locked out on Thursday the 20th May, in consequence of a demand for a war bonus which it was alleged had been given to some of the men. Some 800 to 900 workers have been affected.
This photograph from the Living Archive collection shows the strikers on the Stratford Road. they appear to be very orderly and there are women with prams and push chairs and other children in the picture.

The "lock-out" was a favoured tactic of management at that time, believing that by punishing everybody the troublemakers would be quickly brought to heel. They eventually discovered that such tactics only served to unite the workforce against them. Sir George Askwith who had been appointed Chief Industrial Comissioner by the government was called in. He appears to have patted the girls on the head (metaphorically) and assured them that everything would be alright. On this assurance some went back to work only to find that management was not prepared to honour anything. They rejoined their colleagues on the picket.

I have looked in the archive of The Times to see if the strike got any national attention. It did not, and obviously The Times reporters had more interesting work to do than focus on a protest by women workers.

The National Union of Paper Workers was formed in 1914 and in 1921 it merged with another union. Apparently very few records survive from those war years.

Thus the McCorquodale's strike has been buried in history. We know from the Wolverton Express that there was a strike and that it was eventually settled by offering the women a 7.5% increase for the duration of the war. 

The practice of paying women less money than men continued for many years after this but the strike of 1915 must be some sort of milestone in the march to equality. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wolverton: The Envelope Town

Wolverton was a railway town. It was founded on railways. Steam trains punctuated the day as they rushed past on the main line. Thousands of workers filled the Stratford Road three times a day. Those of us who grew up there knew it was a railway town. We  knew of housing built by the railways, recreation grounds built by the railways, churches built by the railways, our fathers worked behind the wall for the railways. How could it be anything else?

Yet, as I mentioned yesterday, after McCorquodales arrived in 1878, Wolverton had a second important industry and the McCorquodale plant at Wolverton was as well known and respected in the envelope manufacture and printing industry as the Carriage Works was in the railway industry.

But it was the fate of Wolverton's second industry to never quite gain the respect of Wolverton's first industry. Part of this was of course due to the relative size difference between the industries but other social factors were at play. Work at McCorquodales was only a career choice for a few - and these would be men. Women entered McCorquodales at a young age and mostly only stayed a few years. Marriage brought their paid careers to an abrupt end as they happily embarked on a future of child-raising and home-making. And I should add here, however much the present generation thinks that this strains credulity, that this was a contract that was willingly entered. The majority of women were happy to be Mrs Smith rather than Miss Smith. In fact McCorquodales at one time offered £10 as a wedding grant to those who stayed ten years and there is no doubt that this financial incentive caused some women to put off marriage for a few years. £10 was a deposit on a £100 house.

Colonel George McCorquodale started his stationery and printing business in Liverpool in 1841. His first expansion was to Newton le Willowsin 1846 where he built a large factory.

McCorquodales at Newton le Willows
There is a curious parallel with Wolverton. Newton le Willows was also an early railway town and at Earlestown they built locomotives and later wagons. Clearly George McCorquodale had an affinity with railway towns and it may well be that his successful experience at Newton gave him the confidence to set up at Wolverton.

The Wolverton factory opened in a building more-or-less at the bottom of where Jersey Road starts. At this time the western edge of the town was the back alley to the east of Cambridge Street, so McCorquodales at this time was a little way out in the country. The plant expanded westwards to the limits of railway property and even crossed the road with buildings at the end of Church Street. These have been demolished in recent years to make way for new housing development.

McCorquodales grew from printing for big industries like the L&NWR and in the 20th century worked on large government contracts - stationery, forms, postage stamps, postal orders, pension books and the like.

The Wolverton plant finally closed in the last decade.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Enter McCorquodale's

For the first 40 years the L&NWR was the principal employer for Wolverton and District, and a successful and expanding one too. But the expansion was naturally accompanied by population growth and with it an emerging social problem. There was always work for men, but what about young, unmarried women who were living in Wolverton in increasing numbers with little to do?

Women did not have the choices in Victorian times that they do today. After school ended at 13 there were a few years to wait for marriage. Domestic work was socially acceptable, as was dress-making, lace-making and straw-plaiting, and they could also work as shop assistants. School-teaching was an occupation for a very few. Women were not allowed into offices until the twentieth century. Girls were a burden on the household until they married.

Smaller rural communities could absorb their girls in some of the activities noted above, and larger towns also had opportunities, but Wolverton was a working class town. There were no big houses or a sizeable middle class in need of domestic servants and in fact the censuses of the period show very few domestic servants employed in Wolverton. The Refreshment Rooms, which in its heyday employed almost 30 girls, was by this time on its last legs. Wolverton presented a unique circumstance in this regard.

Sir Richard Moon, whom I wrote about yesterday, had an idea. He approached his fellow Liverpudlian, George McCorquodale, with a view to establishing a stationery factory at Wolverton. Girls and young women could be employed in a socially acceptable environment. McCorquodale, who had been actively printing for the L&NWR since 1846, took up the idea and in 1878 opened his envelope factory at the western end of Wolverton. The new venture worked and in the 1880s 120 women worked in the factory. The men numbered 20 in total.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sir Richard Moon

 Following from yesterday's blog, here is an account of Richard Moon's life from the DNB. Sir Richard Moon gave his name to Moon Street in Wolverton.

Moon, Sir Richard, first baronet (1814–1899), railway company chairman, was born on 23 September 1814, the elder son of Richard Moon (1783–1842), of Liverpool, merchant, and his wife, Elizabeth, who was the daughter of William Frodsham. The family of Moon was settled at Newsham, in Woodplumpton, Lancashire, before the end of the sixteenth century.

Richard was educated at St Andrews University, but left without taking a degree. He intended when a young man to take holy orders, but his father opposed this, and so he entered his father's firm. He married Eleanor (1820–1891) daughter of the major shipowner, John Brocklebank, of Hazelholm, Cumberland on 27 August 1840. They had six children, of whom two died in infancy. Little is known of Moon's early adult life, but he appears to have withdrawn from the family firm by 1851. However, his family had invested early in railway shares, and in 1847 Richard Moon was elected a director of the London and North Western Railway Company (LNWR). He became chairman in June 1861, holding that position until he retired in February 1891.

The London and North Western Railway Company came into being on 16 July 1846 by the amalgamation of the Grand Junction, the London and Birmingham, and the Manchester and Birmingham railway companies. The chairman of the new company was George Carr Glyn. The marquess of Chandos became chairman in 1853. He was forced to resign in 1861, and was briefly succeeded by Admiral Moorsom, who died in May of that year, and Moon was elected chairman. Since joining the board in 1847 he had established a reputation as an outstandingly able administrator with little time for the senior executives of the company. He brought about the resignation in 1858 of Captain Mark Huish, the first general manager of the new company.

Moon was essentially conservative in his outlook, but could be innovative when he thought it in the best interests of the company. He certainly ran it very tightly, constantly looking for means of cutting costs, but he could also spend lavishly if this appeared to him to be justified—for example, on the expansion of the works at Crewe. Annual receipts of the company rose from £4.3 million in 1841 to £11.8 million in 1891, and the dividend from 4.25 per cent to 7 per cent, while the network grew from 1030 miles to 1830 miles. The company was employing 55,000 men in 1885, and was, at that stage, the largest joint-stock company in the world. Under Moon's guidance it became famous for the punctuality of its trains, the courtesy of its staff, and the creation of two new towns, Crewe and Wolverton; and in all of this he took a close personal interest.

Both the Grand Junction and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway Co. had reached Crewe before the amalgamation. The town began as a wayside station in the parish of Church Coppenhall, in Cheshire, in 1837. It was the Grand Junction that opened railway works there in 1843. The company set about building a new town, and this was continued after the amalgamation. It was administered at first from Euston, but the Crewe local board was formed in 1860, and the town was incorporated in 1877. The company provided everything: housing, water, gas, churches, and schools. It presented the municipal park to the town in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, when Moon was created baronet and became the first freeman of the town. Bessemer steel works were opened in 1864 and four years later the Siemens–Martin open-hearth furnaces were added. After 1864 carriage building was concentrated in Wolverton and locomotive building at Crewe, where locomotives were manufactured from raw materials, everything being made on site.

The London and Birmingham Railway Company had acquired 8 acres of land at Wolverton, a small village and parish in Buckinghamshire, in 1837. It began to build houses in 1839. Further land was bought in 1840, and by 1847 a new station had been built, and new streets laid out. As at Crewe, the company provided everything: housing, gas, a building society, a savings bank, market house, shops, and church, and opened a park in 1885. The company itself withdrew from building houses in 1860, preferring to lay out the plots and control the type and standard of those built.

Richard Moon retired from the board of the LNWR on 22 February 1891, his wife having died on 31 January. He died at his home, Copsewood Grange, Stoke, Warwickshire, on 17 November 1899. His eldest son, Edward, had died in 1893, and so he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his grandson, Cecil Ernest Moon, born in 1867.

Sir Richard Moon was described by his obituarist in The Times as ‘the hardest of hard workers and the sternest of stern disciplinarians’. He was said to combine ‘an assured confidence in the correctness of his own judgement with an autocratic spirit which hardly recognized the possibility of that judgement being criticized by others’. At the same time he was of ‘a singularly retiring disposition’ (The Times, 18 Nov 1899). He was Conservative in his politics, and remained a devout Anglican throughout his life.

Michael Reed

Friday, July 15, 2011

Moon's Folly

The original railway line followed the course of what is now McConnell Drive. The first engine shed was built to the west of the line and later workshops were built to fill the triangle of land between the railway line, the Stratford Road and the canal. The shell of these later buildings survive and have been converted to residential use in recent years.

By the 1870s railway traffic had grown to the level that four tracks were needed and there was little room on either side of the existing tracks for development without demolishing buildings. This would have been possible but it would have divided the two sides of the works in an impractical way. Wolverton was by this time no longer an important stop for all trains and express trains needed a clear run through Wolverton.

The chairman was the energetic and forceful Sir Richard Moon and he determined that the works would be united and the best solution was to build a loop line which skirted Wolverton to the east. This necessitated building a new embankment, a new canal bridge and a second bridge over the Old Wolverton Road. Plans were drawn up in 1878 and the work was finished in 1882.

Old railway hands were dismissive of the project. They felt that the curve and the camber of the line would lead to derailment at high speed and dubbed the project "Moon's Folly". In the event there was no known incident of derailment and the loop line appears to have been well-engineered.

This was an enterprise undertaken at some cost but the consequences were benign. The station was slightly further away for Wolverton residents but nearer for New Bradwell. The rather splendid second station was lost, together with the famous refreshment room, but by this time, as I have already said, Wolverton had lost its importance as a compulsory stop for all trains.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blog Reorganization

After almost three years and over 400 posts I  felt the blog needed a bit of straightening out. I've added some pages with photo collections under straightforward headings. There is still some work to do here with captions etc. I also need to reorganize the labels.
The blog is now in three columns.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Radcliffe Trustees - Later Members

Viscount Peel
After the original four trustees, who all died in the 1730s within a few years of each other, the number was increased to five. In most cases these men served until their deaths, and then new appointments were made. Many of them therefore served for about twenty years before they were replaced.

Mos of the 18th and 19th century trustees were titled men - dukes, earls, viscounts, baronets and there was even one son of Queen Victoria, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Two Prime Ministers, Robert Peel and William Gladstone also served. Peel put in 22 years and Gladstone 33.

When Wolverton was expanded westwards in the early 1900s, some of the trustees gave their names to Wolverton Streets - Jersey Road, named after the 7th Earl of Jersey, Anson Road after Sir William Reynell Anson, Peel Road, after Viscount Peel, and Woburn Avenue after the 11th Duke of Bedford.

The practice of appointing trustee from the titled and their relatives seems to have continued. The only exception  can find is the appointment of the distinguished astronomer Fred Hoyle who came from relatively humble origins. He served as a trustee from 1960 to 1973.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Radcliffe Trustees; The Original Four

Sir William Bromley
As I have remarked before, the Radcliffe Trust has an important influence on the history of Wolverton. It was the controlling influence from 1714 to 1838 when the railways arrived and an uneasy partner with the railway company in the 19th century. In the 20th century, with the growing importance of local and county councils, the power of the Trust receded, although they were able to block further industrial development until 1960. After 1970 the Trust was left in possession of Wolverton House and Wolverton Mill. These were later sold.

The Wolverton Manor produced the income which funded three important Oxford institutions - The Radcliffe Library, The Radcliffe Infirmary and the Radcliffe Observatory. The trustees were all men (and they were all men) of some importance. Nowadays we might describe them as "the great and good". They probably had no direct dealings with Wolverton or even visited the manor. They were only concerned that the manor was well managed and the expected revenue was produced.

The original Trustees were: The Right Honourable William Bromley, Sir George Beaumont, Thomas Bacon and Anthony Keck. They were all Tories, politically and they were also Oxford men, more importantly, they were all good friends and drinking companions of John Radcliffe

Anthony Keck had worked for Dr Radcliffe for many years as his financial advisor and it was appropriate that he continued in ths role. He was probably instrumental in organizing, or at least ensuring continuity of management, of the Wolverton estate. Both he and Bromley did come to Stony Stratford once to meet Thomas Battison, the incumbent estate manager.

Thomas Sclater was a successful lawyer and MP for Cambridge from 1722 to his death in 1736. He added the name Bacon when he married Elizabeth Bacon, thirty years his junior, and inherited her estates. When he died he was worth over £200,000. He mixed with many of the leading lights of the day and like Radcliffe he was a Tory. He is principally remembered today for the sale of his vast library in 1736.

Sir William Bromley was also a Tory MP and became Speaker of the House of Commons. He lived from 1663 to 1732 and was descended from an old Staffordshire family whose ancestry extended back to King John's reign. 

Bromley's political career began in 1690, when, as a tory, he was elected knight of the shire for his county. Though he took little part in proceedings during his first years in the Commons, he aligned himself with the ‘country’ opponents of the ministry. He became respected for his great personal integrity. 

During the early years of Queen Anne's reign Bromley played an increasingly conspicuous role in the tory-dominated House of Commons, but did not endear himself to the ministry. During the years 1702–5 he held the chair of the committee of privileges and elections, and he was a commissioner of public accounts from 1702 until 1704.

Bromley remained MP for Oxford University up to his death, and in 1714 became a trustee of the considerable bequest to the university made by his friend Dr John Radcliffe. 

Sir George Beaumont was MP for Leicester and also educated at Oxford. He practised law and during his parliamentary career held office as Commissioner of the Privy Seal and a Lord of the Admiralty. He died in 1737

Thursday, July 7, 2011


A former student at Wolverton Grammar School reminded me recently about Latin and its place in the curriculum. He didn't do very well at it (few of us did) and fifty years later he still regarded it as a waste of his time.

Many would agree. It was a difficult sell even in the 1950s and various rationalizations were put forward -
it was a common European language
it would help with your vocabulary
you needed it if you were a doctor or chemist
you needed it to get into some universities and particular university courses.
The last arguments were the ones which may have had some resonance. Universities at that time required Latin for some courses and I think Oxbridge required it for university admission. The so-called Redbrick Universities were a little more relaxed about it.

Looking back (although I didn't consider this at the time) Latin may have been quite new at WGS. I don't see Latin appearing on my Mother's School certificate from the 1930s so it certainly wasn't general. Somehow, Latin must have been acquired by those who got scholarships to Oxford. I am not sure how this was done.  Miss Lidster, our Latin teacher, looked as if she had been there for some time but may have arrived after the war when Wolverton County School became a Grammar School. Latin for us began in the second year and continued to O Level. Miss Lidster was the only Latin teacher and taught up to and including 6th Form.

The difficulty we had with Latin was that it didn't appear to relate to anything in our world. We had young open minds and could, for example, relate to learning the Periodic Table or Ohms Law. These things had some modern relevance, but the Latin we were taught was a language frozen in time. There were declensions to learn, verb conjugations and tenses, gerunds and gerundives. There were imperfect, perfect and pluperfect tenses. Nouns had different endings for the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative cases. It appeared to be a very complex way of organising a language. There was no common agreement on pronunciation after 2,000 years. Miss Lidster favoured the convention of pronouncing "v" as "w" and the "c" was always hard. Thus "victor ludorum" was pronounced wictor ludorum.

Of course English had travelled over the centuries by dropping inflexions. Words in English were at one time modified according to how they were used in a sentence, but over 2000 years the language had adapted to a more modern, more practical expression, where word order, rather than word ending established the meaning.

So this was the challenge, even to quite bright, receptive minds. We could have made sense of it, with effort, but without seeing the point, many of us remained unmotivated. Today, Latin is scarcely taught in schools anywhere.

Was it useful? If I see an inscription or phrase in Latin today I can more or less work out the meaning., At an academic level the knowledge is of some interest and I can tell the Latin roots of words used in the English language. I discovered once, when I was in Caracas, Venezuela, that I could read the newspaper in Spanish and make sense of it. But it hasn't much entered my daily life. I would slot it in with quadratic equations, the use of logarithms and differential calculus - all of which I learned at school, but have never used since.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Class sizes and School sizes

I was reminded about this while I was talking to someone the other day. Up to 1960 classes were large and schools were small. Now the reverse is true. You can see here what was typical from two of my class photos from the 1950s. The first one is my Primary School, taken circa 1952 and the next is from the Grammar School taken in 1954. This was the only year we did not have one of those all school panoramic photos so this one provides a useful measure.
1952 Wolverton Junior School 4a - 29 pupils

1954 Wolverton Grammar School 2M - 36 pupils

Schools were typically small. The Grammar School was by far the largest school in the whole of North Bucks with about 300-400. All of the secondary schools were smaller. The reason was plain: secondary schools covered only four years from 11 to 14 and the Grammar School accommodated pupils up to 18. The school leaving age up to 1973 was 15 and most were able to find work at that age.

The Wolverton Grammar School covered a large territory - from Lavendon and Olney in the north east, to Bletchley and Whaddon in the south west. Once the new Grammar School was built at Bletchley in 1956 to accomodate its expanding population, those in the Bletchley environs stopped coming to Wolverton and the spare capacity at Wolverton was used by amalgamating the Wolverton Grammar School and the Wolverton technical School. Thus The Radcliffe Shool was born.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Impact of Wolverton on North Bucks

Until 1838 North Bucks and South Northants was almost entirely agricultural. Wolverton's railway depot changed that in obvious ways. To look at this I have a population table which illustrates the change between 1831 and 1851.

Wolverton itself had grown from 1801 to 1831 from 238 to 417 - almost doubling the population. This was due to the new canal which brought with it some new occupations at the wharf and in cartage.

After an Act of Parliament in 1834, which organized parishes into Poor Law districts, Wolverton and Stony Stratford became part of the Potterspury Poor law Union and a workhouse was built in Potterspury. For this reason the figures have been grouped for comparison even though they straddle county boundaries.

Potterspury Poor Law Union
Parish 1831 1851 Change
Paulerspury 1,092 1,162 70
Potterspury 950 1,061 111
Yardley Gobion 594 673 79
Wicken 536 487 -49
Passenham 828 969 141
Calverton 425 505 80
W Stony Stratford 1,053 1,256 203
E Stony Stratford 566 501 -65
Cosgrove 624 641 17
Furtho 16 15 -1
Grafton Regis 241 247 6
Alderton 162 139 -23
Ashton 380 383 3
Hartwell 531 542 11
Wolverton 417 2,070 1,653
Total 10,246 12,502 2,236

As you can see the significant increase comes from the creation of Wolverton Station and it probably helped to maintain the rural population which might otherwise have declined.

East Stony Stratford was essentially the string of houses along the High Street - there being no development on the Wolverton side apart from inn courtyards. The bulk of Stony Stratford's population lived on the Calverton side. The drop in population from 1831 to 1851 on the Wolverton side of Stony Stratford was probably due to tenements being pulled down.

Of interest is the increase in the population of Passenham. Passenham included Deanshanger which in 1831 was a tiny hamlet. In the 1840s the Roberts family established an iron foundry which was obviously employing many hands in 1851. This iron works eventually grew and became the Deanshanger Oxide Works after WW II. Before the Clean Air Act Deanshanger was generally covered with red dust.