The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the first big event to lighten the gloomy post war years. Everybody got very excited about it and streets organized themselves with displays of bunting, street parties and other events.
The first indication of the new industrial age in Wolverton was the construction of the Grand Junction Canal around 1800. The canal skirts the Ouse Valley at a contour of about 50 feet and crosses the river by this aqueduct between Old Wolverton and Cosgrove. This aqueduct was known as the Iron Trunk.
The four mile branch line from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell was never a commercial success but it had its place and operated for 100 years. It opened in 1866 and for passengers in 1867 with stations at New Bradwell and Great Linford. the original intention had been to extend the line to Olney but this plan was abandoned and the L&NWR took over the line in 1875. Passenger traffic ceased in 1964 and closed in 1967. The trains were usually full in the morning as they carried workers to Wolverton and students to the Grammar School and Technical School and again in the evening on their return. Otherwise there were only a handful of passengers as the train shuttled back and forth. I can only remember travelling on the train once and that was to go to Newport Pagnell’s open air swimming pool one summer. The first photograph shows the engine at Bradwell Station in the 1960s.
The end of the line at Newport Pagnell.
I only discovered recently that the trainspotting phenomenon was quite new when I was a boy. Ian Allen has originally set out to compile a register of engine numbers in the Southern region in the year of my birth. This was an unexpected success and led to handbooks for each of the regions. Each book cost about 1/- and would contain a list of all the engines in service in a particular region. When a train had been “spotted” it could be underlined. I don’t know how long I lasted as a trainspotter – probably not much more than one of two summers. The disadvantage of living in Wolverton was that only a certain number of locomotives ever worked the line. So after a while it was always the same engines travelling up and down the line. If the ultimate goal of trainspotting was to see and record every locomotive, the it coud not be achieved by a small boy living in Wolverton.
I grew up in a town where electricity and gas on tap were taken for granted, as was indoor plumbing. It did not for one moment occur to me that there might be communities without these amenities. When I went to Grammar School I became friendly with jim Franklin who came from Beachampton. Occasionally, on a Saturday or on a day during the holidays I would cycle over to spend a day in the country. I always found it interesting because it rural life was so very different from our town experience. Jim knew a lot more about fishing than I did, for example. He knew about all the different breeds of fish and much of their habits, whereas my experience had been confined at that time to catching four inch gudgeon or roach from the canal. He knew his way around the fields as well as I knew the streets of Wolverton and we spent some happy moments exploring the land around the village. I also recall helping to build a haystack at a nearby farm one August. It was also Jim’s job to pump the organ for the organist. I assisted him during one practice session. The amount of air in the organ was measured by a floating needle. Naturally we (or at least I) could not resist letting the needle fall below the line just to see what would happen. The organ died of course and we got told off.
Wolverton was a small town and we thought of ourselves as such. Rural life was at least a generation away and largely unknown but from time to time there were connections. During the winter months my father would often go beating on the Hesketh estate. I suppose it gave him some extra money but I think he enjoyed the company and a day out in the country. Occasionally he would bring bak a hare fom the shoot as a bonus.
Wolverton needed to expand but could not do so within the manor of Wolverton because the Radcliffe Trust were unwilling at the time to give up more agricultural land. So they acquired land to the east in Stantonbury. The new town eventually took the name of New Bradwell.
Although Wolverton is an ancient village any chance of development into the 19th century was killed off by the enclosures of the Longueville family in the 17th century. They were quite brutal in depriving their common land and customary usage and in short order the manor was depopulated, leaving only three farms on the manor. This was effectively what Dr John Radcliffe bought when he purchased the manor in ?