Garnet Street

Garnet Street was one of Wolverton Station’s first new streets. It was a short terrace of six cottages only, facing the railway line to the north of the locomotive works. The cottages, which were probably two up and two down, were numbered 342,343,344,345,346,and 347. Little is known about this row but it is reasonable to suppose that they were in no way different from the other cottages of the period. Brick built, with small windows and low ceilings, they were probably built cheaply and fast and provided adequate shelter for workers, but not, in those days, for their families. The railway line was complete for traffic in 1838 and the workers who came to this new town of Wolverton were young, single and transient.
The census of 1841 does not record street names or numbers so it is difficult to guess who the inhabitants were; however, the 1851 Census is more detailed. The comunity is now more settled and families are beginning to arrive. Unfortunately, Garnet Street, along with the neighbouring Cooke Street and Walker Street, were demolished in 1860 – some 40 houses. The houses lasted 20 years. In consequence there is only one snapshot of the people who lived in these houses – the 1851 Census.
At Number 342, probably at the end of terrace by the canal is Emmanuel and Susannah Eaton and their five children. Emmanuel was an Engine Driver and therefore on a good wage. He probably had no need to take in lodgers which was a feature of many of these residences. Josiah and Sarah Kingston lived next door. Josiah was a Bradford born mechanic and his wife was born in Manchester – an illustration of how mobile the railways and industrialization had made people. There are two teenage daughters at home working as dressmakers. possibly there had been older children who had left home. The third house was inhabited by the William Packing (at least that appears to be the name) family. He was Brighton born but his wife and children were born in Stony Startford so given the age of his eldest child – 10 – one can infer that Packing, a bricklayer, arrived during the first building boom.
Robert Alger and his wife and two small children lived at 345. he was a pointsman and presumably his work was to manually switch over the points. At this period railway jobs were emerging. The signalman, operating his levers in a strategically placed box had yet to develop. The men who were called policemen had signalling duties. Sometimes this included switching the points and walking the line, but they were the ones who took responsibility for siganlling with flags and clearing the line of stray humans and animals. The Alger family were in their twenties and took on two lodgers, both labourers. If the house had two bedrooms the lodgers I assume shared one room and the family the other. Again this family illustrate mid-century population movement. Robert Alger was born in Islington, his wife Charlotte in Portsmeouth. his first daughter in Lambeth and the second. only a year old in Wolverton.
A single family, William Quicly, an Engine Fitter, and hiswife and children lived next door. They hailed from Staffordshire.
        Samuel Dawes, who lived at the end of terrace was born in Gibraltar in 1818, possibly the son of a soldier stationed there after the Napoleonic war. His wife Mary was 12 years older. They had one 9 year old daughter who was born in Woolwich so one suspects that Dawes himself might have been a soldier, stationed at the Woolwich arsenal. He was now employed as an Engine Fitter. They also have two young lodgers in their twenties, both employed as Turners (Lathe operators).

Cornelius Muscutt

Trawling through the later censuses starts to turn up names that had some resonance when I was a boy in the mid-twentieth century. Cornelius Muscutt, for example. He was the founder of the very prominent news agent’s business on the Stratford Road known as Muscutt and Tompkins. In 1881 he shows up as a 22 year old lodger with the Joseph Gabell family at 548 Young Street. Here his name is spelled as “Musket” but there is no doubt that this is the same man. He was born in Long Buckby and he was a shoemaker by trade, as was his father. He is still doing the same work a decade later, when as a married man with two daughters he is living on Aylesbury Street. It must have dawned on him that with the rise of factory made shoes from Northampton tehere was little future in making made-to-measure shoes and he probably looked around for another opportunity, so at some point in the last decade of the 19th century he opened up his lock-up shop opposite the main works gate.
The timimg was perfect. The Daily Mail was founded in 1896, the Daily Express in 1900 and the daily Mirror in 1903. Newspapers were affordable and education had swelled the potential readership and the railways made possible the morning delivery of newspapers printed overnight in Fleet Street. Later Bill Tompkins married one of Muscutt’s daughters and joined the business. From here it grew as a family business and when I was a boy in the 40s and 50s Muscutt and Tompkins ran the newsagents, a tobacconists nearby and a stationery goods shop at Number 9, managed by Mrs Tompkins. After the war they added a printing business to their range run by Bill Tompkins son-in-law Reg Tomlin.
As a boy delivering newspapers in the 1950s I saw a lot of this at first hand. Piles of papers wrapped in string wrer picked up from the station before 6am and the hurried activity of the morning would start. The bundles would be cutopen and the papers piled on the counter. All the papers for delivery were counted off and placed in bays opposite the shop counter for the delivery boys. Since Muscutt and Tompkins delivered to about 90% of Wolverton households this was quite a lot. After the paper boys had gone the men heading for work started to arrive on buses and came in to buy their paper and Woodbines. After 7:30, usually as I was finising my paper round, the trickle of men would become a flood as thousands of men would arrive to clock on by 7:45 am. It was a frantic business and Ralph Tompkins, who had succeeded his father, looked to me to be increasingly worried.
In an age of corporations we forget that most busineses in those days were family businesses. Sons could succeed fathers and occasionally you would see shop signs that would proudly proclaim the continuity – “Lawson and Son” for example. In the context of Wolverton Muscutt and Tompkins was one of the more successful family businesses. It went through three generations but not, I think, a fourth.

Wolverton Town Plans

One of the slightly disappointing aspects of this quest is the discovery that the recent past can be so quickly buried. I have been trying to reconstruct the original Wolverton Station settlement and I thought it would be useful to view some of the original plans. Now for years, in fact for over a100 years, these plans were respectfully stored in the Works Offices. Then in the 1960s , when BR was going into decline, they were bundled up an sent to the Wolverton UDC Council Offices in Stony Stratford. Shortly after that Milton Keynes became a fully fledged authority and the old Urban District and Rural Councils were subsumed into the new authority.
At this juncture in history the focus shifts to the future and away from the past and the documents appear to lose their importance. They have not gone to the Milton Keynes or Wolverton libraries nor have they gone to the Buckinghamshire archive in Aylesbury. They may have gone to the Museum at Stacey Hill Farm so I did enquire only to be told that they had no facilities for managing archives.
Back in the 1960s, when Sir Frank Markham was writing his history, one of his researchbassistants was able to go to the works offices and make a drawing of the original settlement from extant plans. I have also seen on the internet a photo of panels made for the Secret Garden project which shows part of those plans. This was made in 2003, so these plans must still be around – somehwere. The question is where?

Railway carriages

These passages are taken from the web pages of the L&NWR Society.

Coach Shape
Prior to 1897 general service corridor carriages were 42ft (or occasionally 45ft) long. Between 1897 and 1903 50ft became the normal length. From 1903 the carriage length was stretched to 57ft, though some composites 52ft 6in long were built from 1910. The longest full brakes were generally of 50ft, though some 57ft vehicles were converted to full brakes after 1918.
For LNWR carriages, the transition from the arc-roof to the cove-roof style came during the 50ft era and that from cove roofs to high elliptical roofs during the 57ft era. The WCJS style changed from arc to elliptical roof without any intervening cove-roof stage.
The top-light style was introduced from 1910.
The earliest dining cars of 1893 were of several different lengths; those built for “The Corridor” (WCJS vehicles) were of 45ft; others were 47ft 9in and 50ft 6in long. Some of these had entrance vestibules at only one end. From 1895 the length was standardised at 65ft 6in, though the very last pre-grouping LNWR diners were 68ft long. Clerestory roofs were usual for both LNWR and WCJS diners until 1907, when elliptical roofs came in for LNWR diners; no WCJS diners were built with elliptical roofs.
The first LNWR and WCJS sleeping cars were 65ft 6in long, built with clerestory roofs until 1907 when elliptical roofs became the norm. In 1914 the length was increased to 68ft 0in and this became the standard until (and after) the grouping.
Sleeping composites were all 50ft long; those of 1906 clerestory roofed and those of 1907 with elliptical roofs.

Wolverton Works in 1897
Wolverton Works was the principal carriage works of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR); from 1865 all the coaching stock and road vehicles were built there. (Before 1865 carriages had been built at Saltley , Birmingham.) The works was situated north of Bletchley on the main line out of London Euston , and by 1897 had expanded to cover nearly sixty acres, so that the main line, originally on a straight alignment directly through the works, had to be re-routed to bypass it to the east.
The Carriage Superintendent in charge of the works was not only responsible for building and repairing the coaching stock across the entire system but also for its cleaning and examination. In support of this there were also repair shops at Carlisle and Willesden and a carriage shop at Crewe. 8,100 vehicles were repaired annually, requiring a workforce of 3,200 (with a further 2,000 at Crewe, Carlisle and Willesden). Road vehicles built and maintained included omnibuses, parcel carts and vans, broughams , gigs , and so on.
The major facilities were:
Timber yard — where all wood was thoroughly seasoned for three years. Most construction was in mahogany, oak, walnut and teak, with sycamore and deal being used for partitions, roofs and floors.
Sawmills — complete with square-hole boring machine
Smith’s shop — 100 forges, 14 steam hammers, chiefly for steel carriage springs
Wheel shop — steel tyres from Crewe were built up onto teak wooden sections to make Mansell wheels .
Joiners’ shop — to produce components by skilled carpentry
Upholstery Dept. — for seats and covers
Four Paint shops — Sixteen coats of paint were needed, requiring sixteen days in the paint shops
Brake shop
Omnibus & Parcels cart repair shop
A steam traverser delivered coaches to their track for repair.

Wolverton Style
All coaches in the pre-grouping period were built of seasoned quality hard wood, and mounted on steel underframes . Many companies developed their own distinctive corporate styles: The LNWR style featured one large side panel from waist to eaves, into which windows were set without any visual links to the body panelling. Finished in the superb ‘white and plum’ livery, this became the ‘Wolverton style’, after the LNWR’s carriage works near Bletchley on the London — Birmingham main line.
Until 1865 carriages were built at Saltley , Birmingham, where the design style continued at Wolverton was initiated. Saltley carriages were narrow (7ft 9in) and vans were flat-sided (and narrower at 6ft 10in) but the seeds for the later style could already be seen in the designs.
‘Wolverton style’ increased the ‘tumblehome’ below the waist, painted in a deep, dark plum colour, called ‘Carriage Lake’. Above the waist, panels were painted ‘Coach White’, a colour in which blue was added to offset the yellowing inevitable through ageing. This meant that newer coaches appeared very pale blue in colour, becoming more white or cream with time. Windows were surrounded by a raised mahogany bolection moulding, and the raised mouldings edging the panels were painted in lake and lined out initially in gold. Later a yellow tan colour simulating gold was used. Doors were edged with a very thin white line. Lettering and numbers were gold, later yellow edged black. Painting required sixteen coats — and 16 days to rub down, paint and dry.
Roofs were often painted white in the works but were seen to be grey in service. An elderly worker from Wolverton explained they became grey due to the “(expletive deleted) from the [engine’s] chimney.”
In the early 1890’s a change to the panelling was tried on 45ft Family saloons, then used on the famed “American Specials”. The main windows were built in pairs with a wider panel adjacent to each seat back. The window mouldings were not rounded into the waist but instead took the form of an inverted ‘U’.

For photos and references to Wolverton Works Body Shop go to this link:

Working in the Cell Shop

I just came across this from the Living Archive. I expect that my father, who also worked in the Cell Shop, would have known Bill Scripps. My father never talked about his work so I grew up quite happily knowing only that my father went to work “in the works” every day. So it’s quite interesting to read these little insights and to note that workers handled dangerous chemicals on a daily basis without too many concerns for “health and safety”.

Bill Scripps – Memories of his time working at Wolverton Works

Bill Scripps
I, William David Alfred Scripps was born at Harold Bedfordshire on the 14th of December 1917. Lived at Odell for a short time moved to Chichley with my parents in the year 1921. My father was an all round farm worker. We moved to Lower Balney Farm, Castlethorpe, which was part of Mr. J.E. Whiting’s farm in April 1924. Later, in the year of 1931 we moved to Castlethorpe Mill, where I helped my father now and again to grind the corn with the water wheel.
I started working for Mr. J.E. Whiting at the age of 14 years as an all round farm worker. I worked for Mr. Whiting until 1955.
I joined The Local Defence Volunteers during the early part of the World War II. Later becoming a Corporal in Castlethorpe Home Guard.
In November 1955 I started working for British Rail Wolverton until I retired in December 1982 having completed 27½ years service. Just over 4,000 people were employed at British Rail Wolverton in 1955.
I started work at 7.30 and finished at 5.30p.m. One week’s wages after stoppages for a labourer was just over £10. My first job was working on a traverser as a scotcher stopping the carriages and wagons in and out of the shop. The scotcher was made of bound rope which we put in front of the wheels. There was 22 miles of railway track, and nine traversers situated between the shops, to move carriages and wagons in and out of the shops
My second job was as a labourer working with a skilled mate on the roofs of all the shops. Slating and making good all cracked and damaged slates and also general maintenance
The third job, was working in the sawmill with machines, helping to make signal and telegraph boxes for main lines. Office furniture, and tables ad chairs for waiting rooms and platform seats, also cleats for cables.
My forth job was treating water for the power house where they made steam for working steam hammers for the smithy and heating for the shops. Also all sewerage and drain work and cleaning all the guttering on the shops. Also cleaning the tanks that had contained caustic. Genklene was used in the fitting shop for cleaning metal and this had to be disposed of for safty reasons. Cyanide was used in the smithy for hardening metal. Caustic soda boshes were used in the lifting shop for clean bogies.
The asbestos houses involved removal of insulating asbestos which was once sprayed on the interior of stock. To remove all the asbestos water jets were sprayed over the stock and the water being collected in a water pit. The asbestos was then removed bagged up, collected by lorry, and taken to a safe location. Protective suits had to be worn with helmets with an airline pipe attachment.

The Bath House near the Stony Stratford road was used for cell shop workmen to have a bath or shower after work to remove dust that contained lead. Lead paste was put in the batteries that were located underneath the carriage to provide light inside the carriages

Women in Wolverton Works
There was a laundry worked by women, also about six ladies with small lorries and trailers used to collect all kinds of goods from the main stores and take them to any shop where they was needed.
There were two canteens, one large one and a small one located near the entry to the sawmill. From the small one, at about 9.30a.m., several ladies with trolleys carrying tea urns and food went to all the shops. At this time the men were allowed a short break.
List of Shops
Ambulance Room
Asbestos House x 2
Brass Foundry – Coppers where set in the ground – the brass was melted and then poured into moulds to make the brass fittings.
Buffing & Dipping Shop – olishing of brass door handles etc.
Building & Maintenance Shop
Bus & Road Vehicle Shop – There was a sawmill in the bus shop where they cut their own timber for the items they were building. They built lorries, containers, crossing gates, signal boxes, cable casing wheelbarrows, platform trucks, sack barrows etc.
Cell Shop – Where they made cells for the batteries.
Drawing Office
East Paint Shop
Electric Shop – Where they rewired dynamos, etc.
Fibre Glass Shop
Fire Station
Finishing Shop – Mainly woodwork and veneering.
Fitting Shop
Gas Shop -Repaired gas leaks in the factory.
Glass Cutting Shop
Hammer Shed – Where metal was cut to requirements.
Hair Room – Removing dust from seats and hair when being renewed.
Hardwood Stores
Iron Foundry – The same procedure as the Brass Foundry.
Joiners Shop – Where cabinet makers produced office furniture.
Laundry – Where they washed curtains that were in the carriages and bed lined from the sleeping carriages etc.
Leatherwork Room -Part of the trimming shop make and repair bags for the guards, doorstraps for carriages and in the time when horses were used saddlery.
Lifting Shop – Lift the vehicle to remove the bogies to do maintenance on the bogies.
Main Stores – several
Millwright Shop – Repaired machinery and sharpened circular saw blades.
Oil Stores
Pattern Makers Shop -Produced wooden patterns for both the steel and brass foundaries.
Plumbers Shop
Royal Train Shed
Sawmill Shop – The wood arrived at the shop where it was roughly cut at the first stage, then moved onto the next stage where it was cut out to the required shape from templates and also planed. Where need, mortice and tenons were done so that the wood was ready for asembly in other shops.
Sewing Room – Made curtains for coaches and sewed the seating for the coaches.
Smithy Shop – Made buffers, springs and did under carriage work
Steam Shop -Used for bending wooden roof bars for covered Goods Vans.
Steel Hardening Shop
Tinsmith Shop – Tea urns made of copper for the trollys that went round the shop. Lamps to go on the coaches front and rear, large oil cans that were be used for oiling up the trains.
Wagon Shop -Where the wagons were built. In the 1950s vans for transporting bananas were built there.
Welding Arcade
West Paint Shop
Wheel Shop


Here are the origins of New Bradwell. the railways works at Wolverton Station needed to expand; the Radcliffe Trust were unwilling to part with any more farmland, so the railway company directors turned to the neighbouring parish for a solution. Here is a map of those first streets in 1860 – Bridge Street, Spencer Street and the High street – all built up the hill away from the flood plain. What a difference from today when governments quite happily authorise the building of houses on land subject to flooding, whereas in the 19th century no self-respecting builder would have contemplated such an action – unless he was building a watermill.

The brick for these houseswas a grayish yellow and never looked attractive to my eyes, yet these were the houses which survived the wrecker’s ball due to a campaign by arriviste Milton Keynesers who were keen to preserve the Railway heritage. I would not have shed a tear if they had been destroyed in the 1960s but today I am ambivalent. Had the houses in Ledsam or Creed Streets in Wolverton survived we would have preserved some of the earliest houses from the 1840s, but at the time of the development of Stantonbury somewhat better looking houses were being erected on Church Street and the Stratford Road in Wolverton so there are plenty of examples of 1860s housing but one gfrom the 1840s!
The ancient parish was Stantonbury with a church near the river at Stanton Low. This church was dedicated to St Peter and although long since abandoned, retains its name in the local footall club – New Bradwell St Peter.
The name Stantonbury fell into disuse as the new settlers here liked the name New Bradwell better. The name of Stantonbury was only revived when the new comprehensive school was built on the hill in the 1970s.

The Lost Streets of Wolverton

When you look at this map (reproduced from Sir Frank Markham’s History) the design of Wolverton makes more sense than it did 100 years later. The streets are laid out parallel to the railway line and built either side of the workshops. The streets to the south of the new Stratford Road – Glyn Square, Young Street, Ledsam Street and Creed Street were still inhabited during my boyhood. They were known as the “little streets”. Garnet Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street, Bury Street and Gas Street surrounded the engine workshops.

Expansion was necessary and in the 1860s the L&NWR acquired more land from the Radcliffe Trustees and began to expand housing along the Stratford Road and the new Church Street. More momentous was the decision to demolish Garnet Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street, Bury Street and Gas Street in order to expand the workshops. In consequence all the shops that had hitherto located on Bury Street had to move. In my view this upset the balance of the town so that the commercial centre was on the periphery.

The Bloomer

The Bloomer was the nickname given to a steam engine designed and buit by J E McConnell at Wolverton Works. It was apparently fast for its period. The nickname came about because the wheels were not covered by skirting and was contemporaneous with the new shorter women’s dresses popularised by Amelia Bloomer.

I always thought it a pity that the L&NWR decided to rationalise their rolling stock production in the way they did – leaving Wolverton to concentrate only on the building of carriages and wagons. Steam engines were much more glamourous. Still, I don’t suppose the 4000 men employed there with good wages minded too much.
Wolverton got its first serious downgrading in 1963 in the aftermath of the Beeching report when it was decided to stop building new rolling stock and make Wolverton a repair shop. The workforce was halved overnight. The blow was softened to some degree because the Council had had the foresight to bring in new industry on the Old Wolverton Road, such as Copperad. The early sixties were also economic boom times and many men were able to find better paying jobs in car manufacturing plants in Luton and Coventry.