160 Years ago Today

On December 29th. 1849, this was the scene at the Engine Shed.

This etching is from the Illustrated London news and they reported that there were 1,500 there for the occasion. To give you some sense of scale, the erecting shop was about 90 feet wide.
The occasion was styled a Soiree and it was designed to raise awareness and funds for a Mechanic’s Institute for Wolverton. In those days Wolverton was important enough for the ILN to send an artists and a reporter along to capture the occasion.
We don’t know how much money was raised, but it was clearly not enough and the project had to wait until 1864, when the Science and Art Institute opened its doors.

Early Stratford Road Houses – 3

The two houses here look much the same as the previous two and were probably built at the same time by the same builder. Again, they have been much changed from the original.
The first occupant of Number 26 was Henry Latham and his wife and two adult children. Latham was a coach maker. Their next door neighbours were the Owens family from north Wales. Evan Owens was also a coach maker. In both cases the occupants are over 40 and one has the impression that they were finally able to afford a new and relatively substantial home.
The Owens family are still there in 1881 but Robert King, a Gas Inspector, has moved in with his family.
By the first decade of the 20th century Number 27 has become a drapery and later Number 26 became furniture dealers.

Early Stratford Road Houses – 2

Originally there were two houses here, but as you can see very little survives. The chimneys have gone (and presumably the fireplaces) in favour of gas central heating, and the slate roofs have been replaced.
The house to the left was originally occupied by William Harvey and his family. Harvey is interesting because he was the Derbyshire man mentioned in Hugh Stowell Brown’s autobiography. (Hugh Stowell Brown worked at Wolverton between 1840 and 1843 as a youth and then went on to become a celebrated Liverpool preacher, and there is a statue of him in that city.) Harvey was one of his room mates at a cottage in Old Wolverton when they were both working for 6 shillings a week. Brown describes his time with Harvey and gives us a few insights into his character:

Four of us, Edward Hayes, William Harvey, William Mickle, and myself, drew together. They were journey men, but young, the oldest not more than twenty-five years. We agreed to lodge together with a peasant named Cox at Old Wolverton. Hayes was a little man, a clever, skilful workman ; he came from Manchester, and was great in phrenology, and in Combe’s ‘Constitution of Man.’ harvey was a Derbyshire man, one of the best workmen in the place, and gifted with a dry and pleasant humour. Mickle was a Scotchman, brought up in London; a boisterous but kindly fellow, whom Hayes pronounced to be a man in whom combativeness and self-esteem were abnormally developed. The four of us slept in two beds placed in one small room. We had our meals in the lower room of the cottage, which was the kitchen, and there was a small room, about eight feet square, which we converted into a study, and in which we tried in the evenings to improve our minds, which, sooth to say, sorely needed improvement. On Sundays, Hayes generally went out into the fields to meditate; Harvey went to the Methodist Chapel at Stratford; Mickle wandered from one place of worship to another; and I went to church somewhere in the neighbourhood, generally to Stratford, because there was an organ there, which, however, was very execrably played. Our studies were various. Hayes went in for philosophy; Harvey for theology; Mickle for mechanics ; I for mathematics. I don’t think we read a novel all the time we were together, and our whole stock of books was not worth £5.
William Harvey never advanced beyond his work as an engine fitter, but one must assume he was content with that. He was probably hard working and thifty. His daughter Mary became a school mistress.
The frontage and the later blocked up windows must date from the time early in the century when it was Lloyds Bank. The brickwork seems suspiciously like the brickwork of the later Lloyds Bank at 47 Stratford Road. Later this shop unit and Number 25 next door became the Electricity Board showrooms.

Early Stratford Road Houses – 1

 In 1861 new lots were opened up on Church Street and the Stratford Road for private development. The corner lot was taken by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of St Francis de Sales was built in 1865. The Presbytery, the house on the left, was built and occupied in 1871 – at a cost of £300.
The house next to it was earlier. I am not sure if the bay window was part of the original construction or a later addition. If it predates 1870 it will be one of the earliest bay windows in Wolverton. It was occupied in 1871 by George Applin, a Painter, and his family. By 1881 it was the home of the retired Station Master Joseph Parker, who moved from The Limes. He lived here until his death.
The house appears to have preserved its slate roof.

First days of the Science and Art Institute

This lithograph, which probably dates from 1865, shows the then new Science and Art Institute. As you can see the extension to the west, evident in the shell photos put up earlier, is a future development.
The buildings beyond are the Lodging House (from 1908 the site of the Church Institute) and the schools (part of which is now the library).

Creed Street Shops

This little sketch shows how the buildings at the south end of Creed Street may have looked in the 1840s. By the 1940s there was not much evidence of any of this and most had ceased business by 1900. The bakery was probably the premier baker in Wolverton in the 19th century but as the town developed to the west it was superseded by the new bakery on the corner of Radcliffe Street and Church Street and later the Co-op bakery on the Market Square.
The double unit at the far end was a Co-op grocery, one side being used as a shop and the other as a residence. People of my generation will remember this as Billingham’s Fish and Chip shop, open evenings and Saturdays. The Co-op moved along to Church Street in the 1890s and a former manager ran the grocery as an independent.

The Last Days of the Science and Art Institute

The Science and Art Institute opened in 1864 and for over 100 years was Wolverton’s dominant building. As you can see from the photos, it was subsequently enlarged from the original. It’s history as a Mechanic’s Institute goes back further, to 1840 when the Reading Room beside the canal served as a place for lectures and a library. There were various efforts at fund raising and there were earlier designs. One, still in the PRO, shows a much more modest single storey building.
Unfortunately no effort was made to restore the building.
The photo on the night of the fire comes from Eleanor Pilcher who was living on Church Street at the time of the fire, and the ones of the morning after from my brother.

Wolverton’s First Post Office

The arrival of the railway at Wolverton coincided with the development of a more universal postal service. The Penny Post, symbolised by the famous Penny Black stamp, was introduced byRowland Hill in 1840. The growth of railways made the post office possible.
The first Postmaster was a Stony Stratford butcher, George Gilling. He opened up a butcher’s shop on Bury Street and ran the post office next door.
As far as I can tell the Post office operated here until this part of Wolverton was pulled down in the mid 1850s. The Post Office then moved to one of the first houses built on the Stratford Road. This time the franchise went to Charles Aveline the local builder.
Postal delivery in the 1840s was undertaken by Joseph Anstee who live on Cooke Street. He was probably only paid a few shillings a week for this daily task and to make ends meet had to accommodate four lodgers, as well as his family of five, in his two room house.

Three file folders

Having a bit of a clearout this morning.
Here are three images of the printed file folders the school used to issue. They track three changes of name –
Wolverton County School 1908-1945
Wolverton Grammar School 1945-1956
The Radcliffe school 1956-present
All in the same building at Moon Street until early 60s with the move to Aylesbury street site.

issued  1931
Issued 1953
Issued 1956
I should add that typically all our work in those days was done on loose sheets and kept in file folders like these.