More amateur dramatics

I am intrigued to find out more about Mr F E Archer Smith. Judging from this and the other programme I published he wrote, acted in and produced plays around North Bucks. This one from Fenny Stratford’s Town Hall, and it must be remembered that at this time Fenny Stratford was a more significant town than Bletchley.
Judging from the cast names the plays appear to be “of their time” in that the characters were mainly drawn from the aristocracy or upper middle classes. Working class people only appear as minor characters as servants or villains, known by surnames only, like “Hawkins” or “Shrivens”.

Accounts Office 1910

I think this photo is of the staff of the accounts office in the works. I can only date this from the dress and the estimated age of my Great Uncle, Bert Dunleavy, standing on the left. He was born in 1876 and began work here as an office boy in 1890. So my best guess for the date of the photo is circa 1910.
If there is anyone who can help identify the others in the picture, this would be helpful.
Note the wall telephone in the corner and the ledgers on the right hand side – one of which is staped “Petty Cash”. The ladder may be there to reach volumes on higher shelves.
They are all men, of course. The idea of women working with figures was not entertained until the necessities of WW1, and even then it took two or three decades for the idea to fully take root. Even when I was a boy, Banks, for example, did not recruit women.
There is a range of ages here – from the office boy at the back, through young and middle aged men, to older men approaching retirement. One thing you can bet on, is that everyone in this picture spent their entire careers in the works.

Amateur Dramatics

My Great Uncle Bert Dunleavy was, it seems, something of an amateur thespian, and I have just come across some papers relating to this.
The photo, printed on a postcard, appears to be taken at the back of the Church Institute, which was then very new, as you can see from the brickwork. On the right you can see the Wesleyan Chapel and the Science & Art Institute in the background.
This is the cast of a play called “Life’s Stepping Stones” written by a man called F E Archer Smith who also acted in the play and appears to have operated his own amateur dramatic company in North Bucks.
The programme is reproduced below.

It may be possible to identify the people in this photo from the cast list. I can only identify Bert Dunleavy, standing second from right.
There is no year on the programme but I can identify it as 1909 from the back of this postcard, sent by my uncle to Miss Yates at 41 Cambridge Street. He lodged there as a boy apprentice in 1895 after his parents moved to Linslade.
As you can see from the franking of the half penny stamp, it was processed at 9pm May 5th 1909.

A day in Wolverton

Well that was a great day. I met some old friends and a lot of interesting people who were all enthusiastic about Wolverton and its past. I was quite unprepared for the demand for the book and after selling out quite early took orders for another 54.
Digital, on-demand printing makes all this possible. Only a few years ago I would have had to take delivery of a significant number from the printer and keep them stored in a cupboard until they sold out. Now, with a few mouse clicks, I can place quite small orders and have them delivered in a few days. the other great advantage is that I can make corrections easily. Last week someone pointed out that I had two house numbers transposed. A few minutes work on the computer and that correction was quickly made for the next printing. This is an organic process!
Many thanks too to Linda Winstanley and Lesley at St Andrew’s Bookshop who worked extremely hard while customers were crowding the shop. There was no bookshop in Wolverton during my growing years, and if you were a book buyer you had to go to Northampton or Bedford.  It’s a good resource for the community. I hope it continues.

Wolverton Manorial Documents

In March i thought I would go back further in time and explore the history of Wolverton Manor. There is a chest of old documents from Medieval times that were acquired by Dr John Radcliffe in 1713 and in turn by the Radcliffe Trust. These documents, mostly relating to sales, purchases and bequests of land, are now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
I had thought to use these documents to construct some sort of narrative about the history of the Manor – and I still may accomplish this – but there are so many gaps in years and so many characters whose names appear in the documents from nowhere and then disappear without trace, that I have had to cast my research net much wider. As is always the case, local history takes its place in a much larger context.
What is interesting at first glance is the number of local landowners who witness the documents. It was obviously important in Medieval times to ensure the highest visibility for any land transaction; the documents only having the force of law if they could be witnessed by important people. I suspect that these transactions (many are not dated) were all affirmed at periodic meetings of the Hundred Court where all district transactions and disputes could be settled.
Here is an example, probably from the first half of the 13th century.

William son of Hamon grants and confirms to Robert son of Hugh Cocus of Wulverinton, and after his to Matilda, & Emma, one 1/2 virgate of land which Hugh, father of Robert held, with a messuage which Hugh held at the same time.
Rent, 18 pence p.a. paid in 2 installments at Lady Day and Michelmas.
Saving foreign service to the king.
If Matilda or Emma should die without lawful heirs the 1/2 virgate is to revert to William.

Richard, son of Richard: Peter Barre: Geoffrey de Lucton: Hugh de Stratford: Walter de Olney: William Vis de Lou: Richard son of John: John Parmeyn and Hamo, brothers: Hugh de Lucton: Geoffrey Coenterral: Thomas son of Simon: William Seriaunt: Nicholas, son of Stephen: Henry, son of Humphrey: Thomas Clerk and others.

At first glance this does not tell us much, and it certainly poses a lot of questions that are probably unanswerable, but there are things we can glean from this.
A virgate, by the way, was reckoned to be approximately 30 acres, so here we are dealing with 15 acres. The messuage refers to the house, yard and outbuildings.
William, son of Hamon, was the Lord of the Manor of Wolverton and the great grandson of Maigno, the Breton adventurer who was given this estate and others by King William. The Vis de Lou family started in England with Humphrey Vis de Loup who was given holdings in Berkshire. Over the next generations they expanded their holdings into Northamptonshire and bedfordshire. I think this William Vis de Lou may have had land in Stoke Goldington. Peter Barre was a member of the Stanton family. (hence the name Stantonbury – Stanton Barre) Geoffrey and Hugh de Lucton are from the neighbouring manor of Loughton. I haven’t been able to find anything as yet about the Seriaunt and Coenterral families. They are not among the landholders in the Domesday Book, but the French names would suggest that they descended from Norman families.
You can see here the emergence of surnames. For the most part it was enough to name Richard, son of Richard, Nicholas, son of Stephen and Henry, son of Humphrey; those who mattered in the small society would know exactly who was who. However, Hugh Cook (Cocus) has a surname from his trade, as does the writer of the document, Thomas Clerk.
During the 12th and 13th centuries the population grew significantly. Global warming during this Medieval period resulted in better crops and a greater range of produce, including grapes. The population rose from about between 1 and 2 million at the time of Domesday (1086) to about 5 million at the beginning of the 14th Century. The plague years in the middle of that benighted century cut the population by 30 to 40% in the space of a few years and it took about 400 years before the population again rose to 5 million. However, the increase in population and social mobility led to growth in the customary use of surnames and by 1345 they were more-or-less universal in southern England.

Bridge Street

I have recently discovered some traders using Bridge Street as an address in Wolverton. There is a chemist who gave his address as Bridge Street in an 1852 Trade Directory and in 1864 a shoemaker by the name of Barley is using this address.
At first I thought Bridge Street might be a mis-transcription at the printers but the fact that it was repeated in subsequent directories means that it must have been an actual address. Barley shows up in various censuses around this period living with his family in North Street, New Bradwell but his place of business, employing 6 men, was at Bridge St. Wolverton.
My conjecture is that the upper floor of the gas works (which would have been at the Stratford Rd level) was used as a lock-up shop after the gas works moved in 1845. “Bridge Street” was probably a designation used by these shopkeepers to indicate where they could be found.

Here are the references:

1 1853 Post Office Directory Lewis, William Salter, chemist and druggist, Bridge street
2. 1864 Post Office Directory Barley, William, shoe maker, Bridge Street
3 1876 Harrod & Co. Barley, William, shoe maker (no address)
4. 1877 Post Office Directory Barley, William, shoe maker, Bridge Street
5. 1883 Kelley’s Barley, John, shoe maker, Bridge Street
6. 1887 Post Office Directory Barley, William, shoe maker, Church Street

I can’t find any record for William Salter Lewis in either the censuses or the Pharmaceutical Society so he was not there for long.

William Barley was born in Stony Stratford, and from 1861 onward lived in North Street, New Bradwell.

The new road to Stony Stratford opened in 1844. Apart from the Royal Engineer (1841) nothing was built on the road until 1859. It was variously described in censuses as the Wolverton Road and then the Stratford Road. 

By the way, this Bridge Street reference cannot be Bridge Street in New Bradwell. This street had not been built in 1853 and when it was first erected was named “Top Street”.

Book signing

The other week the bookshop asked me if I could sign copies of the Wolverton book. Apparently there had been a request or two. So this has been organized for next Friday, June 25th at St Andrews Bookshop in Wolverton. I ordered 25 copies from the printer, thinking this would be sufficient. Up to now there has been a steady trickle of sales, mostly through word of mouth. No surprises there vbecause I did not set out to write a best seller. I just did it so that it was there for the record, as it were.
Well, a newspaper article appeared last Thursday  (which I haven’t yet seen) and the stock flew off the shelf, which puts me in a bit of a dilemma as I will now have to order more and am not sure if they will arrive on time.

Stratford Road Numbering

Andrew Bore, a descendant of Richard Bore, the first Superintendent of the Wolverton Carriage Works, has written to tell me that his great great grandfather owned three houses on the Stratford Road, which he bequeathed to his children. They were identified in his will of 1893 as numbers 13, 14 and 15.
One problem in identifying Stratford Road houses is that the numbering system changed around 1900. Up to that time the house numbers started at number 1 at the western end and then worked their way sequentially to the east. What is now 44, on the corner of the back lane, was originally Number 1, and was then on the western extremity of the town. At the back of this house (a separate residence in fact) was a hole in the wall off licence which came to be known as the Drum and Monkey. I have no idea how this name originated.
In 1891, Number 13 (now 32) is the Dixy outlet on the right. In 1891 it was occupied by Benjamin and Mary Tomlin and Charles and Sophia Foster. Neither had any children. Number 14 (Now 31), with the upper bay window, was the home of the John B Williams and his family. Williams was Assistant Superintendent at the time. And in Number 15 (Now 30) lived James King, a coach trimmer, and his wife and father. King’s father, Robert, was a retired foreman, and at one time was a neighbour of Richard Bore in one of the villas.
The house at number 30 (as far as I know) has always been a private residence. The roof has been replaced, but the wooden sash windows remain.
The house at 31 probably had a two storey bay window, but this has obviously been replaced by a 20th century shop frontage. The roof tiles and roof decoration seems to be original.
Number 32 (previously 13) has been modernized.
Before and after the war Number 32 was a furniture shop – F.W. Stobie, although looking at the buildings now I would have said that Stobies was number 31. Obviously the shop conversion for 31 is an early 20th century adaptation, but I cannot quite recall what it was in the mid-century. There was a shop called Chamberlain and Norman along here somewhere that sold prams. Perhaps this was it.