This extract is a bit of a curiosity. George Williamson was born into a well-to-do Guilford family in 1858 and died in 1942. He was mainly an art historian but he did also dabble in Surrey history. He wrote extensively and this little volume Behind my Library Door, he reflects on some of his bookish interests. In this chapter he focusses on George Bradshaw, the founder of Bradshaw Guides. It is of interest to me (and possibly to some of you) in that Wolverton Station gets a brief mention.
This book was published in 1921 when Williamson was in his sixties and in a reflective mood and he does offer some insights into early railway travel in this little discourse.
Behind my library door : some chapters on authors, books and miniatures by G. C. Williamson. Published 1921
There were considerable engineering problems and delays building the Kilsby Tunnel near Crick in Northamptonshire, so early travellers from London to Birmingham were dropped off at Denbigh Hall and then transported by horse-drawn coach to Rugby, where they could resume their train journey. Difficulties with the Wolverton viaduct also contributed to delay in the completion of this part of the line.
From Northampton Herald, 22 September 1838.
Opening of Line
17 September 1838
I’ve touched on this before. On the Google Satellite view you can see a field to the west of Holy Trinity. Enlarge the map and you can see rows of land strips in this grassy field which may indicate the site of a medieval settlement. Much of the Wolverton Manor was enclosed in the 16th century and all of it in the 17th. The Longueville family were met with protests and some legal action, but this appears to have originated with the Stony Stratford tenants on the Wolverton Manor, many of whom depended on the land attached to their houses and inns on the Watling Street to support their businesses.
The image of peasants being driven from their land by rapacious landowners makes for a good story but I suspect that the enclosures were effected over time with little impact on the labourers on the land. Bradwell and Stantonbury implemented enclosures without protest and much of the Wolverton Manor may have been the same.
Edward I married Eleanor of Castile in 1254. The marriage by all contemporary accounts was a happy one and she accompanied him everywhere and managed to give birth to 16 children over a period of 30 years. The last born in 1284 became Edward II.
She died at Lincoln on November 28th 1290 and her grieving husband accompanied the funeral cortege from Lincoln to London. The route went from Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham. Westcheap in London and finally Charing, now of course known as Charing Cross. Each of these places was an overnight stop.
Edward ordered that a cross should be erected at each overnight stop. They were originally wooden, but after a few years each was replaced by a stone cross. The Stony Stratford Cross, which was probably on the High Street at the entrance to the town remained there for a few hundred years until it was destroyed during the civil war. The base of the cross remained for some time after and was then removed. Nobody knows when.
The location suggests that they stayed at the nearby inn, probably Grik’s Herber.
The Hardingstone Cross (shown above) is one of three survivors. the Stony Stratford Cross was probably similar.
John Edy, in his will dated at Malletts, 20 September 1487, desired to be buried in the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalene, in Stony Stratford, and bequeathed various sums as follows :
Ad opus Scti. Egidii 6s. 8d.;
to the carver for making the roof of St. Mary Magdalene chancel, £5;
towards making the gabell window, 40s.;
to St. Giles’ steeple, 40s., and if not made m two years the 40s. to go to St. Ann’s Isle, at Bradwell. (The “Isle” or aisle at Bradwell was a chapel at the Priory.)
John Edy founded a gild in 1481. The house was on the edge of St Mary Magdalene churchyard, approximately at the end of Vicarage Rooad today. The Stony Stratford circa 1680 map shows its location and the fields which by this time had become attached to the house – a kind of sub-manor.
The house and the land were purchased in the 19th century by William Golby. In 1830 he pulled down the mansion and retained a barn. In 1865 this barn was renovated, a second story added, and converted into a house known as “The Ring” taking its name from the adjacent land where horses were broken in.There were quite a few acres associated with the house as can be seen from the map.
The Wolverton UDC was formed in 1920 and included New Bradwell, Wolverton, Stony Stratford and Calverton. Basically it was the old manors of Wolverton and Calverton with the addition of New Bradwell. Old Bradwell was part of the Rural District Council.
The UDC was disbanded in 1974 when Wolverton became part of Milton Keynes.
For its 50 year life the population was quite stable. You can see dips in the 1930s when jobs were lost in the Works and in the post war period when the railways were in decline.
The population breakdown was about 7,000 living in Wolverton, 3,500 in New Bradwell, 2000 in Stony and the remainder living in the rural area.
Employment levels during this whole period were high as I have discussed in this post.
|Year||Population 20 years earlier||Population 10 years earlier||Current Total Population|
Yesterday I wrote about Edward Hayes, one of Wolverton and Stony Stratford’s steam pioneers. His early associate was a farmer from Little Woolstone, William Smith. Smith came from a well-established farming family in that area and was born at Church Farm in 1814. His father, like many successful 18th century farmers, had expanded his faming interests to include farms at Woughton and Great Linford and young William cut his farming teeth on these farms before returning to Church farm on his father’s death in 1837.
Smith was a man of financial as well as intellectual resources and began to experiment with steam power for agricultural applications and before long he found a fellow traveller in Edward Hayes, who was then working at Wolverton. The problem for Smith and all steam pioneers in the agricultural area was the excessive weight of steam traction engines which quickly bogged them down in the soil while they were in use. Smith’s eventual solution was to design a stationary engine which could haul ploughs and cultivators through the fields through a system of ropes and pulleys.
He had some success with these monstrous machines in the mid century and by 1862 was reported to have 200 customers on his books. Sir Frank Markham describes the efforts of a day’s harvesting in July where a field of wheat was harvested at Linford, threshed by another machine and taken to Little Woolstone Mill to be ground into flour. The effort of days or a week was dramatically cut.
This was not without its social impact. In 1851 his farm at Little Woolstone employed 21 men. By 1861 this number was down to 7 men and 6 boys. By 1877 trade union organisers were speaking at Little Woolstone and finding a ready ear amongst workers who saw their jobs disappearing and their wages stagnating. Smith was not accustomed to this method of dealing with his workers and appears to have been unable to make the adjustment. His response was to cease farming and building machinery. The fields were left to grass and pasture and he put all his machinery in a barn and bricked up the walls. The machinery was discovered in 1958 and restored. I am not sure where they are to be found today.
William Smith, although married twice, had no children. His first wife, Susannah Williamson, was 14 years older than he and probably about 40 when they married. Likewise his second wife Louisa was in her 50s. So the fact that he had no children to take over the family business may in part have led to his uncompromising position.
The steam engine had a relatively short history on the farm. Once lighter, more maneuverable oil powered engines appeared the steam engine quickly vanished from the farm. Thomas Hardy describes the impact of the steam engine in his 1891 book, Tess of the Durbervilles.
Close under the eaves of the stack, and as yet barely visible was the red tyrant that the women had come to serve – a timber- framed construction, with straps and wheels appertaining – the threshing-machine, which, whilst it was going, kept up a despotic demand upon the endurance of their muscles and nerves.