The Longuevilles come to Wolverton

While the de Wolverton family were in decline, the de Longueville family were on the way up. Maigno le Breton, founder of the de Wolverton line, had acquired large estates after the Conquest and was assessed at 15 knights’ fees in service: that is he had fifteen knights under his patronage, each of whom would have had a manor or part of a manor to support himself and his family and indeed his ability to arm himself for potential combat – no mean expense.
The de Longuevilles by contrast appear to have started their life in England as knights but initially without any grant of land. They emerge on the record in the 12th century, a century after the Conquest in the Manor of Overton in Huntingdonshire, part way between Oundle and Peterborough.  The manor only has one entry in the Domesday Book of 1086  but the holdings are shared between Eustace the Sheriff and the Bishop of Lincoln, Eustace having the larger share.
This quite large manor was divided into two which later assumed the names of Orton Longueville and Orton Waterville after the dominant families of the 13th century.  was subinfeudated, possibly by 1135, to Roger and John, both “men of Eustace”.  One or the other may be the ancestor of the de Longuevilles but there is no documentary evidence to make that connection All we know is that the de Longuevilles hold this manor as one knight’s fee to the Lovetoft barony. The Lovetoft Barony appears to have comprised the holdings of Eustace the Sheriff although in the murky world of 12th century records any lineage with Eustace is unclear.
This information does at least help us to place the de Longuevilles. Their heritage was modest but over a period of centuries they appear to have established themselves as a middling rank family with some landed resources. The Orton Longueville family emerges with Henry who held the fee in 1166. Henry had at least three sons of record but his heir was Reginald who died before 1219. His son John became the tenant and he died before 1265 leaving one son Henry as a minor. In the practice of the day Henry became a ward until he became of age, under the protection of his overlord Roger de Lovetoft, who was then able to enjoy the revenue from the manor.  However, Henry was able to advance himself through marriage to Roger’s daughter Petronilla.
Some genealogists have tried to connect these Longuevilles with the great magnate, Walter Giffard de Longueville. In the first place there is no actual evidence for this and in the second it is highly improbable that any descendants of the great man would languish in the lower ranks of knighthood. This connection appears to have originated with a book published in 1741 and may indeed have originated from the family itself in an attempt to burnish their lineage. Unfortunately more than a few amateur genealogists have repeated this error.
Exactly how and why part of the family moved from Orton to Little Billing is unknown. What we do know is that a John de Longueville acquired the Manor in 1301. He may have had land there prior to this because he gives some land in Little Billing to St John’s Hospital in Northampton. Later in 1323 he founded the Austin Friars in Northampton. He is not the John de Longueville who inherited Orton Longueville from his parents, Henry and Petronilla and who died in 1316 and he is not directly descended from Henry and Petronilla.
It is possible, and even likely, that he descended from a younger brother of Henry and therefore both Johns share a common grandparent.
In the 14th century there were three, possibly four, ways to acquire land – through inheritance, though marriage and through service. The fourth possibility, through direct purchase, cannot be totally ignored, but in this case is less likely. The Longuevilles of Orton do not at this time appear to be that wealthy. The facts that we do know is that the title to  the manor was transferred (alienated to use the terms of the time) to Sir John Longeville in 1301 and there was a so-called foot of fine to put this on record. The rather odd name comes about because these transactions were usually recorded on a single sheet of parchment, on which three copies of the deed were made – one on the left, one on the right and one at the foot. Each part of the document was cut with wavy lines so that the originals could be matched without forgery. The two parties to the agreement kept the right and left hand copy and the court retained the foot.. They are called fines because the agreement was a final concord – fine for short. Thus the court records, which are in most cases the only surviving records, became known as feet of fines.
The Manor of Billing was part of the barony of Winemar the Fleming, the same man who held Hanslope.  The descendants of Winemar, who took the name Preston, after Preston (Deanery) which they also held, appear to have run out of male heirs and in 1284 it is was in the hands of the widow Alice de Preston. What happens after that is unclear but Longueville may have come into the Manor through marriage to one in the female line of the de Prestons.
We know from record that Henry was put into wardship as a minor. He was the heir and there were estates to manage. A younger son with nothing to inherit may well have been given over to the custody of a related family and it may have been this that brought the young John to Little Billing. There will have been no need for any record, which is why we have none, but he must have acquired some wealth somehow, possibly through a will from his relative but if no feudal holdings were involved there would be no need for royal intervention and a local deed would have been sufficient. We must assume that this was lost.
The 18th century genealogy traces the later Wolverton Longuevilles from a Thomas Longueville of Little Billing. The precise relationship with the John mentioned above is not a matter of record. He could have been a son or grandson He married Beatrix Hastings and they had at least one son, Thomas. This Thomas married Isobel. And he died in 1361. They had a son John and his son, also John was the one who married Joan Hunt and thereby came into the Wolverton inheritance.
The de Wolverton line, as we have seen, produced no male heirs after the death of Ralph de Wolverton, then only a boy, in 1351. At this point the great Barony of Mainou is broken up. Chalfont St Giles and Padbury were settled on the four sisters of John de Wolverton’s first marriage and Wolverton and Wyke Hamon (Wicken) divided between Ralph’s elder sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth.
Margery married John de Hunte of Fenny Stratford, and gave birth to a daughter, Joan, who becomes important later. In the meantime, Elizabeth had married Willima de Cogenhoe
Margery outlived her first husband, then a second, Roger de Louth and a third, Richard Imworth, but not the fourth, John Hewes, who after 1393 granted his interest to John de Longueville and his wife Joan.
This is the beginning of the Longueville story in Wolverton which was to last until 1712.

From the pen of George Charles Williamson

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

I WONDER how many of those who are in the habit of constantly using Bradshaw’s Railway Guide have ever noticed that the date on each of its issues is given, not in ordinary form, but in the manner especially adopted by the Quakers, so that in lieu of saying the 2Oth of June, the date is given as the 20th of Sixth Month, and that in the case of the monthly issue, the name of the month does not appear, but the time-table bears the figures of the 4th or 5th or 6th Month, as the case may be. I wonder also how many have ever examined the first of the editions of this famous book, or thought that there were first editions of it, and how surprised they would be if they compared the present portly volume with the tiny thin book which was really the first issue of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide. This very first edition of all was a little book issued at 6d. on the eigth day of the Tenth Month in 1839, and what has been called the second edition was issued on the 25th of the same month in the same year. In between these two books, there appears to have been issued another for the little volume, printed on the 25th of the month, is called No. 3, but of No. 2, only a single copy is known still to remain. It has just been discovered in the possession of Bernard Quaritch, Limited.
It was regarded as of such slight importance that copies were not kept, and no public or private library has at present, so far as I know, been able to produce any copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Time-Tables bearing the statement that it was
No. 2. As a matter of fact, in all probability, the two books to which I have just referred were not first and second editions, because the railway time-tables, issued by George Bradshaw, were in two forms, one for the Liverpool and Manchester districts, and one for London and Birmingham districts, and, to a certain extent, the two overlapped one another. One was issued at 6d. the other at a shilling. It is not easy to account for the difference in price, because there was very little between the sizes of the two volumes, although certainly the shilling one was slightly the stouter of the two, but not sufficiently so to account for the doubling of the price. It was probably ascertained, immediately after the issue of the first book, that 6d. was not a sufficiently high price for it, and other issues were made is. The first little book is bound in green cloth, is 4! by 6 inches, and is lettered in gold on the side ” Bradshaw’s Railway Com- panion.” The other is bound in purple cloth, 4$ inches by 3^, and it has on the cloth an attached label in which is lettered in green relief on gold, ” Bradshaw’s Railway Time-Tables, price one shilling.”
Who, we might ask, was the man whose name has passed into a household word, the issuer of this first little railway time-table, whose name it still bears ? He was George Bradshaw, a Quaker, who lived in Manchester in 1835, and followed the calling of an engraver of maps and plans of cities. He was the son of Thomas Bradshaw and his wife Mary Rogers, and was born near Salford on the 29th of July, 1801. His parents were of humble origin, but they determined to give their son a good education, and after being instructed for a while by a Mr. Coward, a Swedenborgian minister, to whose Church his parents were attached, the boy was sent to school at Overton, a school kept by Mr. Scott. Later on, he was apprenticed to an engraver in Manchester, named Beale. In 1820, his parents went to Ireland, and George Bradshaw appears to have accompanied them, and there commenced work on his own account, as an engraver, but the business was not successful, and he returned to Manchester. Here he set to work at land surveying and the production of various maps, the first of which was of Lancashire, and that one was followed by maps of the canals of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which a recent writer has described as in all probability ” still the most complete record of our inland navigation.”
By this time, George Bradshaw had left the Swedenborgians, to become a member of the Society of Friends, and was active in the cause of peace, in working in schools for poor children, especially on Sundays, and was also associated with a very well-known temperance advocate of the day, Elihu Burritt. In 1839 Bradshaw married Martha Derbyshire, also a member of the Society of Friends, and it was then that he commenced to issue his time-table, and is believed to have done so, in the first place, with a view to illustrating his beautiful work as a map engraver. He tells us, in the very first issue, that the necessity for the book was so obvious, to need no apology, that he published it by the assistance of the several railway companies, and that therefore the in- formation might be depended upon as being correct and authentic, and he himself vouches for the accuracy of the maps and plans with which it was adorned. He announced that the next issue of the book would be on the 1st of First Month, 1840. There were three editions of the first book. The first, dated 19.10.39, contained however only the Liverpool, Manchester and Northern Railways, the second dated 29.10.39 the Southern Railways, the third volume was an amalgamated edition of the Northern and Southern tables. The price was raised then to a shilling, and the figure 3 appears on the right corner of the title. All three books were published concurrently for a year or two. Their popularity decreased as the Monthly Guide became established, and the Companion died about 1848.
In 1841 he started another, which is really the more direct progenitor of the timetable of the present day, and which bears the same title ” Bradshaw’s Guide.” He relinquished the phrase ” Railway Time-Table ” and ” Railway
Companion ” which he had adopted in the first two little books, did not attempt any binding in cloth, or the issue of elaborate maps, but brought out boldly on the 1st of 12th Month, 1841, what he simply called ” Bradshaw’s Guide ” and which consisted of thirty-two pages of print, at once the cheapest and most complete book that had been published on the subject.
A little later on, in 1843, he came back again to his old love of maps, and introduced into it ten coloured maps, and some plans, and from this guide-book descend in steady progress, the pre- sent books so familiar to all of us. I need not pursue the long story of the changes, in fact it is not possible for me to do so, because no one quite understands the evolution of this particular book, inasmuch as the September issue of 1844 bore the number of 146, as though it had been the 146th issue, and yet the evidence is quite contradictory, as the previous number, so far as can be traced at present, was No. 40. What there was in between, or what accounts for this curious jump in figures, no one can tell. The story has never been elaborated from a bibliographical point of view, and perhaps it is hardly worth the while of any bibliographer to give it the requisite attention, but the three little books issued in 1839, will bear some careful consideration, and there are many curious features about them which are of interest in the present day. One thing that at once strikes the observer is the extreme beauty of the maps and plans. They are very small, and not easy to use on account of their abundance of detail, but they are marvellously accurate and extraordinarily well engraved, evidence that Bradshaw, even in his earliest days, was desirous of giving the best that he could to his customers. Then,  when we begin to examine the letterpress, there are many strange references. The once accepted tradition that no official of a railway company is to receive a tip, existed even in those early days. We find amongst the important notes that ” no gratuity, under any circumstances, is allowed to be taken by any servant of the company.” It is also quite evident that the trains went slowly and that the people who travelled by them were restless, and inclined to move about at the various stations, because we are told that, ” to guard against accidents and delay, it is especially requested that passengers will not leave their seats at any stations except on the way between London and Birmingham at Wolverton, where ten minutes is allowed for refreshments.” In these early days, the seats were numbered, the number appeared on the ticket, and a pas- senger might claim the seat corresponding to his ticket, and when not numbered, he might take any seat not previously occupied. It is curious, however, to notice that the passenger was not always provided with a seat inside the carriage, and that there were outside seats, for which a lower scale of fares was charged. He could, if he preferred, ride in his own carriage, and that carriage could be put on to the railway.
In that case, he did not have to pay first-class, but ” gentlemen riding in their own carriages are charged second-class fare, and servants and grooms riding with the horses, fourteen shillings for the fare between Birmingham and Manchester.” The railway officials were just as particular about their tickets then as they are now, perhaps even more so. We read ” The check ticket given to the passenger on the payment of his fare will be required from him on leaving the coach, or at the station next before his arrival at London or Birmingham, and if not then presented he will be liable to have the fare again demanded.” There were no smoking carriages, and we read in the time-table, ” No smoking is allowed at the station, nor in the Company’s carriages.” The regulation about children is rather curiously worded. We are told that ” infants in arms, if unable to walk,” are free of charge, and one immediately begins to wonder as to what class of infant in arms would be able to walk ! It was evidently a great favour to the public that waiting-rooms should be provided, and attention was particularly drawn to the fact that there was an attendant in charge, the matter being mentioned twice in one sentence. ” At the Wolverton Central Station, a female is in attendance, where refreshments may be obtained at the Birmingham Station, refreshments are provided, and waiting-rooms with female attendants.”
The second-class carriages were open at the side, without lining, cushions, or divisions in the compartment, but the second-class carriages that were used on the night mail train were closed, and entirely protected from weather. On that train it was mentioned that ” each carriage has a small roof lamp.”
With regard to luggage ” passengers,” we read, ” are especially recommended to have their names and addresses or destination legibly written on their luggage, when it will be placed on the top of the coach in which they ride, unless it be in a bag or other small package, so small as may be conveniently taken into the carriage, and placed under the seat opposite to that they occupy.” I believe I am correct in stating that at the present day no passenger has the right to place his luggage in the rack over his own head in the railway carriage. The place where he should put it is in the rack opposite, the idea being that he can keep his eye upon it, and it will be seen that this was the case in the early days of railway travelling, as the small packages were then placed opposite to the passengers, although they were under the seats, and not above them.
There are many examples similar to these which prove how conservative we have been in England in the matter of railway regulations. When they have once been planned and agreed upon, they remain, and it takes almost an earthquake to alter them. Allusion has already been made to the old-time fiction that no servant of a railway company is allowed to accept a gratuity, and the present custom, which has singularly little to recommend it, and which states that a ticket, once issued, cannot be transferred to anyone else, and cannot be used upon any other day than the one whose date it bears, is another survival of the early regulations. The little time-table before me states that ” A passenger, having once paid his fare, and taken out a ticket, may go by any of the trains that day, but the ticket will not be availale on the following day, unless in any very special instance.”
An odd feature appears with regard to children’s fares. The book states that ” children under seven years of age for first-class carriages are charged second-class price, but for second- class carriages are charged third-class price.”
Probably the result was, however, very much what it is in the present day, when the child’s fare is half-price for an adult.
The division of the trains was, of course, different from what it is now, as in the time-table we read of first-class and second-class trains, as well as quick trains, mail trains and mixed trains, these phrases referring in some cases to the speed, and in other cases to whether the carnages are of all classes, or some are open and some closed. The table of trains is of course a very short one, and the little books only relate to certain districts, the green book giving the trains from Liverpool to Manchester, from Manchester to Littleborough and back, from York to Leeds and Selby and back, from Preston to Liverpool and Manchester and back, and from Manchester to Bolton and back, together with the fares and hackney coach fares from Lime Street Station, Liverpool, and various places in the city.
The second book gives the fares from London to Birmingham and back, from London to Twyford and back, from Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester and back, from Liverpool to Manchester and back, and from Newcastle to Carlisle, and also, in a very much abbreviated form, the trains for Birmingham and Derby, Manchester and Leeds, Manchester, Bolton and Bury, Nottingham and Derby, Sheffield and Rotherham, London and Twyford. In addition to this, we have, in the second book, the hackney coach fares from Euston Station to various places in London, divided into two groups, either for a coach or for a cab, in the same sort of table as for the various distances in Liverpool.
A little later, a volume was issued which contained the railways from London to Brighton, but the very idea of travelling with a season ticket seemed to be inconceivable, for after announcing that only first-class trains stopped at first-class stations, a phrase which is not very easy to understand, and then having described the trains as containing their best carriages ” glass coaches,” it went on to state that an annual subscription ticket from London to Brighton and back would cost one hundred pounds ! ”
It is sometimes difficult for us to understand that so short a time has elapsed since the first railways were introduced into England. Very rapid progress has been made in all matters connected with them, yet, in the midst of all this, there occur well-defined rules which were laid down at first, and have not been altered to the least extent.
George Bradshaw continued to issue his guide up to the time of his death, and was the founder of the firm which is still responsible for this very useful book. He himself, having taken great interest in Peace Conferences, attending various important meetings in Frankfort, and various places abroad, began to lend a helping hand to the ocean penny postage movement, and was present at a Conference held in its support in Manchester, in 1853.
He was at that time keenly interested in Continental Bradshaws, which seemed to him to offer a wider sphere of circulation than the English one, and, anxious to gather up information himself on the spot concerning the Continental rail- ways, went off to Norway, about the railways of which country little was known at that time. Cholera was raging in Christiania, and three days after Bradshaw’s arrival in that place, he died from this fatal malady, when he was but fifty-three years of age but his name will probably endure till the last train has finished running.

The First Day at Wolverton Station

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.

Finally, and to great fanfare, the line was fully open on September 17th 1838. Wolverton Station, and subsequently the new town, was born.

From Northampton Herald, 22 September 1838.

Opening of Line

17 September 1838

At Wolverton Station the occasion was celebrated by
 “a fete on a large scale … given to the workmen, and … the cause of great jollity and good humour. A very large assembly of spectators from the neighbourhood congregated at this place. At Stratford, booths and stalls were erected, and the place had all the characteristics of a large country fair. The road to the station was crowded with foot people and vehicles of every description.”44 Shortly after nine the great moment arrived when a plume of white steam was espied across the fields to the south.45 Soon the tall funnel of the locomotive came into sight, leading a train of just two carriages, ashine in their newly painted livery. Inside the first were directors and important officials of the company – George Carr Glyn, the chairman, Edward Bury, the locomotive superintendent who had designed the engine, Richard Creed, one of the secretaries of the company (all of whose names were to be commemorated in streets and squares ofthe town that was to grow up around the station), and Robert Stephenson, the engineer, while the second carriage bore the Duke of Sussex, uncle of the young Queen Victoria, and his suite. They had left the London terminus at Euston Square just two hours before, and had made the journey without mishap. At Wolverton the distinguished passengers descended from their carriages while the engine was changed, a necessary procedure in those early days. Little more than an hour later a second train arrived, pulling sixteen firstclass carriages and four “gentleman’s carriages”. Later in the afternoon another train was observed approaching from the north. This had not been so fortunate, for on approaching Wolverton its fire-basket had dropped out, causing a two-hour delay, but at last it steamed proudly across the great viaduct and pulled up in the station. The delay only served to prolong a festive day; “the workmen,” it was reported, “were regaled with bread, beef and beer, and after their entertainment departed in a very creditable manner.”

The Lost Village of Old Wolverton

View Larger Map

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.

Wolverton in 1872

By the time this was written Wolverton was beginning to surpass Stony Stratford in size. This from John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1872:

WOLVERTON, a small town and a parish in the district of Potterspury and county of Buckingham. The town stands on the Northwestern railway, at the junction of the line to Newport-Pagnell, 2 miles ENE of Stony-Stratford; was founded and grew up in connexion with the railway; consists largely of a depôt of the railway, with extensive workshops, and with houses for the workmen; and has a post-office, designated Wolverton, Bucks, a r. station with telegraph, an inn, a recent church, built at a cost of £5,000, a school for about 500 children built by the railway company, and a handsome science and art institute, built in 1864. 

The parish comprises 2,260 acres. Real property, £6,758; of which £10 are in gasworks. Pop. in 1851, 2,070; in 1861, 2,370. Houses, 365. The manor belonged to a Norman family, who took the name of Wolverton; passed, in the time of Edward III., to the Longuevilles; was sold, in 1712, to the famous Dr. Radcliffe; and belongs now to the Radcliffe trustees. W. house is the seat of S. R. Harrison, Esq. Both the head living and that of St. George or New Wolverton are vicarages, in the diocese of Oxford. Value of the former, £38;* of the latter, £167.* Patrons of both, the Radcliffe Trustees. The parochial church stands about a mile WSW of Wolverton town: and is a modern edifice, in the Norman style.

Queen Eleanor’s Cross

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.

The Malletts

The Malletts was once a substantial medieval hall belonging John Edy, at one time steward of the Longueville estates. The first reference to it appears in his will:

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.

Thomas Piggott of Beachampton married Edy’s daughter Isabel and inherited The Mallets estate, although it was Piggott who probably gave it its name, since his coat of arms was based upon “Three Mallets”.  Piggott was a prosperous 15th century lawyer. Oliver Ratliffe is of the opinion that stewards of the Wolverton Manor continued to live there until Dr John Radcliffe took possession in 1712, but the steward at that time and who continued working for the new owner, John Battison was living at Quinton and there is no suggestion that any of Radcliffe’s estate managers lived there. 

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.

Patching the road

Here’s a scene you won’t see these days. No Hi-Vi jackets and not a lot of attention to Health and Safety, although there is a solitary cone.
The date is around 1965. You can see the new Radcliffe School at the end of Aylesbury Street. This section is between Cambridge and Windsor Streets and you can see Smith’s Corner Shop.
Today the crew patching the road would come with a lorry and a roller and complete the operation in about half an hour. here the men have brought a hand cart with their tarmac and implements and are filling the patch and raking it level. The chap on the right has a heavy roller, which I think was motorized, to pack down the tarmac. I think that was newish at the time, because I used to see a huge diesel-powered roller (called a “steam roller”) do these jobs.
Note also the outdated road signs – “Slow, Major Road Ahead” relating to a slower, less complex age, when you actually had time to read the signs. The counterpart to this was “Stop, Major Road Ahead”, found at all the junctions on the Stratford Road.
The three men were all regular employees of the council. Their jobs would vary from the sort of maintenance work you see here, to road sweeping (by hand) and dustbin collection.

Wolverton Urban District Council

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
1921 13,815 Show data context 14,052 Show data context
1931 14,207 Show data context 12,873 Show data context
1939 14,505 Show data context
1951 12,873 Show data context 13,426 Show data context
1961 13,426 Show data context 13,113 Show data context

William Smith and Steam Power

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.

The “red tyrant” works remorselessly and agricultural workers in Dorset were now experiencing the domination of the machine, much as their industrial cousins earlier in the century. The natural rhythms of working in the countryside, once governed by daylight and the weather, were now under the rule of an unseen clock.

William Smith’s minor legacy was to be an early adopter of the industrialization of agriculture.