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Wolverton House

Wolverton House

There had probably always been a farm house on this site or hereabouts but in 1784 Thomas Harrison, land agent for the Radcliffe Trust and also a farmer, decided to build a substantial house at a cost of £1,800. Besides farming over 400 acres here Harrison had some significant industrial interests in an iron works in Staffordshire. I do not know much about it at present and will cover this in another post, but suffice to say that Thomas Harrison was a man of means with an income far above the £100 per annum he was paid for managing the Trust’s affairs in Wolverton.

The house was completed in 1784 and occupied by the Harrison family. After his death in 1809 his son Richard continued to occupy the house with is widowed mother and own family and after Richard died, his widow and son Spencer remained as tenants until 1892, when Grace Harrison died and Spencer and his family retired to the south coast.

Wolverton House was now separated from the farm and let to suitable tenants. Amongst them in the 20th century was Dr Habgood, a Stony Stratford medical practitioner. His son John, who later became Archbishop of York, spent some of his boyhood in what he remembers as a very draughty house in Winter.

After the war it was rented to Buckinghamshire County Council, who used it as a residence for Grammar School and Technical School pupils whose parents were working overseas. After 1958 the schools combined to create the Radcliffe School. I believe that students from overseas boarded here as well. They also used some of the buildings as offices and sometimes the house was used for residential courses.

Today it is used as a pub/restaurant.

36 replies on “Wolverton House”

That isn't strictly true; there were other pupils there who attended Wolverton Technical College, from the forties into the fifties…I think grammar school pupils came later….Pupils were boarded who could not get to Wolverton daily, they were from families living beyond about twenty miles from Wolverton, and wh were not living abroad.

That isn't strictly true; there were other pupils there who attended Wolverton Technical College, from the forties into the fifties…I think grammar school pupils came later….Pupils were boarded who could not get to Wolverton daily, they were from families living beyond about twenty miles from Wolverton, and who were not living abroad.

Thank you for the clarification.We tend to forget that the Technical School was an important North Bucks institution and the only one of its kind for many miles.My parents took a girl from Buckingham in the very early 1950s, who lodged with us during the week and went home at weekends. She was learning shorthand and typing, and the Tech was probably the only place that taught those skills.
I think what I can say is that Wolverton House was used as a boarding house and was maintained by Bucks County Council. It was apparently still in use as such in the 1980s.

The Boarding House was still in use in the early to mid-80s when I was a student at the Radcliffe. Most of my classmates that lived there at the time were children of RAF personnel and a few, who's non-forces parents lived overseas.

As Radcliffe Grammar School pupils my brother, sister and I boarded at Wolverton House while our Forces (Army) parents were abroad – initially in Malaysia. I was resident from 1966 through to 1973 and my sister left in 1977. The Jacobs, a rather stern couple, were house master and house mistress at my start and were replaced by the Moyles who brought vibrancy to the running of the establishment. The majority of the students were initially from forces or civil service families although that changed in my later years. A couple of rooms bordering the rear courtyard were used as council offices.

I lived in the lodge in front of Wolverton House. It was a boarding school I remember the pupils walking past the house every day to go to school. This is back in Early 80's and having to chase the geese back into there sheds as the end of the day every day.

Thought I would add more here for ‘the record’. It would be good if would 'critique' my assumptions….

The Radcliffe School, Wolverton and Wolverton House
I have been trying to piece together why Wolverton House came to be used as a Boarding House and also the Educational Status of the Radcliffe from its build onwards. Getting authoritative information about both these subjects was more of a challenge than I’d expected and there seems to be surprisingly little about this phase. Almost all that I’ve found has come from personal accounts – almost nothing official – and of those some are unhelpful. For example:
To quote from mynewtermdotcom: “The school was built in 1956 as a Grammar School, becoming a Secondary Modern/Comprehensive school in 1958”

From personal experience I know that this is incorrect on two counts. 1. It was never a secondary modern (Moon St School on the other side of town had that status) and 2. (a date typo?) it became comprehensive in 1968/69.

When I started at The Radcliffe as a first year pupil in 1966 it was a four form entry, 11 to 18 Grammar School. All the pupils had passed the 11+ entry exam and all would go on to take GCE O levels and possibly A levels. The only other selection was at option choice time at the end of the third year. I remember the comprehensivisation well at around this time because the new sixth form block was built and pupil numbers soared when those from Moon Street School transferred to the Radcliffe. That’s when streaming started and initially there was no apparent mixing of classes. ‘Grammar’ pupils stayed mainly in their stream doing GCE and the ‘Modern’ continued with CSE. Having completed seven years I left the Radcliffe and Wolverton House at the end of the Upper VIth in 1973.

It’s possible that the confusion over the Radcliffe’s ‘Grammar’ status stems from the tripartite education system adopted in the county in the 40s/50’s. Before 1956 Wolverton had three secondary schools – the Grammar, Modern and Technical all housed in Victorian buildings on each of three sites. Technical schools were created to produce engineers etc via an O and A level route and, as with Grammars, entry required an exam pass (11+) with another chance at 13+ if you narrowly failed. But these schools struggled with, amongst other factors, status and were eventually dissolved – mainly through absorption into grammar schools. When the original Wolverton Grammar school relocated to the Radcliffe site I suspect that all current Technical school pupils relocated to the Radcliffe with them. But all future admissions only followed the academic ‘Grammar’ curriculum and the Technical curriculum was phased out. It seems likely that the new school was entitled The Radcliffe School rather than ‘The Radcliffe Grammar School’ because of the original Technical School element.

Wolverton House.
It appears that the boarding house’s existence is, at least in part, connected to the Technical School. Technical schools never really took off (status and cost) and relatively few were built across the country. There was one other in Bucks situated in Chesham (became Chesham High – a grammar school) so they were typically far apart. This meant that pupils often had to travel far and was thus another reason for the demise of such schools. I found a 1950’s Tech pupil’s comment saying that she had boarded at Wolverton House during the week so it seems that Bucks CC initially used Wolverton House to provide accommodation for these Technical School pupils as well as putting their N.Bucks offices at the end of what was the Boys Wing. When Technical School pupil numbers began falling the CC presumably opened the boarding house doors to pupils from further afield. I assume that I got entry because my family lived (and I did the 11+ entry exam) in S. Bucks just before moving to Malaysia.
Dickie D 29/6/2017

Life as a boarder at Wolverton House 1966 -73. (Part 1)
In being a small, mixed sex establishment for secondary age State School boarders, Wolverton House was very unusual. There were variously up to thirty or so pupils there with the girls rooms occupying the upper floors of the old house and the boys in a single storey wing attached to the main building. Many boarders came from families in the Armed Forces, Civil Service and the Diplomatic Wireless Service (now HMGCC) whose home base was, and still is, at nearby Hanslope. It meant that the House population was quite mobile as parents left and returned from their postings abroad so probably fewer than fifty percent of us completed seven years there. I look back on those days quite happily and they were increasingly so beyond my second year there. The first two under the reign of Basil and Barbara Jacobs were a little more austere, added to which I was now seeing my family just twice a year with communication between times by letter only. There was no telephone in the house in Malaya and it’s easy to forget how expensive long distance telephone calls were across this country never mind to the Far East in those days. But although he presented a severe image (like many of the Radcliffe staff he wore a black teaching gown for much of the time), Basil Jacobs was fair and firmly dealt with the only bullying incident I was aware of. The boys’ Prefects were allowed to administer ‘the slipper’ as punishment for misdemeanours but its use was quite rare with no persistent mis-use and was phased out in later years. The Jacobs were superseded by a much younger couple, the Moyles, that I immediately took a liking to and for some reason they seemed to take a bit of a shine to me. Nick was an energetic Cambridge Biology graduate who introduced sailing, canoeing, camping and drama amongst other new activities so for me there was an immediate connection through Science and Sports. Mrs M used to lightly tease me which was rather nice too!.
Dickie D

Life as a boarder at Wolverton House 1966 -73. (Part 2)
The larger dormitories of 4/5 pupils were for the younger pupils and by the time you became a V1th former it was either two sharing or single. Initially the carpetless ‘dorms’ were quite sparse – particularly the larger ones – with metal beds and a single wardrobe for each but little else bar some pinboard space. But over the years the rooms became a bit easier to personalise. In many ways we were like a large family. We shared mealtimes in the dining room and free time in the common-rooms and library. Routines included post dinner chores, cleaning rotas, letter writing, evening Prep and Church on Sunday. Initially St James at Hanslope was visited by bus but this was changed to Holy Trinity Old Wolverton for a year or two before finally settling with the relatively vibrant Parish church in Stony Stratford. We were allowed to go off premises at certain times on condition of signing out/in (and only in groups until our V1th Year). Relationships between the sexes were tolerated up to a point. Much beyond that they would likely incur expulsion. We managed to get away with a handful of late night inter-dorm parties but they were difficult to achieve and discovery carried the threat of very serious consequences. In my seven years there was only one time when expulsion was used but it was dramatic. In one swoop five pupils lost their right to stay. I always felt that it was a bit of an overreaction precipitated by hysteria some girls were struggling to explain away.
The only other resident staff included a male and female tutor each with their own room in the appropriate wing and these tended to be young teachers who would stay a year or two before moving on. Even the poet John Masefield’s grandson did a spell. In my later years the two tutors at the time clearly got on well together – ultimately driving off into the sunset to get married – but not before I had uniquely witnessed a clandestine liaison. Unable to sleep I’d nipped to the washroom and about to return when I heard the creaking spring of the door to the main house. Preferring not to have to explain to anyone why I was out of bed at midnight I remained in place peering through a narrow crack in the door. A moment later the female tutor, shoes in hand, tiptoed past and into the male tutor’s room. The couple were likeable and I was old enough to see things from their perspective so kept the event close to my chest. It showed they were human.
There is an increasing amount of research being conducted on the mental effects of going through a boarding school system. Some struggled with it but for me it was, overall, a good experience not least because prior to that I had attended five schools and it gave me educational stability. Of my year group just myself Chris and Liz did the whole seven years. How Harry Potter-esque.
Dickie D

Thank you for the opportunity to share this in a meaningful place Bryan (I prefer to use social media sparingly or not at all!). I thought it worthwhile because so few attended Wolverton House during its existence as a boarding house. By rough calculation there will have been fewer than 200 pupils over its lifetime and probably fewer than 75 total pupils going the full 7 year term. The latter was further affected by comprehensivisation as the numbers of boarders leaving at the age of 16 increased. I look forward to the account of Moon St school. Although I initially knew little about it I did make friends with one or two of the pupils who transferred to the Radcliffe from there. Have just ordered 'I Grew Up in Wolverton Too' as a start. Interestingly – my aforementioned friend Chris's Grandfather or Great Uncle designed the Wolverton railway platforms and or the Wolverton bend. I do remember him showing me the complicated looking line drawings of the curved platforms.

I have put up the post about the history of the Moon St School this morning.
As regards Wolverton house, it was built by Thomas Harrison in and around 1784. Being on Radcliffe Trust land he never actually owned it although he paid the cost of building it. The Harrison family stayed until 1892 when Spencer Harrison retired to the south coast. Thereafter the house was leased to various people of substance.
I think (but am not certain) that Bucks cc leased the premises after WWII. It was used for boarders mainly although part was used as offices for the administration of education in North Bucks. I also recall weekend workshops in drama, for example, being conducted there in the 1950s.

I am equally certain that Wolverton House was leased/owned by the CC during my time as a boarder (1966-73) as I'm sure my Boarding fees were paid to them. The two rooms on the end of the single storey boys wing and at right angles to it were certainly used as offices for the CC (N. Bucks Education) but we had little to do with them. There were no workshops held there in my time unless they were held during periods of school vacation. Dickie D

Have just checked a group photo of the boarders taken in 1972/73. We are all in Radcliffe School uniform including the first years so The Radcliffe School still accepted 11 year olds in 1972
DickieD

Hmmm! I am trying to make sense of this. The Radcliffe was fully comprehensive at this time, so there was no reason to be selective, and if Bushfield was in operation by September 1972, then there would be no need to send 11 year old to the Radcliffe. Perhaps there was a transitional period.

I'm in discussion with my sister and her boarding house friend over the same issue. They seem puzzled too… none of us are Wolverton'ites' so it's taxing the memory! We weren't aware of Bushfield's existence at the time so assume it just became the 7 to 11 Junior school that it is today. My sister and friend believe that the Radcliffe remained 11 – 18 at least until 1977 but are working on checking that! It is Currently 11 – 19 . All very interesting

Dickie D

Also … It always puzzled me why, in my first two years, we were bussed to church in Hanslope when there were two or more churches within walking distance from Wolverton House. Perhaps it was the only place that would have us!
We did have several boarders from Diplomatic Wireless Service families but it's a monumental step to make a connection with Hanslope Park … isn't it?
DD

I am the brother of the above and concur with what he says.I first went to the boarding house in sept 1968,the first year of my schooling was done at moon st. where my tutor for maths was Mr. Dunleavy, any connection?

It looks like you were right about a transitional phase Bryan. I think that my brother just cracked the Middle School issue! I had forgotten that he went to Moon St for his 1st year, because they hadn't completed the space at the Radcliffe for them at the Radcliffe. He definitely wore the Radcliffe Uniform at the time so he was effectively in a Radcliffe Grammar school yr 1 class within a Junior school. That would give Moon St the appearance of being a Middle School. I suppose in a way it was!
Dickie D

George Langley – Wolverton House boarder c1950
Linking Wolverton Technical Scool and Wolverton House

In 1950 George passed to go to Wolverton Tech, travelling by train. He was very unhappy there and particularly had trouble with algebra. He boarded for 1 year at Wolverton House where the girls lived in the main house and the boys lived in a converted stable. He remembers one boy, John Hagermold, whose father, he believes, was the German Ambassador and who lived at Whaddon Hall. He went to school in lederhosen. One of George’s friends eventually won the Isle of Man TT race. Mr Williams was the Headmaster and there are still reunions, many of the former pupils having had prestigious careers. George left school at 16 and went to work at Sandall Precision Engineering in Bletchley starting in the machine shop and moving to the drawing office. They were allowed to go to college once a week, unpaid, to complete their education but after a year George left and joined the army, the Royal Signals. He did 3 years and then went to the Diplomatic Wireless Service at Hanslope Park. He then re-enlisted and spent 23 years in the army. He was a High Speed Morse Telegraphist and later became a Weapons, Nuclear and Biological Warfare Instructor. George spent 15 years in Cyprus, Germany and the Middle East
Posted by DickieD. Researched from http://www.winslow-history.org.uk by my brother JD

Your story has stimulated me to think about a book on the history of Wolverton House. Part 1 would describe the building of the house by Thomas Harrison and the occupancy of his family until 1892; Part 2, the occupancy by various substantial residents, and Part 3 the post war lease by Bucks CC. I can take care of Parts 1 and 2 but I would guess that there are lots of interesting stories about the former boarders. Is that a project that wouod interest you?

I've given this some serious thought Bryan as it would be an interesting and worthwhile project but, for a number of reasons, I shall decline. I'm glad you asked though. Best Regards. DickieD

Interesting and logical. I don't think my RE teacher was minister at the church while I was there though (1966 onwards). I can picture the teacher and I think his name was Bearman or similar.
DickieD

Most interesting to find a thread all about Wolverton House! Great place when i was there and still keep in touch with a few of the former boarders. Lynn, Liz, Alyson and Rick who is one of our kids godfather. Back in 1966 church was at Haversham but I'm struggling to remember the vicars name. We used to walk back occasionally but I seem to think the coach was supplied by that other preacher Wesley. The Radcliffe in 1966 was described as a Grammar/Tech. Basil Jacobs retired to a thatched cottage in Quainton. Got invited to tea there once. The Jacobs had two sons. Chris who fell off the aqueduct and Martin known affectionally as Bumface and wielded the slipper with aplomb. The couple were Metalman and Miss Edrich. Happy they got married. If i recall correctly I think we were pretty nocturnal and would venture far and wide including Stony Stratford. Recall being taken to the Cock one night following a bit of a dorm incident when i cut my eye open and had the cut sewn shut by a rather merry doctor. Great laugh still got the scar. Did quite a lot of research on the house. I'll have look and see if I stil have any of it written down. Got some piccies somewhere. Chris D

When i was there from 1966 the caretaker lived in the gatehouse, his missus was a Jehovah's Witness and put on slap up teas for us every so often. Her husband was a keen angler and for the cost of a bottle of something would store an illicit motorcycle in his shed. Great couple. They were called, rather coincidentally, the Moyles. chris d

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