With the recent release of top secret documents from WWII this tory comes as a complete surprise. The story was kept so secret that nobody living in Wolverton would have had any idea that this was going on. Obviously there were precautions against the possibility of Wolverton being a target and indeed there were some bombs dropped on New Bradwell, but I doubt if anyone considered that Wolverton might be involved in a German spy network. Having said that, one person did, thankfully, and the story is now told for the first time in this MK Citizen article.
Richar Dunkley was a builder from Blisworth. he came from a long line of builders whose activities had been mostly local, but with the coming of the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837, Richard Dunkley struck gold and became one of the company’s favoured contractors.
In Wolverton he built the workshops and most of the early housing stock. he was also awarded the contract for building the new houses in Stantonbury in 1856. Many of Dunkley’s buildings in Blisworth and Northampton survive today.
He died at the age of 79 in 1886. Here is his obituary:
His obituary in “Building News”, 3rd September 1886 reads:
The death is announced, in his eightieth-year, of Mr. Richard Dunkley, formerly a builder and railway contractor, well-known in connection with the earlier phases of what is now the London and North-Western Railway. He built for the London and Birmingham Railway Company, when the line was in course of construction, most of the workshops at Wolverton, including the turning and smiths’ shops, the locomotive sheds, the saw mills, and carriage works; and he also carried out there many extensive alterations and additions, besides building many houses for the employees. He built the whole of the great junction at Willesden; constructed several of the loop lines, and erected 40 houses there for the company; and during a period of between 30 and 40 years, he executed many important alterations and additions, rendered necessary by the great increase in the railway traffic. He also carried out some very heavy works at Chalk Farm Station, and at Euston Station; and Tring and Cheddington Railway Stations were erected by him. The railway line between Northampton and Market Harborough was constructed by him, including the tunnels through which the line passes. In the town of Northampton his works included the West Bridge at Castle Station, the Corn Exchange, the Midland Railway Station, the Post Office, the new Cattle Market with its roads, the breweries belonging to Messrs. Phipps and Co., Mr. Phillips and Mr. Manning, the Kettering Road reservoirs, and the roads and culverts on the Kingsley Park Estate. He also took down the old town hall, and carried out some additions to St. Andrew’s Hospital, and the west wing, schools, and chapel of the Convent of Notre Dame in the same town. Seventy-two cottages at Stantonbury, near Wolverton; the viaducts at Coventry, the gasworks at Leamington; Warwick Gaol; the engine sheds at Rugby; Carlton Hall, the seat of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Bart., were also his work.
Here are some mug shots of prisoners in Aylesbury Gaol from the 19th century. These two young boys, both from Wolverton were convicted of stealing fishing tins and each given sentences of 14 days in prison. The top picture is of Edward Clark, aged 16 and below, Joshua Truman, aged 15. Both boys were apprentices in Wolverton Works. The date of sentence was 10th July 1873. Nowadays they would have been let off with a caution but in those days theft of any kind was taken very seriously. One of my great grandfather’s brothers was sentenced to 3 months for a similar crime in 1870 at about the same age. He also lost his job at Euston station. After this he emigrated to the United States where he was able to start afresh. He lived a long life and became an upstanding citizen, even mayor of his city.
This young man is Thomas Brown of Stony Stratford. He was sentenced to three months in prison on 8th march 1872 for stealing tobacco,
This man, also from Stony Stratford, is older – 36. He was a tinman and on 5th April 1871 got 9 months for stealing brushes from his master.
The cross country road from west to east has changed more times than we probably realise. Early travellers used high roads such as the one that follows Green lane in Wolverton, presumably because they could see potential danger from afar. As society settled valley roads were chosen because it was easier to move goods. The Portfield Way, as it was once called because it was a market road, (Port meaning market, followed a line from Calverton which led it past Horsefair Green, more-or less along its present line. However, opposite Warren farm it followed the present footpath up to Holy Trinity Church and then continued along the Old Wolverton Road, now to the north of the canal. This made perfect sense as the old medieval village was along this road before the enclosure clearances of 1654.
I can only assume that the detour was constructed when the canal was built. This left the church and its associated cottages isolated and may explain why the Wolverton Park Farm house had its access road at the back.
Slated Row, Rose Cottage and the Galleon and its cottages are all 19th century buildings and became what we bought of as “Old Wolverton” – but not so old after all.