Wolverton and Stony Stratford in 1825

Here’s a very different view of the Wolverton area. The canal has arrived but the railway is scarcely in anyone’s imagination. The year of this publication is 1825 and was undertaken by a man called Bryant, about whom very little is known – not even his first name.

Stony Stratford is recognisable with development along the High Street of course and houses around Horse fair, the Market Square and Mill Lane. There is a tannery away from the residential part. Russell Street has yet to come into existence but there are cottages along what was then called Back lane.

Wolverton Park is Wolverton House and most of the land around there was farmed from this centre, although there was a farm house where the house called Wolverton Park now stands. Warren Farm came into existence later in the century. Tanor Farm is marked as Wolverton House. this may have been a map maker’s error.

Slated Row was built only a few years earlier and is marked on the map as Tenements.

The Old Wolverton Road was there but not known by that name at the time and takes you along the valley to Stonebridge House Farm where it joins the road from Calverton, which at that time could go uninterrupted across the fields. The only surviving parts of this ancient road are Green Lane in Wolverton and the track alongside the Wolverton cemetery. New Bradwell was non-existent and the only buildings were a toll house on the Newport Road, a wharf house and cottages, The New Inn and the Windmill.

Stacey Bushes Farm was beside Bradwell Brook in those days. The present house (now the core of MK Museum) was built in the 1860s.

On the Watling Street a Mr Wilkinson had his brick yards. He also farmed and the farm was later known as Brick Kiln Farm. Today it is an industrial area known as Kiln Farm. The land in the middle was known as “The Furzes” – hence Furze Way. Fields that were still farmed until comparatively recent times were known as Ardwell, Greenleys and Fuller Slade. These names have been preserved in housing developments.

The roads had toll gates in those days. There was one at Two Mile Ash, another at the bridge. The Stratford to Newport road had a toll house just to the east of Stony and there was another on at the bottom of Stantonbury Hill. Each time you had to pay, so some journeys could become expensive.

Wolverton’s First Railway Casualty?

The London and Birmingham Railway opened through Wolverton for the first time on September 18th 1838. A day later an unfortunate man by the name of Francis Wilson whose body was found beside the line on the 19th, not even 24 hours after the line was opened.

The Bucks Herald reported on the inquest held on September 20th.

On the 20th. inst., at Wolverton, on view the body of Francis Wilson, who was found about 5 o’clock in the morning of the 19th instant, on the railroad near to the Wolverton Station – he was alive, but insensible. It appeared that the deceased had been drinking, and was returning home between 10 and 11 o’clock, when it is supposed he attempted to cross the railway, being the nearest way to his lodgings, and in so doing, was knocked down by the engine of the eleven o’clock down mail. His skull was most extensively fractured and a portion of the brain had escaped, and he died a few hours afterwards. Verdict accordingly. The Coroner severely reprimanded the policemen on duty, as it was evident they had not been so attentive to their duty as they ought to have been, or the poor man would have been prevented from going on the railroad, or at least discovered sooner.

These sorts of accidents were not, tragically, uncommon in those early days. There was a complete lack of awareness of this new machinery, and it appears that the engine driver was probably unaware of the impact at the moment it happened, even though the engine was probably travelling at no more than 30 miles an hour. I wonder too where he had been drinking. There were no pubs at Wolverton Station at that time – the nearest would be The New Inn at Bradwell and the forerunner of The Galleon at Old Wolverton.

As another reminder about how serious risks to health and safety used to be, the same coroner had to pronounce a verdict on this truly shocking incident.

On the 14th inst, at Hillsden, on view the body of Phillis Mansell, aged 6 years, who on being left alone by her mother for a few minutes, attempted to take a tea kettle off the fire, and in so doing, he clothes caught fire. Medical assistance was called in, but she died the same day. Verdict – accidental death.

The Case is Altered

The Case is Altered

The Case is Altered is a rare pub name, although it is found in places other than Stony Stratford. Quite why it was ever adopted as a pub name will probably remain a mystery.

The phrase originated with an Elizabethan lawyer, Sir Edmund Plowden, who died before 1585. He was called upon to defend a gentleman who was charged in those sensitive religious times with hearing Mass. This was against the law, but Plowden discovered that his client had been set up and the man conducting the mass was not an ordained priest. therefore he argued, if there was no priest there could be no mass. “The case is altered!” he triumphantly announced and all of Elizabethan England was buzzing with the news. The phrase slipped into the language as a sort of catch phrase and frequently in tavern arguments  a man would assert the rights of his argument by saying, “The case is altered!” It later became the title of a Ben Jonson play, written in 1597. This play is a somewhat haphazard confection of intertwined comic plots and is thought by some critics to be the work of several authors, and has no special bearing on the naming of a pub in Stony Stratford.

Quite why this title should resurface four centuries later as a pub name may not be easily explained. Possibly by this date the phrase had come into general usage as a way of asserting one’s rights in an argument.

The Case is Altered got its first license in 1867, and was one of three that started up along the Wolverton Road at this time. The other two took their names, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of edinburgh from the titles of Queen Victoria’s two eldest sons, Albert and Alfred. The Case is Altered started out with a beer shop license and this seemed to continue for many years as the landlord appears in the trade directories as a “beer retailer”, so I presume it was not licensed for wines and spirits, which may have mattered not at all to its clientele.

The first landlord was John Franklin, a bricklayer by trade, which would suggest that the pub did not provide a full source of income.

It is not clear to me if the Case started out life as two terraced houses knocked into one, or whether that transition took place later. Clearly, from the external appearance, this was built originally as two separate domestic cottages.

The Prince of Wales

This building at 68 Wolverton Road offered clear attractions for the would-be publican. The three storeys provided two floors of domestic living space and a ground floor for a public house. However, the first incumbents, Thomas Gregory and his wife Pamelia, were both, as far as I can tell, childless. In the 1871 Census Thomas is 28 and Pamelia 30. They were still there in 1881 but were gone by 1891 and can’t be traced after that. It is possible that Gregory died and his widow re-married. I suspect, although it is not clear from the census that they sub-let part of the house.
The Prince of Wales ceased to be a pub around the time of WWII and became a private residence. It is now a lock-up shop with separate living accommodation above.

The Duke of Edinburgh

The pub on the corner of King Street is the sole survivor of the Wolverton Road trio, except that it has now been re-named after the Duke of Wellington. As mentioned above it was named for Queen Victoria’s second son and when he died in 1900 the title fell dormant until it was revived in 1947 for the present Duke. In recent years the owners must have decided that the former Duke of Edinburgh was completely unknown to the drinking public and thought that the Duke of Wellington was a more recognizable name from the 19th century. I don’t know how important that distinction is.
The first landlord, like John Franklin at the Case is Altered, had another trade. William H Cowley was a mason. A decade later, the new landlord was Walter Sykes, who doubled as a commercial traveller. Unlike the other two premises on the Wolverton Road, the Duke of Edinburgh had a full public house license from the very beginning.

New Book: Manno’s Manor

Finally published this month, this book has been three years in the making. It tells the story of Wolverton from the earliest times up to 1838.

I didn’t think it would be much more than a slim volume when I started out, but as I began to dig, i kept on finding out more stuff, and the book grew and grew. It’s been through a lot of ruthless editing since January and I have cut out about 40 pages; even so, it’s still almost 300 pages. Who would have thought Wolverton had so much history in it?

The book will be in MK bookshops shortly but you can order direct (for the same price) by going to either of these websites:

Here’s a table of contents to give you some idea of the scope of the book:

ONE Trackway, Waterway and Railway

Introductory chapter to put the earlier Wolverton into context.

TWO Before the Manor

Survey of archaeological work revealing Bronze Age Settlement, Wolverton in the Roman Period, the Anglo-Saxon Settlement and the Situation in 1066.

THREE The Barons of Wolverton 37

The first Baron, Manno le Breton, controlled over 15,000 acres in four counties, with Wolverton as the head of the Barony. His descendants prevailed until the middle of the 14th century when the male line ended, probably as a result of the Black Death.

FOUR Town and Country

Stony Stratford emerged on the Watling Street at the end of the 12th century at a time when new towns were being founded, and it contributed greatly to the prosperity of Wolverton and Calverton. This chapter tells about Stony Stratford’s development in the middle ages.

FIVE Medieval Life in Wolverton

Parallel with the growth of Stony Stratford life on the manor continued to be prosperous and productive. Strip farming prevailed and the medieval village of Wolverton was a very different place from later years.

SIX   The Rise of the Longuevilles

The Longueville family came into the manor through marriage to the de Wolverton heiress at the end of the 14th Century. This chapter describes the rise of the de Longueville family and Wolverton and Stony Stratford’s development in the 15th century.

SEVEN The Longueville Ascendancy

The 16th and 17th centuries were years of profound social change. The church was reformed, Bradwell priory was dissolved, land was enclosed and the Wolverton village depopulated. The Longueville family continued in prosperity until they were almost bankrupted by their support for King Charles I and King James II.

EIGHT    The 18th. Century and the Radcliffe Trust

Sir Edward Longueville was forced to sell the manor in 1713 to Dr John Radcliffe, a wealthy London physician for £40,000. Radcliffe himself died a year later and the manor was put into the hands of a Trust. Radcliffe’s will stipulated the construction of a library in Oxford and later an infirmary. The income from the Wolverton estate funded these two pre-eminent Oxford institutions until the 20th century. This chapter describes Wolverton in the 18th century and the impact of the Radcliffe Trust on Wolverton.

NINE      Thomas Harrison and the Canal Age

Thomas Harrison came to Wolverton as land agent for the Radcliffe Trust in 1773 and remained until his death in 1809. However he was much more than this and was active in a number of areas in the first phases of the industrial revolution and he died a wealthy man. He bult Wolverton House, which still stands today, and was instrumental in bringing the canal through Wolverton.

TEN     Wolverton before the Age of Steam

The early years of the 19th century were golden years for the coaching trade, and Stony Stratford, which by this time was less than a day’s journey from London, became very important. Wolverton acquired a new and expensive church in these years. However, agriculture was in decline and the new railway age was just on the horizon.

Wolverton Works and the Station in 1863

Plan of Wolverton in 1863 (from Harry Jack’s book)
The above plan shows New Wolverton on the 25th anniversary of its creation. The original workshop expanded to the north in the late 1850s to wipe out three streets of houses and as you can see it is also starting to take up farm land to the west. What we later knew as the Stratford Road and Church Street is a new development and you can still see today those buildings from the early 1860s. Glyn Square is still an actual square with terraced houses on three sides. The Market House, which was burned down in 1906, is on the site of the present two storey building.
But let me turn my attention to the station, built in 1840 and was to remain in service to 1881. It was, to judge from drawings from the 1840s, quite an impressive building and was celebrated for its refreshment rooms. In ts heyday in the 1840s Wolverton was a mandatory stop so that engines could be changed and passengers could refresh themselves in more ways than one. There was a staff of over 30 to administer to the needs of travellers and since the stopover was only ten minutes speed an efficiency were paramount. The organization was presided over by Mrs Leonora Hibbert, who was described by Sir Francis Bond Head as the “generalissima”. She later moved to a hotel in Bangor.
As engines became faster and more reliable, the necessity of stopping off in Wolverton diminished and the refreshment rooms went into decline. Plans to build a hotel on this site were scrapped.
South of the railway line you can see the six villas, now the site of the “Secret Garden”. Originally the approach road to the station ramped down from the canal bridge, but after 1881 that whole area was hidden away in anonymity. On this side of the railway they built the first paint shop and the second Gas Work were sited here before being moved to the Old Wolverton Road in 1881.
Below are two photographs taken in December 1861 from the east. You can see the spire of St Georges in the background. Behind the engine is a water tower and the southern end of the station buildings.

New Bloomer engine awaiting a paint job.
Express Goods Engine 1861

Both engines appear to have been lined up for a photograph before being backed into the Paint Shed for painting, by hand in those days, and using lead-based paints.