From its beginning in 1838, Wolverton’s pub trade was dominated by Stony Stratford interests. The first move they made was to ensure that there was a clause in the sale of land by the Radcliffe Trust that prohibited the railway company from having a licence outlet on railway land. this was easy enough to accomplish. The Stony Stratford businessmen had a long relationship with the agents of the trustees and the Railway Company probably didn’t care very much about it.
Accordingly, Joseph Clare and John Congreve of Stony Stratford persuaded the Trust to lease them four acres in the area later known as wqolverton Park, opposite Wolverton’s first station. This was of course outside railway property, but contiguous, and would be a commercial success.
What Congreve and Clare did not anticipate was that the railway bad would build a second, permanent station at the south end. This action holed Congreve and Clare’s foolproof scheme below the waterline. Out of desperation they persuaded the Trustess to grant them another lease for an acre of land to the west of the nw settlement. The royal Engineer came into being in 1841.
This was the status quo until 1860 when new land to the west was opened up for development. Since the Royal Engineer was already on tis land it was no longer possible to argue that licensed premises had to be outside the railway. The opportunities were quickly seized and by 1861 the north Western on the Stratford Road and the Victoria Hotel on Church Street were quickly established.
Wolverton’s population continued to grow but there were no more licences to be had. Now it was the turn of the established pubs to object to new ones, but even so, the magistrates still had a Stoney Stratford orientation and di not always see things Wolverton’s way. Stony Stratford, already awash with pubs, got six new licences between 1870 and 1900. Wolverton got none.
The Railway Hotel
I have seen plans to build a railway hotel adjoining the refreshment rooms at the second station.
The plans are undated so one cannot be certain but a best guess is that they were drawn up in the 1840s. After the late 1840s engines became faster and more reliable and they could speed through Wolverton. Wolverton’s importance as a station went into slow decline. the building offered three stories above ground and a basement for kitchens and laundry. It would have been an imposing building, and at the time Wolverton’s largest building with the exception of the church and the railway workshops.
But clearly there was an intention to build the hotel otherwise why go to the trouble and expense of developing architect’s drawing, but it was never built. It is quite probable that the Radcliffe Trust prohibition against licensed premise on railway property got in the way (although there was never an objection to the refreshment Rooms serving gin to travellers) but it is possible too that the company got cold feet about the commercial viability.
Nevertheless it never got off the drawing board.
There were two attempts to get a new licence in the 1890s.
The Hotel at 49 Green Lane
William Tarry, landlord of the Victoria Hotel and by then an establishment figure, tried to get a new licence and build a hotel on the corner of Radcliffe Street and Green Lane in the 1890s. It made good commercial sense. Custom could come from the new streets as well as Bedford and Oxford Street and the upper parts of Cambridge and Windsor Street. The application was opposed by the Royal Engineer and the North Western and by several of the new residents who feared drunken and rowdy behaviour on their streets. hat In the end the application was unsuccessful.
One side effect of this attempt to get a licence was that the houses that were built on this corner are numbered 49, 49A and 49B. The lots were reserved for the hotel but in the meantime other houses to the west were built and numbered so rather than change everyone else’s numbers this stratagem was adopted.
The Stallbridge Arms
The second attempt came from Michael McCaughan, a former landlord at the North Western who was then living in retirement in Leighton Buzzard. He was still connected to the trade as his widowed daughter, Sarah Dewson, was the licensed victualler at the Ewe and Lamb. In July 1895 he made an application for a new licence at Wolverton. The premises were to be located on the corner of Windsor Street and the Stratford Road, presumably on the eastern corner as the land where the Craufurd Arms was built was not available in 1895. The new house was to be known as The Stalbridge Arms. The origin of that name is unknown.
The application was heard at the General Annual Licensing Meeting for the district of Stony Stratford on August 23rd. He had many signatures in support of the bid but he ran into opposition from the Royal Engineer and North Western and the police. After some deliberation the magistrates decided that another licence in the town was not required.
The Working Men’s Social Club moved to its present location on the Stratford Road in 1898. Ten years later the Central Club opened on Western Road. Slightly earlier, the Craufurd Arms opened in 1907. No further licences were ever granted in Wolverton even as it expanded to the south over half a mile away from the Front. When the Southern way development was added it seemed not to have occurred to anyone to provide shops, let alone pubs. Today, as pubs are in general decline, this issue is perhaps irrelevant, but for 100 years the natural growth of public house in Wolverton was stymied by commercial self-interest.
The building that was formerly the Royal Engineer has stood at the beginning of the Stratford Road since 1841. In fact it pre-dates the Stratford Road by 3 years. With the exception of part of the Library (built in 1840) it is now Wolverton’s oldest surviving building, although I doubt if it gets much credit for that. The Engineer was something of an afterthought The Stony Stratford businessmen who sought to establish a monopoly in Wolverton John Congreve and Joseph Clare, persuaded the Radcliffe Trust to place a covenant against the building of pubs on railway property and further to lease them about 4 acres of land beside the railway line. This was the land which later became the park and was directly opposite the first railway station. They lost no time in building the Radcliffe Arms and having it up and running in 1839. They were too hasty. In 1840 the London and Birmingham railway moved their station further to the south, leaving the Radcliffe Arms isolated.
Angry at this turn of events but not beaten, Congreve and Clare prevailed upon the Trust to lease another acre of landau the back of the school. At this date this was outside railway land (just) and would not be subject to the embargo against pubs on railway property.
The first licensee was James Salmon who stayed there until 1863 when the license was transferred to William Webb. The house was supplied by the Stony Stratford Brewery operating as Revill and Thorne from the back of the Bull Hotel. Edwin Revill owned the hardware business next door to the Bull and in 1863 it was sold to James Odell. It is of course still in the family today. In the adjoining wall between the two properties you can see a blocked-up doorway which once allowed access to the brewery. After Edwin Revill died in 1853 the brewery passed into the hands of Thomas Phillips. He was a member of a brewing family with extensive interests across the land. He renamed it the Britannia Brewery and was run for about a year or two until he foundedfounded the Northampton Brewery Company with his brothers. It is no surprise perhaps that NBC had a close interest in the Engineer and later in the century they became leaseholders. (The land was still the property of the Radcliffe Trust.)
This plan here, drawn in December 1861, shows the Royal Engineer buildings and yard at that date. The block on the right, marked “1”, is the site for the house which Number 6-7 Stratford Road The space in between, which would make up the one acre, may have been used for the grazing or the exercise of horses. In the 1890s the hotel was extended and the space filled with four lock-up shops.
So this building, which has been a restaurant for a number of years, is the oldest building on the Stratford Road and one of the few surviving from the 1840s. For 20 years it stood on the edge of a field and there was no Stratford Road in existence.
The Craufurd Arms was only the fifth public house to be granted a licence in new Wolverton. Its predecessors were the Radcliffe Arms (1839), the Royal Engineer (1841), the North Western (1861) and the Victoria Hotel (1861). Despite Wolverton’s spectacular growth the magistrates were very reluctant to grant licences in Wolverton; in fact a condition was imposed on Wolverton by the Radcliffe Trustees that no licensed premises should be allowed on railway property, that is the original 22 acres that they sold to the London and Birmingham Railway Company. Both the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer were built on Radcliffe Trust land outside Wolverton as it then was.
Stony Stratford interests were paramount in this. Despite the spectacular growth of Wolverton, which outstripped the older town’s population with its first decade, Stony Stratford was awarded six new licences, apparently without objection. The original covenant was probably introduced by John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor who did a lot of work for the Radcliffe Trust. He teamed up with Joseph Clare, the owner of the Cock, to build the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer, and were naturally anxious to rule out any competition. the situation was relaxed in 1860 when Wolverton was finally allowed to expand and licences were awarded to the North Western and the Victoria Hotel, but thereafter the embargo on new licences was once more instituted. An attempt to build a new public house on Green lane in the 1890s was firmly vetoed.
The People’s Refreshment House Association was a movement with temperance objectives, but rather than take a hard line against the sale of alcohol they decreed that they wold make no profit from the sale of alcohol and instead make their profit from hotel rooms, meals and the sale of non-alcoholic beverages. How they managed that is uncertain. If they made no profit on alcohol then the price would be cheaper, and, in theory ate any rate, encourage people to drink more. The chairman of this organisation was Lieutenant Colonel Henry Craufurd, who was to give his name to the new establishment when it was built.
The PRHA began to show an interest in Wolverton as a possible site in 1901. They first latched on to the Green Lane site which had been the objective of William Tarry a few years earlier and was still vacant. These negotiations came to nothing. Meanwhile the Radcliffe Trust had decided to open up new land to the west of Windsor Street for new housing, and unlike of previous occasions where they had sold land to the LNWR, they were advised to develop the land themselves. They now had full control of this development, which is why the new streets were named after Radcliffe Trustees.
They appeared to look kindly on the PRHA and no objections would be raised against a new licence. The PHRA hired an architect, mr. C.V. Cable of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire, and eventually the new house was built at a total cost of £7000. It was an elegant three storey brick building much in the style of the times. Apparently habitable attic space was part of the original design but this was eliminated to reduce the total cost.
A licence was approved in 1906 and the Craufurd arms celebrated its opening day on July 7th 1907. The first manager was Mr. H.C. Wood who was already an employee of the PRHA. In 1911 he was succeeded by Arthur O’Rourke, a Wolverton native, (and incidentally a friend, colleague in the railways accounts office and fellow Thespian of one of my great uncles) who worked there for five years until he volunteered for military service.
The building was much enlarged in 1936 with the addition of a large hall measuring 50 feet by 30 feet and an expansion of the dining room. The work was undertaken by the local builders Winsor and Glave. In the same year another building, separate from the main one, was erected in part of the garden for the use as a Masonic Lodge. This was paid for by the PRHA at a cost of £1000. The Masonic Lodges would have a prior claim to its use at an annual rental of £25. The building was completed in February 1936.
This arrangement fell apart in 1953 when one of the senior masons and the new tenant of the Craufurd Arms “had serious differences”, according to Percy Sykes History of the Scientific Lodge. The subtext of this was that the Craufurd Arms manager was having an affair with the mason’s wife. In these circumtances a continued business relationship was untenable and the masons departed, first for temporary accommodation in Haversham, and later for their own property on the Square.
1953 was also the year that the PHRA ceased to have any control over the Craufurd Arms. It was taken over in May 1953 by Wells and Winch, the Biggleswade brewing company. They brought in the new manager, above mentioned, who succeeded in ruffling more than a few feathers. He lasted just over a year and was replaced by Wally Odell in November 1954. He was a former Tottenham Hotspur footballer and he and his wife managed the Craufurd until February 1965 when they retired from pub life for the more conventional hour offered by the Green Lane stores.
They were not there for long. After only two months they decided that they were not cut out for the grocery business and returned to pub life at the Embankment Hotel in Bedford.
Wells and Winch were taken over by Charringtons in 1962 at the beginning of a series of acquisitions which reduced pub ownership to a handful of large companies. During this period the hotel went through a £60,000 re-fit which included a new sign. The new sign was mis-spelled “Crawford”. It was soon corrected.
Now, after over 100 years, the Craufurd Arms is still in operation but it remains the last pub in Wolverton to be granted a licence.
In September 1861 the Phipps family of Northampton were awarded a licence to sell beer, wines and spirits at their new hotel in Wolverton. This was a period of rapid and aggressive brewery expansion after they had discovered that the acquisition of inns and public houses meant that they had ready outlets for their beer production. In the case of the Victoria Family and Commercial Hotel, the Phipps brothers went one stage further and capitalised the project from the beginning. Wolverton was clearly destined to be a promising market.
From the beginning, the Vic was a Phipps outlet, and so it remained until various mergers in the 20th century diminished the Phipps brand. The hotel was built on a large new lot at the corner of Church street and Radcliffe Street with a large yard and stables. It is still in business today although parts of the building complex have been sold off in recent decades.
The first licensee was Berkeley Hicks who for some years had been the licensee of the Radcliffe Arms. He held the licence for five years and then it was transfered in 1866 to his brother Henry who had worked as a barman for his brother at both the Radcliffe Arms and at the Victoria Hotel.
In this period this was regarded as Wolverton’s premier hotel. When dignitaries visited the town they were regularly taken here for refreshment. It was probably better appointed than the North Western and the older houses, the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer.
It was not impervious to disaster. In August 1865 the roof was struck by lightening during a thunderstorm. One chimney was cracked and parts of the upper storey of the building were reduced to rubble as bricks tumbled to the ground. The report in Croydon’s Weekly Standard (Bucks Standard) mentioned that one room was filled with ‘electric fluid’. Fortunately the room was empty.
No one was hurt or injured by the incident and the building was hastily restored. No mention was made of the absence of a lightening conductor, but it is quite possible that there was not one provided for the original building. No doubt that was rectified in the restoration.
Henry Hicks, who was born in 1832 at Maidenhead, ran the hotel with his wife for many years. During their occupancy the hotel was enlarged with additional rooms and a billiard room. Times change, and this room was given over to a juke box and dancing in the 1950s.
In 1894 William Tarry came to be the licensee. 1894 was an eventful year for Mr Tarry. He was a sales representative for a Northampton company of Corn Merchants, Wesley Brothers. In January the founder of the firm, Joseph wesley, died, and it is possible that this unsettled William Tarry. In June he moved to Wolverton and in August was granted the licence for the Victoria Hotel. In October he married Emma Darnell from Northampton. She was the sister of a Northampton solicitor. By far the most dramatic of William Tarry’s adventures in 1894 occurred on February 26th while he was driving his horse and gig along the Northampton road near Gayhurst. He saw a boat capsize on the River Ouse and drove over to assist. He was able to pull out the occupant of the boat and told a nearby farm labourer to take his horse and gig and fetch help. Meanwhile he revived the man who was unconscious when he found him.
The man was none other than Walter Carlile, resident of Gayhurst House. Unfortunately he was too late to save the woman in the boat who was Alice Cadogan, Mr Carlile’s 21 year old sister in law.
The story that later emerged was that Walter Carlile had taken his sister in law out for a ride in the boat. As they were turning in the river to return to the house a sudden gust of wind caught the sail and the boat keeled over taking on a lot of water. Exactly what happened next is unclear because Mr Carlile, probably unconscious from a knock on the head, was not able to control the boat. Alice must have fallen out and unable to swim and hampered by a heavy Victorian costume, drowned.
William Tarry was a prominent figure in Wolverton at the turn of the century. He had a fine baritone voice and often performed at concerts. He was a promoter and participant for the Wolverton and Dstrict Choral Society and he involved himself with the affairs of his adopted town. The photograph below shows the Wolverton Victorias Football team in 1899. The photograph is of poor quality but you can see Mr Tarry centre in the back row. tall, heavily moustached, bowler hatted, he must have cut an imposing figure in his day.
He did attempt to establish another public house on the corner of Green Lane and Radcliffe Street when that street was being developed but he was unsuccessful in getting a licence. Undeterred he established an off licence on the corner of Green Lane and Oxford Street. That was first licence about 1902.
In 1924 Tarry retired from the hotel and simply occupied himself with the of licence on Green Lane. His successor at the Vic, Fred Kettle added a car hire business.
In 1955 Enie Wilford and his wife Mabel came to the Vic from Coventry. Willard was a former miner and a very thrifty man who already owned several properties in Coventry. He and his son len used to make weekly visits to Coventry to collect rents. He was also familiar with the pub trade and had been running the Miners Arms in Coventry since 1921.
Len Wilford, his son, joined his parents in the business and he and his wife Joan ran the public bar. Len Wilford had at one time been a professional football player for Coventry City.
Ernie and Mabel Wilford continued at the Vic until their deaths. Mabel died in 1975 and Ernie in 1977.
Since then the Victoria Hotel has lived with uncertainty and since 1982 has been owned by a series of companies. It has been closed, refurbished, re-opened and been through this cycle several times.
Green Lane, as I have said before, is a very ancient trackway that is at least 1000 years old. It followed a line that was slightly at an angle to the rectangular grid pattern that was the model for Wolverton. Thus when Radcliffe Street, Bedford Street and Oxford Street were built the end houses had yards that were shaped like a quadrilateral than a rectangle.
The house at the end of Oxford Street on the east side ended up with an extra large garden. It was owned by William Tarry who was the licensee of the Victoria Hotel and was given the name “Mount Pleasant.”
In 1903 William Longhurst applied for a licence to sell beer to be consumed off the premises. Longhurst was renting the property from Mr Tarry and it is probable that Tarry built this flat-roofed extension around this time. A few years earlier Tarry had tried to get a licence for a new hotel or public house on Green Lane at the corner of Radcliffe Street and had reserved a lot for the purpose. He was unsuccessful and probably determined that an off-licence was the next best thing.
In the 20th century this off licence was on of two in Wolverton; the other was known as the Drum and Monkey in a back alley just off the Stratford Road. Both off licences lasted for many decades in the 20th century until the regular sale of alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores pushed them out of business.
In 1860 the Radcliffe Trust finally agreed to provide more land for Wolverton’s expansion. Up to that date Wolverton was restricted to the original 22 acres acquired by 1840 and it was the intransigence of the Radcliffe Trust on these matters that led to the creation of New Bradwell in the 1850s.
Wolverton was also restricted as far as pub licences were concerned. A condition of sale to the railway company by the Radcliffe Trust was that there were to be nolicenced premises on railway land. Accordingly, the two hotels that Wolverton had up to that point were the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer. Both were built outside railway property.
The land sale of 1860 changed that and two new hotel licences were applied for, successfully, – one for the North Western, another for the Victoria Hotel.
The lots for the North Western were purchased by Thomas Davies. He was a Euston railwayman, who had had some brief exposure to Wolverton in 1854, when he was brought in temporarily to act as Station Master after the sacking of Samuel Shakespeare. One assumes that he kept an eye on Wolverton activities and in 1859 saw an opportunity for some risk-free speculation. In 1861 he sold the property to the Newport Pagnell Brewery who then set about building the new hotel. They were granted a licence in September of that year.A month later Michael McCaughen was granted a license and he proudly announced the opening of the new hotel, “replete with every accommodation.”
The Newport Pagnell Brewery was sold to Charles Wells of Bedford in the 1920s and thereafter they supplied beer and other alcoholic beverages to the North Western, as they do to this day.
Today, and for most of the last century, the North Western presents a plain font to the Stratford Road. When it was built however, there was access from the street to the stables at the back.Once the age of horse-drawn transport was over the two passages were in-filled with the two narrow properties you can now see. They were built in the 1890s. The one on the east side, which later was numbered 10,was for some years the home and workplace for Alfred Davies, a hairdresser. Later it was occupied by On the west side of the North Western a jeweller by the name of was the first occupant. He was succeeded in 1896 by Emil Sigwart a german immigrant who established a thriving business here and in Northampton with his son and daughters. The Wolverton shop finally closed in 1972.
The North Western also had assembly rooms at the back. One of the earliest events featured the clairvoyant Madame Card. The lady was billed as an‘illusionist, mesmerist, clairvoyant and electro biologist,’ It appears that everyone was suitably astonished by the performance of Madame Card.
Michael McCaughen was called up before the magistrates two years later for serving drinks outside of licensing hours. Apparently on Sunday afternoon on March 18th 1867 police sergeant Chaplin noticed two me quickly escaping by the kitchen door as he was approaching. When he got there there was a third man and evidence of jugs and glasses. McCaughen said that the man had just arrived by train from Birmingham but when Sergeant Chaplin checked this story the train from Birmingham had yet to arrive. Needless to say McCaughen’s sorry was not believed by the magistrates and he was fined £2 and 11s in costs.This was not the last time McCaughen appeared before the magistrates. In 1871 he had his licence suspended for two week, which must have been a heavy fine indeed.
The assembly rooms were regularly used every Sunday by the Congregationalists, starting in 1866. Eight years later, in 1874, they had raised sufficient funds to buy some land in the ‘new building field’. This large plot, occupying the whole south side of the Square, was the destination for the Congregational Church.
Newsagents were familiar enough in the 20th century, but when did they start up and who was the first in Wolverton?
It may not be easy to answer that a question. Certainly newspapers were available from Wolverton’s beginnings. London newspapers were only a few hours away by train.
There were newspapers at the Reading Room in the 1840s. I saw a letter written by the vicar, George Weight, complaining that men were reading “that vile newspaper” the Sunday Dispatch. Presumably someone took on the responsibility for the sale and distribution of newspapers in Wolverton and Stony Stratford.
The best guess is that newspaper sales and distribution in Wolverton was a sideline or part time business. Possibly an existing business or individual took on the role but no one in the Trade Directories specifies themselves as such until Harry Cornelius Muscutt styles himself as a Newsagent in 1899. Muscutt was a boot and shoe maker who had a lock up shop just beside the Royal Engineer – Number 2. He was from a family of shoe makers from Long Buckby. He came to Wolverton at about the age of 20 and lodged in Young Street. After he married he lived in Aylesbury Street and may have had his business premises in Church Street. The boot and shoe business was changing in the last part of the 19th century. Cheaper ready made shoes from Northampton factories had been putting shoemakers out of business for some years and gradually the shoemaker was becoming a shoe repairer.
It is probable that he was already acting as a newsagent in the 1890s but, as the decade wore on and at the end of the century that the newsagent business became big enough to become the main enterprise. New, popular newspapers were being established in this period. The Daily Mail was founded in 1896 and was joined by the Daily Express in 1900 and the Daily Mirror in 1903. The Bucks Standard, or Croydon’s Weekly Standard as it was originally known, was produced in Newport Pagnell in 1859 and was joined by the Wolverton Express in 1900. The appetite for news was growing and with a high level of literacy in Wolverton demand must have been high.
So Harry Muscutt probably found himself in the right place at the right time. His shop, just opposite the main works gates, was ideally located for the workers to pick up their daily reading material. I can recall from the 1950s the number of early morning bodies milling around the Stratford Road and spilling into the shop for a newspaper and packet of Woodbines. Muscutt and Tompkins, as it then was, required a staff of five to handle the rush.
Harry Muscutt and his wife had two daughters. One of them, Ida, married Bill Tompkins from New Bradwell. The other, Florence, married a Clarke from Castlethorpe. He was a seed merchant and when the newsagent business moved to Number 5, the seed merchant established themselves at Number 2.
Muscutt and Tompkins newspaper shop in the 1960s.
Bill Tompkins joined the business and added his name to the sign above the shop. It expanded and developed. At one time they had a tobacconist’s shop at Number 3, the newsagents at Number 5 and a stationery shop in part of Number 9 – Number 9a. In addition they established a printing shop at the back of Number 3. The equipment has since been donated to the Milton Keynes Museum.
Former M & T presses in the MK Museum
Bill Tompkins and his wife did not have any children and in the 1920s they brought in a young relative from Long Buckby, Reg Tomalin, to participate in the business. When Bill Tompkins retired Reg Tomalin took over the management of what was by that time a varied and extensive family business. Ralph Tompkins, Bill’s younger brother, joined the business in the 1930s and managed the newspaper shop.
The shop at 9a, to the right of this picture, was Muscutt and Tompkins Stationery shop.
By the mid-century Muscutt and Tompkins was far and away the largest newsagents in the town and incorporated the subsidiary businesses mentioned above, but the time was ripe in the early 1900s for similar businesses to join Muscutt, and cater to Wolverton’s expanding population.
In 1900 the Wolverton Express published the first of its weekly newspapers. It was based at 103, Church street, although the paper was never printed there. It appears to have been the brainchild of Albert Edward Jones. He was born in Winchester in 1870 to a career army officer who came to Wolverton in 1890 as a Sergeant Instructor, presumably to drill the local militia. The family took up residence at Radcliffe Street. Albert Edward Jones, the eldest son, went into the works as a coach painter but by 1901 he was living on Church Street with his family and is listed as a “Bookseller and Shopkeeper”. The Trade Directory of 1903 describes him as “manager Wolverton Express; newsagent & stationer and agent for the Aylesbury Brewery Company.” In 1907 he is described as “proprietor” of the Wolverton Express. On this basis it might be reasonable to assume that Jones originated the whole thing.
Emerton’s, home of the Wolverton express.
Around 1910 he took on a young reporter Alfred Emerton, who had grown up on Ledsam street. Emerton volunteered to serve in the 1914-18 war in 1915 and it seems that his shorthand and typing skills were immediately seized upon and he was appointed to staff headquarters in Egypt. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and was gazetted by General Allenby in 1918 for “distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.”
After the war he returned to the Wolverton Express and when Albert Jones retired in 1930 was able to take over the business. The shop became known as “Emerton’s” – a name it carries to this day.
He retired from the business in 1950 and Bert Foxford, who had been brought up by the Emertons, took over as editor. Another key member of the business at this time was Len Allen (always known as “Joey”) who was chief reporter and advertising manger. Later his brother Frank Allen joined the business.
The first 60 years of the 20th century were all prime years for the Wolverton Express. Almost everyone in the district had the paper delivered very Friday and it acquired the nickname, for reasons that are probably unknown, “The Buster.” The paper did not survive the succession of mergers and acquisitions from the 1980s onwards.
I have the impression that the shop on Church Street, although selling newspapers, magazines, comic and books, relied on stationery goods for its main retail trade. It appeared to me, at any rate, to have the best range of notepaper, pens and so on.
These two newsagents were joined by a third in about 1910. Walter Lawson, who had been associated with the boot and shoe industry in Kettering, decided to move his family to Wolverton and establish a news agency, which he did at 19 Church Street, in a shop which is now demolished.
Shortly after he moved to 50 Church Street, now occupied by St Andrews Bookshop, and around 1920 to 58 Church Street.
58 Church St., the former business of Lawson and Son
At this address it became known as Lawson and Son. Walter Lawson and his wife had four sons. The eldest, Horace, lost his life in battle in 1915. Two other brothers, Herbert and Cyril, seem to have gone off and done something else, and the youngest, Stuart, born in 1905, joined his father in the business and succeeded him until his own retirement around 1970. Stuart developed the business as a toy shop, which continuing to sell newspapers and magazine. Every Friday he would take toys down to the Friday Market to sell them from a regular stall.
The newspaper business may have been the smaller part of the operation at this time.
Stuart Lawson was a keen photographer and could often be seen walking around the area with a folding camera hanging from a strap around his neck. He was also a pipe smoker, and for some reason most likely unconnected, had an enlarged thumb, which was used to tamp down the tobacco.
To this list I should probably add the sub post office at the corner of Anson Road and Aylesbury Street. They sold some newspapers but I don’t think they had a delivery service.
The Sunday papers, probably for reasons connected with Sunday trading laws, were always sold separately from the main newsagents. This was a part-time, private activity. Yu could only have them delivered to your door, as far as I know, unless it was possible to go to the house of the distributor and buy a copy. At one time the distributor used the shed at the back of King’s the bakers to organise the rounds.