York House Centre on the London Road is a thriving youth and community centre since 1963, when the building was taken over by the St Giles Youth Club. Two years later, in 1965, the organisation changed its name to the York House Youth Club. So where did the name come from?
York House Centre today
Well, it doesn’t start here. The name comes from the house at 77 High Street, for many years now the Conservative Club. It was built by John York as a private house in 1840. He was the owner of the Tannery and for a time a partner in one of Stony Stratford’s early banks.
77 High Street, the original York House
In 1892, Adeline Slade moved her school for girls to Stony Stratford and took out a lease on 77 High Street. She named her school, York House School, and it operated from these premises for a decade. In 1902, after some unsatisfactory experiences with her landlord, she moved to a large house on the London Road for a rental of £50 a year. Three years later she was able to buy the property at auction for £810.
York House as a Girls School
She wished to keep the name of the school, and notwithstanding the name of the house at 77 High Street, she named it York House, a name that survives today.
At the beginning of the 19th century men with some resources were tempted into banking. They had a high income, usually from the rental of land and property, and in the new commercial and industrial climate of the 19th century, it made sense to lend stagnant money and earn even more.
Stony Stratford’s first bank was founded as a partnership between William Oliver, a local landowner, and Richard Harrison, resident of Wolverton House, who had inherited a great deal from his father’s ventures. The new bank was called Oliver, Harrison and Co. Unfortunately, the bank got into difficulties within a few years. It was easy to lend money, but not always easy to get it back when needed, and in 1821 the bank failed. Harrison and Oliver were able to meet their financial obligations and the bank closed without the stigma of bankruptcy.
A few years later, William Oliver’s son, John, revived the idea of the bank and went into partnership with John York, who owned the tan yard on Mill Lane. The new bank was known as Olivers and York. John’s father William was still alive, although close to the end of his life, and so the Olivers were plural. This new bank took the precaution of being underwritten by a London bank, Jones, Loyd and Company, so that if there was a temporary cash flow problem, they would be covered. The bank proved to be stable and they later opened a branch in Newport Pagnell.
The history of banking, as with almost every other type of business, is that some grow larger and swallow up their smaller competitors, and this is illustrated in Stony Stratford and Wolverton. By 1854, the Olivers and York Bank had been taken over by the Bucks and Oxon Union Bank. By the 1870s, this bank was drawing on a bigger entity, the London and Westminster Bank.
Early 20th century photo shows Lloyds Bank on the right. Cox and Robinson have since moved to the Square and the Victoria Cafe recently burned down.
This bank prospered to the end of Victoria’s reign and then was taken over by Lloyd’s Bank. At the same time, a second bank, the London and County Banking Company Limited, opened a sub branch on the Hight street, but only open on Tuesday and Friday.
Wolverton in the meantime had been without banking services. It was probably assumed that anyone who needed banking services, such as merchants, could make the trip to Stony Stratford. For ordinary people in Wolverton, (by far the largest majority) a savings bank and a building society, met their needs. But the takeover by Lloyds of the Stony Stratford Bank meant that they had the resources to open a sub branch in Wolverton, which they did on the Square c 1903. Lloyds later moved their branch to 24 Stratford Road.
The London and County Bank changed its name to the London Westminster Bank before the first World War and in the 1920s became known simply as the Westminster Bank at its premises at 80 High Street.
It was not until 1928 that Barclays established themselves in the district, opening a branch at 29 Stratford Road. Lloyds Bank at about the same time moved to permanent premises at 47 Stratford Road.
The shop with the green awning was the Wolverton branch of Barclays Bank.
This situation prevailed at the middle of the 20th century. There have been may changes since, but I won’t go into these. After 1945 there were five dominant banks, known as ‘the big five’. Wolverton and Stony Stratford had three of them: Lloyds in both Wolverton and Stony Stratford, Barclays in Wolverton, and Westminster in Stony Stratford. The other two, Midland and National, were not represented.
Two houses converted into a Lloyd’s branch at Wolverton. The manager lived in the flat above.
Wolverton, as I said above, established a Building Society and a Savings society. Both were volunteer organisations for many years. The savings society was established by George Fitzsimmonds, the works accountant in the last quarter of the 19th century. Men would bring the money they wished to save to a room at the Science and Art Institute each Friday evening, where Fitzsimmonds and his fellow volunteers would carefully record each deposit. This money was then taken to lloyds Bank in Stony Stratford on the next banking day and deposited. Fitzsimmonds remained a bachelor all his life but he put a great deal of energy into community work. He served on many parish committees and was instrumental setting up the recreational Park which opened in 1884.
The Co-op, the Wolverton Industrial and Provident Society, also established a savings bank at the end of the 19th century. Post Office savings schemes were also available from an early date.
In the early 1950s Wolverton opened its first Trustee Savings Bank at 73 Church Street under the management of Geoff Taffs. The new venture was underwritten by the Northampton Trustee Savings Bank.
Some time ago I wrote about the Reverend William Thompson Sankey, Stony Stratford’s great benefactor of the 19th century. The vicarage, New Street, and St Paul’s School (later Fegan’s Homes) re all part of his legacy. The earlier post can be read here.
But all was not sweetness and light after all. I have just read the petition for divorce which Mrs Sankey made in 1871 and a very different picture emerges.
Just to recap, Sankey was born in 1829 and in 1858 married Jane Royds, a very wealthy widow. She was then about 40 and already had four children. She gave birth to another son by Sankey in 1859.
She was the source of all the money for his building program in Stony Stratford and now appears to have been a source of friction between them. No doubt she was willing to fund his projects in the first years of their marriage, but by 1867 she was drawing in the purse strings, and this drove Sankey to inexcusable behaviour.
If the divorce petition is to be believed (and it certainly bears the ring of truth) Sankey turned to violence. She claimed in the petition that he was a man of violent temper who had frequently abused her and her children, used threatening language and on one occasion in 1867 struck her in the face and left her with a black eye. This apparently was after he had asked for money and she had refused. There were other incidents: he snatched a chair that she was sitting on away from her and caused her to fall on the floor; he kicked a candlestick out of her hand in a fit of temper; he threatened her with a poker and when she said that she would write to his mother to complain, threatened to cut her throat. On one occasion he dragged her around the room by her arms and put his foot upon her face. She was granted a separation but not a divorce in 1871. Sankey died only a few years later in 1875 so she was relieved of any further burden. He was only 46. William Thompson Sankey is regarded as one of Stony Stratford’s greatest benefactors and I suppose this still holds true, but there was a darker side to his character, which is now revealed. We may regard him partly as a product of his times – a Victorian male, who believed he had an absolute right to spend his wife’s money – but this hardly excuses his violent behaviour towards her.
The school that W E Sankey built with his wife’s money
Printing started like in England as a highly regulated industry. The printing press was invented in Germany in the 15th century but it was not until 1476 that the government permitted printing in this country. Thereafter, fearful of seditious books and pamphlets, successive governments placed printing under very tight control. Even paper making was restricted, so that the skill was lost in England and it needed a man like Henri Portal, a Huguenot refugee from France to establish paper making in this country. His first mill in Hampshire expanded to become the huge De La Rue paper and printing industry, which is now famous for making bank notes.
So it was unsurprising when newspapers began to be printed in the 18th century that the first thought of government was to tax them. They imposed a stamp duty of 7d on every newspaper sold. Newspapers became a luxury item. After some lobbying the stamp duty was reduced to 4d in 1815 but it was still too high. More people were becoming literate in the 19th century but for most a newspaper was unaffordable. Some relief came in 1836 when a new act reduced the stamp duty to 1d. The newspaper industry was about to take off.
This was the signal to many entrepreneurs to acquire a printing press and satisfy people’s hunger for news and information. This occurred too at the same time that railways were developing and it was possible for London newspapers to be distributed across the nation. The Sunday Dispatch was at least one of the newspapers that was devoured by readers in Wolverton’s Reading Room. I have seen a letter written by George Weight, the first vicar of St George’s, complaining that men were wasting their time reading “that vile newspaper, the Dispatch.”
The real trigger for the development of local newspapers cam in 1855, when the 1d tax was completely abolished. Newspapers could now be printed and sold at a reasonable price. Sales grew exponentially.
The first local man to take advantage of this was Alfred Walford of Stony Stratford, who started The Cottage Advertiser in 1857. He was a printer and stationer at 73 High Street. It was later known as Stony Stratford and Wolverton Station Advertiser. The name subsequently changed to the North Bucks Advertiser in 1868, and so it continued. In 1902 or thereabouts, George Eadley acquired the business and the North Bucks Advertiser continued until 1909, when it closed. I do not know if it was acquired by another newspaper.
Also quick to take advantage of the new tax free regime for newspapers was Henry Croydon, who had a similar printing and stationery business in Newport Pagnell, and he started a weekly newspaper known as Croydon’s Weekly Standard. The first issue came out in 1859. After Croydon died in 1887 the business was acquired by James Line and the newspaper was re-named as the Bucks Standard. In 1967 it changed its name to the Bucks Standard and Milton Keynes Observer. In 1975 it was absorbed, like so many North Bucks papers into a larger Milton kKeynes entity.
The Wolverton Express was a latecomer. It published the first of its weekly newspapers in 1901. Curiously (because nothing is known of these newspapers) it claimed to incorporate the Stantonbury Herald, the Stony Stratford Standard, the Bletchley Journal and the Towcester Times. In 1903, the Name was changed to the Wolverton Express and Bucks Weekly News, which title it held until 1951. Then it was simply the Wolverton Express until it became the Milton Keynes Express in 1967.
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 was 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.”
We can look back now upon an era of almost 100 years where small, locally owned and operated newspapers served their districts. There’re still local newspapers but they are usually part of a newspaper publishing group and depend on a larger market area.