A post war vision for Wolverton

In 1944 the Wolverton UDC hired Mr G A Jellicoe, a landscape architect, to prepare a plan for Wolverton’s future after the War. He was paid £293 and allowed a further £687 for staff and other expenses. He reported in 1945.

He identified two aspects of Wolverton which to him were problematical, the fact that it was a company town and that there was insufficient variety in housing. He presented his proposals in two parts.

The first part advocated the addition of 1,300 new houses and that the surrounding landscape should be developed with walkways and cycleways. He also planned a lido, with swimming pool, for the Pancake hills area.

The second part of his vision was more startling. He proposed that the entire redbrick town should be bulldozed and replaced by high rise dwellings interspersed with a suitably landscaped environment.

When his proposals were published in the Wolverton Express there was an outcry. Whatever shortcomings Wolverton might have had as a redbrick town, it was still home to the people who lived there, and they understandably felt an affection for the place that was not understood by outsiders. Jellicoe’s project was largely stillborn, although the development of Furze Way owes something to his vision of a landscaped environment.

The urge to high rise development was much influenced by the French architect, Le Corbusier, and it was an influence that held for many years. When the Little Streets were cleared in the 1960s the Council’s first response was to replace these terraces with high rise buildings, and the first plans for Milton Keynes, the Pooley Plan, was entirely based on the concept of high rise living.

In an age before children had rights.

This story from almost 100 years ago shows us a very different world and one can’t help thinking that the parent and the child would get a very different hearing today. Of the three schools mentioned here, the Church of England school was at Stony Stratford on the High Street, the Council school was the building on the corner of the Wolverton Road and the Secondary School was the new County School on Moon Street. It is now Bushfield School. It was in those days a fee paying school.

At the Petty Sessions on Friday, December 1st 1916, with Mr. F.W. Woollard in the chair, Samuel Purser, a labourer of the town, was summoned for not sending his boy to school. Mr. Herbert Bentley, Chief School Attendance Officer, Aylesbury, represented the Bucks Education Authority, and representing the defendant was Mr. Charles Allinson, a solicitor of 89, High Street. Mr. Bentley said there had been no attendance since the summer holiday. The boy had answered a teacher at school which caused some laughter, and the schoolmaster reprimanded him for his conduct.  
    The boy was said to have committed some breach of discipline and the teacher reported it to the headmaster. The parents had applied for the boy to be transferred from the Church of England School to the Council School, but having twice considered the case the school managers each time concluded that ‘it would be a breach of discipline and have great weight amongst other children.’ However, the parents would not send the child back, and he supposed that they were prepared to send him to the Council School provided the Committee gave him a transfer. Mr. Bentley then read a High Court of Justice decision on the matter, which he contended applied to this case. In cross examination he said the boy had been refused admission to the Council School, whilst as to the fact that the lad had attended for a fortnight, but was then ‘fetched away,’ he said he instructed the teacher that the pupil had been wrongly admitted. He had no authority to exclude a boy from school. 
    In his questioning Mr. Allinson said that 103 attendances out of a possible 115 had been made up to March, and the boy’s conduct was fair. When asked if he knew that the boy suffered from mental aberration Mr. Bentley denied any knowledge. Then in the continued questioning, 
    “He has never been punished in any shape or form?” 
    “I had no knowledge of it.” 
    “Has he ever had his head banged on the table or been hit on the head?” 
    “I could not say.” 
    “Has the lad ever been told by the teacher he was only fit to feed pigs?” 
    “I am not aware of it.” 
    “What is your power to refuse a transfer?” 
    “So far as the legal obligation to a transfer there is such a thing as discipline.” 
    “Did you lay my letter before the Committee?” 
    “I did not.” 
    “Don’t you think it was your duty to have done so?” 
    “No, sir.” 
    “You decided it on your own?” 
    “No, sir.” 
    “What did you do then?” 
    “I consulted my chief, Mr. Watkins.” 
    “Are you willing to give the boy a transfer to a school where he will have a different environment?” 
    “The case would have to be considered by the Committee.” At this point the Magistrate’s Clerk, Mr. E.T. Worley, pointed out that in the Bye Laws not a single word was said about transfers. 
    Mr. Bentley then said “For your enlightenment, I might say that the Government regulations were drawn up by the Board of Education. There is one observation which speaks of capricious removals which are not allowed. It is a matter of upholding the discipline of schools.” 
    Mr. Allinson then said he was justified in the face of the doctor’s certificate in saying there was a reasonable excuse for not attending school as required by the Act. This was a case where the boy was made a butt of because he went to help in a piggery. He was bullied by other boys and the teacher ‘took it.’ Counsel further alleged that when it came to thumping the boy’s head it was time to intervene, and he thought the father was justified in respectfully asking for a transfer for the boy. The lad had put in full attendance at the Council School for a fortnight. There was no doubt he would still have done so, if an officer hadn’t told the teacher not to admit him. In order to get the boy educated, and save him any further misery, his father then went to the Secondary School at Wolverton, being quite prepared to forego luxuries and pay the high school fees there. However, they required ‘a two years character,’ which the headmaster on being applied to refused. Consequently Mr. Allinson’s client was glad to be in court that day to define his position. 
    Evidently the County Council ‘in their wisdom’ would refuse the boy admission into any of their schools, despite the headmaster of the County Council School being perfectly willing to take him, as he was a quiet pupil. Mrs. Faith Ellen Purser, the wife of the defendant, then made a complaint about the children ‘calling’ him at school. He seemed very unhappy, and in the middle of a meal “he absolutely lost himself and was absent minded.” She said that one day there was a slight bruise on the boy’s head when he came home from school. 
    When the chairman asked if she thought that the boy’s health and comfort was being interfered with by attending this school, she replied “I do, sir.” 
    To this the chairman said “That’s the point. To my mind it is the greatest tyranny on the part of the school or the teacher to interfere in such circumstance.” 
    For the defendant Mr. Allinson said that if the facts had come to their knowledge they would have granted a transfer, for which they had pressed. Lamenting that no master was present, the chairman said that in some 50 cases of this kind from these schools only once had a master taken any interest. Mrs. Purser stated that she had applied numerous times for a transfer on the grounds that the child suffered certain mental aberrations. She wrote some of the letters to the Committee and her husband had written some. She told the headmaster as soon as began to notice it, but when asked if she had made such a statement in any of the letters she said she hadn’t put it like that. “I told them he suffered from his head a lot.” Asked if she had any medical evidence previous to the certificate, which bore the current day’s date, she replied “No, because I took care of the child.” After a brief retirement the chairman announced that having considered all the evidence the Bench were unanimous in dismissing the case.

    Archibald Laing – The First Schoolmaster

    One institution that was quickly established after the public house was the school, or more accurately schools, as there was provision for a Boys School, a Girls School and an Infant School. They were all house i the new building on Creed Street which also provided accommodation for the school master.

    The first man they hired was a Scot called Archibald Laing. He was a teacher at Clewer in Berkshire and was brought to Wolverton for n annual salary of £100, accommodation and a supply of coal. On the strength of this he married an he and his wife produced four daughters. £100 Should add was a respectable income. The average worker in the works took home £50 a year and Laing’s colleagues, the Girl’s teacher was paid £40 a year and theInfants’ teacher only £30.

    Laing ran the school with Victorian discipline for 13 years and then in 1853, after only 42 years of life he unexpectedly died. I don’t have details of the cause of death. But he had an afterlife of sorts because tales grew up about his haunting the old school house at night. Boys, with little else to do, would gather outside the school of a winter evening hoping to catch a fearful glimpse of this apparition.

    One night, around 1860, a group of boys were hanging around outside the school speculating on the possible appearance of the ghost when one boy asserted that there were no such things a ghosts. Naturally this claim was met with derision and he was challenged to the point where he said he would go into the school if necessary and prove them wrong.

    This seemed to be the only way to resolve the argument and he broke a window and squeezed himself through the iron bars to get into the building. As he landed on the floor he gave out a cry of pin and the boys outside were all convinced that he had seen the ghost, but he assured them that it was alright. he had just cut his hand on a piece of broken lass. He then worked his way through the building but because it was dark he kept bumping into desks. The terrified boys outside were sure that he was wrestling with the ghost. However, this young lad kept his nerve and worked his way through the building, opening cupboards and doors and finally returned to his mates to tell them he had found nothing, not even a wisp of a ghost.

    After this the ghost story never came up again, it having been, so to speak, laid to rest.

    A view of the schools c 1840

    A History of Cricket at Wolverton

    I discovered this book in Mrs, B’s Emporium on Church Street. It is a comprehensive account of the history of the game in Wolverton, written by Colin Kightley, who started playing for the club in 1975.
    There were probably games in the 1840s, but the recorded history of our local cricket began in 1859, when Edward Henry Crpydon founded his newspaper, Croydon’s Weekly Standard, better known to us in the 20th century as the Bucks Standard. These early games were played in pasture fields or meadows and not all of the locations are known. Two that were almost certainly used in the 19th century, were the field on the south side of the canal, between the Galleon bridge and the footbridge to the east, and the field south of Green Lane at the Moon Street end. Mr Kightley suggest that the club may have played on the ground where the Drill Hall was later built for at least one season.
    The development of Green Lane and Victoria Street in the 1890s pushed the cricket field further south to, I suppose, the land later occupied by the school. However, plans were afoot to secure a permanent ground for the Cricket Club and they played their last season at the so-called “Big Field” in 1899. After one season playing all their games away, the club first occupied their new ground in May 1901.
    Colin Kightley’s research into the cricket club’s history is detailed and impeccable. He has been able to rely on some club records, but for earlier results he has patiently trawled through newspaper records to compile statistics. Two thirds of the book is a descriptive history of the club and he has compiled a substantial appendix detailing the batting and bowling figures for every player from 1894 to 2011. Thus I was pleasantly surprised to find the batting and bowling stats for one H.S. Dunleavy, who between 1899 and 1913, amassed some quite respectable figures. It is known in the family that he was an active sportsman in his youth, but nobody bothered to keep any record. I am therefore grateful for a little bit of extra colour to my family past.
    The book will be valuable for Wolverton cricket enthusiasts, but it should also be of interest to those who wish to flesh out some details of their family history.
    There are many aspects to Wolverton’s rich history, and I am pleased to note that Colin Kightley has made this important contribution. Recommended.