Cycling Sport Wolverton Park

Wolverton Park and Recreation Ground

On the whole the L & NWR was a benevolent, if paternalistic employer. Although Stowell Brown was sharply critical of the Company’s provision of amenities in 1840, the longer view would suggest that that provision was relatively generous. We have to remind ourselves that for many years nothing in Wolverton was paid for by taxes – church, schools, reading rooms, roads, allotments were all provided by the Company. Of course the railway company was making very good money for a number of years and the early investors became very rich, but at the same time wages were better than average for those coming out of the agrarian economy and it would be fair to assert that for many of those early years Wolverton’s population was content.
To some degree Stowell Brown’s charge is correct, the company did provide, or at least sanction, pubs before churches or anything that he would consider was of a morally improving nature. This pattern was repeated in the Stantonbury development, when contracts for houses, a bakery and a butcher’s shop, and a new public house were all approved before the church and school.
By the 1870s the main line running through the railway works had become impractical and Sir Richard Moon, then chairman of the L&NWR, favoured a loop line. Approval was granted and another massive engineering project with a new embankment and bridges, together with Wolverton’s third railway station with its wooden booking hall built above the railway at street level. In consequence, a wedge of land that had previously accommodated Wolverton’s first public house, “The Radcliffe Arms” and some cottages, became redundant. It was bordered by the canal at its southern edge and flanked by embankments to the east and west, with narrow access to the north along the Old Wolverton Road.
The later Victorians were becoming more interested in sporting activities. One factor must have been the reduction in the hours of the working week, but another may have been the recognition that being confined indoors all day minding a machine may not have been as healthy as the lifestyles of an earlier generation. The pioneering generation of the 1849s walked everywhere, to Stony Stratford for shopping, from Stony Stratford, Bradwell, Cosgrove and Haversham to Wolverton for work, and, in the case of the Roman Catholic population, to Weston Underwood each Sunday to attend church, a round trip of 20 miles. Insufficient exercise was not a issue. Those who were keen to develop sporting facilities now saw an opportunity. Here was a useful patch of land which was of no practical use for farmers  and still owned by the Radcliffe Trust and therefore no available for workshop development.
Several men began to make representations, among them George Fitzximmons, the works accountant. Mr. Fitzimmons was an interesting and important community figure in Wolverton at this time. 
George Morland Fitzsimmons was born in Lancaster, one of several children of John and Charlotte Fitzsimmons, in 1846. His father was a railwayman, in fact, Superintendent of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, opened only two years before young George was born. He was educated at the Croft House School at Brampton in Cumberland before entering the work force. It would be tempting to conclude that he slipped seamlessly into a railway career, like so many of that second generation born into railway families, but he apparently did not. The 1871 census shows him working as a Tea Taster in York, where he was living with his older married sister. He was therefore a late entrant to the railway business when he turned up in Wolverton in the mid 1970s as a mature young man of about 30.
He lived in one of the villas, known as The Hawthorns, a single man with a housekeeper. He never married and kept his solitary status for his very long life which finally came to an end in 1938 at the age of 92.
Nevertheless he was not a recluse and once in Wolverton actively involved himself in the affairs of the community. He served as  Church warden at St George’s and was Vice Chair of the Burial Board. He was an active member of the Science & Art Institute management committee. He helped to set up the Wolverton branch of the 1st Bucks Rifle Volunteers, and served on its finance committee. He helped to establish a savings society for workmen and similarly helped to establish the Wolverton Building Society. He was also active in the rowing club in its formative years. Why he chose not to marry will remain unknown, but there us no doubt that he poured a lot of time and energy into community service. He also financed the rather elegant terrace on the east side of the Square in the 1880s, which bears his middle name of Morland.
Oening Day at the Park – Monday 3rd August 1885
The great opening day for the new Wolverton Park and Recreation Ground was Monday, August 3rd 1885. This was the August Bank Holiday and the community worked hard over the weekend to prepare for the big event. Bunting was brought out to decorate the streets. The Science and Art Institute, the Works and the Station were all bedecked with greenery and bunting and along the Stratford Road coloured poles had been erected (this pre-dates telegraph poles) and decorated shields were strung between them. The park itself was highly decorated and in the centre a large marquee was erected.
The event attracted enormous interest. According to one report, a huge crowd of 1,500 turned up for the occasion
The event opened in spectacular fashion by running a locomotive along the old main line beside the park. Detonators had been placed on the line at intervals and the engine thus made a noisy announcement as it travelled north. After this Sir Richard Moon made a self-congratulatory speech made about the importance of Wolverton and the future of the carriage Works. At one point Sir Richard Moon observed that the schools accommodated 2,000 children. This strikes me as a very high figure, but that was what was reported.
After all the preliminary speeches, the new Park was officially open and there were a series of sporting contests. The bicycle, which at that time was becoming mass-produced and practical, became an excuse for racing, and bicycle races featured prominently in the events. There was a race over 1 mile, another over two miles, and a third over three miles. The cinder track built around the grass oval was exactly a quarter mile. 
An early cycle race

Foot races were conducted over 120 yards, 200 yards and there was a 60 yard sack race. Strong men from the sawmill and wood shops, making up one team, and from the smithys and fitting shops, making up another, competed in a tug-o-war, with victory for the wood men.
At 8:30 there was a fireworks display and the Wolverton Rifle Volunteers Band played for a dance that evening in one of the workshops.

The start of a cycle race in the Park in the 1930s

I don’t believe that much thought had been given to provision for team sports at the park at that time. Rugby footballers continued to use the “Locomotive Ground” and cricketers and Association footballers used Mr Battams’ Big Field. That became an issue a few tears later, and that will be described in the next post.

Team Sports in the Victorian Age

Team games, other than contests such as tug-o-war, took more time to emerge, but cricket had become popular in the late 18th century, and was certainly indulged when time and circumstances permitted. Summer contests between neighbouring villages were perhaps common, but the absence of early newspapers makes it impossible to write about this with accuracy. The earliest report that I can find was published in 1855. It was a match between Wolverton Station and stony Stratford played on the Locomotive ground, that is, the field on the east side of the road. No mention is made of the conditions, but the scorecard was recorded. Neither side ran up any kind of total. Stony Stratford scored 25 in the first innings and Wolverton narrowly beat that total with 28. Stony could only manage 23 in their second innings and Wolverton passed that total with two wickets in hand. Either the bowlers were very good or the batsmen were incompetent, but it is more likely that it was a very rough pitch as the highest score on both sides was 8. Most of the batsmen were out through catches.

The match in 1859 was more one-sided. On this occasion the match was played on a ground on the north side of the Newport Road at Stantonbury. This is very flat meadowland and it was presumably easier to prepare a good flat pitch. The game was in August when conditions would be dry. On this occasion Wolverton outclassed their opponents. Wolverton scored a total of 105 in the first innings and 111 in the second. In reply, Stony Stratford could only manage 25 and 41.
Football was a later entrant into the register of team games, at least as something that would be played by men outside school. It may have been less attractive, and perhaps the winter season and the weather had much to do with that. Cricket was played in warm weather and with long hours of daylight available. Muddy fields and cold winter days may have been less appealing. There are mentions of many cricket teams around the mid century – Wolverton Station, Wolverton Mechanics Institute, Wolverton Station Royal Albert, Old Wolverton, Stantonbury union, Stantonbury Albion, Old Bradwell, Stony stratford, Cosgrove, Haversham, Castlethorpe, Yardley Gobion, Loughton and Calverton. Even departments within the railway works played against each other. Yet it is a struggle to find similar levels of coverage of football in the district. A match between Stony Stratford and Abington School of Northampton received a brief mention in Croydon’s Weekly Standard on 29 March 1873. The result was a draw, although the actual score was not mentioned.

Interest was developing in this organised game and it should be understood that when football was discussed or written about, it was Rugby Football. The game was codified at Rugby school in 1845 and local rugby clubs were not formed until 1864. Although the Football Association was formed as a breakaway movement in 1863 there is no evidence that it made much impression on North Bucks for some years to come. In 1873 the Reverend C H Pierson was reported at a meeting of Newport {Pagnell’s Church Institute as recommending the formation of a football club – it being “a manly, healthy, and invigorating recreation.”
Teams in Stony Stratford and Wolverton emerged after the mid-1870s. The Stony Stratford team was the first to be reported. They played Tring in March 1875 and thumped them a score of three goals and four touchdowns. The following year the club was able to field two teams in a single day. One played at Coventry and managed victory by one goal to nil. Meanwhile the second team played at home to Wolverton, beating them by  one goal and three tries to nil.
A match between two works teams, representing the carriage and locomotive departments was played to a disappointing scoreless draw at the O.d Wolverton ground on 11th March 1876. 
I need to offer some words of explanation about scoring in those early days. There was no points system. A goal was achieved by first carrying the ball over the opponents line. this earned the right to “try” to kick the ball over the cross bar and between the posts. This became a goal and was the means by which winners of losers were determined. If no goals were scored then the tries became a determining factor. Thus a team might score four tries and convert none and be beaten by a side that scored one try and converted the kick. Modern rugby now awards 5 points for a try or touchdown and a further two points for the conversion of the try, that is kicking the ball over the goal. A further complication developed in the 1880s with a practice of awarding minor points, known as rouges for touching down the ball behind ones own goal line.  This leads to some rather odd reporting makes a game difficult to decipher today.
Stony Stratford v. Tring.—This match came off on Saturday, March 13, and resulted in victory for the former by three goals and four touch-downs, whilst Tring rouged nine times owing to the plucky play of the forwards.
These matches, such as they were, appear to be occasional, but there was a drive to organise something more permanent and regular.
Wolverton also fielded teams and in 1878 were reported in a game against Excelsior, at Primrose Hill in Northampton. The Wolverton 15 travelled by train but were no match for the home side who comfortably beat them by a goal and a try to nothing. Later that year they had better fortune at Primrose Hill, this time against a team called the Old Blues, which they won by a goal, a try and four touchdowns to nothing.
A fortnight later the Wolverton team played St Thomas Hospital at Lambeth but could only muster 14 men and consequently lost to the full strength side.
Both communities were getting themselves organised into formal clubs. On the 30th November 1876 a concert was presented in Stony stratford to raise money for the new club. Five years later a meeting called at the North Western established the Wolverton. Just under a decade later the Wolverton club played Northampton Saints at Franklins Gardens. At the time the team represented the parish of St James – hence the nickname “Saints”, which has stuck to this day.Northampton is now one of the mightiest teams in the land and it boggles the mind a bit that Wolverton was once thought to be on a more-or-less equal footing. Two week’s later, they travelled to Warwick. The Wolverton club played on the “Locomotive Ground.”

Reporting on these games becomes more detailed than simply announcing the result. ItThe game was played with only three three-quarter backs and none forwards. Much has changed. The Wolverton umpire was Mr. F. Swain, a keen sportsman in his day, and the man who founded Swain’s sports shop at 48 Church Street.

A combination team of Wolverton and Olney footballers, at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday afternoon, were beaten by the St. James’s representatives with a try to four minors. The fixture was Northampton v. Wolverton ; but several of the latter’s men could not play, and so the Olney Club was drawn upon to fill up the vacancies. Then  Wolverton were a man short. The Northampton team, about half-an- hour after the match should have commenced, looked like numbering about twelve players. Eventually, however, by getting several unselected men to play, It was made possible to put a full, although weak, home fifteen in the field. The Wolverton men, with their backs to the lake, started a somewhat poor game—which cost spectators 6d. to witness—something after three o’clock. Williams did some good forward work for Northampton; Allinson made a short run and a useful boundary kick, and Hough—who failed to play up to his previous day’s form—put in a little sprint, but was soon collared. This play was at the home end, where a maul took place later on between Robinson and Hilton, the former proving the stronger, and touching down for his side. On the re-start, Dunham and Hooton tackled well, and the latter, picking up after a dribble by Moring, was promptly pulled down by Golding. A. Farrer. by a long kick, returned the leather to Northampton’s 25, and Allinson had again to touch. Almost immediately Hough nearly scored, but dropped the ball on the line, and only a third touch was credited against. Northampton at half-time. Moring a minute or two later received from a line-out and kicked, but Smith made a pretty return. Shortly after there was a dispute. The ball was kicked over Northampton’s line, and Ruff, who was off-side ran in after it. From the presence of a number of people around the goal line, it was impossible to say what followed. Robinson claimed that be touched down; Ruff that he scored a try by touching the ball after it was handled by Robinson – but it was still in motion. Each umpire, J. Roseblade, (Northampton) and F. Swain (Wolverton) stood by his respective side and eventually the visitors gave way. Hardly was the ball again rolling than C. Stanley got hold and showing the Wolverton backs a clean pair of heels, scored a try, amidst cheering, for Northampton. Moring took the kick, a difficult one, and tailed, and the game shortly after concluded.
Wolverton.—Back, G. Inns ; three-quarter backs, Smith, Hough, and Hooton ; half backs. Gallop and Hllton ; forwards, Ruff (captain). A. Shaw. J. Gardiner, A. Farrer, T. Farrer, W. Cooke, J. Biginton, G. Covington, (one short).

Northampton.—Back. A. Robinson; three-quarter backs, C. Stanley, C. J. Allinson, and A. Orton ; half backs, W. Moring and T, Phipps ; forwards. C. Phipps, T. Stanley, J. Ayers, A. Dunham. Golding, Drage, Williams, C. Parr, and W. S. Godfrey.

Association Football broke away from the Rugby code in 1863 and handling the ball was still permitted in those early days. “Hacking”, that is kicking the shins of opponents was banned, although some clubs still wished to keep this brutal feature. The association was a small group but what helped the FA to take off was the invention of the challenge cup, now known as the FA Cup. The first tournament was held in 1871 and only contested by a few teams, but interest grew, and with it, the association. Before the century was out professional teams began to emerge, while football played under Rugby rules, held its amateur status.
Association football appears late in the Wolverton area. There are scarcely any reports until the late 1880s

Coaching Inns

The West Side Coaching Inns

For reasons which are not obvious, the major inns in Stony Stratford established on the east side of the High Street. Perhaps the limited land space for pasture was a consideration. See this post.

On the west side, various hostelries grew up over the years. There was one at the very northern entrance to Stony Stratford, more-or-less on or close to the site of the later Barley Mow. It appears in a document dated 1317 as Grik’s Herber (The Greek’s Auberge or hostelry). There is also some documentary evidence which suggests a medieval inn close by St Giles church, most probably where the White Horse now stands. It was called The Key, or perhaps as Sir Frank Markham suggested, St Peter’s Keys. The other obvious medieval establishment is the building which was known as the Cross Keys in the 19th century. It has long since ceased to be an inn but the central entrance to the yard is indicative of its former use.

The site of Grik’s Herber, looking toward the Barley Mow.
The White Horse

In 1577, we know that there were five innkeepers holding licences. Unfortunately we have no inn names to guide us, but the locations may have been (using later known names) The White Horse, The Talbot, The Cross Keys, The Rising Sun and possibly the Barley Mow. These earlier names have been lost to history but there is some evidence to suggest that the 16th and 17th century inn occupying the site that as later called the Rising Sun, was the Golden Lion. The Talbot occupied the buildings now known as 81-83 High Street.

The Cross Key

The George was identified as three cottages in 1609 but it was converted or rebuilt as an inn shortly after that date. It is still there, and although it served as a coffee shop for much of the 2oth century, it is once more a pub with accommodation for travellers. Its age is very apparent from its low foundations which now lie some steps below the level the High Street.

The George, and early 17th century inn

The present White Horse was built in 1775. Up to a few years before that there was a White Horse on the East side, so although there has probably been an inn on that site since medieval times, its former name or names have been lost.

There were smaller inns or more likely alehouses on the wet side in the 18th century. The Angel, at 11 High Street, first appeared in 1770 and curiously the same name was used at the other start up in 1772 at the north end, later known as the Barley Mow.

The Angel at 11 High St.

The Barley Mow, formerly the Angel

The Rising Sun and The Talbot, already mentioned, appear from the middle of the 18th century, but may well have replaced inns with earlier, different names.

The Talbot was an inn here in the 18th century

The Rising Sun built in the 18th century on a site formerly occupied by the Golden Lion


New Publications

It has taken me longer than I expected, but I managed to complete and publish two volumes of my ambitious history of Wolverton and District.

The first volume Manor and Town, covers the period from pre-history to 1838. It’s a much richer history than you might think and somehow the book grew to 400 pages.

The second volume takes in the transformation that the railways brought to the area and comes to an end in 1914, with the outbreak of war. This seems like a good cut-off date as this war transformed society. The book is called Pure Republic.

My projected third volume will be ready in March 2020. Provisionally titled, Two Wars and  Peace,it will describe the years from 1914 – 1945. I think I might retire after that!

The books have been published in hardcover and are therefore more expensive than the equivalent paperback; however, the shelf life should be longer, and they may outlive me!

They are published at £25 each and you can buy them from the usual sources – Waterstones, Amazon etc., but you can purchase them direct from me at a reduced price of £20.

Richard Harrison Thomas Harrison

Thomas Harrison portrait

I recently received news that this portrait of Thomas Harrison (1734-1809), which hung in Wolverton House for about 200 years, turned up in a New York auction house about 18 months ago. It sold for $1500.

He was the man who built Wolverton House in the 1780s. He came to Wolverton as land agent for the Radcliffe Trust in 1773. He was also land agent for earl Spencer and performed legal roles for the earl of Uxbridge. Harrison came from a modest family in Yorkshire, but he was a very clever man and he made a lot of money from industrial dealings in the midlands and Wales. In particular, his efforts on behalf of the earl of Uxbridge to settle the copper mining dispute in Anglesey, probably earned him £20,000. At a time when the average worker might support a family on £20 a year, that was serious money. As land agent to the Radcliffe Trust, he was paid only £40 a year.

Wolverton House was built for £1,840, again, a lot of money for the time, and, since he built it on Radcliffe Trust property, he never actually owned the house. nevertheless, it suited him and his family.

He then set about making many business investments. At the turn of the 19th century he purchased several properties in Stony Stratford, including the Three Swans (92-94 High St) and the Bull, and bought the Water Hall estate in Bletchley, which later became known as Bletchley Park. He also built the ill-fated aqueduct over the river Ouse, which spectacularly collapsed in 1808 and had to be replaced by the Iron Trunk.

He was successfully sued by the Grand Junction Canal for £9,262, which Harrison had no trouble in paying. A decade or so later, his second son, Richard, was involved in the failing Stony Stratford Bank. There was no bankruptcy as Richard Harrison was able to call upon his family resources to pay off creditors and avoid bankruptcy.

Thomas Harrison’s father was a maltster in Hartshead, Yorkshire, so young Thomas had a comfortable middle class upbringing, but at his death he had a sizeable fortune. His eldest son, John, became an Alderman and Mayor of St Albans and had business contracts with the navy. His second son, Richard, took over from his father as land agent for the Radcliffe Trust and continued to live at Wolverton House. His first marriage was apparently a disaster and the couple quickly separated. He was not free to marry again until 1840, when he was able to start a family at the age of 60. He died at Wolverton House in 1858.

Barony of Wolverton

Manno the Cat

The first baron of Wolverton was called Manno (Magno, Mayny) the Breton, which tells us that he came from Brittany. He was important enough to have been granted 15,000 acres in several counties, but not important enough to be granted the huge swathes of territory that went to William’s closest followers after 1066. We know this from the Domesday Book of 1086. There is no other documentary evidence about him, other than when Meinfelin became his heir in 1114. We can assume therefore that Manno died in 1113 or 1114.

In which case he lived to a great age and was probably in his 70s when he died.

Meinfelin can probably be translated as Manno the Cat, from the Old French word for cat. He was probably named Manno after his grandfather, as was customary, and acquired the nickname because of his agility. Surnames were extremely uncommon in those less populous times so if people needed to be distinguished, they would be named after their village or given a nickname. Miles Crispin, who held Stantonbury, must have had curly or frizzy hair, and was known as”Curly.” Walter Giffard, who held many manors in North Bucks, was called Walter “chubby chops.”

Meinfelin died c 1155, when he left a bequest to found Bradwell Priory. He was probably in his 60s or 70s, which makes it unlikely that he was Manno’s son. He was probably the eldest son off Mano’s eldest son, who pre-deceased his father, either through natural causes or in battle. Meinfelin’s time marked a rise in the fortunes of the barons of Wolverton. He was sheriff of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire for a time and his wife was Beatrix de Warenne, whose father was earl of Surrey. At his death he was able to found a priory pout of the wealth he had acquired. This may have been a high point for the family. While his son and grandson held position the family went into decline in the 13th century, and the barony, which included manors in South Bucks, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire gradually fell apart, leaving only Wolverton, which was inherited by the de Longuevilles, through marriage, in the 14th century.


The Incomers

Many old established communities look upon newcomers with some suspicion. It is an old habit, born of a time when most people were tied to the land and if they moved to another community then there might not be a good reason for it. Even up to the Poor Law Act of 1832, communities were at risk of a poor person or a vagrant becoming a charge upon the parish, and as we have described in Stony Stratford, it was often cheaper to pay the fare for a sick person to reach their home destination than to take responsibility for their care. despite that, Stony Stratford was a desirable destination for many skilled people and with the right sponsorship and properly signed settlement papers, they could establish themselves in Stony Stratford. In the 17th century, some Dutch migrants were admitted to the town.
The creation of Wolverton Station resulted in a population explosion. The 1831 census counted 417 people in the Wolverton parish in 1831. In 1851 this number had risen sharply to 2,070. The surrounding villages were all affected, particularly as the accommodation in the new town could not, to begin with, meet the demand. Migrants came in noticeable numbers from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and all parts of England, and as far as one can tell, assimilated fairly well. there was probably a sense that they were all in this together, but to some extent the prevailing attitude to incomers may have been shaped through customary contact with migrants and travellers along the Watling Street. It is also true that the leading citizens of the new community were themselves incomers. Edward Bury and his successor J E McConnell were neither local to North Buckinghamshire, nor was George Wieght the new vicar, nor Alfred Blott, the station master, nor Brabazon Stafford, the chief accountant. In fact all the senior management came from elsewhere. Everybody and nobody was different and there must have been a prevailing sense that who you were was what counted, rather than where you were from. 
.There were of course significant numbers who moved from the villages of North bucks and South Northants. Many of these filled the unskilled jobs, but approximately half of them took skilled jobs. Those coming from further afield were, in almost all cases, workers with some skills.
Perhaps I can take some examples here to illustrate the process of “Wolvertonisation” of some families. I have already mentioned several who came from other parts of the country, stayed, and became fully integrated, but here I would like to discuss families  who origins lay in other countries.
Lewis Camozzi was born in Bicester in 1838. He was one of the children of Charles and Ellen Camozzi. Charles, probably named Carlo at birth, was born in 1806 in Italy, probably in the Como region, where the Camozzi name is common enough. Charles moved to England before 1831, because that was the year he married Ellen Buttoughs. He appears to have become thoroughly anglicised, marrying in the Church of England and bestowing English names on his children, with the exception of never becoming a naturalised Englishman. On his trips overseas he was always recorded as an alien. He established himself in Bicester as an ironmonger, although he also had skills as a jeweller and watchmaker.
Lewis moved to Wolverton in 1870 and established himself as a builder and carpenter at 44 Church Street on the corner of Radcliffe Street, opposite the Victoria Hotel.
From Ireland I can describe my own family. My great great grandfather was born in Ireland in 1820 and came to England to work for the LNWR in 1846.he rose to become station master at St Albans and in his 60s took on the lighter duties of station master at Newport Pagnell. One of his sons, my great grandfather, came to Wolverton as station master in 1890 and served for five years before moving on to Leighton Buzzard. Thus began the Dunleavy association with Wolverton, as two of his sons, including my grandfather, started their careers in the Works.. By this time of course, despite, like the Camozzis, carrying a foreign surname, the family was thoroughly English, and the same came to be true of the Sigwarts, whose origins lay in Germany.
Emil Sigwart began his life in Donaueschingen, Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where he was born 27 March 1868. In 1882 he was apprenticed to a jeweller in Hall Street Clerkenwell. Clerkenwell was then, and for many years after, the centre of the jewellery and watchmaking trade, and it was there that Emil learned his trade. In 1886 he found work at ware in Hertford and ten years later, in 1896, he had saved a sufficient amount to purchase the business of W T Satch on the Stratford Road Wolverton. The shop was later numbered 12 Stratford Road and became a featured business fo two generations. He could also afford to get married and he married Sophie Weisser in 1898 and started his family at Wolverton. He became a naturalised British subject in 1901.

His business prospered until the outbreak of war with Germany, when his obvious German origins caused some Wolverton folk to withdraw their business. Mr Sigwart  felt compelled to place an advertisement in the local paper proclaiming his British citrizenship and his loyalty to his adopted country, and he further noted, that all his employees, including his unmarried sister Bertha, who was living in the household, were British subjects. He even put a jotice in his shop window. eventually the concerns subsided and he was able to open up a Northampton branch, managed by his eldest son Edward. His daughters took over the Wolverton business and a second son, George, lost his life flying for the RAFD during WWII. Emil Sigwart himslef died in Wolverton in 1943. Rosa and Freda Sigwart closed down the business in 1972 as they could not find a buyer. They attributed this to the development of Milton Keynes centre which made small town businesses less attractive.
Breweries Maltings

The Cosgrove Brewery

Although Stony Stratford had a very long tradition of inns and alehouses, brewing was always done on the premises. the idea of a specialised brewer serving a range of public houses did not arrive until the 19th century in North Bucks and South Northants. The reasons were entirely practical. Beer does not keep for very long and does not travel well – or at least did not until the invention of pressurised casks about 60 years ago. Publicans, or more usually their wives, could make beer on an almost daily basis on the premises.

The expensive part of beer making was malting, an intermediate stage between the harvesting of the barley and its fermentation. The master required premises with a heated floor to undertake this part of the process. Malting is the process of partial conversion of the starch to sugar and then arresting this initial fermentation so that it can be resumed later in the beer making process. There is some complexity and skill in malting and it became the part of brewing that was farmed out early to the specialists. Malt making begins with the barley harvest and light threshing to ensure that the husks are retained. The grains are then dried and stored for about six weeks. Once dry these grains are soaked in water over two or three days until they start to sprout. At this stage they are transferred to the floor of the malt house and turned over periodically until dry. The last stage in the process is to kiln dry the grains. Under floor pipes in the malt house carried heat from a fire’s smoke which was channel through the building. Longer heating times produced a darker malt which added colouring and flavour to the final beer product. 

The maltster could then deliver their product to the inns and alehouses by horse and cart.

Stony Stratford had some maltster and in the 1850s at least two specialist brewers for a short period – one on the premises of the Bull and another next door to the White Hart on the Square.

More surprisingly perhaps, the largest brewer in the district was founded at Cosgrove.

A photograph from the 1860s possibly. The house was built in 1858

In the 1780s there was a maltings in Cosgrove operated by John Franklin. The business passed through several hands until it emerged under the ownership of Daniel Warren in the 1840s. He had several business advantages. He was a corn dealer and coal merchant as well as a maltster. He also had premises and a wharf beside the canal. His raw materials could therefore be delivered at a lower cost than his competitors in Stony Stratford, who depended on road transport. The raw materials for heat and water were on his doorstep. 

At any rate, he set himself up as a brewer and ran it successfully for a generation before selling it to F ranks Desveaux Bull in 1874. During that time he successfully supplied pubs in Old Stratford, Potterspury, Stony Stratford and possibly by canal delivery, the Locomotive at Old Wolverton and the New Inn at New Bradwell.

Mr Bull was connected to the Newport Pagnell brewing family and he moved to Ousebank at Stony Stratford while he ran the business. In 1888 he sold it to Phipps Brewery at Northampton.  They were principally interested in the public houses tied to the brewery and the buildings functions largely as a store and distribution centre. Mr Bull stayed on as manager until about 1884. Eventually the premises were sold to a Hanslope builder in 1932. The industrial buildings were demolished in 1965.

A canalised view of the brewery.


Ten Years

I just realised last night that I started this blog 10 years ago! Where did the time go?

I first posted on September 23, 2008. Obviously not many people were paying attention at the time but traffic did grow and in the peak years between 2011 and 2014 the site was getting between 10,000 and 15,000 page views per month. In recent years I have posted less frequently and visits have fallen off. Nevertheless, the site has recorded over 600,000 visits since I started to keep records in June 2010. Over a quarter of a million come from the US and 222,000 from the UK. The rest are made up from Germany, Russia (surprisingly), France, Australia and Canada, and other countries.

I have been using Blogger to host the site for a decade now, but I plan to migrate it shortly to its own site which will carry other features about Wolverton’s history.

Wolverton Rugby Club

Bad blood between Wolverton and Bedford Rugby Teams

In the late 19th century the Wolverton Rugby Football Club (known then simply as the Wolverton Football Club, played several teams who would now be considered superior – Northampton Saints, Warwick, Coventry, St Thomas Hospital, London and one game only against Bedford.

Bedford’s football club in the 19th century played for some years under both codes. One week they played under Football Association rules and the next week using Rugby Union rules. This seems very quaint now and was recognised at the time as being unsustainable, so in 1882 the two codes parted company and set up separate teams. The rugby team named themselves Bedford Swifts and the club is still going today and plays in the East Midlands league.

On November 28th 1885 Wolverton travelled to Bedford to play against the Swifts and the game ended in a rancorous draw, with ill feeling on both sides. Letters were written to Croydon’s Weekly Standard (later known as the Bucks Standard) and I reproduce them here to perhaps tell the story.

First the Wolverton account:

Sir – Having been questioned by several persons as to the reason the Bedford Football Club refuse to play the return match with our club, I should be obliged if you would allow me to inform those of your readers who take an interest in our club, the grounds on which this refusal is based.We journeyed to Bedford on the 28th ult. (November) to play our first match of the season with this club. When the teams faced each other, it was evident that the Wolverton team was at a great disadvantage, their opponents being much more strongly represented, yet the game, which at first appeared an easy win for the home team, resulted in a draw. During the first half-time Bedford obtained a try, and, in the second half, both teams played a fast game, but, about one minute before time was called, the Wolverton team, contrary to the expectation of their opponents, succeeded in obtaining a try. It was then that the Bedford captain, finding that their chance of victory was over, time being called, appeared terribly agitated, and objected to the try being obtained by Wolverton.I wish to state the facts as they occurred. The ball was run in, and the umpires appealed to. Both decided that the try was fairly obtained, but the Bedford captain, contrary to the rules of football, disputed the decision of both umpires. Last week I received a letter stating that, after what occurred, the Bedford Club would not meet to play the return match. I can only say that if members of this club are so lost to fair play, their refysal to meet again reflects discredit upon themselves only.On behalf of the Club,I remain yours faithfully,Alf. E. AbbottHon. Sec. Wolverton FC.Wolverton, December 17, 1885.

This letter appeared on December 28th. On January 9th 1886, Croydon’s Weekly Standard was able to publish this reply.

Sir—I was surprised to see in your last issue a letter from the hoin. sec. of the Wolverton Football Club alleging reasons for our discontinuing the connection wish his club.  As perhaps he may not be satisfied with an unqualified denial of those reasons, I may as well state our objections to again meeting his club are their ungentlemanly conduct and language, which were such as are expected only from the roughest of roughs, and which ought to be altogether foreign to the game of football. I am sorry to say that such notice was taken of it by the lookers on, that those who had not already left the field in disgust greeted the retirement of the Wolverton team with a storm of hooting. As to the remarks on the terrible agitation and unfairness or our captain, 1 can only say Mr. Abbott’s power of perception must be wonderfully keen, for no one has ever observed those qualities before, although the gentleman in question has been paying football for years. I am, Sir, yours faithfully, A. F. DUDLEY. Hon. Sec. Bedford Swifts Football Club40, Adelaide Square, Bedford. 

133 years later it is difficult to say who was at fault. Words were obviously spoken and not forgiven and relations were poisoned forever. Bedford, as far as I know, never played against Wolverton, although there have been games played between Bedford and Milton Keynes – so to that extent, the hatchet has been buried. This can be contrasted with Northampton Saints, whom Wolverton played several times at the end of the 19th century.  In the early years of the re-formation of the Wolverton Rugby Club, Northampton Saints were kind enough to send a team to Wolverton to help to promote the game. By that time the Saints were among the top clubs in the country (as indeed they are today) and relations remained cordial, although they had been competitive in the 1880s and 1890s.