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1955 shops Stratford Road

The Front IV


The North Western was one of four pubs in Wolverton. The publican was Stan Weir. I rarely went into this pub – the Craufurd being my haunt. The last occasion I went inside was a New Years Eve. As I was leaving with my friends someone near the door tried to throw a jacket over my head and aim a punch at me. Fortunately for me he was so drunk that he missed the target and hit someone else, who then retaliated. We left the brawl to develop and I never set foot inside again. I have no idea who my potential antagonist was or what was his motivation.

There was only one door into the pub, in the centre where there is now a window. There were about two steps up.
Next to the North Western, at Number 12, E. Sigwart and Son, Jewellers. Sigwarts were established prior to the war. I do remember some great excitement when Sigwarts were robbed. The perpetrator was not very bright, or at least he had not thought through his getaway plan, for, having relieved Sigwarts of some jewellery and watches he legged it to the Station, where presumably he expected to catch a train that would take him to safety!
The Grafton Cycle Company occupied Numbers 13 and 14. The left side shop was used for cycle repair and the right side as a “showroom”. I use the word loosely because the Grafton never worried too much about appearance – the floorboards were bare and worn and the walls were generally unpainted. They also sold petrol.
I believe a plumber, A Rogers from Stony Stratford also occupied the back of number 13.
Freeman, Hardy and Willis operated a chain of shoe shops. Number 15 Stratford Road was one of them.
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1955 shops Stratford Road

The Front III

This building, Number 9, has changed very little in 50 years. The wooden sash windows are still in place upstairs and the shop front plate glass framing remains unchanged. In the 1950s, Number 9 on the left was a Muscutt and Tompkins stationery shop, managed by Mrs Tompkins. On the right, Numbered 9a, the firm of Johnsons, the Estate Agents occupied the premises. They also had offices in Bletchley and, I believe, Stony Stratford. 

At Number 10 – Davis Brothers – Removal Contractors. I probably paid no attention to this shop when I was young. The upper bay window was there in the 1950s but the shop frontage has changed.
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1955 shops Stratford Road

The Front II


This photograph was taken this year. All of the buildings have survived over a century but facades, windows and doors have changed.

The Stratford Road was numbered from 1 consecutively. Here are buildings 1 to 8.
In the mid 1950s this is how they were occupied.
The Royal Engineer Hotel is the large building at the end; it dates from the 1840s. In the lower part was The Gordon Restaurant.
The single story section, numbers 2 to 5, were probably purpose-built as lock-up shops from the outset.
Nuber 2, with a corner entrance – Clarke and Sons, Seedsmen and Florists. They maintained a nursery at Castlethorpe.
No. 3 This was a tobacconist with a window display of pipes, pipe tins, cigarettes and cigars. I do not know the name of the owner.
No. 4 The London Central Meat Company – Butchers. they also had another outlet on Green Lane, next to the off-licence. A few years later this company became Baxters.
No. 5 Muscutt & Tompkins, Newsagents. This was a thriving business in the 50s, selling newspapers, magazines and cigarettes. They operated most of the paper rounds in the town. Bill Tompkins had retired at this time, although he would usually walk up daily from his house next to the Palace Cinema to check on things. The business was managed by his son Ralph – a rather anxious man – and assisted by his sister Joyce and her husband. Mrs Tompkins (snr and jnr) ran the Stationery shop at Number 9.
No. 6 According to the 1955 phone book this shop was occupied by W. Barratt and Co. I have no memory of this.
No. 7  Prudential Assurance.
No 8 Lampitts. They were Radio sales and repair but in this period they were busy selling and renting television sets. TV sets came  with either a 9 inch or 12 inch screen in those early days. Gradually they got larger. The “console” models were built as a finished and polished cabinet with doors that could close over the screen when it was not in use.
Although ITV broadcasting began in 1955, I don’t think it came to Wolverton until Anglia television was established in 1959.Viewere did get ITV before that but on the fringe of the London transmission.
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1955 Stratford Road

The Front I


The Stratford Road was known as “The Front”. And indeed it was the front of the town with the main road running along it and all of the residential and commercial part of the town being behind it. Unlike most other towns which could grow either side of the High Street, Wolverton could not, because the entire length of the Stratford Road was occupied by the Carriage and Waggon Works and McCorquodales, protected (if that is the right word) by a 10’ high brick wall.
The Stratford Road assumed more importance after Cooke Street, Bury Street, Walker Street and Garnett Street had been flattened to make room for works expansion and shops gravitated to Church Street and the Stratford Road. This happened around 1860. Gradually houses expanded westward, the last of the old terraced houses being built in Edwardian times.
I want to explore the shops as they used to be in the mid-1950s. The photo above illustrates how it appeared back then. The road was only busy (mostly with buses) between 7:15 and 7:45 on weekday mornings and again after 5:30pm. Most shopping was done on foot and the odd car might turn up every now and then for fueling at the pump operated by the Grafton Cycle Co. The pump hose was on an arm which coud be swung across the pavement. There were no petrol forecourts in those days.

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1954 Wolverton Grammar School

Wolverton Grammar School 1954


In 1954 the school decided to abandon the whole-school panorama in favour of class photos. I suppose the Headmaster thought that this plan was less disruptive, although the panorama returned the following year due to popular demand.

Our class was called 2M – M for Metcalfe, who was out French teacher as well as our Form teacher. Christine Metcalfe was the daughter of a Lincolnshire farmer who had studied French at a French University and was much more lively than her senior French teacher, the wooden Mr Thomas who had been at the school since my mother’s School Certificate year – 1931. 
Mr Thomas had been our introduction to French the previous year. “Toto entre!” was the first sentence in French that we were taught. If we misbehaved in the slightest we would be required to stand: “Levez vous Monsieur Dunleavy!”
Miss Metcalfe was a breath of fresh air after that. A couple of years after this photo wastaken she married Harry Johnson, a Biology teacher who came to us (I think) in January 1955. Our first year Biology teacher was Miss Jones. She left and was replaced by a Mr White who was so terrified of us that he spent the entire lesson scribbling notes furiously on the blackboard leaving us to desperately catch up. His tenure was short-lived and I would guess that he was quietly advised to move on. Mr Johnson was a very different kettle of fish; he wasn’t terrified of us – we were scared of him!
I should add that we had no text books in those days and notes taken from the teacher were our only record of new knowledge.
1954 Form 2M
Back Row: Anne Wyatt, Margaret Bird, Shirley Petts, Pamela Bellamy, Anne Adams. Mary Barnett, Margaret Skinner, Linda Gamble, Bryan Dunleavy, Roger Norman, Francis White, Marcus Towell, Robert Gentles, Michael Brooks
Middle Row:  Valerie Dufton, Sheila Clarkson, Janet Haynes, Margaret Mayo, Dorothy Bennett,Jill Carter, Linda Gilbert, Geoffrey Farrington, Roger Brewer, Christopher Thomas, Robert Crocker, Scott McBurnie, Barry Lines
Front Row: Julia Sharpe, Molly Holmes, Linda Grace, Mildred Willis, Christine Metcalfe, James Franklin, Peter Bush, Graham Lenton, David Wilmin
The cost of this photo, mounted in a brown envelope (in which it stayed for 50 years) was 4/-. (four shillings)
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1953 Wolverton Grammar School

Wolverton Grammar School


Detailed views below

I entered the Grammar School in September 1953. At that age you assume that everything has always been there and it was not until much later that I discovered that it had only become a Grammar School after the Education Act of 1944. Fees were abolished and admission was based upon selection – the notorious 11+. This also meant that everything you needed (apart from a pen) was supplied – exercise books, file paper, drawing pencils (coloured green as I recall), protractor and compass. All this was administered by Mrs Burley, the school secretary, from the Stock Cupboard every Monday.

Boys could wear either a navy blue blazer or a grey flannel suit. Girls wore white blouses and grey “gym-slips” as they were known. In the summer girls were allowed to wear cotton dresses which were coloured according to House – Pink for Red House (Wolverton, New Bradwell), Yellow for Yellow House (Stony Stratford, Bletchley), and Green for Green House (Newport Pagnell, Olney).
I see from the photo that girls from the 3rd to 5th form wore Navy tunics and 6th form girls wore grey skirts.
We all wore dark green silk ties with narrow red and yellow diagonal stripes. Boys wore peaked caps. I don’t recall what girls wore on their heads but it may have been some sort of grey bonnet. 
Uniform was rigidly enforced. I do recall one scene on a rainy lunchtime when an older girl was unwise enough to wear a clear plastic headscarf (probably just been invented)  and Miss Full, the Senior Mistress ripped it off her head and gave her a serious tongue-lashing with, I imagine, more to follow.

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1931 Wolverton County School

Wolverton County School 1931 – detail

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1931 Wolverton County School

Wolverton County School 1931

The school photo was something of a perfomance to organize and a welcome intrusion into the school day. Chairs from classrooms and step-up benches from the gym would be hauled out and assembled on the playing fields. Once everyone had been placed the panoramic camera would whir through its clockwork motion until it had captured everyone. There were always apocryphal stories of someone at one end running round the back to appear for the second time in the same picture, but I doubt that anyone would have dared.
This photo cost 1/6d in 1931.
Readable versions of the photo are offered in sections below.
I can of course identify my mother and uncle in this picture, but pupils from the 40s and 50s should be able to identify – Robert Eyles (English), Reginald Long (Physics), James Thomas (French), Zillah Full (Girls Games). I think Miss Nurdin (Maths), who became Mrs Eyles, is in the picture, but I cannot identify her.
          
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Wolverton County School

Wolverton County School

It seems hard to imagine now but at the beginning of the 20th century Wolverton was the second largest population centre in Buckinghamshire – the largest being High Wycombe. Wolverton then was an obvious place to start when the county tried to address secondary education.

The school was established in January 1902 with 32 pupils at the Science and Art Institute. Two years later the County approved a grant of £2000 for a new school and with additional grants of £1750 the project was initiated and buildings were erected on a site at Three Bush Field at the south end of Moon Street. However, the final cost was £6000.
The new school opened in September 1906 under the energetic headship of a man described by Sir Frank Markham as “the bristling  E.J. Boyce”. The fees at the time were £6 a year. My mother recalled her parents paying fees of £3 6s. 8d. per term in 1930, or £10 a year. In addition pupils (really their parents) had to buy all their text books and exercise books. So it was a significant expense.
There were scholarships and I understand that my Aunt went there on a scholarship in 1920. My father, who was not academically inclined, did not. My grandfather was then earning £250 per annum as a clerk in the railways works, so I imagine school fees placed a significant burden on family finances.