Here is a view from Ledsam Street to St. Georges taken about 1967. This was probably the first time ever that you could get this view without it being blocked by the terraces of Ledsam and Creed Street.
The streets have been demolished and the new flats erected. There is still a lot of rubble lying around. You can see the sole surviving building on Creed Street – Billinghams Fish and Chip shop. You can also see the Science and Art Institute in the right of the picture. this too was demolished a few years later.
This was a bustling business at Number 5 Stratford Road. Newspapers were still, even in the 50s and 60s, important organs of communication and there was always a huge sale of daily morning papers, daily evening papers and weekly papers. Men and women would flood in on their way to work and after work for an evening paper, and, of course, cigarettes.
It was the railways that made the growth of national newspapers possible. They were printed in Fleet Street at night, bundled to Euston in the early hours of the morning and loaded onto the slow train for delivery at each station. By 5:30 in the morning the papers, bundled with coarse string, were deposited outside Muscutt and Tompkins. A short time after this the unwrapping and sorting began. Newspapers were piled by title and then counted out for the paper rounds. Paper boys would arrive after 6, sort their papers and be off.
In the 1950s the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror were the biggest selling titles. The Daily Mail, Daily Herald, Daily Sketch, News Chronicle and Daily Telegraph were in the middle, and The Times and Manchester Guardian sold very few copies. In those days the Times still had classified advertisements on the front page, so you could not tell what stories might be inside. It was also printed on better quality white paper. The Daily Herald used blacker, more greasy ink, and handling it always left your hands dirty.
The News Chronicle disappeared in the mid-1950s, the Herald and Sketch later. The Manchester Guardian morphed into the Guardian and set up its printing and publishing in London.
The Evening papers from London, the Evening Standard and Evening News sold moderately, but the big seller was the Northampton Chronicle and Echo.
Muscutt and Tompkins had its foundations in the 19th century. Harry Cornelius Muscutt was a shoe maker turned news agent. He may have bought the business from a man called Robert Tilley who was operating there in 1883. Anyway, it was Muscutts by 1890.
Bill Tompkins, who was very much a figure in Wolverton when I was young, married Ida Muscutt, one of Harry Muscutt’s daughters and thus the business became Muscutt and Tompkins. It certainly grew as a family business during the 20th century, holding at least three shops on the Stratford Road – a tobacconists at number 3, the newsagents at Number 5 and at Number 9 a stationery shop and printing business.
According to the Office of National Statistics the average expenditure on tobacco was 6.1% of household income. In 2007 that relative figure was 1%. Tobacco sales were good business.
The “Works Whistle” which was more like a hooter in sound, went off at 7:43 am, 12:30pm, 1:25pm and 5:30pm. This sound regulated the day.
This photo shows men coming out of the main gate just after 5:30 pm. A few minutes before the Stratford Road had been empty. On or two office workers, who did not have to clock in or out, would start appearing at 5:25.
The man on his moped is probably on his way to Stony Stratford or beyond. The men with their bicycles could be heading up to the south end of the town or to Stratford or Bradwell. Buses would wait until about twentyfive to six, and then, fully loaded, would head off to Stratford and Bradwell.
The main gate has now made way for the Tesco Supermarket. The Fire Hall survives.
I have to say that this is an extremely poor photograph, taken against the light and therefore with some nasty lens flare, but it does provide some sort of record.
I think the photo dates from 1967 when I came back to Wolverton to discover the removal of the “little streets”. Some high rise blocks had already been erected at the south end of Ledsam Street, so the demolition took place some time before this.
You can see that the practice in those days was to leave the land derelict rather than green it over with grass and flower beds.
The site is now taken up with the Glyn Square shopping complex.
What you can make out from the photograph is the original height of the Church Institute wall, which has now been dropped by 3 feet.
To the right is what was then the Market Hall, formerly the Boy’s School. As you can see it extends beyond its present structure – the Town Hall and Library.
The Market Hall, as we knew it, was only open on Friday, and I don’t hink it was ever used for any other purpse. The entrance was through a gate on the Stratford Road. On Fridays the market was teeming. The whole of the yard and all the interior rooms were taken up with stalls on all sides. The stallholders would probably be open for business by 8:30 and remained busy until after 3. On school holidays it was a delight to us boys to go round the market to discover sources of American comics, toys, caps and other silly novelties.
United Counties would lay on extra scheduled buses from all the villages on Friday, which would allow women to come in early and leave in the afternoon. As I have remarked in an earlier blog, the weekly market was a significant event.