The “Boating Pond.”

This seems hard to picture now but in 1917 quite a large expanse of water built up at the corner of Creed Street and the Stratford Road. The Market Hall was built on a slight rise and the ramp up to the railway bridge had created a natural depression. This would not have been a problem if the drain worked, but on May 17th it became blocked. You would think that it would be an easy matter to fix but the issue became literally “bogged down” in a jurisdictional dispute.

Wolverton at the time was a Rural District Council. It only became an Urban District Council, with greater powers, a few years later. So an argument developed over who was responsible – the Railway Company who built the drains in the first instance in 1840, the County Council, who had jurisdiction over such rural matters since 1888, or the Wolverton Council, who had not been charging rates for this purpose.

While this wrangling was going on the pool grew in size and children were paddling in it. Some local wag banded it as “Wolverton’s Boating Pond.”

By June 26th the Medical Officer intervened and told the Council that the stagnant water was a health issue, particularly with the Friday market nearby and the proximity of the Works Dining Hall. He did not mention the residents of Number 1 Creed Street, but they must have been affected. He sternly advised them to take the matter into their own hands rather than continue negotiations with the other two parties, particularly as no progress was being made.

They took his advice and the necessary work was done. Wolverton’s “Boating Pond” lasted 6 weeks.

A Street photographer in Wolverton?

Years ago when film was expensive and cameras were a luxury item there was  phenomenon known as Street Photographers. They were enterprising chancers who would snap passers by and give them a ticket. If they wished, they could pick up their photo a couple of hours later from a booth somewhere. Usually you found these types at seaside resorts or in London’s tourist areas.

I was reminded of this by Lee Proudfoot who has kindly shared some photos with me. They were probably taken in the 1930s. The first one here of my grandmother walking past Sigwarts and the North Western, probably on her way to the London Central Meat butchers, next to Muscutt and Tompkins. You can see the number written on the negative as the photographer’s reference. The size of each image is 2 3/4 x 3 1/4, so probably taken on a 120 roll film.

Now I can’t imagine my grandmother bothering with any of this. They had a camera which was used for holiday photos etc and there are a number of studio portraits in the box of old photographs. This one is a bit of an anomaly. I would therefore suspect that the photos were snapped on the offchance of a sale, sample images, such as this were done as contact prints in the hope of the sale of an enlargement. I don’t know if there was a cost to the customer of picking up the sample, but there is no evidence that my grandmother ordered a photograph.

Annie Moore walking past North Western

The same may be true of these photographs from Lee Proudfoot’s collection, as you can see the number marking on the right hand corner of one of them.  These photos were obviously taken on different days, so whoever was taking the photos was there for more than one day. Possibly he (I asuume “he”) was a local photographer trying to drum up some business, although the photo in my possession has no name or address markings on the back. It strikes me that as a business enterprise this activity was doomed. The London and Seaside street photographers had some advantages in that they were picking out tourists who might want a memento of the occasion. Photographing residents of Wolverton in their familiar surroundings doesn’t appear to me to have a lot of business potential.

Gertrude Old and Renee Moore beside North Western

Renee Moore walking along the Front

The photographs are valuable as a record of “The Front” in the 1930s. You can note the wicker shopping baskets, the old-style push chairs and the fact that people dressed up to go shopping.

You can also get a glimpse of the “Little Streets” in the distance and the frontage of the North Western is different from its present appearance. Cars were scarce.

The Rhythms of the Day

The “Works Whistle” as we called it was a loud siren that sounded regularly at 7:43 am, 12:25pm, 1:25pm and 5:30pm for five days a week. For those who worked on Saturday morning it went of at 8 am and 12pm. I don’t know in what year the “whistle” was introduced but it could be heard all over town. It governed the lives of most residents. When I did a paper round in the 1950s in my teens I was able to observe the start of the working day. Usually we had to be up at 6:30 and down to Muscutt & Tompkins by 7. We sorted our papers into our bags which were permanently greyed with printing ink. The Daily Herald (which later morphed into The Sun) was the worst as they seemed to use a particularly greasy back ink which made our hands dirty and everything else. Men started to appear on the Front at about 7:15 when some of the village buses came in. Very quickly, as the Stony Stratford and New Bradwell buses disgorged their full loads and a stream of workers came from the railway station the road was heaving. Many came into Muscutt & Tompkins for their newspapers and a packet of fags. Some of the popular papers like the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express were stacked about two feet high at 7 o-clock; by 7:30 they were down to a few inches. Most Wolverton workers left their homes at about 7:30 which gave them enough time to walk down to the Front to clock on. The warning whistle went off at 7:43 which gave everyone two minutes to clock on. The street quickly emptied and a great silence fell upon the Stratford Road.

Shops opened at 9 and closed for the day at 5:30 (it might have been 6) and there was an early closing day on Wednesday where shops closed in the afternoon. It was rigorously observed. There may have been a by-law to govern shopping hours.

School hours were from 9 to 4, with almost an hour an a half for lunch. One friend of mine, who lived at Stony Stratford, took the bus home and back every lunchtime.  The mid-day meal was the main meal of the day, a custom that had lasted for centuries until recent times. We may have been almost the last generation to experience this. I think that the Primary School and Secondary School had slight variations in time so that the children did not coincide at lunchtime and the end of the day.

The men left at 12:25 when the whistle went and were home shortly after 12:30 when the meal was served. There was a full hour for lunch. Those who came from further afield could eat in the Works Canteen. I am sure that some put in some time at one of the four pubs or the bottom club. Again the Front was a bustling place until 1:25 when it all fell silent again and several thousand men did their work behind the wall.

At the end of the day, at 5:30 the gates opened and for the final time thousands of men and women teemed out of the gates. The buses on hand quickly filled up and the trains were not far behind. Within about five minutes the street was empty again.

In the 1950s we took this as normal, as indeed it was in those times. We probably could not have imagined a time when the old industrial economy which employed people in their thousands would give way to lighter, smaller, more flexible work places. There are still rush hours today, but people are travelling in a multitude of directions at different times to different destinations. In Wolverton in the 1950s there was one destination for almost everybody.

Wolverton in its Prime – 3 The Town

By the turn of the last century Wolverton had taken the shape that many of us would recognize,but there is still a way to go, as we can see from these maps. Windsor Street marked the end of the LNWR in the town’s residential development. The next section (seen here in partial development) was undertaken by the Radcliffe Trust who had come to the conclusion that there was more money to be made in developing the land themselves rather than sell it to the railway company. Hence, Peel Road, Jersey Road and Anson Road were all named after Radcliffe Trustees – and very prominent men they were too! After that the Wolverton Urban District Council took over.

Wolverton in 1905- The Western End
As you can see, at this date Stratford Road and Church Street have been extended and a part of Peel Road and Jersey Road built. The Boys School (still there) was built in 1896, but the Girls and Infants school did not open until 1906.
Peel Road was then just a short terrace on one side. The southern section came later and there was still a green corner that was not developed until the 1980s. The upper sections of Jersey Road were also developed later. You can see variations in architectural finish on the front of these houses which will give slight clues as to the date of their build.
The houses at the west end of Church Street were occupied first in 1908. I know that because my grandparents got married in that year and moved into one of those houses when there was still some finishing work to do.
This whole section of the town was still very new at this time. Cambridge Street and Windsor Street had been built in the 1890s and were themselves less than a decade old.
Western Road was developed in the 1920s. Again, if you look at the frontages of the houses you can see some stylistic differences.
Note too that the site of the Craufurd Arms is still a green patch. This was built in 1908.
Wolverton in 1905 – The Eastern end

By the turn of the 20th century the works had claimed al the land north of the Stratford Road and Gas Street and the ast houses in Bury Street were pulled down. The southern “little streets” remained until the 1960s. with the exception of the north side of Glyn Square which had been taken down to build a laundry. The Gables (at that time a large house in its own grounds for the Works Manager) had been built in 1886. The new doctor’s house and surgery at the bottom of Green Lane, known as The Elms, was built shortly after this map was drawn.

The old school on Creed Street, much expanded since 1840, was operating as a Girls and Infants School at this time. When the new school opened on Aylesbury Street the building functioned as a Market Hall  on Fridays until the Agora was opened in 1980. Parts of the building have been demolished and it now serves as a Library and Town Meeting Room.

One further comment. In 1900, possibly as a consequence of this development, Wolverton decided to adopt a rational numbering system for its houses. That is, houses were assigned sequential odd numbers on the left hand side (facing south or west) and even numbers on the right hand side. The Stratford Road,  which had been numbered from west to east, changed its numbering to start from the east. Up to this time Number 1 had been what is now 44, but with the westward expansion this was no longer feasible. By the way, the Stratford Road was numbered sequentially from 1 upwards without the odd-even split – it being felt that there was no future possibility that anyone on the north side would need an address. Circumstances do change!

Growing up in Wolverton – Life in the 1940s and 50s

In February, David Marks sent me a draft of his recollections of his years growing up in our small town. It came to me as a continuous narrative but I decided to post it on this blog in nine parts.

Recently I have checked the viewing stats and a rather strange pattern has emerged. There are a lot of readers for Part I and an almost equal number for Part VI; the parts in between have not registered. I’m a bit puzzled by this. I can understand people reading the first part and not bothering to go on (and I expect David would understand this too) but it makes less sense for readers to rush ahead to Part VI without, apparently, looking at the intervening chapters.

So in case there are readers who would like to read the continuous narrative and couldn’t find it, I am posting the links here. Those of us who remember the “old” Wolverton will find much to entertain and nourish our memories.

Growing up in Wolverton – Part 1 Sunday Walks

Growing up in Wolverton – Part II  Growing Years

Growing up in Wolverton – Part III School Days

Growing up in Wolverton – Part IV Romantic Interludes

Growing up in Wolverton – Part V  Fun and Games

Growing up in Wolverton – Part VI The War and its Aftermath

Growing up in Wolverton – Part VII  College Life

Growing up in Wolverton – Part VIII A Proper Job

Growing up in Wolverton – Part IX Adventures in the Car Industry

Carnival Parade

Judging from my father’s appearance in this photo I would estimate the date of this to be 1927 or 1928. This is obvioously part of  Summer tradition of parading floats around Wolverton. I don’t know if this happens nowadays. Clearly there was a Dutch theme to this float.
The photograph was taken by F Bavey, 100 Anson Road.

Growing up in Wolverton – Part IX

David Marks concludes this section of his life with an account from the 1970s.

1969 was an important year for me as I got head hunted by Chrysler who had taken over the old Rootes group at Coventry. They were setting up what was popularly called their think tank at Whitley, in Coventry the site of the old aircraft factory which had built the Whitley bomber and late carried out pressure testing on the comet after several crashes. I was appointed as organizational development Manager (No I can’t remember what it was supposed to involve either !) When I arrived on day one I was summoned to the bosses office (a rather fierce ex naval commander) who advised me that there had been a change of plan following discussions with Detroit (there were always “Discussions with Detroit”) and that as a result I was now the Training Manager. This was my first insight into how the motor industry worked (Or in those days didn’t work!) It is not difficult to imagine my concern when I was summoned to the office of the big chief, Head of Product Planning and Design.

He had apparently received a communication from the Director of Engineering of Pressed Steel Fisher (who at that time made car bodies for just about everyone).
He was apparently concerned about the shortage of good car body designers and believed that the “big for” shoul get together with a view to establishing an appropriate degree level course at some suitable academic institution. He was therefore proposing a meeting, to be held at the Vauxhall plant in Luton tow be attended by senior management of the big four together with the Chief Engineer, body in white (the term given to a basic, unpainted chassis) and the Training Manager.

The meeting at Luton was quite impressive, if only for the quantity of cigar smoke being puffed into the air. The outcome was that Ken Osborne (Director of Engineering at Pressed Steel) who had initiated the meeting, volunteered to lead a working party comprising the Chief Engineer (body in white) and Training Manager of each of the big for (BMC, Vauxhall, Ford and Chrysler) and the Professor of Advanced Automobile Engineering at Cranfield and his Senior Reader (who had somehow wangled their way onto the group to try and get selected as the most suitable academic body).

So it was the that yours truly who had no experience of either training or automobile design, who had never flown found himself on an aircraft heading for Hamburg.
The reason for this was that Ken assured us that the Germans had an excellent car body design programme at a college in Hamburg and that was where we needed to be. Looking back I reckon that he had all of this staked out when he fist proposed the initial meeting !

The plan was that we would be met by our German hosts for lunch then spend the afternoon touring the Wagonbaerschule. After this we would visit the Zillerthaal for an evening meal and return to the hotel for further discussions of the days visit. The following morning we would finish ou tou and the take our German hosts out for lunch before flying home.

Well, that was the theory at any rate. We managed the lunch and afternoon tour alright, then came the meal in the basement of the townhall. It was a simply enormous meal which lasted for an age during which quite a lot 9of wine was drunk. We were being treated as celebrities as by chance Hamburg was having a British week. We had already spotted models of London buses, policemaen and beefeaters in shop windows, not to mention one of the main cinemas which was showing the film Battle of Britain which had jusr been released. The main difference was that whilst at home cinemas had large models of Spitfires outside in Hamburg they had a large model of a Messerschmitt  109.
It was a splendid meal, presided over by a large, jolly, waiter. The only cloud on the horizon occurred when the time arrived for dessert and one of the Vauxhall contingent asked the waiter if they had any gateaux. The mans face immediately clouded over and has started mumbling something. It was only after careful discussion with one of our number who spoke a little German that it was discovered that he though we were enquiring about a Ghetto as in Warsaw Ghetto !

Following this marathon eat in it was decided that it was clearly too late to return to the hotel to do any serious work and so, as we were in Hamburg, We ought to visit the Reeperbahn. I, in my innocence did not know what the Reeperbahn was, but soon found out that it was the red light district. Rather like Soho but much, much, worse. Ken carted us off to some club that he just happened to know about and which he assured us had one of the more respectable cabarets. We were there for about an hour drinking Scnapps and watching an unbelievable selection of strippers, the last one of which was absolutely gross and turned out to be a man. We emerged from this place around midnight and the night being youg, as they say, We headed for what is an apparently very famous Bier Keeler. A huge hall filled with long wooden tables and benches and dedicated to drinking steins (litres) of lager to the accompaniment of a Lederhosen clad oompah band. I recall one of those odd coincidences occurred on the way to this pace when I jokingly remarked “ I guess since its British week they will be playing “Roll out the Barrel2 when we get there. Well, that’s exactly what they were playing and my companions thought I was some kind of psychic!

The standard routine at this beerhall was that the conductor would wander out into the audience and place his tyrilean hat on some unsuspecting drinker who was then dragged onto the stage and made to conduct the band. Immediatley one of the Ford contingent bribed the ban to come and seek out Prof Ellis from Cranfield. The prof was noted as a somewhat humourless character who could be rather prickly, but by this time he was pretty well pickled and put in a pretty respectable show of baton waving. Being British week we were treated as honoured guests and we were all dragged out to have our photograph taken with the Prof. He was worried to death for the rest of the project that we weree going to let a copy fall into the hands of his students.

It can be imagined what sort of state we were in the following morning for part two of our tour. When the time arrived for us to treat our hosts to lunch we took them to a restaurant we had been recommended on the fourth floor of a building which overlooked the Elbe. Our German guests were highly amused at the state we were in and knowing full well where we had been the night before. In fact as soon as they saw us one of them grinned and said “Reeperbahn ?”.

I had a most interesting conversation with the Prof sitting next to me. He pointed across the Elbe and showed me the location of the U Boat pens during the war. He went on to explain that the allies had advised the city fathers that they proposed to dynamite the U boat pens and the city fathers had objected on the grounds that it would cause the collapse of the important road tunnel which goes under the Elbe nearby.
Evidently the guy in charge of the occupying force, one Captain Dunlop then offered to stand in then centre of the tunnel during the explosion as a gesture of confidence that the tunnel would not collapse. “And so”, said the Prof. “The brave Captain Dunlop earned the respect of the city fathers by doing just that”. (and the tunnel didn’t collapse)
I’m bound to say that I would have regarded him as the rather foolish Captain Dunlop and wondered how we came to win the was !

Surprisingly after quite a few more meetings and visits to numerous colleges and Universities a new degree course in Automobile Body design was set up at the then Hatfield Polytechnic and ran successfully with the support of the motor industry for any years. In fact the now University of Hertfordshire runs several degree courses in automotive engineering and claims to have its graduates in most of the formula 1 teams. It would be nice to think that our little band had perhaps played some small part in this.
The only other interesting exercise that I got involved in during my very short stay there was the setting up of a training programme to convert engineering draughtsmen into automotive body design draughtsmen, something which had not been tried before. I signed up a car body draughtsman who was interested in the project and eventually we set it up and successfully retrained quite a few engineering draughtsmen. I had the excellent services at that time of a training officer who was a real “mister fixit”, he had worked for the company for many years and new everyone and everything. If Kev couldn’t do something then you could reckon it couldn’t be done. One afternoon just as we were equipping or new traing centre I happened to mention to Kev that it would be rather nice if had a cut away body of the latest car in the foyer. A few days later Kev wandered into my office and said “David, come and see what I’ve got. There in the foyer was a complete body of a Hillman Hunter, cut deatly in half right down the middle !
“Where the hell did you get that from Kev”., I asked. “It got accidentally damaged on the line a couple of nights ago so I got them to cut it up and respray it for me” said Ken with a knowing smile and a wink !

I did not stay with Chrysler for long as the place was a disorganized madhouse with quite an unpleasant undercurrent of politicking and backstabbing. Those were the days of massive union power and the slightest problem on the shop floor would result in a walk out. I recall a colleague who had the office next to mine who had been recruited at considerable expense from the British Aircraft Corporation. His brief was to set up and run a management development system (Glossy brochures were eventually produced but nothing ever actually happened !). He came back to the office one lunch time having been over to the Stoke engine plant. He had spotted a mass meeting going on outside the gares and had stood at the back and watched and listened. He reckoned that whilst the main speaker harangued the crowd it was easy to spot the professional agitatoirs who were facing away from the speaker, watching the crowd to see who voted for what !. The point that really stuck in my mind however was his comment that the speaker was explaining in some detail an apparently devious management plot to swindle the unfortunate work force. As my colleague pointed out “ There isn’t a manager in this plant with enough intelligence to have thought that out !

He was about right there. On one occasion during the regular wage negotiations the top shop steward of DATA (The Draughtsmen and Allied Technicians Association) who was an extremely militant firebrand had negotiated a pretty good increase for the draughtsmen. As soon as the agreement was signed he pointed out to management that all leading draughtsmen (about 20 or so) now had salaries which were above the level which entitled them to be on the official list for a management car. The Personnel Manager at the time pointed out to them that the dat before the agreement was signed the company had issued a notice advising staff that the level which qualified people to be on the list had been raised and that therefore the leading draughtsmen did not in fact qualify. The wily shop steward then pointed out that the award ahd been backdated (about a month I think it was) and that at the time the agreement became effective they had in fact qualified and that there was not in existence a mechanism for unqualifying them. So they were put on the list ! The most amusing thing was that at the same time a number of Chrysler Valiants had been imported from Australia for some reason and were surplus to requirements. They had therefore been put on the management car list at a greatly reduced rental. They were hulking great American style cars and quite a few of the draughtsmen chose them so the staff carpark sported quite a few of these beasts !

Quite a few of the management team had been rapidly imported from Ford and were mainly young, ruthless and unscrupulous and on more than one occasion I found that people who were smiling and complimenting you on a job you had completed for them, may well then go behind your back and complain about you if it suited their career objectives. Anyway after about 9 months there I was contacted by my former boss at Whetstone and invited to rejoin them as Chief of Personnel and Training. It was therefore with much pleasure that I wreaked my revenge.  I had learned some lessons from the boy racers from Ford including some schemes that were afoot to unseat the top man on the site (Head of Product Planning and Development, a pleasant man called Cyril Weighall). The week I left I called his secretary and advised her that I had some interesting information about some current scheming that he would probably want to hear. I had met him on several occasions to discuss the body design project and we got on well together. The effect was immediate ! He delayed his departure for Malta where he was due to attend the launch of what was to be the Avenger and we had a lengthy discussion. Cyril was delighted and when I left I took about half a dozen boy racers with me !
Despite the chaos it was an interesting place to work and I had some fascinating experiences there. On one occasion I had been asked to go to to meet the Head of Engine and Powertrain development, a charming man called Leo Kusmicki. Leo wanted me to set up some training progamme or another. As I sat chatting with him I noticed a rather splendid diecast ashtray with a beautiful model of the Vanwall Formual One car which had been raced by Stirling Moss. Being something of a Formula One fan I asked if he had been a Vanwall supporter. “You could say that” he replied, “I designed the engine.” Bit of a show stopper that !. I later looked him up and found the he was Pole who came over to England to fly for the free Polish Air Force and stayed on to work at Norton Motor Cycles. It was apparently only after he had worked there for a while that the company discovered that he hed been a leading expert on combustion engine design in Poland. He then went on to design the engine for the Manx Norton, which in turn formed the basis of the Vanwall engine. One of the training programmes I set up was an induction course for the intake of graduate engineers. One of the sessions was to be on automobile styling  and I persuaded Roy Axe who was then the Head of Styling to run the session for me. He started his talk by telling all these enthusiastic young engineers that engineering niceties did not sell cars but that styling did as most customers wanted to show off theit new acquisition to their non technical friends. To illustrate this poit he liked to tell the story of the Sunbeam Rapier which at that time was the companieds flagship car. It had been decide that a special version would be introduced with a Holbay tuned engine to provide more power and an embryo spoiler incorporated into the rear boot. This had been submitted to Chryser JHQ in Detroit who had made the comment that a couple of “Go fast stripes” shoul be placed arounf the bittom of the bodywork. The somewhat aloof reply from the UK design team was that the English public were a little moe sophisticated than that and were not going to be impressed by aflashy paintwork. Detroit’s reply was to insist that it was at leat offered as a no extra cost option. The compasnt never sold one car without the stripes. One nil to the stylists ! On the other hand when it was decided to present a courtesy car (for marketing purposes) to Princess Grace of Monaco the styling people decided that since it was to used in the south it waould be a good idea to cut off the roof and fit it with a “rag top” It was apparently only at the last minute before it was shipped that someone from body design pointed out that all the strength was in the roof and the first time her Royal Highness went over a large bump or hump backed bridge the car woul almos certainly fold in half! So the Princess never got her Rapier which remained in a small internal exhibition. And so .. after only 9 months my brief, glorious career in the Motor industry came to an end and it was back to Whetstone. Fortunately we had never moved so were still living in Newbold Verdon.

Policing in the 1950s

50 years ago this house, at 97 Church Street, used to be Wolverton’s Police Station. The front room was the reception/office, protected by a high counter. I am told that there was a lock-up cell in the back and a small court for inquests, although magistrate’s hearings were always at Stony Stratford.
The ranking officer was one Sergeant Gee who I believe had been there since before the war. It was a small detachment of perhaps two or three young constables who would regularly walk their beat around town. What crime they uncovered I cannot imagine. Criminal activity in Wolverton in those days amounted to stealing a few shillings from the gas meter, drunk and disorderly behaviour at weekends and possibly some domestic eruptions. When there was a real crime it was almost comic, like the time some desperado robbed Sigwarts, the jewellers on Stratford Road, and then legged it to the station hoping, apparently, to catch the next train and evade capture.
I know I will not be believed today but the crime rate was very low in those days. Property was respected and because everyone in the town knew one another there was very little you could get away with. People did not lock their doors unless they went away on holiday and even if they did, they would leave the key under the doormat.
In 1960 or thereabouts a new Police Station was built on the Stratford Road at the western edge of the town. Sergeant Gee retired and was replaced by an Inspector Wanstell with a larger detachment. The police now had cars, bobbies no longer walked the beat, and the motorist became a target for police activity.
My father bemoaned the fact that the ordinary citizen was now criminalized and thought that no good would come of it. I suspect he was right.

Working in the Cell Shop

I just came across this from the Living Archive. I expect that my father, who also worked in the Cell Shop, would have known Bill Scripps. My father never talked about his work so I grew up quite happily knowing only that my father went to work “in the works” every day. So it’s quite interesting to read these little insights and to note that workers handled dangerous chemicals on a daily basis without too many concerns for “health and safety”.

Bill Scripps – Memories of his time working at Wolverton Works

Bill Scripps
I, William David Alfred Scripps was born at Harold Bedfordshire on the 14th of December 1917. Lived at Odell for a short time moved to Chichley with my parents in the year 1921. My father was an all round farm worker. We moved to Lower Balney Farm, Castlethorpe, which was part of Mr. J.E. Whiting’s farm in April 1924. Later, in the year of 1931 we moved to Castlethorpe Mill, where I helped my father now and again to grind the corn with the water wheel.
I started working for Mr. J.E. Whiting at the age of 14 years as an all round farm worker. I worked for Mr. Whiting until 1955.
I joined The Local Defence Volunteers during the early part of the World War II. Later becoming a Corporal in Castlethorpe Home Guard.
In November 1955 I started working for British Rail Wolverton until I retired in December 1982 having completed 27½ years service. Just over 4,000 people were employed at British Rail Wolverton in 1955.
I started work at 7.30 and finished at 5.30p.m. One week’s wages after stoppages for a labourer was just over £10. My first job was working on a traverser as a scotcher stopping the carriages and wagons in and out of the shop. The scotcher was made of bound rope which we put in front of the wheels. There was 22 miles of railway track, and nine traversers situated between the shops, to move carriages and wagons in and out of the shops
My second job was as a labourer working with a skilled mate on the roofs of all the shops. Slating and making good all cracked and damaged slates and also general maintenance
The third job, was working in the sawmill with machines, helping to make signal and telegraph boxes for main lines. Office furniture, and tables ad chairs for waiting rooms and platform seats, also cleats for cables.
My forth job was treating water for the power house where they made steam for working steam hammers for the smithy and heating for the shops. Also all sewerage and drain work and cleaning all the guttering on the shops. Also cleaning the tanks that had contained caustic. Genklene was used in the fitting shop for cleaning metal and this had to be disposed of for safty reasons. Cyanide was used in the smithy for hardening metal. Caustic soda boshes were used in the lifting shop for clean bogies.
The asbestos houses involved removal of insulating asbestos which was once sprayed on the interior of stock. To remove all the asbestos water jets were sprayed over the stock and the water being collected in a water pit. The asbestos was then removed bagged up, collected by lorry, and taken to a safe location. Protective suits had to be worn with helmets with an airline pipe attachment.

The Bath House near the Stony Stratford road was used for cell shop workmen to have a bath or shower after work to remove dust that contained lead. Lead paste was put in the batteries that were located underneath the carriage to provide light inside the carriages

Women in Wolverton Works
There was a laundry worked by women, also about six ladies with small lorries and trailers used to collect all kinds of goods from the main stores and take them to any shop where they was needed.
There were two canteens, one large one and a small one located near the entry to the sawmill. From the small one, at about 9.30a.m., several ladies with trolleys carrying tea urns and food went to all the shops. At this time the men were allowed a short break.
List of Shops
Ambulance Room
Asbestos House x 2
Brass Foundry – Coppers where set in the ground – the brass was melted and then poured into moulds to make the brass fittings.
Buffing & Dipping Shop – olishing of brass door handles etc.
Building & Maintenance Shop
Bus & Road Vehicle Shop – There was a sawmill in the bus shop where they cut their own timber for the items they were building. They built lorries, containers, crossing gates, signal boxes, cable casing wheelbarrows, platform trucks, sack barrows etc.
Cell Shop – Where they made cells for the batteries.
Drawing Office
East Paint Shop
Electric Shop – Where they rewired dynamos, etc.
Fibre Glass Shop
Fire Station
Finishing Shop – Mainly woodwork and veneering.
Fitting Shop
Gas Shop -Repaired gas leaks in the factory.
Glass Cutting Shop
Hammer Shed – Where metal was cut to requirements.
Hair Room – Removing dust from seats and hair when being renewed.
Hardwood Stores
Iron Foundry – The same procedure as the Brass Foundry.
Joiners Shop – Where cabinet makers produced office furniture.
Laundry – Where they washed curtains that were in the carriages and bed lined from the sleeping carriages etc.
Leatherwork Room -Part of the trimming shop make and repair bags for the guards, doorstraps for carriages and in the time when horses were used saddlery.
Lifting Shop – Lift the vehicle to remove the bogies to do maintenance on the bogies.
Main Stores – several
Millwright Shop – Repaired machinery and sharpened circular saw blades.
Oil Stores
Pattern Makers Shop -Produced wooden patterns for both the steel and brass foundaries.
Plumbers Shop
Royal Train Shed
Sawmill Shop – The wood arrived at the shop where it was roughly cut at the first stage, then moved onto the next stage where it was cut out to the required shape from templates and also planed. Where need, mortice and tenons were done so that the wood was ready for asembly in other shops.
Sewing Room – Made curtains for coaches and sewed the seating for the coaches.
Smithy Shop – Made buffers, springs and did under carriage work
Steam Shop -Used for bending wooden roof bars for covered Goods Vans.
Steel Hardening Shop
Tinsmith Shop – Tea urns made of copper for the trollys that went round the shop. Lamps to go on the coaches front and rear, large oil cans that were be used for oiling up the trains.
Wagon Shop -Where the wagons were built. In the 1950s vans for transporting bananas were built there.
Welding Arcade
West Paint Shop
Wheel Shop

Junior School

This class photograph shows 4A in about March or April 1953. It was probably taken on a day for games as some of the boys are wearing their football kit. The picture was taken in the playground. Behind the group you can see the wall which once divided the Aylesbury Street school from the Infant School playground. The prefab building behind it was the school canteen which served memorable dinners of soggy scoops of mashed potatoes, reconstituted dried peas and tapoica pudding.
Back Row: Peter Bush, Kenneth Holloway, John Alsopp, Geoffrey Woodward, Francis Old, Bryan Dunleavy, John Williams.
Middle Row: Rosa Kingston, Margaret Skinner, Annette Turner, Dorothy Bennett, Marigold Craig, Margaret Woodard, Janet Haynes, Yvonne Hewitt, Kathleen Wood.
Front Row: David Wilmin, Anne Maskell, Diane Thomas, Elaine Hayfield, Miss Kemp, Rosemary Marshall, Dorothy Humphries, Celia Pascoe, Roger Norman.
Ground Row: Ronald Stones, Raymond Bear, Pamela Bellamy, John Dilley, Ian Hickson.
The Aylesbury Street school was then divided. The ground floor was taken up by the Secondary Modern School, then under the headship of Mr Lun. It was generally called the Senior School. In addition there were three outbuildings – a cookery classroom and girls toilets, a woodwork classroom and a boys toilet. the boys toilet has been demolished but the two classrooms remain. The divisions were gender based – boys took woodwork and girls did cookery (it was called Cookery; Domestic Science, Home Economics, Food Technology were terms yet to be developed.)
The Junior School, as it was then known, occupied the upper floor. The entrance was only through the back stairs and efforts were made to ensure that the older boys and girls did not mix with the younger ones. Starting and finishing times and breaks were different for each school.
There were two streams for each of the four years, so eight classes in all.