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

More Church Street Shops – 1950s

In the 1950s and before the war Number 48 was “Swains” a sports equipment shop. As a gameing shop now it is more-or-less in the same tradition. The right hand window usually displayed footballs, tennis rackets and cricket bats; the left hand window had luggage on display.

Footballs in those times were made of leather panels and had an inflatable rubber bladder. When the bladder had been pumped up the nozzle was secured with string or elastic bands and then tucked into the leather casing. The opening was then laced up tight. On wet days the ball soaked up a lot of water and were hard to kick and impossible to head. Football boots were made of hard leather with leather studs nailed into the sole. As the boots wore down the nails would often come through the sole and cause discomfort to the foot.
Swains also sold indoor games such as chess sets and cribbage boards.
The owner of the shop was a Mr Willcox.
The frontage appears to be original although I am not sure about the doors. From memory, the entrance was a single door set into the porch.
Swain’s business claimed to have started in 1898, but not, I think, at this address.
The bookshop next door at Number 50 used to be the Wolverton Mutual Society Coal Merchants.


Number 54 was variously Sykes the tailor and Greys, Gentleman’s Outfitters. Number 56 was a Ladies Milliner’s shop run by a Mrs Wilson.

The Estate Agent shown here used to be Lawson and Son in the 1950s. The shop sold tableware, toys and stationery. Stuart Lawson, the father was the principal; his son Barry was probably in his early 20s in the mid-50s. Stuart Lawson was a keen amateur photographer and an active member of the Wolverton Photographic Society.

The Co-op built Wolverton’s only department store here in the 1930s. they must have taken down three houses in order to do so. Within this store sold furniture and drapery, and they may have had other departments. I don’t think I ever had occasion to go inside. Maisies, the present occupants, used to occupy 54-6 Church Street. I don’t know when they took over the Co-op store.

This block has been completely rebuilt. or refaced. judging by the type of brick used, this must have occurred at the time that the Agora was constructed.
The corner building was for a long time the office of the Wolverton Building Society. Transactions were relatively uncomplicated in those days. You saved money with the society, usually weekly. When you had sufficient money for a deposit you could apply for a mortgage. Most of Wolverton’s citizenry were owner-occupiers in those days and the Building Society was therefore a key institution. Later it became part of the Northampton Building Society and subsequently the Anglia Building Society. Now it is a small cog in the Nationwide group.
The back yard, on the Radcliffe Street side was filled with a creosoted wooden structure called The Marler Hall. This was a meeting hall for the Wolverton Conservative Party who also, for a time, maintained an office above the Building Society.
I think the house at 46 was a private residence.

Church Street Shops

On the north side of Church Street, between the Wesleyan Chapel and The Victoria hotel stood a parade of shops and commercial services.

At Number 6, The “Brighton” Bakery run at the time by Cyril East. Next door at No: 8 AG Leigh a Chemist. I think there had been a chemist here since the 19th century. These two old 3 storey terraced buildings still survive.

I can’t remember who was at Number 10, but at Number 12 Ken east and his wife ran the Central Cafe together with a banquet catering business. These two buildings are now demolished.
After the GPO and the Empire there was a Gentleman’s Outfitter, Chowns. Mr Chown also supplied boy’s school uniforms for the Grammar School. Next door at Number 28, a jewellers, as indeed it is today. In the 50s the proprietor was W.S. Hawkins.

 Number 30 was called “Donnies” in the 1960s – a sweet shop. Before that I do not know what it was called. I am not sue at this atge about no 32.
At Number 34 a grocer – Ellerys in the 1950s and earlier and subsequently a food or convenience store of some sort. Next door a confectioner Pollard.
Next door to the Vic was a watchmaker and jeweller, T F Taylor

The Postal Service

Back in the 50s the Postal Service was the cheapest form of long distance communication. Telephones were expensive and uncommon – a few minutes telephone conversation might cost four times the cost of sending a letter. Nowadays those relative costs  have been reversed.
The General Post Office, built in the 1930s, has changed little externally. The main entrance led to a public area on the left with counter stations where one could buy stamps, postal orders, pay for parcels etc. The rest of the building was given over to a sorting office and administrative offices. I think there was a public call box inside the front door.
Until the creation of British Telecom the Post Office had charge of the telephone service. The telephone exchange may have been located here. I am not sure.
Telephones were rare in the 1950s. A few residences had them and people who provided services like doctors and plumbers. Not many retail businesses had a telephone. I don’t suppose they saw the point. Shops were open during strictly enforced opening hours. Shoppers bought from the stock you had on hand. It would not have occurred to anyone to phone up and ask if they had such and such in stock and what was the price.
To give some idea of the general scarcity of telephones, Wolverton was in the Bedford Telephone Directory which was about 1cm thick in 1955 and covered Bedfordshire, North Bucks and North Hertfordshire. Public call boxes were also rare. Apart from the one at the General Post Office, I can only remember one other – at the works entrance by the Station. There may also have been another by Anson Road. Even if they wanted to use a phone Wolverton residents would have had to walk a long way  for a call box.
There were still two daily postal deliveries in the early 50s. There was never as much in the “second post” as in the first one in the morning. At Christmas time delveries were constant. 
Our postman was a man called Charlie Phillips whom we children regarded as rather strange. He used to call across the street to us phrases like “Ows yer mother off for soap?” To which there could be no reply because we did not understand what he meant – possibly something to do with rationing.  He was regarded as quite harmless.

Reconstructing Church Street

After the demolition of the “Little Streets” Church Street remained one of Wolverton’s oldest streets, but a decade or so later a good section of Church Street itself met the wrecker’s ball.

The Agora, a covered shopping centre, took up a complete block of Church Street and Buckingham Street and closed off Radcliffe Street into the bargain. The section of Buckingham Street was almost entirely residential and the houses looked very much like those that remained. The only unique building to go wsa the Gas Board Showroom on the north west corner of Buckingham Street and Radcliffe Street.
The south side of Church Street was not as fully developed commercially as the north side and was a mixture of residential and commercial. Those that had developed shop fronts had large plate glass windows with the exception of Antees, Eady, the butcher and King the baker.
Starting from the back lane by the Science and Art Institute and the churchyard was the Sketchley Dye Works – so called but really a drop-off and collection point for laundry and dry cleaning. My father, in common with most other men of the period, wore detachable shirt collars. As far as I recall they were never washed at home with the rest of the laundry but were sent away for cleaning. They always came back stiff with starch. I assume Sketchley provided this service. This building was numbered 7.
Number 9 may have been a residence, but at Number 11, for a time, was E A Read, a fishmonger. Tilley’s, one of Wolverton’s coal merchants, had their office at Number 13. Winter heating depended entirely on coal in those days and coal, coke and anthracite was delivered to household cellars or bunkers in blackened hessian hundredweight sacks.
The Co-op occupied Number 15 but I am not sure in what capacity. At Number 17 the Northampton Chronicle and Echo maintained an office, presumably to pick up local news and sell photos and other services.
The Co-op Mens Outfitters could be found at 19.
Numbers 21,25, 29,31,37 were residential.
ET Ray, the Stony Stratford firm of solicitors, maintained a Wolverton office at Number 23.
WG Sellick, who also had a garage at New Bradwell, had a service garage at Number 27. I think access must have been from the back alley. because all I remember of the shop window is that it was used to store tyres. In later years, as people began to buy cars, Sellicks formed Wolverton Motors and had a purpose-built garage on the Stratford Road. 
Anstee’s. at Number 33, was a music shop. Here you could buy sheet music (still a business mainstay in the early 1950s, gramophone records, radios (they were still called wireless in the 50s) and record players. The mid-50s saw us begin to make the transition from the 78rpm disk to 45rpm EP (extended play) and 33rpm LP (Long Play). The two latter were manufactured using a vinyl compound which could bend and did not shatter easily. EPs were 7 inch diameter and used for pop singles. They had a punch-out centre for use in juke boxes. The other technology that came along with this was the diamond or sapphire stylus to replace the old steel needle. The LP catalogue in the mid-50s was mainly classical with some jazz and musical shows. The pop album had yet to be invented.
Next door the Co=op had one of their two Butcher’s shops; the other was at the top of Jersey Road.
On the corner of Church Street and Radcliffe Street, at Number 39, was Eady the butcher. The entrance was at the corner angle.
All of these shop had steps.
At Number 41, on the opposite corner was a bakery, run by Mr and Mrs King with the help of their sons and one employee called Alf. Mrs King ran the shop and wrapped the loaves in a single sheet of white tissue for the customers who queued each morning for fresh bread. Mr King would deliver bread to customers in a pony and trap, usually in the afternoon. Baking started in the very early hours of the morning.
Further on from Kings were two more shops, Strickland’s – a wool shop, and a men’s barber, owned in the early 50s by Farndon and subsequently by Garwood. These were numbered 45 and 47.

Church of St George the Martyr

This view of the church was not available from 1864 to 1970. It was hedged by the Science and Art Institute on the north side (this view), Creed Street on the east, Buckingham Street on the west and the Vicage grounds on the south side. Early drawings of the church were quite at odds with my personal experience in the 1940s and 50s. It was really difficult to step back far enough to get a good view. I suspect that there was a pathway to the church from Church Street in the 1850s, which would have given more credence to the naming of this street. As a boy in Wolverton it made no sense to me that the church was not on Church Street.

The most used entrance to the church was from Buckingham Street. Parishioners from the little streets would come through the lych gate on Creed Street and into the entrance on the north side.

Stratford Road – the West

To conclude our jaunt along the Stratford Road we can stop by the Craufurd Arms. It was built about 100 years ago. I see now it is for sale so it may be that yet another pub in Wolverton falls by the wayside.
Wolverton never had a plentiful supply of pubs – only the Engineers, the North Western, the Vic and the Craufurd. The Working Men’s Clubs, both the “Bottom” and the ‘Top” tended to thrive. In the early 50s Stony Stratford had over 20 pubs, Newport Pagnell, and even higher number, and even New Bradwell had more pubs than Wolverton. 

I am not sure why this state of affairs existed but it did mean that the pubs were always well attended.
The Craufurd had a lounge bar with its entrance on Windsor Street, a saloon bar which was the left side front room in the picture, and a public bar with its entrance on the right from Stratford Road. The Public Bar had an outside urinal, which seems to have been pulled down. I don’t remember a car park so there may have been gardens on the west side.
The Craufurd had facilities to host dances and meetings. In the 1950s, Wally Odell, a former Tottenham Hotspur player was the landlord.

The Palace cinema was still operating as such on the 1950s. There was an awning at the front which served as a bus shelter. The two front doors were emergency exit doors and were never used. There were certainly no steps outside. The entrance, and the box office kiosk was at the side of the building in the alleyway.
In general, as with the Empire, a film would last three days before the program changed. There was a matinee on wednesday afternoon (well attended by shop owners and workers) and another on Saturday. the cinema closed on Sunday
In the 1960s it became a Bingo Palace. Now even that does not appear to work. I am told that there is an organization which hopes to retsore it to its cinema function. Good luck!

The Stratford Road now becomes mainly residential. At the corner of Jersey Road, a sweet shop, run beore and after the war by William Bew. Some aspects of its original function remain although it is more of a general store than it was in Bew’s time. Next door at 81, Mr Pedley, ran his man’s hairdressing business.
Across Jersey road, Page’s Garage. It was said that Ron Page went bankrupt and the business was salvaged under his son’s name – hence it was called Michael page’s Garage. Ron then ran a driving school using a green Morris Minor.
The general appearance of the shop front has changed little. In the 1950s it was painted blue and there were two petrol pumps on the forecourt.

A W Gurney, “Monumental Masons” , occupied this site for many years. The front yard behind the wrought iron railings (which appear original, although in some disrepair) was full of gravestones on display.
Beyond this corner were a few more residential houses, probably built in late Edwardian times.

You can be a Dentist in Wolverton if your name begins with “W”

There were three dentists in Wolverton in the 1950s and by a curious coincidence that nobody could have planned, the surname of each began with “W”. Montague Watts had his surgery at No: 36 Stratford Road – it is still a dental practice. At numbers 57 and 58, side by side, were S R Warden and G N S Weller. Both had been there since before WWII began.

At number 56, now returned to residential use, was Griffiths Brothers, shoe retailers. They also had another shop in Stony Stratford. In the 1950s the business was run by Norman Cosford. I met him a few years ago at my Uncle’s funeral, still looking very fit.

Stratford Road III

The end of the long section from Radcliffe Street brings us to the back alley of Cambridge Street. Huse number 44, the white-painted one at the end was occupied in the 1950s by a Mrs Read who had a Ladies Hairdressing business at 11 the Square. At the back of this house was one of Wolverton’s two off-licences. It was a “hole in the wall” onto the back alley. There you rang the bell, waited for the hatch to open, and placed your order. It was a separate residence from No. 44 at the front and, interestingly, was an off-licence in 1901. This off licence went under the improbable name of the “Drum and Monkey”. There was no sign; this may been a local nickname.

The next group of four houses takes us to Cambridge Street. There are two gable-ended houses with double-fronted shops; in between numbers 46 and 47. In 1901, 45 and 47 were private houses; 46 was a drapery shop and 48 a grocer. Fifty years later Number 45 was occupied by Ewart Dale, with a double-fronted shop. 46 was private, 47 was Lloyds Bank and 48 was split between Williams ( a lingerie shop) and Jordans (a barber).
Ewart Dale was a dispensing chemist but the shop doubled as a very good photographic shop; trebled perhaps a his wife had a hair dressing salon in the back. In the age before the single lens reflex camera, Dales carried a good range of Rolleis, Zeiss and Voigtlander Cameras. He also carried standard Kodaks and a few Japanese imports. I bought a Petri rangefinder camera there; it was an affordable camera of reasonable quality. Dales came pretty close to being a specialty photographic shop and, as well as supplying film, offered enlargers and all darkroom processing materials and equipment. 
Lloyds Bak, whenever they arrived, must have built the brick facade that still shows in the photo, except that there was a doorway for 46 back in the 50s. The Unwins shop has completely changed its frontage.

Stratford Road Shops II

Number 30 Private residence

Number 31 Richardson and Grace – Grocery
Number 31 F W Stobie – Furniture

I can’t recall what was at Number 34 unless it was the Pram dealers I referred to earlier.
At the far left of the picture, at Number 36, Montague Watts, Dentist. It is still a dental surgery.
Number 37 was the medical practice of Dr Lawrence and others. It was largely a Stony Stratford based practice. Before the war the practice included Dr Habgood whose son became Archbishop of York.
Number 40, still a double-fronted shop, was Kellers – fruiterer and grocer.
Number 42, presntly an Estate Agent was occupied by A A Day – Ironmonger who also sold paint and wallpaper – an early entrant into the DIY market.
I cannot remember who occupied Number 43.