Another Early Map of Wolverton

Sometimes little gems turn up in unlikely places. I found this plan, folded, in a box of Radcliffe Trust documents in the Bodleian Library
in Oxford. Let me explain why the plan was made and then I will comment on what it tells us.

The early inhabitants of Wolverton, having no back gardens, were given allotments. In the 1840s this was about the only way of organising your own vegetable supply, there being no greengrocers in Wolverton. The first allotments were laid out in the eastern field by the canal at some distance from the houses. However some of the Bury street residents, quickly realising that their back yards opened directly onto a field decided to help themselves. This is the field coloured in red on the plan. Some even kept pigs.

The farmer complained to his landlord, the Radcliffe Trust and the Trustees called in Mr John Driver to investigate and make a report, which he did on April 14th 1847. He did recommend selling more land to the LNWR for allotments, but his more sensational recommendation was to build a six foot hush brick wall around the railway property. This was to be built at the railway company’s expense and I suspect that it was never built.

What Mr Driver did leave behind is this interesting plan of Wolverton in 1847. The green coloured area was the extent of railway Wolverton at the time, although it may not be entirely up-to-date as the second Engine Shed, on the east side of the line was certainly started in 1845, and the Gas Works had also moved by this time. So there are some curious anomalies here. The Royal Engineer, for example, is outside Wolverton on Radcliffe Trust land. This is because it was a condition of sale to the railway company that no licences premises would be permitted on railway property. This also explains the location of the Radcliffe Arms in that field which later became Wolverton Park.

I have told the tale of the Radcliffe Arms before, where two enterprising Stony Stratford businessmen  took out a long lease on these four acres and rushed to complete their new hotel by 1839, next to the first railway station, only to learn the following year that the railway company had moved the station to a new location. The Radcliffe Arms was thus isolated from the town, and indeed travellers, but what this plan shows is that they finally had decided to build a new Radcliffe Arms beside the road. This is pretty much the spot where the third station was built n 1881.

We can also note from this map that the extension of Creed, Ledsam and Young Streets is about to start. Some rough pencil lines indicate the proposed terraces.

The new road to Stratford had been cut through in 1844 but the approach road to the station still comes from the west, as if carriages would come from the Od Wolverton Road. It seems that this was certainly the case when Queen Victoria arrived here to spend the Christmas of 1844 at Stowe. Instead of taking the new direct road she processed down to the old road and thence to Stony Stratford. I suppose the hairpin bend shown on this map caused some royal nervousness!

Little Streets Demolition

Parts of Young Street and Ledsam Street

Phillip Webb has sent me another photo of the last days of the Little Streets. The vantage point is from a balcony of one of the then new flats.

At the time of this photo much of the east side of Ledsam Street and Young Street has been taken down, leaving that short row on the west side of Ledsam Street. Demolition is just starting. You can also see the roofs of some of the Creed Street shops.

The Science and Art Institute stands proud in its former splendour.

Glyn Square

Glyn Square – 1950s

Here’s a unique photograph of part of Glyn Square. the square originally had houses on three sides. There were two terraces of 6 on the north and south side and a terrace of 20 on the west side – behind the photographer in this photo. 
The picture shows the south terrace. The north terrace was pulled down in the 1890s for works expansion and at about the same time these cottages were enlarged to allow for a third bedroom.
The photo was unearthed by Phillip Webb.

Who was Thomas Young?

Answer. I don’t know. Thomas Young was a director of the London & Birmingham Railway and also of the London and South Western Railway. He was a man with some money and he probably made a lot of money out of his investments.

Unfortunately there were (and still are) many Thomas Youngs and there were several well-to-do families named Young prospering in the 19th century. Any one of several could have produced our Thomas Young and he remains a shadowy figure.

Young Street, a single row of terraced houses was built in Wolverton in the 1840s and lasted 120 years until it was pulled down in the 1960s. There is now no trace of it, rather like the man it was named after.

The Little Streets – an Overview

The Little Streets was the name given to a group of Wolverton’s first streets which survived into the 20th century. It is likely that the term only originated after the 1890s when larger houses were built westward to Windsor Street.
The were four of them: Creed Street, Ledsam Street, Glyn Square and Young Street. The streets were built in the 1840s. Two aerial photographs here provide a good enough description. The top photo shows them at the centre-left edge, and the lower photo was taken from the new Gables Tower at the time of demolition.

The Little Streets

Hers is an interesting photo taken from the Gables Tower at the time the “Little Streets” were being demolished. It’s a valuable record because there are not many visual records surviving of this part of Wolverton.
These houses were built between 1840 and 1848 and represent the second phase of Wolverton’s development.  By late 19th and 20th century standards the houses were very small and this is probably why they were called the “little streets”, but by the standards of the 1840s they were considered good. The Creed Street terrace of 20 cottages and the equivalent side of Glyn Square were built with two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs with a lean-to scullery at the back. The scullery was usually used for washing and cleaning but in the 20th century they were usually fitted up with a gas cooker. In between these two terrace was the northern section of Ledsam Street, with smaller units that rented out for less money. The southern end of Ledsam Street and Young Street was built a few years later and were slightly better quality than the earlier ones.
I have overlaid this photo with the street names.
In the foreground you can see the roof of the “Tank House” being dismantled. This originally supported a water tank and from the mid 1850s housed the public baths. In the 1890s it was converted into a residence for the schoolmaster and new public baths were built on the Stratford Road.
On the right hand side, the house in the foreground was known in my days as “Stable Cottage”, I think. I may be wrong about this. To the right of the picture are the buildings from the second station and refreshment rooms. After 1881 it became a Goods Depot. This may still have been the case at the time of this photo.
In the distance you can see the works buildings – most of which have been pulled down for the Tesco car park and redeveloped as the Tesco Supermarket.
McConnell Drive follows the line of the railway, under the Stratford Road bridge, top right.

Garnet Street

Garnet Street was one of Wolverton Station’s first new streets. It was a short terrace of six cottages only, facing the railway line to the north of the locomotive works. The cottages, which were probably two up and two down, were numbered 342,343,344,345,346,and 347. Little is known about this row but it is reasonable to suppose that they were in no way different from the other cottages of the period. Brick built, with small windows and low ceilings, they were probably built cheaply and fast and provided adequate shelter for workers, but not, in those days, for their families. The railway line was complete for traffic in 1838 and the workers who came to this new town of Wolverton were young, single and transient.
The census of 1841 does not record street names or numbers so it is difficult to guess who the inhabitants were; however, the 1851 Census is more detailed. The comunity is now more settled and families are beginning to arrive. Unfortunately, Garnet Street, along with the neighbouring Cooke Street and Walker Street, were demolished in 1860 – some 40 houses. The houses lasted 20 years. In consequence there is only one snapshot of the people who lived in these houses – the 1851 Census.
At Number 342, probably at the end of terrace by the canal is Emmanuel and Susannah Eaton and their five children. Emmanuel was an Engine Driver and therefore on a good wage. He probably had no need to take in lodgers which was a feature of many of these residences. Josiah and Sarah Kingston lived next door. Josiah was a Bradford born mechanic and his wife was born in Manchester – an illustration of how mobile the railways and industrialization had made people. There are two teenage daughters at home working as dressmakers. possibly there had been older children who had left home. The third house was inhabited by the William Packing (at least that appears to be the name) family. He was Brighton born but his wife and children were born in Stony Startford so given the age of his eldest child – 10 – one can infer that Packing, a bricklayer, arrived during the first building boom.
Robert Alger and his wife and two small children lived at 345. he was a pointsman and presumably his work was to manually switch over the points. At this period railway jobs were emerging. The signalman, operating his levers in a strategically placed box had yet to develop. The men who were called policemen had signalling duties. Sometimes this included switching the points and walking the line, but they were the ones who took responsibility for siganlling with flags and clearing the line of stray humans and animals. The Alger family were in their twenties and took on two lodgers, both labourers. If the house had two bedrooms the lodgers I assume shared one room and the family the other. Again this family illustrate mid-century population movement. Robert Alger was born in Islington, his wife Charlotte in Portsmeouth. his first daughter in Lambeth and the second. only a year old in Wolverton.
A single family, William Quicly, an Engine Fitter, and hiswife and children lived next door. They hailed from Staffordshire.
        Samuel Dawes, who lived at the end of terrace was born in Gibraltar in 1818, possibly the son of a soldier stationed there after the Napoleonic war. His wife Mary was 12 years older. They had one 9 year old daughter who was born in Woolwich so one suspects that Dawes himself might have been a soldier, stationed at the Woolwich arsenal. He was now employed as an Engine Fitter. They also have two young lodgers in their twenties, both employed as Turners (Lathe operators).

Church Institute and Market Hall

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.