This story from almost 100 years ago shows us a very different world and one can’t help thinking that the parent and the child would get a very different hearing today. Of the three schools mentioned here, the Church of England school was at Stony Stratford on the High Street, the Council school was the building on the corner of the Wolverton Road and the Secondary School was the new County School on Moon Street. It is now Bushfield School. It was in those days a fee paying school.
One institution that was quickly established after the public house was the school, or more accurately schools, as there was provision for a Boys School, a Girls School and an Infant School. They were all house i the new building on Creed Street which also provided accommodation for the school master.
The first man they hired was a Scot called Archibald Laing. He was a teacher at Clewer in Berkshire and was brought to Wolverton for n annual salary of £100, accommodation and a supply of coal. On the strength of this he married an he and his wife produced four daughters. £100 Should add was a respectable income. The average worker in the works took home £50 a year and Laing’s colleagues, the Girl’s teacher was paid £40 a year and theInfants’ teacher only £30.
Laing ran the school with Victorian discipline for 13 years and then in 1853, after only 42 years of life he unexpectedly died. I don’t have details of the cause of death. But he had an afterlife of sorts because tales grew up about his haunting the old school house at night. Boys, with little else to do, would gather outside the school of a winter evening hoping to catch a fearful glimpse of this apparition.
One night, around 1860, a group of boys were hanging around outside the school speculating on the possible appearance of the ghost when one boy asserted that there were no such things a ghosts. Naturally this claim was met with derision and he was challenged to the point where he said he would go into the school if necessary and prove them wrong.
This seemed to be the only way to resolve the argument and he broke a window and squeezed himself through the iron bars to get into the building. As he landed on the floor he gave out a cry of pin and the boys outside were all convinced that he had seen the ghost, but he assured them that it was alright. he had just cut his hand on a piece of broken lass. He then worked his way through the building but because it was dark he kept bumping into desks. The terrified boys outside were sure that he was wrestling with the ghost. However, this young lad kept his nerve and worked his way through the building, opening cupboards and doors and finally returned to his mates to tell them he had found nothing, not even a wisp of a ghost.
After this the ghost story never came up again, it having been, so to speak, laid to rest.
|A view of the schools c 1840|
In the first two years of “railway” Wolverton the new town grew rapidly. By 1840 the northern streets (Bury, Gas, Walker, Cooke and Garnett Streets) are fully inhabited and work had started on Creed Street, Ledsam Street and Glyn Square. A school was now a necessity so in 1840 the London and Birmingham Railway Company put up the money for construction and the school was built in 1840 on Radcliffe Trust land on the west side of the new Creed Street.
|The school as it may have appeared in 1840|
There were essentially three wings to the building illustrated here. As far as I can gather from contemporary reports the northern section housed the girls and infants schools, the central section accommodated the boys and the southern part was housing for the schoolmaster and his family. The first schoolmaster, Archibald Laing, was paid £100 a year. This was not a bad salary for the times. The average worker in the works earned half that, although some clerks on the railway could earn as much or more. The girls teacher was paid £40 a year and the Infants teacher paid a measly £30 a year. Women still had a long way to go to achieve pay equality.
The school went through some expansion over the century as the town population grew. You can see from this mid-20th century photograph, that the school had sprouted a number of additions.
|This photo shows the buildings when they were used as a Market Hall|
In the early 1890s the “Tank House” at the end of Ledsam Street was converted from public baths and a water pump house into a residence for the schoolmaster. The former schoolhouse was reclaimed for classroom space.
But before long even that was inadequate. Wolverton was undergoing a rapid expansion in the 1890s. Cambridge Street, Windsor Street, Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street all date from this period. So it was resolved to build a new school. Accordingly, again on the western edge of town, a new Boys School was opened in 1896 beside Church Street. The Girls and Infants continued to use the old school on Church Street.
A decade later, a new two storey school opened on Aylesbury Street for the Girls and Infants and the original school was abandoned. It is not known if there was any intended use for it, but in that same year there was a fire at the old Market House beside Glyn Square and it was decided that the Friday Market should occupy the original school.
And so it came about that the building that many of us remember as the Market Hall came into being and every Friday for almost three quarters of a century these buildings bustled with activity until 1980 when the new Agora opened and all such activity was transferred there.
|The market now abandoned,|
The building remained empty for a while and became vulnerable to damage and fire but a decision was then taken, probably by the council, to renovate and adapt the building. The northern wing and the walls were pulled down. The rest of the buildings were modernised and converted to offices. A travel agent occupied the central wing (the old Boys School) and another company occupied the rest of the building. In the first decade of this century the council reclaimed the building for its own purpose. The Library was moved from Church Street and the remaining buildings were converted to meeting rooms.
|The present day appearance. The white painted section is the original Boys School|
This is now the oldest surviving building in Wolverton. Somebody should put a plaque on the wall.
I don’t think it ever occured to me as I was sitting at my school desk trying to take care that my dip pen didn’t leave a blot in my exercise book that I would ever live to enjoy a pint in later life in my old classroom. In Stony Stratford this could have happened and in a curious way the history of pubs and schools is intertwined.
As I have described in another post the old Rose and Crown on the High Street was bequeathed by its owner Michael Hipwell in 1610 to found a school. The inn continued to operate to raise sufficient money for the next 99 years and then was converted into a school. In the 19th century this was taken over by the National School movement and a school operated on this site and adjacent to it until the 20th century.
In the meantime the expansion of Wolverton works led to new building in Stony Stratford and the so-called Wolverton End developed. This enlargement of the Holy Trinity parish necessitated the building of a new church (St Mary’s) and in due course another school. This was opened in 1873 on the corner of the Wolverton and London Road and was designed by the distinguished architect, Edward Swinfen Harris.
For part of the 20th century these two schools operated in tandem, with the boys in the High Street and the Girls and Infants at the London Road School. Then in 1936 a new co-educational school was built on King George Crescent and the old schools were redundant.
Fortunately there was a ready tenant for the Swinfen Harris school. The old Plough Inn had been in business next door for many years and the new premises were attractive to them. I imagine the conversion was not too costly and there was probably already a cellar in the school building.
Thus it came to pass that that the building designed by Swinfen Harris was a school for about 60 years and has been a pub for the last 80 – and possibly will continue in that line of business. The bell tower betrays its former use as a school but nowadays I suspect very few people have any inkling of its original purpose.
The history of schools in Stony Stratford is much longer and more complicated than that of Wolverton, although it is interesting to note that they were all built on the Wolverton Manor, that is on the east side of the Watling Street.
Schools only emerged where there was a population centre, so there was no demand in the scattered village of Wolverton, which had in any case become depopulated by the land enclosures of the 16th century. In addition, there was no real recognition of the importance of schooling until the intellectual Humanist movement reached the shore of England in the early 16th century.
Stony Stratford’s first school (as far as we know) was founded by Michael Hipwell who set aside some of his land and property to found a Grammar School in his will of 1610. The Rose and Crown was to be let for a period of 99 years and at the end of this time the property was bequeathed to Trustees who were directed to use the capital and income to found a school:
“that the rents and profits may be applied to the maintenance of a schoolmaster from time to time for ever, to keep a Free Grammar School in the barn behind the said inn, which barn he appointed should be applied as the school house, and was then lately built by him, and a chimney, a loft, and a parlour on the one end thereof for the schoolmaster from time to time to dwell in, and the yard adjoining to the bam for the use of the schoolmaster for the time being : and he appointed that the said trustees should nominate the schoolmaster to hold the said free school from time to time as they should think good; and it is provided, that such scholars of the town, or any of the next town adjoining, as should be minded to learn either grammar, or to write, or to cypher, should be taught in the school, and be taught their principles in religion, or else the said gift to be void ; and that the trustees should remove the said schoolmaster, and put in another, if they should think good cause, or that the school master for the time being should not duly and orderly behave himself, and teach the scholars in the said school, as should be thought meet by the said trustees.”
One must assume that this school began to function as such after 1710.
By the 19th century the income from Michael Hipwell’s charity was insufficient for the operating costs of the school and the trustees decided to merge their interests with the new National School Society, which was a Church of England movement with access to state funds. This led to the foundation of St Giles School at Number 30 High Street, next door to the old Rose and Crown in the first decade of the 19th century. The school reigned supreme in Stony Stratford (apart from private schools which I will discuss in another post) for about 30 years to the increasing discontent of non-conformists.
The non-conformists were not entirely without support. There was a counter movement in the 19th Century to provide a school curriculum for Non-conformists and almost parallel with the National Schools another sort of school, with more-or-less the same funding arrangements, came into being as British Schools, sometimes known as “Lancastrian Schools” after their founder Joseph Lancaster. While these schools began to make their appearance in England after 1819, the first British School to come to Stony Stratford was built in 1844 at the very south end of the High Street at a cost of £750. You can still get a good view of it at the Corner of the High Street and the Wolverton Road. The curved corner is a nice thought and in more recent times this has been mirrored in a newer building on the opposite side of the street.
This school lasted for about 70 years and then was moved to a new building built by the Council on Russell Street in 1907. This building is still used as an Infants school. The old British School continued in use as a public hall.
In 1858 St Giles school was partly rebuilt and enlarged in the grounds at the back of the Rose and Crown properties at the instigation of the Reverend W T Sankey who spent his private income very liberally in Stony Stratford. And again in 1867, the generosity of another vicar, this time the Rev. William Pitt Trevelyan, at that time Vicar of Holy Trinity, built another school on the corner of the London Road. This one, designed by the architect Edwin Swinfen Harris, is now the Plough Inn, which you can see in the above photograph.
This school was another church school, designed for the expanding population at the “Wolverton End” which in time formed a new parish, known as Wolverton St Mary’s. At first it served Boys Girls and Infants, but in the 20th century there was some rationalisation with St Giles on the High Street – St Giles took the boys and the newer school was used for Girls and Infants only.
In 1936 a new school opened on King George’s Crescent, and the old schools closed and were converted to private use. The school designed by Swinfen Harris was occupied by The Plough Inn, which for many years had conducted its trade in a building next door. There is a certain symmetry in this. The Rose and Crown became a school and the school on the corner of the London Road became a pub!
Thanks to Andrew Lambert for this idea. I am going to go on a tour of the listed buildings in the area. I’ll start with Wolverton, then do Old Wolverton, Stony Stratford and New Bradwell.
I can’t help but comment on the arbitrary nature of the listing process. The original Engine Shed did not get listed and was consequently flattened to make a Tesco car park, but the Triangle Building, started in 1845 and much enlarged and adapted over the years, makes the list. The school of 1840 is not listed, nor is the Royal Engineer of 1841. Why is the Aylesbury Street School of 1906 listed and not the Moon Street School of 1908?
The information below is presented as links to the British Heritage site. The information is under crown copyright and cannot be reproduced here. Just as well perhaps, since there are a number of instances where the descriptions are factually wrong.
The farm house, built I understand, by the very young Charles Aveline is now occupied by the Milton Keynes Museum and can be visited during opening hours.
I haven’t got much idea of what this is. I assume from the description that it was a garden structure in the grounds of the Vicarage.
The girls and infants continued to use the 1840 school on Creed Street until 1906 when this was built. At the time it was Wolverton’s grandest school until the Secondary School opened at the end of Moon street in 1908. The Creed Street School did service as a Market Hall until the Agora was opened.
|First Form Wolverton Junior School 1952|
Another photo from Ian Turner. Here are some names supplied from Alan Cosford’s memory:
Front Row: Christopher Bear, 1?, 2?, 3?, Richard Mynard
Second Row Seated: 4?, Christine Goodridge, 6?, 7?, 8?, Miss Faux, 9?, 10?, 11? 12?, Peggy Marshall
Third Row: 13?, 14?, 15?, 16?, 17? 18? Rita Walker, 19?, 20?, 21?, 22?, Glenda Frisby
Back Row: Alan Cosford, 23?, David Snowden, 24?, Ian Turner, John Bennett, 25?, 26?, Malcolm Goodridge, 27?, Christopher Bull
Names-to-faces are welcome.
Ten years after the new Boys’ School the Board of Governors opened a new school on Aylesbury Street. The whole block between Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Windsor Street and Jersey Road was now occupied by the two schools. The Radcliffe Trust also decided at this time to develop new streets for Wolverton. Within a few years the schools were now surrounded by houses.
The new school was a two storey building with two entrances, one marked Girls and the other marked Infants. In 1949 this designation puzzled me, but I’ll come back to that later.
The school appears to have been built with expansion in mind. The rooms were large enough for 40 pupils, (although judging from the 1908 photo I referenced two days ago, they may have held more. There are 51 girls in that picture.).
When I went to the school in 1949, it had been adapted to two schools. The Junior School was upstairs and the Secondary Modern (colloquially known as the Senior School downstairs. The upper floor had four years with A and B streams, and could therefore accommodate 8 classes. The same was true downstairs. The Secondary School also had 8 classes in 4 years. By this time an outbuilding had been constructed as a Cookery classroom. This building is still there adjoining a toilet block, which back then was used by girls only. There was also a wall dividing the Aylesbury Street School from the Church Street School. That has since been demolished.
As I recall, school times were arranged to minimize contact between senior and junior pupils and break times were staggered. The lower playground was shared between the Infants and the Boys. The Senior girls used the upper playground on the east side and the Junior School used the playground on the west side, and their entrance was through the Jersey Road back alley.
As you can see from the photographs, wrought iron railings surrounded the schools.
When I attended these school in the late forties and early fifties all Wolverton schools had just become co-educational – that is boys and girls were taught together in the same classroom. I had no appreciation of this revolution at the time because as a child I just accepted everything as if it had always been this way.
I should also mention that after the war two pre-fab buildings were erected on the site. They were both single storey concrete slab buildings with metal window frames and a zinc corrugated roof. they were, I think, just bolted together. It was a fast post-war solution to building and there were even houses (such as on the Bradville estate) that were built in this way. One of these buildings was placed in the eastern upper playground and became a Nursery School. It had two rooms with a central staff room. I suppose this must have been a new educational experiment at the time and my cohort may have been one of the first years to use it and were thus exposed to school at the tender age of four. I don’t remember much. We did things with wooden building blocks in the morning, had lunch and then slept on folding canvas “camp beds” in the afternoon. I imagine our school day was over by 3 o’clock.
The second pre-fab was erected on the Jersey Road side at the top of the lower playground and this became the school canteen where school dinners were administered.
The school on Creed Street was gradually outgrown by the population and in 1896 a new school, also built by the L&NWR, was erected on Church Street, the on the western edge of the town. Once again, there was a complex relationship with the Radcliffe Trust – the Radcliffe Trust leasing the land and the L&NWR taking responsibility for the building.
For the education of the children of the Company’s servants, a school-house, which we had much pleasure in visiting, has been constructed on an healthy eminence, surrounded by a small court and garden. In the centre there is a room for girls, who, from nine till five, are instructed by a governess in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, and needlework. Engaged at these occupations we counted fifty-five clean, healthy faces. In the east wing we found about ninety fine, stout, athletic boys, of various ages, employed in the studies above mentioned (excepting the last), and learning, moreover, mathematics and drawing. One boy we saw solving a quadratic equation—another was engaged with Euclid—others with studying land-surveying, levelling, trigonometry, and one had reached conic sections.
At the western extremity of the building, on entering the infant-school, which is under the superintendence of an intelligent looking young person of about nineteen years of age, we were struck by the regular segments in which the little creatures were standing in groups around a tiny monitor occupying the centre of each chord. We soon, however, detected that this regularity of their attitudes was caused by the insertion in the floor of various chords of hoop iron, the outer rims of which they all touched with their toes. A finer set of little children we have seldom beheld ; but what particularly attracted our attention was three rows of beautiful babies sitting as solemn as judges on three steps one above another, the lowest being a step higher than the floor of the room. They were learning the first hard lesson of this world—namely, to sit still; and certainly the occupation seemed to be particularly well adapted to their outlines ; indeed their pinafores were so round, and their cheeks so red, that altogether they resembled three rows of white dumplings, with a rosy-faced apple on each. The picture was most interesting; and we studied their cheerful features until we almost fancied that we could analyze and distinguish which were little fire-flies—which small stokers—tiny pokers—infant artificers, &c.