Class

Alfred Blott, the Station Master at Wolverton, got married at Willesden in 1843. He invited George Weight, incumbent at Wolverton to conduct the ceremony. Blott, a farmer’s son, styles himself as “gentleman” on the marriage certificate. Alfred Blott had arrived!

Class and status are sometimes difficult things to unravel. Wolverton was in many ways a more homogeneous community than most in that the bulk of its new population were working men and their families. They were much better paid than their agricultural counterparts, but for all that they were still what we would later recognize as “working class”. Wolverton then and subsequently had a large working class population and a small middle class. It had no upper class.

Those in middle class occupations had status within the community and this status can probably be measured by income.

In the late 1840s we can probably assess status from incomes:

J E McConnell     £850 pa. rising to £1200 pa.

Brabazon Stafford, Chief Accountant £350

 George Weight, Vicar of St. George’s £250

John Bedford, Superintendent of Police for the line, £250 

Various works Foremen between £150 and £300 

 Alfred Blott, Station Master £200

William Pousette, Clerk £200

Archibald Laing, Schoolmaster £100

 James Hibbert, Booking Clerk and second to Alfred Blott,  £100

Almost from the beginning the railway distinguished between weekly wage staff and salaried staff – the latter more likely to fall into a middle class status. Such status was not always a matter of income. An engine driver such as Barnabas Panter, who lived on Creed Street opposite the schoolmaster, probably earned as much, if not more than Laing, but he would not be accorded the same status. Engine Drivers were paid at a daily rate of 7/2d, which, if they worked 6 days a week could realize a weekly income of £2 3s. However, it was hard and dangerous work. Interestingly, Barnabas’s son William eventually bridged that divide. He started work as an apprentice, worked his way up to foreman and the assistant superintendent at Wolverton. He was promoted to salaried staff in 1877 at £250 p. a. and at this point moved into one of the villas. In 1885 he was appointed Superintendent for the Carriage Works of the London and South Western Railway at the new town of Eastleigh, moved into a nearby mansion, and became Eastleigh’s most prominent citizen. He started life in a working class household and ended it entrenched in the middle class. He even has a street named after him in Eastleigh.

The Inspector of policemen, Martin Deacon, earned £1 15s a week, or about £90, certainly equivalent or better than some salaried clerical staff, but as a weekly wage earner would find himself in a working class category Policeman who were quite numerous in the 1840s before the creation of signal boxes and remote switching of points, were paid 19s a week. The ticket collector at the station, William Hazelgrove, was paid £1 3s. a week and the foreman porter, £1 10s a week.

Wolverton was then, and remained, an unusual social mix. There were no “upper class” people living in Wolverton. There was a tiny middle-class and a large (even dominant) working class population of skilled artisans earning wages well above the agricultural median. There were virtually no poor people, other than those unfortunates who had been incapacitated by injury or widows.

There is an analysis of the social mix in 1851 here.

Social class in Wolverton

The general sense we had, growing up in Wolverton in the mid-century, was that no one was very rich and there were not many poor people around either. The railway works employed skilled artisans in large numbers and therefore the inhabitants of Wolverton, New Bradwell and Stony Stratford enjoyed a reasonable standard of living.

I have just found some statistics which support that view.
It offers us these facts:
In 1951 unemployment in Wolverton UD was 0.04%. The national average was 2.5%.
The percentage of men in Class 1 (professional) and Class 2 (managerial) was 10.5% in 1951. The national average was 17.5%.
The percentage of working men in Class 3 (skilled workers and clerical) was 68%. The national average was 50%.
The percentage of working men in Classes 4 and 5 (semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers) was 21%, against a national average of 30% in 1951.
So it is not surprising that Wolverton saw itself as a working class town – and indeed voted exclusively Labour for the local council after 1945 and generally Labour in the General Election. Sir Frank Markham, born in Stony Stratford, held on to the North Bucks seat for the Conservatives with a wafer thin majority for some years until the barnstorming arrival of Robert Maxwell. 
 Refer to: http://vision.edina.ac.uk/unit_page.jsp?u_id=10199359