Listed Buildings – Wolverton

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.

Area map of listed buildings

Blue Bridge

The Blue Bridge was a farm track from Stacey Hill Farm to the fields sloping down to Bradwell Brook.

Church of St George the Martyr

The building and history of the church has been covered in various posts.

Classroom at Wyvern First School

Former Railway Works Building

In 1845 the LBR used the land on the east side of the line to build a new shed. In time this expanded to fill the whole triangle area between the canal, the Stratford Road and the old railway line. It was henceforward known as the Triangle Building.

Reading Room

I rather think that it would take some serious archaeological work to identify which part of this building was the original Reading Room of 1840. Back then it was certainly a single storey structure and the road and canal bridge were lower. The openings for doors and windows do not resemble anything visible on the surviving planss from the 840s.

Former Royal Train Shed

Funny what the word “Royal” can do. This long shed and workshop was built in the 1880s when the main line was diverted and sat on the embankment above the Park. It was used in the 20th century to store the Royal Train when it was not in use, thus giving the building a significance which it might not otherwise have had.

Church Institute

Park Keeper’s lodge

This is the best photo I have at the moment, surrounded by boards, empty and awaiting some fate.

Methodist Church

Railway Bridge over Canal

The barn was built in the 1840s when the new farm house was built on top of the hill. (Formerly Stacey Farm had been closer to Bradwell Brook.) It was a large timbered structure and was given a Grade II listing. Unfortunately it burned down in a fire in 1996 so the preservation order didn’t help very much!

Stacey Hill Farm House

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.

Skew Bridge

Garden Pavilion

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.


Wyvern First School

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.

Wyvern Nursery

This was in 1896 the new Boys School and remained so until about 1946 when the Secondary Modern came into being. From that time on all the Wolverton schools were co-ed.

Parish Markers

I am grateful to Andy Baxter for pointing out to me the existence of these boundary markers. When he was a boy at Bushfield School he discovered a stone marker in the bushes on the eastern boundary of the school. He describes it thus from memory: ‘The stone took the appearance of a miniature headstone with, from memory, a date in the 1840s and some other markings such as “St G” and “No.2″.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Gleadell

He asked Ken Speaks, who was at that time a teacher at the school, and he did a little research to discover that there were at least three of them. Andy Baxter then found another on the Old Wolverton Road, near to the Arden Park light industrial units and was led to believe that a third was in the cellar of the house on the corner of Jersey Road and Stratford Road – possibly Number 82. He doesn’t say if any dates were associated with these markers, but the location suggest that they were later.

The original parish of Wolverton included the whole manor, from the east side of the Watling Street and bounded by the River Ouse to the north and Bradwell Brook to the east and south and this remained unaffected until the later middle ages when Stony Stratford was large enough to form two parishes – St Mary Magdalen on the east side and St Giles on the Calverton side. Holy Trinity continued to serve the extensive parish of Wolverton quite complacently until the arrival of the railway in 1838.

As I have described elsewhere, the original land purchase by the London and Birmingham Railway was quite small but in 1840 they purchased another 22 acres to the south of the Stratford Road.

As you can see from the plan here, Wolverton Station was quite small, being bounded by the canal to the north and east and a hedgerow bordering the west of Bury Street and including the Creed Street school. I did thin that the southern boundary was Green Lane, but Andy Baxter’s discovery of the marker a little further south suggests that the railway portion extended to that point. (They were later to build The Gables and the doctor’s house and surgery here.)
St. George’s was originally a chapelry and the first incumbent, George Weight, was styled Perpetual Curate. St George’s itself and the Vicarage was built on Radcliffe Trust land and the Radcliffe Trust retained a controlling interest for a number of years afterwards.
At about the time the church was completed the Church Commissioners, in recognition of the quite sizeable population, wished to create a new parish. Their first definition, that it would include all houses and buildings on the western side of the railway, met with opposition from the vicar of Holy Trinity, who foresaw that if Wolverton expanded further his parish would be gradually eaten away. In this he was supported by George Bramwell, Secretary to the Trust, who was already at odds with some of the directors of the railway company. Bramwell formulated a definition which was tied to a plan (such as the one above) and this was agreed to. The parish was thus created by Queen in Council on 19 May 1846.
It may be after this that the first marker discovered by Andy Baxter was installed.
The Radcliffe Trust then resisted further expansion and would not sell any land for housing development until 1860. In the meantime, the L&NWR were forced to develop New Bradwell in order to accommodate their workers. When the expansion did come, it went as far west as the back alley before Cambridge Street. Possibly, when the parish thus expanded, a marker was laid down here. Wolverton so remained until the next expansion of the 1890s which saw the development of Cambridge Street and Windsor Street.
At the turn of the century, the Radcliffe Trust itself, bowing finally to the inevitable, developed its own streets to the west of Windsor Street, including Jersey Road and Anson Road.
I don’t know the detail as yet, but it sounds to me from Andy Baxter’s description, that a new parish boundary was determined at Jersey Road. I do recall that Anson Road residents tended to use Holy Trinity and Jersey Road residents tended to split both ways – some went to Holy Trinity and some to St George’s. My grandparents, who lived at 179 Church Street, went to Holy Trinity for example.

Wolverton’s Ecclesiastical History – VIII St George the Martyr

The arrival of the railway in 1838 led to a rapid development of the new town at Wolverton Station where the population quickly outnumbered the inhabitants of the old manor and in a few years outstripped Stony Stratford. The old Wolverton Manor had only grown along the Stony Stratford strip. For the most part it had the same population as it had 1,000 years earlier.

The new a rapid influx of population in 1840 quickly led to a new church, and in time to a new parish.

I have already written several posts on St George’s which can be viewed here:

The need for new churches
The beginning
The consecration

The church was enlarged in the 1880s as the town expanded, and the westerley expansion of Wolverton in the early 20th century also swelled the congregation of Holy Trinity. Many households in Anson and Jersey Roads walked the half mile or so across the fields through Slated Row to the old church and there were those who preferred the older church to the newer St George’s.

The Consecration of St George the Martyr – A correction

Three days after the report in The Times, the following letter appeared from George Bramwell, solicitor to the Radcliffe Trust. The tone is mild enough but I suspect Mr Bramwell might have choked on his toast when he read the original article.

Consecration of Wolverton Church
To the Editor of The Times Saturday, Jun 1st 1844
Sir, On reading in your valuable journal of the 29th inst. An account of the consecration of the above church, I perceive there are some errors into which you have inadvertently fallen.
            It is stated that the Radcliffe trustees, the owners of the Wo;lverton estate, liberally gave the ground for the new church and parsonage, but, in truth, they have done a great deal more, or the church would never have been erected.
            The Radcliffe trustees have paid the entire expenses of the erection of the new church and parsonage, which will amoun to about £5,000; beyond this, they pay £100 a year to the minister of the church towards his stipend.
            The Birmingham Railway Company have, doubtless, given some assistance towards this good work, having, by subscription, raised £2,000, which has been appropriated for the endowment of the minister.
            I trust you will allow this explanation a place in your columns.
            I remain, Sir,
            Your most obedient servant.
            Solicitor to the Radcliffe Trustees.
Furnival’s Inn, May 30th, 1844
P.S. The patronage of the church is vested in the Radcliffe trustees.

I wonder if this was not a turning point in relations between the Radcliffe Trust and the Railway Company, because after this episode the Trust would not part with any more land for the development of New Wolverton. In the 1850s there was a strong demand for more housing but the Trustees would part with no more land and the L&NWR had to develop New Bradwell. It was not until 1860 that the Trust was willing to sell more land.

The Trustees had a perfect right to be peeved. They had taken a lead as early as 1841 in promoting a church, which they saw as their moral duty to the new population. They would provide the land and set up an endowment for the ministry. The Railway Company however was only prepared to put up £1,000 towards the church and parsonage and £50 a year towards the minister’s stipend. Matters were at an impasse, even though the Trustees had already hired George Weight as the incumbent. A temporary church had been established in the school, but with a growing population this was becoming less satisfactory. The Trust forced matters to a head by agreeing to contribute £2,000 towards the cost of building (estimated at £4,000) provided the Railway Company contributed an equal amount. Eventually the L&BR put up £1,000 and raised a further £1,000 by subscription.

The Railways were the new thing and indeed the future. The Radcliffe Trust represented conservation of the past. The Railways were in the ascendent; the Trust was in retrenchment. It is therefore easy to see how everything could be spun in favour of the railways.

However, the Trustees were now minded to stem growth and in the first instance achieved this by restricting parish boundaries. This letter from Bramwell to Henry Quartley, Vicar of Holy Trinity, illustrates his cast of mind at this time.

I believe every respectable resident in the Parish of Wolverton deeply regrets that this large station has been fixed in their immediate vicinity and would be averse that the Station should be again enlarged and the population doubled or nearly so . . . I trust that even in these days of railway omnip[otenmcewe shall be able to keep the railway company within their present boundaries and effectually oppose their acquiring more land at Wolverton. (20th March 1846)

George Bramwell remained as Secretary and Solicitor to the Trust until his retirement in 1880, so he did change his mind and bow to the prevailing winds. I suggest however, that the issue of the church had other consequences.

The Consecration of St George the Martyr, Wolverton

I am working through The Times archive for first hand reports of Wolverton activity. This will probably be my major source of material this month.

The following article was published on Wednesday, May 29th 1844. The actual event would have been Sunday, May 26th. The article tells us a lot about Wolverton and the role of the railway company and very little about the church or even the ceremony, which leads me to believe that the reporter got sall his information from a director or partisan official. It is heavily biased and in some instances wrong and I will deal with the Radcliffe Trust side of the story in the next post.

Here at any rate is The Times report:

Consecration of Wolverton Church
Wednesday May 29th 1844
The courtesy of the directors of the London and Birmingham Railway Company enabled us yesterday to be present at the consecration of the church which has just been erected at their station at Wolverton. Connected with the performance of this ceremony were some circumstances of more than ordinary interest, and we may therefore be excused for dwelling on it in some detail.
Many travellers upon the Birmingham Railway are not aware that there is anything more remarkable at Wolverton than its commodious and well-supplied refreshment room. This error is perfectly excusable, for until within a few years Wolverton was nothing more than a farm, the property, we believe, of the Radcliffe Trustees. A consequence of the railway, however, is the settlement of a colony upon this somewhat remote spot – a colony of engineers and mechanics all constantly and regularly employed by the Leviathan Company which gave birth to the town, and which has invested it with sufficient importance to entitle it a place upon the map of England. The circumstance under which the town was called into existence may be worth relating. When the Birmingham Company’s bill was first introduced to the notice of  Parliament it was proposed to establish a central station at Northampton, a town which,  from its own importance and its central position upon the contemplated line, appeared to be a most eligible position for the Company’s works. The shortsightedness of the Northampton people, all at that time engaged or interested in coach traffic, prevented the perfecting of the arrangements. After a vast deal of opposition, attended with great expense to all parties, they succeeded in forcing the Company to abandon their project, and select another spot on which to carry on their works. As there was no other town of sufficient importance eligibly situate on the route, the managers wisely sought a counterbalance for the disadvantage. They saw that if they lost some facilities by placing their station remote from a town, they would gain by the increased steadiness and regularity of their workpeople. Accordingly, Wolverton, a healthy spot, many miles from any place of public resort, was selected as a site for a large station, and there, as we said before, the Company have founded a colony of engineers, which is rapidly flourishing while Northampton is going to decay.
At the present time Wolverton is a neat, brick-built, clean little town of eight or ten streets, regularly and well laid out, containing houses of different classes, the smallest of which, however, are superior to the general run of mechanic’s dwellings in our large manufacturing towns. We saw Wolverton, no doubt under great advantage yesterday but there are at all times some unfailing tests of the character of a population, and the general cleanliness of the interiors, and the absence of beer shops, may, in this case, be regarded as two most favourable symptoms. The present population of the place is, we believe, 1,500. Of this number there are only a few families who are not employed by the Company. The houses, which have all been built by the Company, are let to their servants at a very moderate rental; and as a reward fot that description of labour in which the inhabitants are principally engaged is highly remunerative, it may safely be said that absolute poverty is unknown in Wolverton. The last sentence is true but I suspect the reporter was given a sanitized account of Wolverton. There was a beer shop at the far north end of the town and two pubs, one of which, The Radcliffe Arms, had a notorious reputation and was known locally as “Hell’s Kitchen.”
The works at Wolverton, which are so placed upon the line as almost entirely to conceal the town, are, as may be supposed, very extensive. It would occupy too much space to dilate upon this topic,but it may be incidentally mentioned that one of the engine houses is capable of containing 24 to 30 engines; that in the factory there is always one new locomotive in progress, whilst the number under repair is of course considerable. In this little place alone, we should assume that this company must spend in wages, &c., from £40,000 to £50,000 per annum.
Some time since the Company, regardful of the spiritual as well as of the temporal condition of those who are employed in carrying on the schemes of profit, erected a school in the town, which is conducted on excellent principles, and at which about 100 boys and girls are in daily attendance. No less mindful of the soul’s welfare of the elder than of the junior branches of their little community, the Company have now erected a church, with a parsonage house attached, upon a site liberally given them for the purpose by the trustees of the Radcliffe estate. The church itself is a plain building, in the Saxon style of architecture (actually Gothic), which has lately become popular. Perhaps it is not a particularly good specimen of its class, but its want of exterior attraction is compensated by its commodious interior fittings, which proivide accommodation for nearly 1,000 persons. All the seats, we rejoice to say, are free: there is not a single pew or reserved seat in the fabric.
The ceremony consecrating the building was performed by the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, the diocesan, in whom, we believe, the right of presentation to the church is to be vested. His Lordship was accompanied to the church by a large body of his clergy, and a number of gentlemen of the vicinity, and others interested in the work. Mr. T. B. Escourt, M.P.; Mr. George Carr Glyn, the Chairman of the London and Birmingham Company; and several of the most influential directors. The church was crowded in every part, and the entire congregation appeared to be most repectable. The Bishop preached an eloquent discourse from the 10th chapter of Isaiah and 47th verse, and took occasion in the course of his sermon to dwell upon the circumstances under which the church was erected; and to exhort those amongst his hearers who were engaged in solving the profundities of physical science not to neglect the study of the natural sciences which led to reflection upon the greatness of God and the comparative littleness of man.
After the ceremony a numerous company partook of a very elegant déjeúner, served in the large room of the station, the Chairman of the Board of Directors presiding.

Social Responsibility in the Victorian Age

By the time of the opening of the new recreation grounds in 1885 (Wolverton Park) the L&NWR had a good reputation as a benevolent, if paternalistic employer. It did not start out this way. The London and Birmingham Railway Company understandably concentrated their efforts on getting the railway enterprise working efficiently and profitably. The creation of a new town was a necessary by product and not one which was given a great deal of thought. Even before the first terraced cottages were built around the new engine shed concerns were expressed, not about the quality of the housing but whether these houses would interfere with the window light for the workshop. Those first cottages on Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street were very basic and by the 1850s it was difficult to rent them to working families. They were demolished.

The fact is that nobody really understood the relationship between the worker’s well-being and their productivity. The lessons were eventually learned but the initiative for social improvement did not start in the Boardroom.

These initiatives came mostly from the Radcliffe Trustees who were by and large well-to-do 18th century gentlemen who saw it as their duty to take care of the people living on the Manor. Later history has tended to overlook their role and attribute most of these improvements to the railway company. Even after St George’s was opened The Times attributed everything to the railway company and the Secretary to the Trust, George Bramwell, had to write a stiffly worded letter of correction.

The new town had grown very quickly. Once the workshop and houses had been built on the original 8 acre site the trust sold a further 13 1/2 acres to the south for more housing and the second railway station. Within the space of two years a town had appeared which was approaching the population of Stony Stratford. There were a few shops and a pub but no other amenities.

During the bargaining for the additional land George Carr Glyn, the Chairman of the L&BR agreed to build a school on the one acre that the Trust provided on the corner of Creed Street. It was given on a 99 year lease at a peppercorn rent.

The negotiations for the church proved to be more difficult. There was a church at Old Wolverton but it was not adequate for such a large population. In addition, Henry Quartley, the vicar, was hostile to the new railway people. The Trust was initially willing to provide 2 1/2 acres for a church, vicarage and burial ground and endow a stipend for the incumbent with the expectation that the railway company would cover the cost of construction. In June 1841 Glyn offered £1,000 towards the cost of construction with the assumption that the Radcliffe Trust would pay for everything else. There was no agreement on this and as a temporary measure Glyn agreed to convert one of the schoolrooms into a temporary chapel and pay £50 a year towards the minister’s stipend. The Trust put up £100 for this purpose and the Reverend George Weight was hired immediately.

Matters drifted. The Railway Company considered the issue resolved and paid no further attention. However, the Trustees were keen to push towards a permanent solution and they met on 11th June 1842 to try to resolve things. The strongly worded minute reproduced below fairly states the case from their point of view.

The Radcliffe Trust
Minute of the meeting of 11th Jun 1842
            The Trustees again directed their attention to the peculiarly distressing state of the large assemblage of persons who are attracted to the Wolverton Station by the extensive commercial operations of the London & Birming­ham Railway Company but are unhappily destitute of the means of receiv­ing adequate spiritual instruction in consequence of there not having been as yet provided any sufficient place of worship.
            This circumstance having led the Trustees to revert to the subject regard­ing the erection of a church or episcopal chapel and a minister’s residence, on a site contiguous to the railway, they feel it a duty incumbent upon them to make a renewed representation to the Directors of the Railway Company and to refer to the resolutions of the Trustees dated r8th June r 840, a copy of which were at that time transmitted to the Directors, by which the Trustees declared their willingness to provide a site for a chapel, for a Minister’s residence and for a burying ground, as well as a permanent endowment for a Minister, and moreover to defray hereafter the expense of repairing the chapel and Minister’s House.
            To this offer the Trustees added the expression of their hope that the costs of erecting the Chapel and a Minister’s House would be provided for by the London & Birmingham Railway Company out of their funds or by voluntary contributions.
            The Trustees observe with regret that little has yet been done to meet the wants of the 1,500 persons at present representing the population of the Station at Wolverton.
            It appears that since the meeting of the Trustees in June 1841 and in consequence of the Resolutions then entered into, the Revd. George Weight has been nominated and licensed by the Bishop of Lincoln as the Chaplain of the Station.
            That a School Room capable of holding 250 persons has been there fitted up as a temporary place for the performance of divine service, but it is found to be very inconvenient and quite inadequate for the purpose.
            It is manifest therefore to the Trustees that every effort ought to be made to remove the evil by providing a becoming and suitable place of worship to be effected by building a plain but substantial chapel capable of holding 600 persons with a burial ground attached thereto and a house for the residence of the Minister.
            The Trustees cannot but entertain the belief as well as hope that the Railway Company will participate in this sentiment and will feel that inde­pendently of religious considerations, it would be even in a merely secular point of view most advantageous that the population which have settled at the Station should have afforded to them the comforts of religious con­solation and the benefit of receiving such spiritual instruction as is deemed to be essential even in the smallest and least populous parishes.
            The Trustees have therefore determined to make a proposal to the Direc­tors of the Railway, the acceptance of which will enable them with greater confidence to apply to the Court of Chancery for permission to devote a proportion of their Trust Funds to the accomplishment of so great and necessary an object.
            The Trustees calculate that the sum of £4,000 will be sufficient to build the Chapel, the Minister’s House, and the wall surrounding the burying ground.
            In addition therefore to what the Trustees expressed their willingness to do towards the attainment of these purposes …. they now propose to appropriate £2,000 out of the Trust Funds towards a Building Fund, and earnestly invite the Railway Company out of their Corporate Funds or by private subscriptions to contribute a similar sum with the assurance that as soon as the Railway Company are prepared to lodge in the hands of a Banker £2,000 the Trustees will immediately make an application. 

Presented with this resolution the L&BR agreed to put up £2,000. This money was paid to the Trust and work began in 1843 on the new church and vicarage. It was completed in May 1844.

The other feature of this side of Wolverton’s early life was the construction of the Reading Room which also doubled as a chapel for the Wesleyans. This building was erected beside the canal at the Railway Company’s expense.

Within a few years of the birth of the new town there were three buildings dedicated to the social, moral and intellectual improvement of the new population. Notice, however, the absence of government. Early Victorian governments were happy to pass Acts of Parliament which gave assent to various enterprises but would have no part in the funding or management of them. Such amenities as Wolverton had came from the paternalistic benificence of two private organizations.

First days of the Science and Art Institute

This lithograph, which probably dates from 1865, shows the then new Science and Art Institute. As you can see the extension to the west, evident in the shell photos put up earlier, is a future development.
The buildings beyond are the Lodging House (from 1908 the site of the Church Institute) and the schools (part of which is now the library).

St Georges: The beginning

For the first few years C of E services were conducted in a wing of the school on Creed Street – now the Library. A bell was erected in the grounds to announce service times. In 1844 Wolverton Station finally got its own church (although not at that time a parish) and this edition of The Times reports on the consecration.
The Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1844; pg. 3; Issue 18622; col E
     Consecration Of Wolverton Church.
Category: News

Here is a contemporary engraving from 1845 showing the initial church building and the vicarage. There have been some later additions such as the vestry and the southern chapel.

Creed Street

Here is a view from Ledsam Street to St. Georges taken about 1967. This was probably the first time ever that you could get this view without it being blocked by the terraces of Ledsam and Creed Street.

The streets have been demolished and the new flats erected. There is still a lot of rubble lying around. You can see the sole surviving building on Creed Street – Billinghams Fish and Chip shop. You can also see the Science and Art Institute in the right of the picture. this too was demolished a few years later.

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.