Development along the Stratford Road

Although the new road had been in use since 1843, there was no development on the road until 1860 when new lots were made available for private development. The Royal Engineer stood where it still stands since it was erected in 1841 but the Radcliffe Trust had resisted any requests for residential expansion until 1859, which is why New Bradwell streets had been built some six years earlier. The plan below shows how the first lots were drawn up. In this post I will concentrate on the first ten lots on the Stratford Road.

Of the 10 lots that were available for development in 1860, 5 were built and inhabited by the time of the census in 1861. According to the plan here, Number 9. sold to Joseph Lepper a grocer on Gas Street, was perhaps the first to be built. The others were Lot 1 (now Nos. 6,7,8); Lot 2 (No.9); Lots 4 and 5 (Nos. 13 and 14).

Once development started, Wolverton began to look like this.

The first three buildings on the Stratford Road – the Royal Engineer (1841), Nos 6-7 and 9, built in 1860

The house on Lot 1 was built by Charles Aveline who had set up business as a cabinet maker on Bury Street in 1840. He also got the Post Office franchise and for many years this was Wolverton’s Post Office. It would appear that Number 8 was built in the 1890s to fill up the terrace.

6-7 Stratford road built in 1860 as a single house. 8 was added in the 1890s
At the same time Lot 2 was occupied by Abraham Culverhouse who ran a grocery from here.

9 Stratford Road, built in 1860.

The rather odd-looking Number 10 was built in the 1890s (hence the bay window) and blocked off street access to the North Western yard.

Two 3 storey houses built in 1860

The three storey buildings were initially large private houses (one was called Belvedere House) but they quickly adapted to a commercial function.

18-19 Stratford Road, built in 1860 as a grocery

The buildings now numbered 18 and 19 was built as a single dwelling as you can see by the design of the upper windows. I believe that the upper storey is still a single flat, but long ago the lower part was divided into two shop units.

During this first decade most of the front was filled in. The North Western Hotel was opened in 1864 on Lot Number 3 with space on either side, presumably for access for horses. However, before 1871 one of these spaces was filled by an attached property, now Number 12.

Built in 1864. Originally it had a central doorway with access to the yard on either side.

Lots 6, 7 and 8 were also built in this first decade. These are now numbered 15, 16 and 17.

15 and 16 Stratford Road, built in the 1860s

17 Stratford Road, built on Lot 8 in the 1860s

The corner lot, number 10, was first occupied by George Applin, who had a painting business. This corner house has accommodated many businesses over a century and a half.

20-21 Stratford Road. Although this operated separate businesses for well over a century, it was built in the 1860s as a single building.

The last phase of infilling happened in the 1890s when the lock-up shops were built between the Royal Engineer and the Aveline house; the house now numbered 8 was built, and the access to the North Western yard was blocked off.

Lock-up, flat-roofed shop units built in the 1890s

The shops at one time sported a rather fine looking balustrade. Only the posts remain but you can see its original appearance in the mid-century photograph below.

The Front looking west c. 1960s

The Beginning of the Stratford Road

The road we knew as the “Old” Wolverton Road followed a natural contour for a valley road, obviously avoiding the hill up to what became New Wolverton on its way to Newport Pagnell. The arrival of the railway changed this. Increased traffic from the Stony Stratford direction had to follow the old road and then negotiate a fairly steep incline for the last few hundred yards. So it then made sense to cut a new direct road which offered a longer and gentler slope to Stony Stratford. The approach from the east was unchanged.

A 1770 Map showing the pre-railway roads

The Turnpike Trust (roads were still managed in this way until the County Councils assumed responsibility later in the century) set about building the new road in 1843 and the old road was left to local management.  Curiously, when Queen Victoria visited Stowe over the Christmas season of 1844 she (or those managing the transport) chose not to take the new road and instead travelled by the old road. Some angry letters were posted to newspapers, one of which I reproduce here.

The Dangerous turn on the new road to the Wolverton Station

To the editor of the Northampton Mercury, Saturday 18th January 1845

Sir: Having been informed by some of the parishioners of Wolverton that the Old Road by Stonebridge House and Mr. Horwood’s, in the said parish, has been given up by the Trustees of the Newport and Buckingham Road as a Turnpike, in consequence of the so-called new and improved one going over the railroad, and by the Royal Engineer Inn; will some one of your correspondents do me the favour to inform me if such is the case?

If so, was it by the wish of the said Trustees, or at the suggestion of some kind friend anxious for the safety of our beloved Queen, that she took the Old Road, rather than hazard her personal safety by venturing that most dangerous turn over the railroad through part of New Wolverton on her journey from the station by Stony Stratford to Stowe; thus leaving a Turnpike Road and going into a private one.

I am Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


Some explanation may be required here. The railway station at the time was on the south side of the Stratford Road and could be reached by an approach road on the eastern side. There was already a canal bridge, possibly lower than the present bridge, and a road bridge over the rail line. The approach road was between the two. What the letter writer appears to be exercised about was the very sharp turn from the approach road to the rail bridge. Plainly this was believed to be a dangerous turn for carriages.

Nevertheless, the new road prevailed and tolls were collected at a bar just outside Stony Stratford. The other toll bar remained at the junction of the Bradwell and Newport Roads. I should mention that New Bradwell did not exist at this time. There was only a wharf up the hill by the canal, some cottages, The New Inn and the Windmill.

There was another fall out from the creation of the new pad. A decade earlier a new cast iron road marker had been placed on the Wolverton Road one mile from Stony Stratford.

It reads, as you can see, “Buckingham 9 and Newport 5” at the top and “Stratford 1” on both sides. Depending upon which direction you were travelling, the sign made perfect sense. You were in Wolverton (that is “Old Wolverton”) and you were either 1 mile from or 1 mile to Stratford. When it was moved across to the new road, fairly close to the Happy Morn, someone painted “Wolverton 1” on the Stratford facing side. This was again sensible. “New” Wolverton was now 1 mile away.
Why am I labouring this point? Well here is a small instance of history being re-written to fit a 20th century narrative. The British Heritage site which lists monuments asserts that an error was made in the casting in 1833 and the sign had to be painted over to correct it.

An error was made on the original mould and the right side bottom lettering should have read WOLVERTON 1. This was corrected by painting WOLVERTON below STRATFORD. The Milepost was restored and reset in its original location by the Milton Keynes Museum of Industry and Rural Life and the casting error was left without the corrective over-painting.

Not so. In 1833 the railway had not arrived, Wolverton was not 1 mile away, it was where the milepost was

There was to be no development along the Stratford Road for many years. The only building that stood on this road for many years was the Royal Engineer. Only in 1860 did the Radcliffe Trust allow development and the first houses date from this time. This development I will describe in the next post.

Wolverton’s First Builder – Charles Aveline

The title of this post is not true in any literal sense. Wolverton had builders going back to the middle ages and there were of course all the railway workshops and housing. However, these were built by outside contractors. Strictly speaking Charles Aveline was Wolverton’s first local builder.

Charles Aveline proves to be an interesting character, very much the entrepreneur, and at the very beginning of the New Wolverton was able to seize the business opportunities it offered. 

He was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1829, the son of a cabinet maker, George Aveline. He had an uncle Frederick established in the same line of work in Stony Stratford. His grandfather and uncle Samuel also were cabinet makers in Great Horwood. Young Charles therefore began his business with a set of skills, knowledge of the business and possibly some material support from his father. He also had an aunt who married into the Barter family who owned, amongst other things, the wharf at Old Wolverton. I don’t imagine he had much difficulty in accessing capital.

We are told that Charles Aveline built the new farmhouse at Stacey Hill in 1848. This is probably what brought him to Wolverton and one suspects that he got the nod rom the Radcliffe trustees  through the contacts of his uncle Frederick and the Barter family. It is astonishing that he was under 20 at the time and if this was his  first building project it was very adventurous. (See my footnote below.)

Stacey Hill Farm as it appears today

In the 1851 Census he shows up in two of the shop units on Bury Street, numbers 385 and 386,  as a cabinet maker, furniture dealer and undertaker.  Aveline was visiting relatives in London on the day of the 1851 Census so he does not show up in Wolverton on that date, but the trade directories of the period show him as very much a commercial presence in Wolverton. 

In the next decade there were no building opportunities in Wolverton. The land had been used up and the Radcliffe Trust were not minded to allow expansion. New Bradwell was built by outside contractors. So for a period Aveline’s building career was put on hold.

In 1860, when new lots were opened up on the Stratford Road and Church Street he was able to resume his building activities. He almost certainly built the first new house on the Stratford Road, now numbered 6, 7 and 8, which he inhabited. He also took on the job of  postmaster and I think the Post Office was managed by his wife and eldest daughter. The Post Office was at Number 6 and next door was leased to a grocer.  Wolverton’s Post Office remained at this location until the Aveline retired and it moved further west, next door to “Foster’s Corner.” The General Post Office was built on Church Street in the 1930s.

The First Houses built on the Stratford Road

I cannot directly attribute specific houses to Aveline but one suspects that a number of the houses along the Stratford Road and Church Street built in the 1860s and 1870s originated with him. In 1881 Aveline was employing 23 men according to the census entry, so his activities must have been quite extensive. His name also turns up as the maker of a number of monuments in St George’s churchyard. 

A View from the Radcliffe Street corner, c. 1910

There were two sons and two daughters born to his wife Ann. She died in the 1880s and Charles remarried. In or around 1890 he retired and moved to Bedford. His eldest son George became a land agent near Liverpool and his youngest son Charles Henry became a furniture dealer in Bishop’s Stortford. Charles senior died in 1914 at the age of 85 and left £9,692 0s 8d in his will – a significant sum for those days.

(A footnote to the building of Stacey Hill Farmhouse. I was told some years ago by Bill Griffiths, Director of the MK Museum, that the farm was built by Charles Aveline. I have seen no documentary evidence. I raise a question here because of the youth of Charles Aveline in 1848. While it is not improbable that he built it, it does suggest that he had not only mastered the skills of building at a precocious age, but also had made a powerful case to convince the Radcliffe Trust land agent that he could successfully do the job. I wonder, for example, if Aveline might have been responsible for later additions but not the original building.)

The Front around 1900

The Front at the beginning of the 20th Century

Here’s an interesting photograph from Julia Bennett’s family album, taken, I would estimate, in the first decade of the 20th century. The view shows the corner of Radcliffe Street and the Stratford Road, later known as Foster’s Corner after the Foster Brothers Clothing store that occupied the site.

In this picture the corner shop is the premises of William Hutchinson, a hairdresser and tobacconist. Next to him was a cycle shop, the sign above indicating the Hobart Cycle Company. By 1911 this was the Grafton Cycle Company, who later moved to the premises which still bears the name further down the street.

The shop next door, which is now two shops (as it has been for a long time) numbered 18 and 19 was mainly occupied by John Verney who was originally a shoemaker but was also the Postmaster. So from the 1880s onwards this was Wolverton’s Post Office, although it may also have accommodated some other businesses. The Post Office appears to have remained here until the new GPO was built on Church Street in the 1930s.

Next to the east at Number 17 was a Chemist, and had been thus from almost it’s first build in the 1860s.
The censuses and Trade Directories show:

  • George Atkinson
  • William Barton (from 1891)
  • Alfred Leeming (from 1911)
  • Walter Mackerness (from 1939)
In the 1950s the business was taken over by Escott, who then ran it until his retirement. The building showed remarkable continuity for its first century.
Number 16 showed a similar continuity, starting as a butcher with frederick Oxley, continuing through Harry Norman at the time this photo was taken and through to Canvins from about 1924 onwards.
Number 15 was originally a grocery, but from 1911 onwards was a shoe shop – Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
The three storey building next door, now numbered 13 and 14, was mainly a drapery, although the proprietor at this time was also described as a house furnisher. It’s not clear whether that meant soft furnishings or furniture, or both. Quite why the awning was thought necessary for this north facing shop front is not clear.
Sigwart’s, the watchmaker and jeweller, cannot be seen, but it was there, sandwiched between the two large buildings, one of which was, and still is, the North Western. After the closure of the Royal Engineer, which can be seen at the end of the block, the North western remains Wolverton’s oldest public house still practising its original trade.
There are a lot of people standing about in this picture. Most likely they are waiting for the tram which can be seen in the distance. There is a horse and cart but motor cars are completely missing.

The Arrival of the Motor Garage

It goes without saying that 19th century Wolverton did not have to consider the motor car, and it was only about 1930 that anyone began to pay attention. Even when I was a boy cars were very few in number but one or to people were beginning to convert their wash houses at the back into garages. Even so, it did not occur to town planners that there was any need to build space for cars. look at Stacey Avenue, Marina Drive and Gloucester Road for example – all built in the 1930s – and now the front gardens have been claimed for the car. Try to drive down any terraced street in Wolverton  and you will immediately understand why this town pre-dated the age of the motor car.

Nevertheless, some people were buying cars in the 1930s and they needed to be serviced – probably more frequently than they are today – and garages did emerge.

Charles Gabell at 27 Church Street. This had a conventional shop front but the service entrance was at the back.

27 Church Street on the left in the middle – Sellicks at this time in the 1950s.

William Applin at 53 Stratford Road. The service garage was in the back alley and utilised the old wash house.

R W Pitt at 83 Stratford Road. This was probably the longest lasting of the early service garages and is now a motor cycle dealership.

There were two petrol pumps along the Stratford Road – one at the Grafton Cycle Co and the other at 83 Stratford Road – later Pages. The Grafton pump had the hose on a swing arm so that it could be brought put over the pavement. Pages Garage had the traditional type of pumps on the forecourt. I am not sure about a petrol pump on Church Street. There may have been one but my memory is a bit fuzzy on this.

Stratford Road – late 1950s or early 1960s

The scarcity of cars on the road was quite normal and there was no need for yellow or even double yellow lines. There is one car beside the Grafton Cycle shop – possibly having just been filled.

1960s view down Stratford Road – Michael Page’s Garage by the Regent petrol sign

Petrol tanks were a lot smaller in those days so a few gallons would fill the tank.

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 8

Up to the end of the 20th Century all development was under the auspices of the LNWR. As we have seen from the start of the Stratford Road in 1860 the LNWR purchased the land from the Radcliffe Trust and opened up some of the building lots to private development, particularly along the Stratford Road and Church Street.

After the end of the 19th century the railway company backed away from its paternalistic control and the administration of the town was assumed increasingly by the local council. The Radcliffe Trust, on the advice of their secretary decided to develop the land themselves. From the western back lane of Windsor Street to Anson Road the Trust opened up new building lots to builders and home-owners. This was built in the first decade of the 20th century. In fact my grandparents, who married in 1908, moved into their new house at the western end of Church Street as it was being finished.

The Stratford Road and Church Street retained their names and were extended. The new streets took their names from Radcliffe Trustees: Viscount Peel, the Earl of Jersey, and Sir William Anson.

65 Stratford Road

The house and the attached yard was occupied by a builder, first Wilson & Martin, and later a member of the Gurney family, for the first period in its life.

67-68 Stratford Road

Number 68 was used as a dental surgery from 1911 to 1939.

69-70 Stratford Road

Number 70 was a solicitor’s office for about ten years from 1924-1935.

71-72 Stratford Road

These first six houses, built as a block in the same style reflect the newer styles of the early 20th century, with a sheltered porch and a squared bay window offering extra front room space. You can see these styles in Jersey and Anson Road.

73-74 Stratford Road

Number 74 has an interesting history in that it was the house an office of the owner of The English Novelty Company, Wooden Toy manufacturers. I believe the factory was on Church Street, on the site later occupied by the Empire Cinema.

75 Stratford Road

These next three revert to an earlier Victorian style, seen in the 1860 section of the Stratford Road.

76 Stratford Road

77-78 Stratford Road

79-80 Stratford Road

81 Stratford Road 

This was originally a house, probably with the same frontage as Number 80, but shows up as a shop in the 1911 directory. In 1924 Joseph Lennon operated as a hairdresser and was succeeded in 1931 by M G Pedley, who practiced his trade as a hairdresser here for well over 30 years. In recent years the shop has become part of the corner shop.

82 Stratford Road 

It’s interesting that this shop has maintained its identity for all this time. It appears in 1911 under the ownership of Alfred Kilpin, although he is simply described as a shopkeeper. In 1931 Eric Gordon is running a confectionary business here and was succeeded by William Bew in 1939. As I remember the shop from the 50s is was purely a sweet shop and one of the few shops allowed to open on Sunday. Obviously the present owners have continued this tradition.

83 Stratford Road

This corner shop began life as a milliner’s, although Mrs. Pitt’s husband acted as an insurance agent from here. It appears that the son, R W Pitt, first set up a garage here in 1931 and it went through a succession of owners – Samuel Lott, Ron Page, Michael Page. The business was in the servicing of cars and selling petrol. Now it is a motorcycle dealership.

84-85 Stratford Road

86-89 Stratford Road

90-91 Stratford Road

92-93 Stratford Road

94-95 Stratford Road

Number 94 was a shop from the beginning – a confectioner, lawrence Long. It went through various owners but essentially remained the same type of business for about 50 years.

96-97 Stratford Road

96-97 Stratford Road

These ornately presented buildings were once the home of  Gurney Brothers, Monumental Masons, and the yard, edged by wrought iron railings was filled with graveyard monuments. I think the business went through two or possibly three generations.

98-99 Stratford Road

100-101 Stratford Road=

In 101 houses we have been able to follow the development of Wolverton from 1841. In 1841 The Royal Engineer was the western outpost of the new town. In 1860 a largish tract of land was opened which extended Wolverton to the back alley of Cambridge Street. The next phase began in the 1890s and extended to Windsor Street. The last redbrick phase began in 1907 when the Radcliffe Trustees opened more land for development up to what is now 101 Stratford Road.
In very recent times the McCorquodale building has been converted to residential development and further houses have been built to the weds.

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 7

The Picture Palace

On Monday 18th December 1911, Barber’s Electric Picture Palace opened for business with a French silent film called Zigomar. I don’t know anything about the film but I am sure the first audience found it very exciting. In those days the films were very short, initially “one-reel” films and the “two reel films”. In between films, or changing reels, the Palace used to offer live variety acts. The pianist accompanying the films was Oliver Thorneycroft.

The Palace could seat up to 650 and in the days before television was a great success. Even in the 1950s I can remember the house being packed for Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley and the Comets, but shortly after that audiences fell sharply and the cinema closed on January  22nd 1961 – a fifty year life.

Since that time it has been a bingo hall, a dance hall, a night club and a church. The front used to have a canopy over the forecourt area. I don’t know when that disappeared.

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 6

The Craufurd Arms

The Craufurd Arms has a curious history. It was built by an organization known as The People’s Refreshment Association, founded by the Bishop of Chester and one Colonel Craufurd, after whom this house was named. The motivation behind the PRA was to encourage teetolalism but theey took a more enlightened and liberal approach. Rather than strict bans they built hotels such as this which would serve alcohol but also provide non-alcoholic beverages nd food. They hoped thereby to wean drinkers off their alcoholic habit.

Their original intention apparently was to built their house on Green lane, but this met with objections from the owner of the Victoria Hotel Tarry, who had designs of his own on a Green Lane site. Applications were made in 1903 and 1905 and both were unsuccessful. However a deal was struck whereby Tarry was allowed to go ahead with his Green Lane development and the PRA were given a licence for the new premises, now to be located on the Stratford Road. The licence was approved in 1906 and the Craufurd Arms opened in 1907.

So with the building of the Craufurd Arms Wolverton’s development moves into the 20th century. It was at this time that the Radcliffe Trust, bowing to the inevitable, decided to open up more land for development. This time, however, they decided to do the develoment themselves rather than sell the land to the railway company. Windsor Street marks the end of LNWR development of housing.

A block of land had already been taken at the back of Windsor Street for the Boys School in 1896 and the Girls School was added on Aylesbury Street in 1906. In the first decade of the 20th century Wolverton entered a new building phase.

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 5

Wolverton Working Mens’ Club

Working Men’s Clubs were a product of the industrial age. Most large towns and cities had founded clubs in the 19th century and it is no surprise that Wolverton and New Bradwell followed the trend.

The first Working Men’s Social Club was an adapted house at 72 Church Street, founded in 1872. Less than 30 years later the club was able to afford this imposing building on a new lot at the bottom of Cambridge Street. It opened in 1898. The style is quite ornate and continues with the next four houses which are also decorated with a mixture of stone and red tile. I imagine that the attic rooms, which are quite spacious, were originally designed to accommodate the club steward and his family. The club did expand into Number 50 in the 20th century as well as build extensions at the back.

50 and 51 Stratford Road
52 and 53 Stratford Road

These four houses are quite spacious. I know because my grandparents owned one of them. they followed the conventional terraced house plan of three rooms downstairs with a scullery and three bedrooms and a box room above the entrance hall with a bathroom and w. c. Except these terraces were so much wider and larger – perhaps only a few feet, but that made the difference. the entrance hall was wider, the rooms were a foot or two wider. And at the back of the scullery was a pantry, which was later converted into a bathroom. These houses also had a large wash house at the bottom of the garden. When the motor age came along these were converted into garages.

Mostly these houses were residential and most households had a domestic servant in the early years of the 20th century. I presume the servant lived in the attic room.

54 and 55 Stratford Road

The next four houses in this block are also spacious but less ornate in finish. Number 55 was occupied by Frederick Field, a boot and shoe maker who had moved from an earlier address on the Stratford Road an it remained a sho shop until Norman Cosford retired. (I think.)

It’s a pity about the frontage. While it was a shop window it was not out of place, but the bricking up of the window and the insertion of a window which is completely out of proportion rather destroys the appearance in my opinion. It would have looked better if the lower bay window and the porch had been retored.

56 and 57 Stratford Road

The final two houses in this block became dental surgeries for much of the 20th century. Sidney Warden had a practice at Number 56 from the early 1920s and next door George Weller established himself in 1911. Both men worked their until their retirement in the 1950s when the practice was sold on.

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 4

The house at Number 44 was at the outer limit of Wolverton for about 50 years and in the 1880s another house was built at the back which became an off licence, known as The Drum and Monkey.

The building of Cambridge Street, and later Windsor Street in the 1890s expanded Wolverton further to the west. These new terraced houses were more substantial than any of Wolverton’s existing stock of houses and all had bay windows and front gardens.

The first set of buildings filled the Stratford Road in between the Cambridge Street back lane and Cambridge Street. These were built as a block of four with two gable-ended “bookends”.

45 Stratford Road

It appears that Number 45 was initially a private residence, although a few years later it became a grocery and general store. In 1935 Ewart Dale ran a chemist’s shop on one side and his wife Wallace had here hairdressing business on the east side. Ewart Dale was also keen on photography and sold a good range of cameras and photograhic processing equipment. I don’t remember the doorway being quite so far set back in the 1950s, but perhps it was.

46 and 47 Stratford Road

Number 46 started off as a drapery with a tailor next door at Number 47. By 1915 the drapery, Fairburn and Heeley, had expanded to include the two shops. I imagine the side porch at Number 46  was replicated at 47, and it is likely that Number 46 started off with two sash windows rather than the single bay.

In 1930 Lloyds Bank moved from its premises on Church Street to this address. The new frontage was added at this time and the manager lived in the flat upstairs, accessible from the side door at Number 46. The building has now been converted into flats.

48 Stratford Road

This corner building started off as a grocer’s shop and within a few years became a butcher’s. It was in the hands of Green Brothers in 1911, and subsequently under the name of Leonard Green. In 1915, Leonard Green split the shop and let half of it to a hairdresser. Tom Jordan was there for well over 30 years.

In the 1930s, 48a (as it was known) changed hands with some frequency, being a confectioner, a tailor and a radio engineer. The two shops are now reunited as a wine merchant’s outlet.