Early Wolverton House Numbering

From time to time I get asked by people researching their families from the 19th century census to explain the baffling system of numbering houses. In the Little Streets they will encounter house number such as 542, Glyn Square or 437 Creed Street. Sometimes the numbering on the Stratford Road seems bizarre.

The first railway houses were numbered according to an LNWR system which numbered all railway properties starting with Number 1 at Euston and working north. Wolverton numbers therefore started at 336 and ended at 612. These numbers encompassed all the 1840s housing known as the Little Streets. A precise plan of this system in Wolverton is published in my book The Lost Streets of Wolverton.

The convention of numbering odd houses on the left and even numbered houses on the right did not begin before the 20th century. Prior to that houses were numbered up one side and down the other. So, for example, Number 1 might be opposite Number 101.

The Stratford Road is relatively straightforward, EXCEPT that up to 1900 numbering started from the wets. The house on the corner of the Cambridge Street back alley (with the former Drum and Monkey at the back) was Number 1, with numbers increasing to the east. Take some care with the earlier censuses because there was some infilling (on either side of the North Western for example) and some splitting of properties, especially the shops in the first section.

Church Street was numbered in the 1871 Census, staring from 1 at the house on the corner of the back alley on the south side (presently 97) going east to the Science and Art Institute Caretakers house, and returning westwards. It is not clear whether these were simply numbers used by the census takers or whether they were official.. I suspect that in those days that the postal service was heavily dependent on local knowledge, so that a letter address to Mr Smith, Church Street, Wolverton was almost certain to be correctly delivered.

See also this post from 2008. http://wolvertonpast.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/street-numbering.html

Street numbering

I hadn’t realized until I tried to track back the history of some of the shops that the house-numbering system of the 19th century was somewhat different to what we were used to in the 20th. The convention, still used today, was that streets were numbered odd on the left hand side and even on the right, except for the Stratford Road which was numbered consecutively on one side, for an obvious reason. This convention is established by the 1901 census.

However, the 1891 Census numbers the Stratford Road from 1 in the west, so that house number 44, then at the edge of town, becomes number 1, moving upwards as the houses move eastwards. The system of numbering the little streets appears to date from the early days of the town where each house was assigned a number by the L&NWR regardless of which street it was on, so there is a 610 Ledsam Street and a 612 Creed Street; other houses in Ledsam Street are numbered in the 500s and 400s. If you go back to the early censuses you can find houses in the earlier  Garnet and Walker Streets numbered in lower hundreds.