The Evolution of The Square

The formal square in towns was a late 17th century development in England. Peviouslycentral area in towns and villages developed int ‘squares’ but there was nothing formal about their development. Towns like Stony Stratford, built on a thoroughfare, developed their market ‘squares’ slightly off the beaten track.

The square, as a conscious element in town planning, was characterised by terraced rows of houses on three or four sides. Squares became very fashionable in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in keeping with this trend, Wolverton was planned with its very own square in 1840. This was named after the chairman of the London and Birmingham Railway company, George Carr Glyn. The square was bounded by the railway line on the east side and terraced cottages on the other three sides. While nowhere near as grand as some fashionable London squares, it had its appeal, and rents for Glyn Square cottages were higher than the were for some of the other streets.

Gradually, the quality this square was eroded. Six cottages on the north side were pulled down to make way for works buildings and eventually the space of the square was occupied by the works laundry and eventually the Training School.

The southern terrace of Glyn Square.

Wolverton had not quite fallen out of love with the desirability of a square, so when one of the Marron Fields was purchased on 31 December 1866, the planned development included a square at the heart of it. This new field of 18 acres extended from the church yard in the east to the back lane of Oxford Street in the west. To the north lay Church Street and the southern border was the ancient Green Lane. This land was developed over two decades. Buckingham Street was built in the 1870s with Aylesbury Street. Radcliffe Street and Bedford Street were built in the late 1870s and Oxford Street in the 1880s.The development of the square was mixed.

At some stage someone must have planned this square as a place for a market. “Market Square” was used to described stand the street on the west side of the square was known in the 19th century as “Market Street.” However, that never materialise. The old market continued in the Market House beside Glyn Square and when that burned down in 1906, the market was transferred to the recently vacated school on Church Street. The closest the market ever for to the Square was in recent times after the building of the Agora. Any building on the actual Square, was in any case forbidden after the cenotaph was erected in 1921.

The Cenotaph, opened in 1921. This monument hs since been replaced.

The development of the Square was piecemeal, but was entirely private development. Some of the houses in the middle of the west side were built in the late 1870s. The corner lot on Buckingham Street was reserved for a large private house and in 1882, the re-formed Co-op., known since 1874 as the Wolverton Industrial and Provident Society, purchased the lot on the Aylesbury Street corner for £100, and set about building a large shop, bakery and warehouse. In the first part of the 20th century this became the heart of the Wolverton Co-op empire.

Early 20th C photographs of the Co-op on the Square

On the eastern side, a private developer built Morland Terrace in 1884. This was obviously planned as an above average terrace for some of Wolverton’s middle class. The houses were spacious and the occupants had an unobstructed view of the Square. A draper occupied the house on the south east cornere; otherwise these houses all started out as residences. It was only in the 20th century that some of them were converted to shops.

These two views of Morland Terrace illustrate the relatively limited shop development in the early days.

The southern frontage to the Square was purchased by the Congregational Church. Their movement started off by meeting in a back room at the North Western Hotel in the 1860s, but they soon had sufficient money to build their own church, which opened in 1878. For almost a century this large church dominated the Square but in 1970 it was demolished. The replacement building, which is still standing, initially accommodated a supermarket on the ground floor and provided church rooms on the upper floor.

The Congregational Church, before demolition.

Supermarkets have been a development of my lifetime. In the 1940s and 50s packaging was a rare phenomenon, limited to cereal boxes, tins of Ovaltine and little else. Coventionally, if you wanted a pound of sugar, the grocer weighed it out for you poured it into a container made out a of a folded sheet of stiff blue paper 9known of course as ‘sugar paper’). A quarter of a pound of biscuits would be picked with tongs from a Huntley and Palmer’s biscuit tin  and weighed for you in a white paper bag. The idea of customers serving themselves was unknown.

Dudeney and Johnston, a Bedford grocer who developed queue a chain of shops in the region, took over the drapery on the south west corner of the Square, and were the first to develop anything like a sled service grocery. The Co-op followed suit and introduced wire baskets and ‘supermarket’ shopping by 1960. Each of these shops would be no larger than a convenience store today, but the were the start of this revolution. Budgens followed in 1970 on the site of the former church. Today, in town supermarkets without parking are no longer viable.

The Co-op Corner in the 1960s

As I mentioned earlier, shops around the Square began to develop in the first decade of the 20th century.On the Buckingham Street corners, at numbers 36 and 38 respectively. Albert Leeson had a grocery. The last occupant of 38 in this capacity was Fred and Grrace Old, who retired in the mid 1950s to devote themselves to Salvation Army work. they moved to a house in Cambridge Street and the shop became a gas showroom for the newly nationalised East Midlands Gas Board. At Number 36 John Nichols ran a boot repair business and ran a shop listed as “Domestic Stores”, which seems to sell various non-perishable items such as furniture polish and brass cleaner.

Travelling up Morland Terrace, from north to south, the corner shop, as I have already described, was a drapery and became a grocery after WWII. Whatever happened to Dudeney and Johnston, I don’t know. They were a significant cain in Bedfordshire, northamptonshire and Buckanand Heerts for many years. I suppose they were brought out by bigger fish.

Number 3 was residential for a number of years but Number 5 was first opened by Olive Sanders, who was a confectioner.In the early 1950, the Davies’s took over the shop. They were then a young couple and held the shop for many years. It i still open today with a similar profile.

Number 7 was residential and Number 9 first opened as a butcher. In the  1960s, at the beginning of the DIY craze, it became paint and wallpaper shop. I can’t immediately recall the name.

Numbers 13 and 15 were established as a jeweller and a tobacconist. At the opening of WWII number 13 was established as an optician and after the war functioned as such under the proprietorship of F Blagrove. Doug Roberts took over number 15 in the mid 1950s as a chemist and optician. He also, like his mentor Ewart Dale, sold a range of Kodak cameras.

Number 17 became a butcher’s shop after the war. Initially under the name of Dewhurst, it became part of the Baxter’s empire in the 1950s. The cheery fred Griffiths moved down from Leamington to manage the shop.

The house on the corner remained residential for a long time but in the late 1930 the Co-op took them over. They ran a fruit and flower shop at 21, and I think I am correct in saying, a fishmongers at number 19.

This large house on the corner of Aylesbury street and Morlnd Terrace was very much  a fine residence for many years.

Commercial development of the west side was mainly the Co-op. In time they held the southern half of the terrace, with shops, offices and a savings bank. The shop at number 9 (Buildings were originally numbered 1-11, starting at the south end. Today they have been renumbered.) was a butchers shop for many year. In the 1950s it was occupied by Woodwards. He was an enterprising man who also made his own ice cream. He sold the business c 1960 or earlier and a few years later was taken over by Terry Beckwith. He was a single man in his late 30s living with his elderly parents.  After some years he moved and the shop was taken over by a hard working couple who retained that name.

The very large house on the corner was owned by Fred Tilley. He had a coal business, the Empire Cinema, various properties and other enterprises. He was therefore quite well off. The downstairs part was converted into two shops at some stage. Number 10 was occupied by a printer, Frederick Clarke in 1915 and number 11 by the “India and China Team Company”, Grocers. Frederick Clarke later moved his press to 51 Church Street and the business continued into a second generation. 51 Church Street was demolished to make way for the Agora. In the mid century there was a ladies hairdresser on the corner and a shoe repair man in another shop.

In the last quarter of a century the Square has become almost exclusively commercial.

Morland Terrace Revisited

I have written about this terrace on two previous occasions here and here.
Today I would like to write about the end-of-terrace house that for so long has been a shop front, largely because this photograph has come to my attention.

As you can see this was an elegant double-fronted house after its first construction. There were two large front parlours and probably at least four bedrooms upstairs. The house next to it is similar in design and construction and these houses were for their time (mid 1880s) amongst the grandest houses on offer in Wolverton. Note the boot scraper beside the front door.

 The frontage has now been radically transformed. the three upper sash windows have been replaced by two large pvc units. The shop frontage obliterates the original. The slate roof has been replaced by composition tiles and the chimneys have disappeared.

The symmetry and architectural embellishments of the original house have been destroyed by the modifications. Only some of the eave supports remain.

Moreland Terrace revisited

21 Moreland Terrace circa 1900

I am indebted to Julia Bennett for this photograph. It is the house on the corner of Radcliffe Street and Aylesbury Street and is probably a very early photograph. As I wrote before Moreland Terrace was an 1880s expansion, completed in 1884.

The picture shows the rather unique decorative elements around the doors and windows, quite unlike anywhere else in Wolverton. All of these disappeared when the buildings were converted into shops. Today, even the upstairs windows have been modified. It’s a large house with two front rooms with probably four bedrooms upstairs. It was clearly designed for a middle class occupant. Somewhat surprisingly the occupants are of more modest occupation.

The head of the family in 1901 was William Bennett (The first letter is obscured, but it looks like Bennett)  a horse trainer. He was then 58 and his wife 56. They had their 30 year old unmarried daughter Emily living with them. She was working at home as a dressmaker. The house also accommodated their widowed sister-in-law, a 31 year old nephew working as a clerk in the Railway Offices, and an unmarried  26 year old niece. So the house was full and between them they could probably afford it.

Squares were prestigious addresses in London in the 19th century and I am sure the intention was to do the same in Wolverton. Some of the houses on the Square are quite large, but others are modest in size, so perhaps the grand plan did not quite achieve its objective.

There were commercial considerations too. The 1890s expansion of Wolverton left the residents of Cambridge Street and Windsor Street a long way from the shops on the Front and Church Street and it was not long before shop frontages began to appear along Moreland Terrace. If you look at this photograph taken around 1910, you can see the beginnings of this development.

This picture begins with Number 17 on the right, so we can’t tell if Number 21 had been converted by this date. At the far end Number 1 was  a drapery from the beginning but gradually a conversion to shops was taking place. Only the shop at Number 9 has preserved its frontage. Note too the wrought iron railings around the Square. They were probably taken up during the 1914-18 war and melted down to make armaments. The Cenotaph was not built until after the war so the Square appears to be nothing more than a green space.
Below is Number 21 Morland Terrace today – hardly recognisable.

A History of Shopping in Wolverton Part V

The Square

The Square was a product of the 1890 and I think was intended for residences, very much like Glyn Square was in 1840. It remains much as it was, except for the loss of connection with Radcliffe Street.

Shopping development, as we have seen, began in Bury Street and expanded to Creed Street. When new building lots were put up for sale in 1860, some shops of necessity moved from Bury Street to the Stratford Road and one or two began to appear in Church Street. “The Front” filled up with commercial establishments first and then, logically, Church Street.

As Wolverton expanded south and west, the Square came into its own as a fourth phase of shopping development. Growth was gradual and even by 1939, one third of the houses were still private dwellings.

This view of Moreland Terrace taken circa 1911 shows the early mixture of shops and residences.



The table below illustrates occupany to 1939. The 1901 Census has been used, thereafter Trade Directories, which are not always complete. The street numbers are organized thus: 
Moreland Terrace: Odd numbers from North to South.
The Square, West Side: Sequential numbers South to North.


Number
1901
1911
1928
1939
Moreland Terrace
1
Siggs, Draper
Siggs, Draper
Rivett, Draper
Start, Draper
3
Private
Private
Private
Private
5
Linford, Confectioner
Linford, Confectioner
Stevens, Confectioner
Stevens, Confectioner
7
Private
9
Private
Green, Butcher
Green, Butcher
Hackett, Butcher
11
Private
Private
Private
Private
13
Private
Turner, Jeweller
Trewinnard, optician
Blagrove, optician
15
Private
Private
Wood, Tobacconist
17
Private
Private
Private
Private
19
Private
Private
Private
Jennison, Tailor
21
Bennett, Miliner
Bennett, Miliner
Bennett, Miliner
Co-op
The Square (W)
1
Private
Private
Co-op
Co-op
2
Private
Private
Co-op
Co-op
3
Private
Private
Co-op
Co-op
4
Private
Private
Co-op
Co-op
5
Private
Private
Co-op
Co-op
6
Private
Private
Private
Private
7
Private
Private
Private
Private
8
Private
Private
Private
Private
9
Private
Private
Blakelock, Tobacconist
Blakelock, Confectioner
10
Private
Private
Private
Howe, Hairdresser
11
Bullin, Grocer
India & China Tea Co., Grocers
English Novelty Co., Toy Manufacturers
Coles, Boot repairs/ Read, Ladies Hairdresser
Buckingham St
36
Knight, Bootmaker
Nicholls, domestic Stores
38
Leeson, Grocer
Leeson, Grocer
Leeson, Grocer
Aylesbury St.
32
Private
Button, Butcher
Button, Butcher
43
Private
Grice, Shopkeeper
Mayo, Shopkeeper
Waite, Shopkeeper

The Market Square

The only break in the north-south/east-west grid system of streets in 20th century Wolverton was the so-called Market Square. If there was ever a market held here its existence must have been very brief. There was a covered market hall on Glyn Square, but that burned down and the old school on creed Street became the venue for the Friday market until the Agora complex was constructed from the razing of parts of Church Street and Buckingham Street.

The Market Square was (is) bounded by Buckingham and Aylesbury Streets and Radcliffe Street on the east side. The inner quadrangle was dressed up with shrubbery and trees and provided benches for seating. At the south end a cenotaph was installed after the 1914-1918 war and fenced off. The configuration is not much different today except that the orginal cenotaph has been replaced with a polished granite version. Missing also is the old Congregational Church which dominated one side of the square for about 80 years.
Addresses at the Square start to appear in the 1891 census. In 1881 there is only Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Street, and of course Radcliffe Street, so I am wondering whether some houses were demolished in Buckingham and Aylesbury Streets to create the Square? Perhaps it was the intention to host the weekly market there. All the streets to the north of the Stratford Road had been demolished. Oxford Street, Cambridge Street and Green lane were developing, so this new square, far from being on the edge of town, was becoming its centre. If it was ever used as a market, its prime was short-lived.

The Square 1968-2008



The first picture was taken in the mid to late 60s – I’ll say 1968. The corner shop was a Co-op grocery. The Co-op, the Wolverton Industrial and Provident Society, to use its proper name, was a dominant force in Wolverton shopping. About half the retailing outlets in the Square and a good number in Church Street were run by the Co-op.

You can see the houses that used to be part of Buckingham Street and the Gas Board showroom on the corner of Radcliffe Street. The old style corner lamppost has been removed but the post box (presumably the same one) maintains its place. The pram that the woman is holding, although smaller than those of the 40s, is of a type not seen nowadays.
1968 pre-dates the supermarket, although groceries like the Co-op and Dudeney and Johnston on the diagonally opposite corner were  offering a larger range of foods. Food shopping was still a daily occurrence in the late 60s but the acquisition of fridges and the arrival of packaged foods meant that more could be stored at home.