|The newly refurbished waiting room at Wolverton|
|Stowe House in 1829|
|The newly refurbished waiting room at Wolverton|
|Stowe House in 1829|
The London and Birmingham Railway opened through Wolverton for the first time on September 18th 1838. A day later an unfortunate man by the name of Francis Wilson whose body was found beside the line on the 19th, not even 24 hours after the line was opened.
The Bucks Herald reported on the inquest held on September 20th.
On the 20th. inst., at Wolverton, on view the body of Francis Wilson, who was found about 5 o’clock in the morning of the 19th instant, on the railroad near to the Wolverton Station – he was alive, but insensible. It appeared that the deceased had been drinking, and was returning home between 10 and 11 o’clock, when it is supposed he attempted to cross the railway, being the nearest way to his lodgings, and in so doing, was knocked down by the engine of the eleven o’clock down mail. His skull was most extensively fractured and a portion of the brain had escaped, and he died a few hours afterwards. Verdict accordingly. The Coroner severely reprimanded the policemen on duty, as it was evident they had not been so attentive to their duty as they ought to have been, or the poor man would have been prevented from going on the railroad, or at least discovered sooner.
These sorts of accidents were not, tragically, uncommon in those early days. There was a complete lack of awareness of this new machinery, and it appears that the engine driver was probably unaware of the impact at the moment it happened, even though the engine was probably travelling at no more than 30 miles an hour. I wonder too where he had been drinking. There were no pubs at Wolverton Station at that time – the nearest would be The New Inn at Bradwell and the forerunner of The Galleon at Old Wolverton.
As another reminder about how serious risks to health and safety used to be, the same coroner had to pronounce a verdict on this truly shocking incident.
On the 14th inst, at Hillsden, on view the body of Phillis Mansell, aged 6 years, who on being left alone by her mother for a few minutes, attempted to take a tea kettle off the fire, and in so doing, he clothes caught fire. Medical assistance was called in, but she died the same day. Verdict – accidental death.
Both engines appear to have been lined up for a photograph before being backed into the Paint Shed for painting, by hand in those days, and using lead-based paints.
|Wolverton station in 1847|
This plan of Wolverton I discovered last week attached to a report to the Radcliffe Trust by a man called Edward Driver. It is dated April 17th 1847.
Wolverton is now on its fourth set of station buildings, although the site and the platforms remain as they have done since 1881.
Phillip Webb has just sent me these two photos which show the third station buildings in the process of demolition in 1990.
Another article from The Times. This report comes from the edition of September 18th, 1838.
Yesterday was the first day that the complete line of railroad from the London to the Birmingham terminus was opened. The portion of the road which was traversed for the first time on this occasion was that which extends between the old station at Denbigh hall and the station at Rugby. The station at the former place now no longer exists; but there are on this extent of 35 miles stations at Wolverton, Roade, Blisworth, Weedon, and Crick. The first train started from the Euston square station at 7 o’clock, having in the carriages the proprietors of the undertaking and their friends. It was said in Birmingham that they accomplished the whole journey in four hours and a half. The next train, which was open to the public, left Euston square station at 10 minutes after 8 o’clock, but did not get fairly under weigh with the steam engine until 25 minutes past 8. The train reached Birmingham by the Birmingham clocks at the terminus at two minutes to 2. Watford was reached in 33 minutes from the Euston station. The train halted there three minutes. Tring was reached in 73 minutes, and the train halted four minutes and a half. Wolverton, the first new station, was reached by 28 minutes past 10, the the train halted 25 minutes. At this place a great crowd of persons were assembled, and preparations were made for a rural feast and celebration of the opening of the line. Roade was reached at 17 minutes past 11, the train stopped 10 minutes at this station, which is 60 miles from London. Weedon, which is nine miles further, was reached at 7 minutes to 12 o’clock, and Rugby, which is 83 miles miles from London, at half pat 12. The train stopped here 8 minutes. Coventry was reached at six minutes part 1 o’clock, and here the train remained for 15 minutes. The next place was Birmingham. The portion of the line just opened, from Denbigh hall to Rugby, appears to be equally good with any other part of the road. It is this division of the road, shortly before entering Rugby station, that the trains pass through Kilsby tunnel. It has been asserted that this tunnel fell in during the boring of it, but it is not the case. It is one of the most extraordinary pieces of road in the whole line. The length of this tunnel is 2,400 yards in length, and does great credit to the skill of Mr. Foster, the engineer by whom it has been completed. The train which left Birmingham for London at half past 12 was delayed, by some means or other, on the road for nearly two hours, in consequence of which, the train next in succession, which left Birmingham at half past 2, was delayed almost two hours when almost close to Euston station; this last train arrived in London about 20 minutes to 10, instead of a quarter past 8, the hour stated for arriving in public announcements. It does not appear that any accident whatever occurred on the road; indeed so excellent were the arrangements, that the possibility of accident was provided for in every way that could be imagined
There is a lot of detail about time in this report and a journey of four and a half hours was a long one. But a journey of this length, which would hitherto have taken 10 hours by the fastest stagecoach was an amazing phenomenon to those early Victorians. The journey from Euston to Wolverton took three hours and the passengers would have needed the 25 minutes to relieve themselves at the new station. Obviously someone had taken the trouble to organize a “rural feast”. The moment signalled a great change for Wolverton. Another account of this event can be found here.
The third station opened in 1881 on the new loop line around Wolverton Works and is shown here with its entrance on the Stratford Road. It was a wooden building supported on brick pillars above the railway line. Covered staircases took passengers down to the platforms. Platform 1 on the left was the main down line. The middle staircase met platforms 2 and 3. Platform 2 was the main up line and 3 the secondary down line. There were also waiting rooms on this platform. The third stair flight went down to Platforms 4 and 5. Platform 5 was used exclusively for the “Nobby Newport” branch line.
The Stratford Road entrance took you into an entrance hall. the booking office was on the left and the parcels office on the right. Besides the parcels office stood a large weigh scale. The ticket collector stood at the gate and punched your tickets as you went through. No one was allowed past without a ticket. Even if you were going to wave someone off, you had to purchase a “Platform Ticket”, which I think cost a penny.
The upper hall always had a smell of steam, as I remember. In the 1950s there were still porters working at the station whose job it was to carry and help load luggage. There was a goods lift that went down to Platforms 2 and 3. Nobody travelled light in those days. If you went on holiday for two week you had to take all the clothes you needed because there were no self-serve laundrettes, nor had non-iron clothing been invented. Therefore a family holiday meant the packing of large trunks and suitcases, which, at the station end, could be carried by porters with trolleys.
The station was built for an age which had low volumes of road traffic. There were nearby bus stops of course but most passengers walked to the station. The odd taxi or car could stop outside the front entrance without disturbing traffic very much. In 1990 or thereabouts access to the station was changed to the car park down the hill and the wooden building which had done more than 100 years service (longer than either of its predecessors) was demolished.
On the occasion of the visit of Queen Victoria to Wolverton in 1845 the waiting room was redecorated. I am sure there was a lot of scurrying around to get everything perfect and the visit, being recorded by the Illustrated London News, gives us an opportunity to view the interior. From the plan this room looks as if it was the upper drawing room shown in plan form above, and it looks very comfortable and pleasant – a far cry from the dingy waiting rooms the railway traveller might encounter a century later.
Here is one photograph, taken circa 1860, which although its subject is a steam engine, shows the kitchens of the station in the background.