The Westward Movement of Wolverton

For the first 20years of Wolverton’s life Creed Street marked its western edge. the Church of St George, the school and the Royal engineer were all built on Radcliffe Trust property. Everything else was farmland. So until 1860, the Royal Engineer, from where this photo was taken, was about as far west as you could go.

(By the way, this photo and the other in this post have been kindly offered by Will Hawkins, who is busy building his photographic record of Wolverton)

In 1860 the Radcliffe Trust finally relented and allowed building along the new Stratford Road and Church Street. Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Street followed a decade later. The back alley that now exists to the east of Cambridge Street the marked the western edge of the town.This situation prevailed until the 1890s when Cambridge Street and Windsor Streets were built.

The back alley to the east of Cambridge Street

In the early 20th century the Radcliffe Trust decided to get into the property business themselves and opened up all the land from the old Palace Cinema to the back alley to the west of Anson Road. Most property owners in this section of town will find that the Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust, those who gave their names to Peel Road, Jersey Road, Anson Road and Woburn Avenue, are named on the property deeds. Once more this was a new western edge of Wolverton for the next 40 years until an extension was added to Aylesbury Street along with Eton Crescent. McCorquodales also extended their  operations across the road at the end of Church Street.

The residential houses with the bay windows were the last of the Edwardian phase of development.

In recent years McCorquodales has disappeared and new residential development has replaced the factory buildings on the south side of the Stratford Road. In the following photo created by Will Hawkins shows the old Edwardian end of Church Street, completed by 1910, and the new extension built a century later.

It doesn’t look too bad at all!

Wolverton Street Names VII

The Southern Development 



As you can see from this 1932 map redbrick Wolverton had reached the limits of its development. There was still demand for housing and the council purchased some land from the Radcliffe Trust which mainly too some fields from Stacey Farm. The entrance to Stacey Farm at the time was at the end of Radcliffe Street and the two cottages which still stand at the beginning of Stacey Avenue were once late 19th century farm workers’ cottages.

The curve of Stacey Avenue follows the line of the old farm access road and this road, with its mostly semi-detached houses (at the time an innovation) became the first road or street in Wolverton that did not follow a straight line.

Two other streets were built at this time and Windsor street was extended. The new streets were named Marina Drive and Gloucester Road. This appears to have been another outbreak of enthusiasm for the Royal family. The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent were younger brothers of King George VI.  Princess Marina of the Danish/Greek royal family married the Duke of Kent in 1934 and I believe she was a popular figure at the time. her husband, the Duke of Kent, was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1942.

Eton Crescent, shown pencilled in on the map, appears to have been an arbitrary choice of name.Eton is/was in the county of Bucks and it is adjacent to Windsor. There were other choices of Buckinghamshire place names – High Wycombe  (certainly the largest town at the time) and the Chalfonts, which had a close association with the old Wolverton barony, but neither of them made it to a Wolverton street name.

In the 1940s another crescent was developed behind Western Road. This time the council went to the ancient field name and called it Furze Way.

Further expansion came with the development of another Stacey farm field to the south of Gloucester Road. The approach road from Gloucester Road was named Woodland View, and the long road joining the Stacey Avenue extension was called Southern Way. In the middle was another crescent. This one was called St John’s Crescent.

This last name I cannot explain. St John does not figure in any of the Wolverton or Stony Stratford churches, and Bradwell Priory, which it overlooks, was dedicated to St Mary. Any suggestions?

This concludes this series. The development of Milton Keynes brought a new dimension to the naming of streets.

Wolverton Street Names VI

The Western Development from 1906

The Radcliffe Trust had been reluctant partners in the building of Wolverton and they quickly regretted the sale of land at the eastern edge of the estate. Indeed they were resolute in their position that no further land should be swallowed up by the new town from 1840-1860. This is why New Bradwell came into existence in the 1850s.

Gradually as we have seen they ceded more land to the expanding town and in the 20th century the Trust decided to act as property developers themselves. A block of land had already been reserved and built upon in 1896, when the new Boys School opened, and in 1906 a new Girls and Infants School opened fronting Aylesbury Street. These streets were now extended and new north-south streets were developed by the Trust and sold privately. These new streets were named after Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust.

Jersey Road was named after Victor Albert George Villiers, the 7th Earl of Jersey, who served as a trustee from 1884 to 1915.
Anson Road got its name from Sir William Reynell Anson, Bt. who was a trustee from 1888 to 1914.
Peel Road was named for Arthur Wellesley Peel, 1st Viscount Peel who served as a trustee for 36 years, from 1872 to 1908.
And Woburn Avenue was named for Herbrand Arthur Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford  who became a trustee in 1900 and retired in 1913. At that time Bedford Street (not named after the Duke of Bedford) was already taken, and there was a Russell Street in Stony Stratford, although that street was named after a Russell of humbler origins.

Each of these men came from well-established aristocratic families, which will give us some sense of the kind of people who were invited to become trustees. The Villiers family became prominent in the 17th century when one of their number became Duke of Buckingham. Viscount Peel was the fifth and youngest son of Sir Robert Peel who was one of the country’s distinguished 19th century Prime Ministers until his death in 1850. He had also served as a Radcliffe Trustee from 1828 until his death. Family connections were strong in the Radcliffe Trust in those days. Viscount Peel’s sister had married the 6th earl of Jersey and his fellow trustee, the 7th earl, was therefore his nephew. The Russells had become part of the establishment in the 16th century. They inherited Bloomsbury in London through marriage to one of the earl of Southampton’s daughters and by the 19th century were enormously wealthy.  Anson’s family rose to prominence in the early 19th century. He was a lawyer and distinguished jurist and, amongst other offices, was Vice Chancellor of Oxford University in 1888.

Had the line of Green Lane continued it would have cut through the southern blocks of Cambridge and Windsor Streets and rejoined itself beside the cemetery, but it looks as though someone decided to square off the angles that characterised the ends of Bedford and Oxford Streets and thus the extension of Green Lane became Western Road.

Wolverton Street Names V

The 1890s


The demand in the last decade of the 19th century was apparently for larger houses. Front gardens also became a new feature and bay windows were standard. Cambridge Street and Windsor Street extended the town further to the west and the south side of Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street rounded off this Victorian period of housing construction.

Cambridge Street was so named to complement the existing Oxford street and Green Lane took its name from the ancient trackway that had been well-travelled for at least 1000 years. The other three streets war coincident with Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and this encouraged an outbreak of royal enthusiasm to name one street after the Queen, another after her favourite Isle of Wight house, and a third after Windsor Castle.
At this time also another short one-sided street was built at the eastern book end of Victoria Street. This was named Moon Street after The LNWR’s long serving chairman, Sir Richard Moon.

Wolverton Street Names – IV

1870s and 1880s


The streets known as Buckingham Street and Aylesbury Street were the next phase of development. Clearly some thought was given to the provision of a square but no effort was made at this time to build on it. After allowing the Stratford Road and Church Street to be open to private development, the LNWR returned to building its own houses along the north side of Buckingham Street, which is why they all look the same. These terraces were probably finished by 1878. The south side was left to private development. Consequently, builder constructed them a few at a time and you can see different building styles.

The plan below shows the intended layout of the new streets. A small start has been made on the south side of Buckingham Street and the block above the Square has been reserved for the Congregational Church.

The Wolverton Building Society was founded in 1878

The names are clearly a nod to the county’s ancient towns.

The three short streets built up to Green Lane were Radcliffe Street, Bedford Street and Oxford Street. Radcliffe Street was obviously named to honour the Radcliffe Trust but the motivation behind Bedford and Oxford is more obscure. If they were choosing neighbouring county towns why, or example did Northampton not get a look in? It is certainly nearer than Oxford and commercial connections with Oxford at that time must have been very tenuous. I can only think that after the parish of Wolverton was transferred from Lincoln (where it had resided for centuries) to Oxford people in Wolverton felt more affinity to Oxford as its episcopal seat.

It’s possible too that they were thinking of the cross-country road that linked Bedford with Oxford.

Construction seems to have started on these streets in the late 1870s and by 1885 they were complete. Bedford Street started development in 1880 and Oxford Street followed later in the decade.

Wolverton Street Names – III

The 1860s Expansion

The Radcliffe Trust would give up no more land to the Railway Company after 1840. The church and the school on Creed Street and the Royal Engineer were all built on Radcliffe Trust property and they retained title. The reason for the development of New Bradwell in Stantonbury in the 1850s was entirely due to the Radcliffe Trust’s unwillingness to expand. In 1860, they relented, and the Stratford Road and Church Street were developed as far as the Cambridge Street back alley. The Drum and Monkey was actually on the edge of town at one time.

No prizes for guessing how these streets got their names.

Part of the reason there was no Church Street that the Church was actually on was because Creed Street was named in 1842 before plans had been drawn up for a church and any decision made about the land allocation. The gate entrance was placed on Creed Street because the other streets didn’t exist in 1845. The back entrance on Buckingham Street came later.

Wolverton Street Names – II

The “Little Streets”


The streets south of the Stratford Road, later known as the “Little Streets” were built mostly in 1840 and survived for 120 years.

The streets were Creed Street (which still survives) Ledsam Street, Glyn Square and Young Street.

These were the men who gave their names to these streets.
George Carr Glyn was born into a London banking family and was probably instrumental in securing the capital for the London and Birmingham Railway venture. In 1837 he became chairman and continued in that role when the enlarged company became the London & North Western Railway. He was a member of parliament and in 1869 elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Wolverton – the first to hold that title since the Middle Ages, and perhaps a tip of the hat to Wolverton’s importance in those early years.

Richard Creed was the secretary for the company, at first jointly with Captain Moorsom of Birmingham and after Moorsom’s resignation, the sole office holder. Creed was also a well-connected banker and was a partner in the firm of Fauntleroy and Company. As an interesting side note the head of this firm, Henry Fauntleroy, was found guilty of forgery at the Old Bailey and sentenced to death! There was no suggestion that Creed was implicated. From the summary of the trial it appears that quite a number of people lost money through Fauntleroy’s misappropriation and I expect that many in those times might have felt that the death penalty was a proper punishment. However, Henry Fauntleroy was the last man to be executed for this particular crime and subsequent generations of bankers were able to rest easy.

Joseph Frederick Ledsam, one of the more influential board members and for many years Deputy Chairman. According to the 1851 Census he was a landed proprietor, Deputy Lieutenant of Worcester and a JP. He was living in some comfort on the Harborne Road in Edgbaston. The Ledsams, like many successful Birmingham families, emerge during the 18th century, likely in some manufacturing enterprise. In the 19th century Thomas Ledsam and Sons were button manufacturers and Daniel Ledsam was a merchant in the mid-century. Joseph was obviously part of the same extended family but his precise place in the family is not apparent from my brief research. What we can say is that he had some capital and was probably smart enough to invest it in the new railway. On August 13th 1846 The Times listed the individuals who had put up money for “Railway Speculation”. Any amount over £20,000 had to be declared to Parliament and therefore became public knowledge. Ledsam put up £186,000 – a serious sum of money.The following account, extracted from “Modern Birmingham and its Institutions 1841-1871”, a compilation of local activities, gives a clearer concept of Mr.. Ledsam’s role in the community.
On December 28, (1861) Mr.. Joseph Frederick Ledsam died in his 72nd year. Until a short time before his decease Mr.. Ledsam occupied a prominent position amongst the leading inhabitants of the town, but his failing health compelled him to retire from public life.
Ledsam was a Magistrate for the three counties of Warwick, Worcester, and Stafford, and a Deputy Lieutenant of Warwick. He was High Sheriff of Worcestershire, a fund-raiser and benefactor of the General Hospital and an active member of the Government Board of the Free Grammar School.
He was likewise well-known as having a prominent share in the management of several important commercial undertakings, amongst which may be mentioned the Birmingham Banking Company, the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Company, and last, but by no means least, the London and North Western Railway Company, in connection with which, for several years, he performed the laborious duties of Deputy Chairman of the Directors. By those who knew him personally, Mr.. Ledsam was highly esteemed, both as a public man and in the relationship of his private life; and the regard generally entertained for him was abundantly justified by his amiable character and his uniformly courteous and obliging disposition.

Thomas Young remains obscure. He was a director of the L & BR and sat on a number of committees, which suggests that he was a hard working director. Unfortunately there were many Thomas Youngs, quite a number of whom were well-to-do and not one of them stands out as the Thomas Young of the L & BR.

Wolverton’s Street Names – I

The Northern Streets

1838 not only brought the railway to Wolverton but also the need to address the naming of streets. Wolverton had existed for 1000 years without the need for street names. The row of cottages at Old Wolverton was originally given a description – Slated Row – rather than a street name, and Stony Stratford had functioned with a single street and a few back lanes. New times and a new building program confronted the railway company with a new problem – how to distinguish between these new streets laid out on a grid pattern. At first there was no interest in naming the streets but after a few years, probably due to demands of the new postal service, the directors addressed the issue and on October 14th 1842 directed the Estates Committee to come up with a system of names and numbers. What seems to have happened is that the Estates Committee, which included Garnett, Cooke, Walker and Young, named some of these streets after themselves. Bury, Creed, Glyn and Ledsam were prominent in the company and were given the names of the larger streets

Here are the northern streets and a little information about the men who gave their names to them.

Bury Street – a long street north of the Stratford Road to the canal, originally Wolverton’s principle shopping street.
Garnett Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street – short streets about 6 or 7 cottages in length between the north end of the Engine Shed and the canal.
Gas Street – six cottages parallel to the south side of the Engine Shed and, as the name suggests, the Gas Works.

Garnett Street, Cooke Street, Walker Street and part of Bury Street was cleared in 1856 to make way for new workshop development. The south end of Bury Street and Gas treat survived until the 1890s when they too were consumed by works expansion.

Edward Bury


Edward Bury was the first locomotive engineer for the London & Birmingham Railway. He was born in Salford in 1794 and in 1826 set up his engineering works in Liverpool, under the name of Edward Bury and Company. He employed James Kennedy, who brought the necessary experience of locomotive building with Robert Stephenson as his works foreman. In 1842 Kennedy became a partner when the firm expanded under the name of Bury, Curtis and Kennedy.
            Their first engines were built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1830. In time they refined their designs to lighter locomotives known as the “Bury type”. In 1836 Bury contracted to run the trains on the London and Birmingham Railway and in 1839, just after the line through Wolverton had opened, he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent at the rather handsome salary of £1400 a year. He contracted the building of engines to other companies as well as his own.
            He continued in this role until 1847, when, shortly after the formation of the L & NWR he resigned to join the Great Northern Railway as Locomotive Superintendent and General Manager.  He was married to Priscilla Falkner, an accomplished botanical artist, and her works and prints can still be found for sale in the Art market. According to Hugh Stowell Brown, the renowned 19thcentury Baptist preacher who worked in Wolverton as a young man, relatively little was seen of him in the works – an unsurprising observation considering that he had responsibilities at his own works in Liverpool as well as duties up and down the line. Wolverton’s role in these years was maintenance and repair of engines and Bury was probably content to delegate the overseeing of this task. Sir Frank Markham does mention that he had a residence at Great Linford, which rather suggests that he was prepared to spend some time in Wolverton. He died in 1858.


Robert Garnett


Robert Garnett was a son of a Manchester merchant family who did extremely well in trade in the far-east and as an early speculator in railways Garnett probably enhanced his fortune. He then followed the well-worn path of many wealthy Victorian industrialists and bought land (and the status it bestowed) in the Wyre Forest area near Lancaster and his descendants thereafter enjoyed the lives of country gentry. Robert Garnett was once a candidate for MP, although he did not get elected.


Thomas Cooke


Thomas Cooke put a huge amount of money into the railway, £219,000 according to The Times of 1846, so it is perhaps no surprise that his name was honoured in the name of a Wolverton Street. Curiously, other than he was also a director of the London and South Western Railway, little else brought him to prominence and it is hard to find much mention of him in any historical record apart from Committee minutes.

Joseph Walker

Joseph Walker, who gave his name to the short-lived Walker Street in Wolverton, may be one such. In 1846 he was able to put up £178,500 in share capital for the L & NWR so he was clearly a man of some substance. He was an early director of the London and Birmingham Railway and also of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. Other than that there are few clues to his existence.
            There is one tantalizing reference to a Mr.. Walker in the diary of Cecile Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, then on tour with her brother, the composer Felix:
            Saturday September 16
To another local worthy, Mr. Walker, for dinner. Rehearsal in the evening, the hall illuminated and splendid.
            The editor of these diaries suggests that this may be Joseph Walker, proprietor of Joseph Walker and Co., Factors in St Paul’s Square. This is in part corroborated by an 1841 Census entry, which records a 60 year-old Joseph Walker and his wife living on The Crescent with a household of four servants. This address in itself would suggest affluence.
            This Joseph Walker, born around 1780, is certainly of an age which would have given him enough financial clout to become a director of an early railway company. It is possible that he was more active in the 1830s and hence became a candidate for a street name. He died in late 1846, but unlike his fellow Birmingham railway speculator, J.F. Ledsam, left little to be remembered by. This is a rather sketchy case for this Joseph Walker being the man who gave his name to Walker Street; it could easily be another man of the same name.

Naming Wolverton’s Streets 2

Wolverton was extended westwards again in the early years of the 20th century. This meant extending Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Green Lane. Green Lane became Western Road after Windsor Street.

Three new streets were added north to south – Peel Road, Jersey Road and Anson Road. Now it was the turn of the Trustees of the Radcliffe Trust to be honoured:

Peel Road was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st. Viscount Peel;

Jersey Road after Victor Albert George, 7th. Earl of Jersey;

and Anson Road after Sir William Reynell Anson.

It may also be that Woburn Avenue, the short terrace at the top of Western Road, took its name in honour of the 11th. Duke of Bedford, who was a Trustee from 1900-1913. Otherwise this choice appears whimsical.

In the 1930s more land was taken out of Stacey Farm and larger houses were built on what is now Stacey Avenue. Gloucester Road was named after the Duke of Gloucester and Marina Drive after Marina Duchess of Kent. Eton Crescent, built around this time, seems another whimsical choice. I can only guess that the Council’s thinking was that Eton, in the southern tip of Buckinghamshire, might be associated with Windsor and associated itself with the Royal theme. I should have asked my grandfather who was probably sitting on the council at the time this decision was made.

In the late 40s and early 50s Furze Way opened, so called because it was developed on the ancient field known as Hodge Furze.

Naming Wolverton’s Streets

The first Wolverton streets were named after directors or officials of the London & Birmingham Railway. George Carr Glyn, who gave his name to Glyn Square, was the first chairman of the company. On elevation to the peerage he took the title Baron Wolverton. Richard Creed was the London-based secretary to the company. C.R. Moorsom was his Birmingham counterpart. Both Glyn Square and Creed Street survive today as actual addresses.

There were three short streets to the north of the original engine shed – these were Garnett Street, Cooke Street and Walker Street. Robert Garnett was part of a wealthy Manchester importing family. I have not been able to find out about Thomas Cooke or Joseph Walker. Thomas Cooke was also a director of the London & Soth Western Railway. Likewise, Walker also served on the Board of the Birmingham and Derby Railway. It is probably a fair guess that Cooke’s business interests lay in London and Walker’s in the Midlands.

The main street in the north part of town was Bury Street which also housed about 10 shops. It was named after Edward Bury who was the chief locomotive engineer for the L&BR until he was replced by McConnell in 1847.

The last street north of the Stratford Road was Gas Street, which had eight houses, some offices and the first Gas Works for the town.

The two other streets built in 1840 were Ledsam Street, named after Joseph Frederick Ledsam, a Birmingham businessman, and Young Street, after Thomas Young – about whom I can find nothing.
As the town spread to the west, the New Road became the Stratford Road, Church Street was built parallel. The naming is self evident.

The next road running north to south was named after the Radcliffe Trust, which owned the manor of Wolverton and therefore had a large say in how land was parcelled out for the new town. From there the town resorted to place names for its new streets, Buckingham, Aylesbury, Bedford and Oxford, and, in time Cambridge.

The next street to appear was Windsor Street. There is no obvious reason for this choice. If the town were to seek names from nearby important towns, then Northampton street might be the next obvious choice. Windsor was in the County of  Buckinghamshire at the time and was quite a large town. It is posssible that this name was chosen for its historic Buckinghamshire association, although I should point out that High Wycombe was by far the largest town in Buckinghamshire in the 1890s. Wolverton was second. Somehow, High Wycombe Street does not have the same resonance.

The next development saw the contruction of Moon Street, Green Lane, Victoria Street and Osborne Street.

Green Lane followed the line of the ancient track leading to Calverton and was already named. Victoria Street represented a new departure in naming the street after the long reigning monarch and I think (but am not absolutely sure about this) that Osborne Street comes from the same idea – the house of Queen Vic on the IOW.

More on the other streets tomorrow.