Does Wolverton Destroy its Past?

The recent announcement that the remainder of Wolverton works will be redeveloped , leaving little but a vestige of the former railway town, has prompted this question. Those of us who grew up in the town in the middle of the last century knew only a town which was, at most, 100 years old. The house that I grew up in was built in the 1890s and, relatively speaking, was quite young. Those of my contemporaries who lived in houses in Eton Crescent or Stacey Avenue, enjoyed houses that were less than a decade old. We were living in a very modern town.

The 1839 Engine shed on the left.

Time changes our perspective. What was new becomes old. What is old is to be treasured. It becomes our heritage. In my lifetime all of the cottages built in the 1840s have disappeared, along with the original railway works built in 1839. The second and third station have been demolished, together will the Gables and a good section of Church Street and Buckingham Street. The Science and Art Institute suffered a disastrous fire and was subsequently flattened. The works drafting office suffered the same fate. McCorquodale’s print works has also gone.

The Little Streets in the process of demolition

So much for our recent past, but if you look back over a longer period you can see that this is not unusual for Wolverton; it seems very much the norm.

The Wolverton Manor, an area of 2500 acres bounded by the Watling Street in the west, the River Ouse in the north and Bradwell Brook in the east and south, has a history that goes back to Saxon times. The Normans simply took over the existing structure in 1066. By this time, the original village  by the Happy Morn had been abandoned and a newer village settlement made nearer to the castle and church. Oh yes, Wolverton had a castle once and all that remains of that is a mound near the church. It has never been excavated. The Saxon church was replaced in the 12th century and had some later additions, but this church was almost completely replaced in 1815 by a modern church. Bradwell priory, also built in the 12th century, lost most of its buildings in the early 16th century, although some parts survived as farm buildings. On the Watling Street it is possible that some medieval foundations survive in the present buildings, but the comprehensive fire of 1742 destroyed most of the town from the Bull northwards. Earlier buildings include the tower of a late 13th century church (St. Mary Magdalene) and a late 15th century or early 16th century building (Rose and Crown). The 18th century is well-represented along the High Street, with the Bull, the Cock, and the former Three Swans, but much of the former building stock was replaced in the 19th century. Wolverton also retains a few 18th century houses: the Vicarage, Wolverton House and Wolverton Park House, and some 18th century cottages (Manor Farm).

An awful lot of buildings have been lost along the way and you can’t help but observe that many other communities across the country manage to keep some ruins of their castle, their medieval churches and their 16th and 17th century great houses. Wolverton, however, has contrived to lose these buildings and indeed the process continued into the 20th century where most of 1840s Wolverton was demolished.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. You could argue that this betrays a progressive spirit of continual improvement, sweeping away the old to make way for the new; or it can be regarded as rather sad that we are left with so few visible signs of Wolverton’s long and rich heritage. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind. This post will be a survey of what has been lost.

Pre History and Early Medieval

It would be too much to expect much survival from this period, and indeed there isn’t. Archaeological work has revealed traces of settlement all over the manor – the Romano British villa farm at Bancroft is the most spectacular example, but there is also evidence of another villa at Manor Farm and traces of Bronze age settlements in the area known as Wolverton Turn. It also appears that the first Anglian settlers may have chosen this site when they arrived in the early 6th century.

Medieval Wolverton

In the 9th century they moved the village northwards to lower land. The reasons for this are unclear but this remained the medieval village of Wolverton until enclosure was finally effected in 1654. From a high enough vantage point you can see the ridges and furrows of the land where the village once stood.

A surviving building from Bradwell Abbey

As far as the larger houses go there was a castle and evidence of it once being surrounded by a wall. It is suggested that this motte and bailey castle was built of wood, and initially there is every reason to accept this. But it is hard to imagine that as time passed the fortifications were not strengthened by stone walls. Stone after all was readily available from local quarries. Admittedly not a high quality stone, but suitable enough for buildings and defences.

Medieval Old Wolverton

This should immediately provoke the question why is there no remaining evidence? All I can say is that a succession of buildings in different periods may simply have re-used the quarried stone from redundant buildings. Closer to our own time there was apparently a very fine mansion in the 16th century. This was completely rebuilt in 1586 and this house in turn was demolished in the early part of the 18th century. Not a trace today remains. Some of the stone was undoubtedly use to build the new vicarage and some was carted off to various parts of the estate for farm buildings. It is not unreasonable therefore to belive that earlier stone structures, possibly even the castle itself, were recycled. If and when an archaeological dig is undertaken on the site perhaps these questions will be answered.

16th and 17th centuries

The 16th century building known as the Rose and Crown

In Wolverton itself there are no remnants of any 16th or 17th century buildings. On Stony Stratford High Street is the former Rose and Crown building which dates to the 16th century. Everything from the Bull north was destroyed by fire in 1742 and most of the southern part of the High Street was rebuilt in the 19th century. The George is an early 17th century building and the highway has been built up so much over the years the at George’s ground floor is now below ground.

18th Century

Stony Stratford High Street’s 18th century facade

The survival rate gets better in the 18th century and most “old” buildings in Stony Stratford date from the second half of the 18th century. The reason fro this was two great fires, one in 1736 which destroyed Church Street and part of the west side of the High Street, and, far more disastrous in 1742, the fire which started in the Bull and raged northward destroying everything in its path. The church tower of St Mary Magdalen was restored, but there was not the money or interest to replace the church, so only the tower remains. All of the inns were rebuilt to 18th century standards and present this face to the world today.
In Wolverton itself, the vicarage was rebuilt in the mid century using materials from the old manor house and it seems that some of the se materials were used in the Manor Farm cottages which date from the same period. The farm hues at Wolverton Park was built later in the 18th century and the mansion of Thomas Harrison, Wolverton House, was built between 1781-4.
The church was almost completely rebuilt in 1809 retaining only vestiges of the medieval church.

Early 19th century
Wolverton itself started to rebuild in the early 19th century. The canal brought new work to the area and the population of Old Wolverton doubled between 1801 and 1831. Slated Row dates from this first decade.

Early Victorian

Ledsam Street

Some of the first-built cottages on the north side only lasted 15 years before they were pulled down to make way for workshop expansion. The same process ate away at Bury Street until it too had gone by 1895. Gas Street also disappeared at around this time.Only St George’s church and vicarage and part of the school (now the library) and the former Royal Engineer survive from the 1840s. You could argue that some parts of the Reading Room and the Vets Institute (built on the site of the first Market House) survive from that time, but the original architecture has been lost.

Mid Victorian
Wolverton entered a new building phase in 1860 when the Stratford Road and Church Street were constructed up to the Cambridge Street back alley. Most of these buildings survive, including the North Western and the Vic. Some houses were pulled down in the 290th century on Church Street to accommodate the former Empire and the former GPO. Some parts of the south side of Church Street were demolished to make way for the Agora.

Church Street: These houses were replaced by the Empire Theatre and the GPO in the 1920s and 1930s

Late Victorian

Osborne Street

Green Lane, Victoria, Moon and Osborne Streets, Cambridge Street and Windsor Street were built in the 1890s.

Edwardian

Girls and Infants School opened in 1906

The Church Street school was opened in 1896 and the Aylesbury Street school in 1906. Both buildings are still in use today as school. Around them the Radcliffe Trust developed the housing stock in the first two decades of the 20th century. Nothing much has changed. The Craufurd Arms, the Palace and the West End Methodist Chapel were part of that development.

The Elms, built for the doctor c 1905

Wolverton Today

Anyone driving today through the relatively narrow older street of Wolverton will recognise that these houses were not built with cars in mind. Back gardens have been adapted over time to provide some sort of accommodation. However, most of the late Victorian and early 20th century houses were and are substantial 3 bedroom homes and will remain as such for the time being.
One thing we can be sure about is that there will be change. As I have tried to illustrate here, there have been dramatic changes over centuries and in general only a few fragments are left to show us what buildings were like in centuries past. Railway Wolverton had now had its time and I suspect that if I were here in 100 years time, I may have even less of redbrick Wolverton to write about.
The former Manor House at Old Wolverton, pulls down in the  1730s.

The lost Railway Town

178 years ago work began on a maintenance depot on a green field site about a mile away from the old village of Wolverton. It was called the engine shed but it was in fact a large complex of workshops and offices built around a quadrangle. After it was completed in 1839 work began on new housing stock and a new community started to emerge. There was a sense at the beginning that they were making it upas they went along, but in 1840 the LBR hired a company of Birmingham surveyors to properly lay out the new town on the available 22½ acres. Soon the new redbrick town became something of a wonder for travellers who stopped at the station for refreshments while their engine was being changed. Indeed the Refreshment Rooms as they were known, employing 30 busy women,  became the subject of articles, letters and even one romantic novel. By the mid-1840s this new town had a variety of housing stock, shops, schools, a church, pubs, a market house, a reading room and the second Mechanics Institute foundation in the country.
This was Wolverton Station and before the end of the first decade the population dwarfed the old village and overtook the established towns of Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. Today we learn that the slow erosion of the railway works will now become complete and that no vestige of its former railway presence will remain.
The Wolverton works underwent considerable expansion in the 19th century. After J E McConnell became superintendent in 1846 (more or less at the same time that the L&BR merged into the larger L&NWR) the plant began to manufacture locomotives and this continued until 1871 when an L&NWR rationalisation concentrated carriage building at Wolverton and locomotive building at Crewe. Even so, the works continued to expand, eventually stretching almost a mile along the banks of the canal. At its peak the works employed 5,000 men and supported an urban population that was rare in rural Buckinghamshire. It became the second largest town in the county and only High Wycombe was larger. Wolverton people could feel justly proud of their railway heritage, and despite the burdens of two world wars, Wolverton was still very much a railway town at the time of nationalisation in 1948.
The railways lost their way in the post war period and ironically, road traffic, which had been seen off by the railways in 1840 was making an unstoppable comeback a century later. Wolverton became part of the general railway decline.
The original engine shed disappeared some years ago and was replaced by a Tesco car park. Some of the first houses gave way to workshop expansion in the 19th century and the rest of the 1840s housing stock was demolished in the 1960s to make way for something more modern, although that project, now over 50 years old, is beginning to show signs of age. The late Victorian town, built after 1860, largely remains intact.

What will now be missing is any visible evidence that this was ever a railway town. Does this matter? Perhaps not and in any case there is no purpose or point to winding back the clock. Nonetheless, the historic importance of this railway town lingers. When the new town of Milton Keynes was conceived the very existence of Wolverton and the post war development of Bletchley provided an anchor point in the north and the south as the basis for the development of virgin fields. Had there not been this urban concentration, it is doubtful that the new city planners would have paid much attention to the area. If Robert Stephenson’ s preferred route through Buckingham had not been blocked in the 1830s we might be thinking of that small town as a new city today.

Wolverton and district in 1824

Very little of the Wolverton area from the early 19th century is now recognisable. Even the Watling Street has now been broken up.
This map was published in 1825 and based on a survey of 1824 by a man called A. Bryant. Little is known about him, not even his first name, but the map survives and pre-dates the Ordnance Survey by a decade.
The Wolverton Road followed its old course along the valley. It was at that time a toll road and toll houses were to be found just outside Stony Stratford, at the Haversham turn and at the turn at the bottom of the hill at what was later New Bradwell. New Bradwell did not then exist and houses could only be found by the canal at the wharf, the New Inn and the Windmill. There may have been more people at that time living in Stantonbury.
There was a direct track from Wolverton to Bradwell, probably going through the Happy Morn and the Haversham road was in a slightly different place, having been moved to the east when the railway embankment was built. The course of the river was also changed at the same time.
Note also the direct track from Stonebridge House to Calverton. This was one of the ancient cross country roads, a ridgeway. Parts of it survive at Wolverton as Green Lane and the track between the Top Rec and the Cemetery.
Stony Stratford was also somewhat different. The Back Lane, now Russell street, had houses of sorts on it and could reach the High Street through Ram Alley, which was demolished later in the century to become New Street.
The main farms were at Brick Kiln, Wolverton Park (now known as Wolverton House), Manor Farm (marked here as Wolverton House), Stacey Bushes Farm (at the time the farmhouse was beside Bradwell Brook) and Stonebridge House Farm. there were also some smaller farms such as Debbs Barn near Stony Stratford and another farm which was later occupied by McCorquodales ad the western end of the Works.
Much of this map could still be recognised by those of us who grew up in the pre-Milton Keynes era, but I rather thinks that as development continues and roads change their course, very little of it can be positively identified today.

Murder of a 3 year old boy in 1851

This story comes from the Northampton Mercury of Saturday, August 2nd. 1851, and tells a rather tragic tale of Sarah Irons, who, if this report is to be believed, drowned her own three year old son. The drowned body of the boy was found in the canal on the west side, just beside the Surgeon’s house. This is now where the Secret Garden is. The body was left at the Radcliffe Arms over the bridge on the other side of the canal. This was more-or-less where the Park entrance used to be.
Sarah Irons doesn’t appear in the 1851 census in Wolverton, but a 23 year-old of that name was working as a cook in Stanmore. Her son does not show at this address but may have been deposited with relatives. Fromthe reports below it does appear that she presented herself for these jobs as a single woman and had obviously arranged for her son to be lodged elsewhere. This stratagem fell apart when the woman who was caring for the boy presented him on the doorstep of Mr. Rogers’ house saying that she could not keep him any longer. The Sarah Irons of Stanmore  could be the same woman.

Wolverton.— Alleged Murder.—On Monday last, Sarah Irons, a single woman, was brought in custody of Superintendent Driscoll, at the Magistrates’ Clerk’s office, Newport Pagnel, on the charge of murdering her illegitimate child, boy about three years of age, by drowning him in the Grand Junction Canal, at the Wolverton Station of the London and North-Western Railway. The Magistrates present were the Rev. George Phillimore and W. G. Duncan, Esq. It should be premised tbat on the previous Tuesday coroner’s inquest had been held on the body, and an open verdict of “Found drowned” returned ; but tbe circumstances of tbe case having come to the knowledge of the Magistrates of the district, they deemed it necessary that the affair should undergo further investigation. A. warrant was accordingly placed the hands of Superintendent Driscoll, who apprehended the prisoner in London on the following Wednesday evening. Mr. Arrowsmith, solicitor, of Newport Pagnel, attended for the accused. Several witnesses were examined, the substance of whose evidence will be found in the following narrative. It appeared that the prisoner had been in the service of Mr. Rogers, surgeon, of Wolverton, as cook, for a period of about seven weeks. On the morning of Saturday, 19th inst., John Tyler, a police-constable on the London and North-Western Railway, was going his rounds at half-past six in the morning, when he perceived the body of child lying in the water a short distance from the bank of the canal. The spot where the body lay was nearly opposite a small wicket gate opening from Mr. Rogers’s garden upon a narrow footpath leading along the canal bank—the towing path being on the opposite side of the water. The constable removed the body to the Radcliffe Arms Inn, and from some information he received, went Mrs. Rogers’s and saw the accused. He asked where the child was, and she replied at Bradwell. a village about a mile and quarter distant. On his stating his intention of taking her into custody, she said, ” I’ll tell you the truth, was taking the child to Bradwell on Tuesday morning, and being unwell, let go my hand, and fell into the canal. From the evidence of two of the prisoner’s fellow servants, seemed that the deceased had been taken to Wolverton some weeks since by a person from Bedford (of which town prisoner a native) with whom she had left it at nurse. It was afterwards placed with a party at Haversham, and finally with a woman named Franklin. The last named person kept it but a night and day, and then returned it to the prisoner, who concealed it in her master house. The last time was seen alive was on the night of Monday, 14th inst. It was likewise given in evidence that the prisoner had remarked it would be a happy release for her if the boy were dead. She had also been heard to say that she never liked the child, for she never had any love for his father. On the 17th inst., two days previously to the body being found, she appeared very merry, and accounted for by saying she had received a letter that morning informing her that she should have no more trouble about the boy. She had sold its clothes on this day to a rag dealer, and they were now produced by Superintendent Driscoll, and identified by both her fellow servants and Mrs. Franklin, who had the child at Bradwell. Messrs. J. S. Gent and J. M. Freeman made post-mortem examination of the remains they gave a very detailed description of the internal appearances, and both gentlemen were of opinion that deceased had not died a natural death, and that tbe appearances, congestion of the lungs, &c, were consistent with the fact that death had resulted from drowning. The prisoner having had the usual caution read to her, said she awoke about four on the Tuesday morning, and finding the child did not move or breathe, and not having the means to bury it, she took it to the canal and threw it in. She was then fully committed for trial the next Assizes, and Superintendent Driscoll was bound over to prosecute. The prisoner was soon after taken off to Aylesbury Gaol.

A more detailed account appeared on the same day in the Bucks Herald.

NEWPORT PAGNELL, On Monday last, a young woman named Sarah Irons, was brought before the Rev. Geo, Phillimore and W. G. Duncan, Esq., charged with the murder of her illegitimate child, three years of age. John Tyler, constable of Wolverton, deposed that Saturday evening, the 19th July, about half past six o’clock in the morning, he discovered the body of male child in the canal, near to the bridge which leads to the Wolvcrton Station from the Newport Road. It had on only a shirt. It had apparently been the water some days. There were no external marks of violence about it. Witness went shortly afterwards to the house of Mr. Rogers, the surgeon, at Wolverton, in whose service the prisoner then was, and questioned her about the child, which she said was at Bradwell. On his telling her that child had been found in the canal, and he had reason to believe it was hers, she said she would tell him all about it, and she then said that on Tuesday morning, she was going to take the child to Bradwell, when it slipped into the canal, and she was afraid to say anything about it. She afterwards made another statement to the effect, that on Tuesday morning she awoke early and found the child nearly dead, and that she took it down the garden and threw it into the canal. Witness took her into custody, and detained her until an inquest was held on the body, when she was released, a verdict of found drowned having been returned by the jury. Ann Harriett Whiffen, a fellow serv ant of the prisoner’s, stated that the prisoner came into Mr. Rogers’s service about seven weeks ago—about four weeks ago some one brought child to her at Mr. Rogers. She told witness it was her child. The woman who brought it refused to keep it any longer. The child remained at Mr. Rogers’s, with the prisoner, for one night, and the next morning she told witness she had taken the child to Bradwell. A fortnight ago last Saturday, the child was again brought back to Mr. Rogers’s to the prisoner. It remained there until the following Monday. It was kept in the prisoner’s bed-room, and the door was kept locked. Witness saw the child between five and six o’clock on the Monday evening, it looked thin and pale, but appeared as well as usual. The prisoner went to witness between 11 and 12 o’clock the same night and told her the child was ill. Witness went to the prisoner’s room, and found the child dressed and lying on the floor, with its head on a pillow, its mouth open, and it was making a choking noise in its throat. Witness did not stay long, and prisoner said if the child was worse she would call her. She did not do so, and at seven o’clock the next morning, on enqniring about the child, the prisoner said it was better, and she had taken it to Bradwell at five o’clock. On the following Thursday, the prisoner said she had received a letter from a person, and she should not have to pay for the child much longer. She would not tell who the letter came from. On the same evening, she said, it would be happy release for her if the child was to die. She said she had no love for it, as she had none for its father. About half-an-hour afterwards she said, all of a sudden, “it’s enough to make one think of doing what they wouldn’t do.” Witness saw the child, which was found in the canal, and has no doubt it is the child she saw with the prisoner. William Todd, groom in the service of Mr. Rogers, identified the child as being the same one had seen with Sarah Irons. She told him it was her cousin, and wanted him to take charge of it for 2s. a week, but witness declined doing so. Mr. J. J. Gent, of Stoney Stratford, surgeon, said that he was called in about 12 o’clock on Saturday, the 19th, to examine the body of male child, about three years old, which was stated to have been found in the canal. He made then merely an external examination. The general appearance was healthy. It appeared to have been in the water some days. The mouth was partially open, and the tongue protruding. The pupils of the eyes were much dilated. the following day Mr Gent of Stoney Stratford, surgeon, made post-mortem examination. On removing the scalp there was red appearance on its internal surface on the left temporal muscle, and immediately above and behind the ear a slight extravasation of blood was perceptible between the integuments and the cranium. The blood vessels were found generally gorged and tended. The vessels of the brain” were turgid, and in that part corresponding with the external appearances extravasation of blood was found, indicating that some injury had been inflicted during life, but witness did not consider it sufficient to cause death. The stomach was free from appearance of inflammation. The heart also was healthy. The lungs were congested, and there was escape of frothy mucus from the nose and mouth. Witness was of opinion that the child did not die natural death. Mr. Freeman confirmed the statement made by Mr. Gent, and was also of opinion that the child did not die a natural death. Witness thought if the child had been thrown into the water after death there would not have been congestion of the lungs or water in the bronchial tubes. Sarah Franklin, Bradwell, gave evidence to the fact of having had the care of the child a few days at the request of the prisoner, who told her it belonged to woman living at the station. John Daniells, a general dealer at Newport Pagnell, said that Thursday, the 17th instant, he bought a child’s frock and petticoat and a pair of shoes of the prisoner, at Wolverton. She said they belonged to the child she had asked him to get a home for the week before. Witness asked her where the child was. She said she had sent long way off, as she did not wish to be bothered by the parties who had the care of it. The prisoner, in reply to the charge, said the child died in her bed-room about four o’clock in the morning—that she awoke and found him very silent —he was not breathing, and being alarmed she dressed herself and put the child into a basket, intending to take it to Bradwell, but not being able to do it she went part of the way and turned back, and not having any money or any friends to assist her she was afraid of making an alarm, and not knowing what to do she put it it into the water, but she could say with a clear conscience that the child died a natural death her bed-room. She was committed to take her trial for wilful murder.

OnTuesday, March 2 1852,Sarah Irons was brought for trial at Aylesbury before a jury. Witnesses were sworn, including the local police constable, Tyler, and the evidence above was presented the jury. However, the jury chose to be compassionate and delivered a “Not Guilty” verdict.  What happened to Sarah Irons after that I do not know.

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!

Would you recognise this Wolverton?

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Arthur Mee’s book on Buckinghamshire for £1. It was a volume in a monumental pre-war work which covered every county in its own volume and was called The King’s England. The format is an alphabetical arrangement of articles on each town and village. New Bradwell, by the way, was not included. This volume was first published in 1937. This is the Wolverton entry.

Wolverton. We may wonder if we could not write half the story of our land round Wolverton, from the Saxon mound to the traffic lights at Oxford Circus. Certainly it has a very great story for this age of ours, and it comes out of the far past when the Saxons threw up the mound by the church. 

The church, with two fine cedars before it, throws its shadow over the mound and looks out into the meadows of the Ouse valley. There may have been a church here as old as the mound itself; we know there was a Norman church, for one of its carved stones is in the rectory, the patriarch of the village houses, with fluted Corinthian columns at the door and the arms of the Longuevilles on the pediment. The inner doorway of the rectory has grotesques in its spandrels and the head of a heraldic greyhound in its tympanum.

But the Saxon church has gone completely, and all that is left of the Norman church is the queer head carved by a Norman mason and a consecration cross which was fixed in the wall when the church was made new last century.

Of the mediaeval church the 14th century tower remains with its arches intact, and the grotesque Norman head is in its stair turret. There is a marble monument with one of our first baronets on it, Sir Thomas Longueville of 1685. But for the rest it is modern—a brass portrait of a vicar’s son killed in his teens while flying in France (Bouverie St Mildmay), a graceful font canopy with a golden eagle in flight as the pulley-weight, saints and angels on the reredos and Fathers of the Church on the pulpit, and a painting of Christ and the children above the tower arch.

But we think of Wolverton not for what we see here but for what has happened here in days that seem to us so very long ago yet are still in living memory. The great works of the LMS have here transformed a village into a busy town. It is halfway from London to Birmingham, and it happened that it was a convenient place in the early days for teaching railways traffic control. Strange it seems to us today, but in the early days of trains there were men on the lines giving signals. It chanced that there were an unusual number of signal-posts near Wolverton station, and here men came for training. Here they were taught to stand erect for a signal if the line was clear, to wave a red flag before the engine if there was danger, and to bring the red flag smartly to the shoulder as the engine passed. They are scenes from Wolverton’s past which seem to give it a place of its own in the history of transport.

We have been able also to see copies of the private time-tables that were once used here, in the days before Greenwich had linked the country with its own time. Then they set times down in their tables in terms like these:

Arrive Wolverton:

London time 10.25; Local time 10.20.

And so it is that Wolverton, beginning its story with the Saxon mound in the shadow of the trees, has not only something old and new for us to see, but something curious for us to know.

It would appear that the writer spent a little time at Old Wolverton inspecting Holy Trinity and the Rectory and is able to give it a few paragraphs, but he must have taken one look at the town and concluded there was nothing interesting to say about it. He probably collared some likely-looking character on the Stratford Road who then gave him this entirely fanciful tale that the origin of the town depended on it being a training centre for signalmen.