Friday, July 8, 2016


Stantonbury today is a significant urban development but for over 1,000 years was purely rural and sparsely populated. Of the lost village, which never amounted to much, there is only an ancient church ruin.  There are many examples in England today where churches associated with villages are at quite some distance from what we would now think of as a "village", so one cannot always assume that the presence of a church ruin meant that there was a village in our later understanding of the word. Villages at one time encompassed a certain territory known as the manor after the Norman invasion and often the dwellings were scattered.

Archaeological excavations show evidence of occupation in Romano-British times.. Excavations that were undertaken around Stantonbury Campus have turned up Roman developments but there is no mention of any medieval buildings.

Stanton, later called Stanton Barry after the name of the family who controlled the manor, then Stantonbury, was never a particularly wealthy manor. It covered about 800 acres of grazing land and woodland, bounded by the River Ouse in the north and Bradwell Common in the south and bordered by Bradwell to the East and Great Linford to the West.

In the Domesday Book (1086) the manor was assessed at 5 hides. The hide was a Saxon unit of land measurement which is generally interpreted as 120 acres but was generally understood as the amount of land required to support one family, so the hide could be flexible. To put this into context, Wolverton, with quite a lot of arable land was assessed at 20 hides, which more-or-less corresponds to the acreage, whereas Hanslope, then mostly forested, had a much larger acreage but was only assessed at 10 hides. What this tells us about Stantonbury is that there was not a lot to tax. Haversham across the river was far richer.

The population in 1086 was 7 villagers, 3 smallholders and 4 slaves which might have amounted to a population of 40 or 50. There was also a mill. The Thane who owned the manor in 1066 was Bisi of Calverton. It is fair to assume that he was an absentee landlord who probably employed a Reeve (one of the villagers) to look after the affairs of the manor. After the conquest the manor was given to one of King William's chief supporters, Miles Crispin, and he in turn provided the manor to one of his knights in lieu of service - a man called Ralph.

In 1202 his granddaughter, Amice, granted two virgates of land (about 60 acres) to Simon of Stanton who later used the surname Barry. He may have been her husband or son, but at any rate the name Barry now becomes associated with the manor from this time forth.

It can be inferred from this that there was a Manor House (probably a hall in the early years) and other dwellings for the peasants. Archaeological investigation would probably reveal their whereabouts but it's a safe bet that they would be above the floodline. There has been a farmhouse and buildings on the Newport Road for the past 200 years. It may have been built on an older settlement or possibly the old manor house used to be here. I'm afraid it's all guesswork.

This map from 1770 shows that the Stantonbury mansion was still there. It was pulled down a few years later.

The course of the river has been much changed through the excavation of gravel pits but there were  several mills here. The is one in 1086 which is described as broken down in 1324, three corn mills in 1653 and 1695 and four in 1721.

The Manor passed through several families over the centuries and it would be tedious to list them; however, some of the occupants were colourful. In the 1620s it was occupied by Viscount Purbeck who was a lunatic and under the care and treatment of Dr. Napier, then Rector of Great Linford. A hundred years later, John Wittewronge, murdered an actor called Joseph Griffith at The aracen's Head, Newport Pagnell, and had to flee the country until the hue and cry died down. He returned some years later and sold the manor to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough who then bequeathed it in her will to John Spencer. Thus this manor, and Bradwell, became the property of the Earls Spencer. There is some commemoration of this fact in the name Spencer Street in New Bradwell.

The earliest Ordnance Survey, conducted between 1804 and 1816, shows St Peter's Church by the river, a cluster of 4 buildings by the path, designated Stanton Low. This land is probably now under water. There are cottages beside the canal and the Newport Road, Stantonbury Wharf and buildings on the Neport Road where the farm now is. Further up, approximately on the site of Stantonbury School, was Clare's Farm.

The 1851 Census records only a handful of people. At Stantonbury Wharf in one house, William Brooks, a coal merchant and his wife and a 16 year old carter. At Stanton Low, one house only with a family of 6 employed as Agricultural Labourers and lacemakers. On the Newport Road, the Scrivener family with two farms, one of 440 acres and another held by one son of 150 acres. Between them they employed 22 labourers, probably drawn from Bradwell and Linford. And at Clare's Farm there are three cottages housing agricultural labourers and lacemakers. So it appears that the Scriveners are renting all of the manor except for the woods. The total population of Stantonbury in 1851 was 27.

You could conclude from this that there is a lost village of Stantonbury. There is evidence of a Manor House and a Rectory and cottages at Stanton Low. There were up to four mills beside the river. The farm buildings beside the Newport Road (Wolverton Road?) have been converted to offices. They are probably 18th century, although they may have earlier foundations. There probably was land enclosure in the 17th century which would have reduced the population but there does not appear to have been any recorded protest, which would suggest that there were no great numbers affected. Overall, the manor may never have had a significant population in its history, although it was clearly at its lowest point from the 19th to 20th century.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Mansion at Stantonbury

Stantonbury in 1770

By the time this map was drawn the ancient village of Stantonbury had almost disappeared, but there was still a mansion there which was important enough to catch the cartographer's attention. Three buildings are noted on the manor, the big house, the church and buildings at Stanton High, looking rather isolated.

The story of this mansion is interesting, although details a few and the history of any sort of manor house is extremely sketchy.

At Domesday the manor was in the hands of the baron Miles Crispin and he had probably granted it to one of his knights, a man called Ralph. We assume that he was the progenitor of the family that came to be lords of the manor for the next three centuries, although we cannot support that assumption with documentary evidence. We have to wait until 1202 for that to emerge when the manor was definitely passed to Simon de Stanton, or Simon Barre, as he was otherwise known. The manor was henceforth known as Stanton Barre, later of course becoming Stantonbury.
It passed down through the family until the male line died out in the late 14th century, when it passed to William Vaux.

As the resident lords, the Barre family and later the Vaux family would have had a hall or manor house. This may have started as a simple hall and grown through additions, or the early medieval dwelling may have been replaced by a newer building. Unfortunately we cannot know from the evidence we have available to us.

That there was a manor house is certain. A document of 1326 (Inquisitions post mortem) informs us that there was a capital messuage, a garden, a dovecote and a broken down mill. Another document dated 1565 lists two messuages, ten torts, a water mill and four gardens. A fine of 1617 records two messuages, six torts, two watermills, two dove houses, three gardens and three orchards. A year later there is specific mention of a manor house when the Temple estate was divided "all that the manor house of Stantonberry with the dove houses barnes stables backsides courts orchards and gardens heretofore belonging, and the three watermylles under one roof." From these at least we can infer the presence of a manor house, possibly 15th century in origin.

In the 16th century the manor was sold several times, beginning with Thomas Lord Vaux in 1535. From the number of sales one might infer that nothing was done to improve the manor or the property. That it produced income from sheep farming was probably enough. Eventually the manor was sold to Sir Peter Wittewronge who was interested enough to do something. He took possession  in 1653. Wittewrnge came from Flemish stock and he had money and influence. His principal seat was at Rothampstead in Hertfordshire, now a centre for agricultural research.

He settled the manor of Stantonbury on his eldest son John and after he was married in 1664 work began on a new mansion.

Building work began in 1664 and was largely complete four years later. It was demolished in 1791 and there are no drawings from any time in that period to suggest to us what it might have looked like. We can only infer from the building accounts and from other sources what it might have looked like. 

The building was of brick construction with stone dressings. There are references to the greate building and the return building which begins to suggest an "L" shaped structure. There are further references to the greate hall and the old hall, which would lead us to conclude that the old manor house was incorporated into the new building. Or, there may have been a central building with two wings, because there are further references to a new leser hall and the folkes' (servants) hall. Certainly a large hall for the main building with two wings at either end would be conventional for the time and we can speculate that this may have been the structure using the old manor house as one of the wings.

The accounts reveal that the new mansion was not an inexpensive structure. We can perhaps guess at its appearances by taking a look at Rothamstead, which, with its Duch gables, may have been the parent for inspiration. The first rather crude drawing was made in 1624. The photograph below of the much expanded and enlarged Rothamstead manor illustrates the character of the architecture which has maintained its central features over the centuries. Was the Stantonbury house similar?

If so it would have been one of the more remarkable survivors in the Wolverton area. Sadly its history was very short. John Wittewronge succeeded to his father's titles in 1693. He kept Stantonbury and his younger brother James inherited Rothamstead. Sir John outlived his father by only four years and in 1697 the estate and titles passed to yet another Sir John Wittewronge. He appears to have led an active life and was colonel of a regiment during the wars in Flanders. He served as member of Parliament for Aylesbury and subsequently Wycombe until his death in 1722.

The fourth baronet, unsurprisingly also named John, got himself into difficulty in 1721 (a year before his father's death) by murdering a man called Joseph Griffith at the Saracen's Head in Newport Pagnell. The Sir John took the expedient measure of fleeing the country and returning a few years later when the hue and cry had died down. Around 1727 he sold the manor to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and the Wittewronges receded from Stantonbury's history. The fourth baronet's ending was not a happy one. He found himself in the Fleet prison in 1743 for his debts and in the course of a drunken brawl received some fatal wounds.

In that same year the mansion at Stantonbury was damaged by fire, the extent of which is not known. The Duchess of Marlborough died the following year and bequeathed this manor, along with many other huge estates, to her grandson John Spencer. He became the first Earl Spencer and founded the family which continues to hold its principal seat in Althorp, Northamptonshire.

Earl Spencer never had any occasion to live at Stantonbury but the house may have been used as a residence for stewards of the estate. Certainly this must be the case for Thomas Harrison who built Wolverton House in the 1780s. Harrison's older children were baptised at Stantonbury church in the late 1750 and 1760s,  so they were evidently living in the parish and given the almost complete absence of houses for a middle class family of that status one can only assume that they were living in the Wittewronge mansion. Thomas Harrison was the land agent for Earl Spencer and he performed a similar role for the Earl of Uxbridge. In 1773 he took on this same task for the Radcliffe Trust and later established his "seat" at Wolverton. Thomas Harrison, as I have described elsewhere. was an 18th century entrepreneurial spirit who appears to have made a lot of money.

I would speculate that in the 1770s the 100 year old house was in a state of disrepair. The fire of 1743 must have left residual damage and probably the cost of maintenance was no longer worth it. It is quite possible that the Harrisons were the last residents and a decade later, in 1791, the only practical course for Earl Spencer was to demolish the building.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rev. George Phillimore of Willen

The Reverend George Phillimore was the Vicar of Willen, and although living in an out-of-the-way village had occasion to travel on the new railway line. He was not a happy customer, as this correspondence in The Times will show. Bear in mind that at the date of his travel the line had not been completed, and passengers travelling north of Denbigh Hall had to travel by coach. The line through Wolverton was fully opened two weeks after this correspondence.

Wednesday September 12th 1838


Sir, - Knowing the interest you feel upon with all subjects connected with the welfare and convenience of the general public, and relying upon the laudable zeal which your able journal has aways exhibited in the exposure of abuses, I hope you will allow me, through its valuable medium, to state an occurrence which happened to me a short time ago when travelling by the London and Birmingham Railway. That company is, by act of Parliament, invested with such extraordinary powers, that it appears to me to be the bounden duty of every individual who may suffer from any abuse of these powers to make known his grievance, in order that such details may operate as a stimulus upon the Legislature to interfere in behalf of the public, before the monopoly becomes complete by the extinction of stage coach travelling. Permit me, then, to lay before you a correspondence which has taken place between myself and the directors, upon the occurrence in question, which seems to me will speak for itself.

Willen Vicarage, August 25, 1838.

"Sir - I beg to call your attention to the following occurrence which happened to me upon my arrival at Denbigh hall, by the train which left London at 3 p.m. this day, I was accompanied by a lady, who was going to Northampton. In order to secure an inside place by the coach from Denbigh hall, she had, at my suggestion, booked and paid for, at the Golden Cross office, Regent Street, a place in the first class carriage from London, (getting in, however, at Watford,) and an inside place by the Northampton coach. At the Golden Cross a receipt was given for the payment of the fare thither. The receipt was objected to at first by the Watford bookkeeper as not being a proper ticket, but upon conferring with the guard of the train, he admitted it to be so, and directed him to pass my companion to Northampton. Upon arriving at Denbigh hall, however, great was my surprise to find this ticket refudsed by Simcox, the check taker, who affected entire ignorance of its purport. When upon this I assured him that everything was right, and that the guard knew it to be so, he answered me insolently, that he must be paid. Wishing to avoid any unpleasant altercation occurring before my companion, I desired her to pass on, and told her that I would settle the matter. Again, I assured the check taker that the fare was paid, when, upon endeavouring to pass him, I was immediately seized and collared by him! In spite of my remonstrances I found it necesary to break away, and whereupon he called policeman 73, to whom he gave me in charge. I offered an explanation to the policeman, which he peremptorily refuse to hear, and proceeded to collar and detain me. I begged the guard might be summoned, who at once corroborated the truth of my statement. I tehn offered to go away, but was again seized and detained by the policeman. I asked Simcox his name, who refused to give me his name, as did the policeman. I lose no time in forwarding my complaint, and beg your immediate attention to it, and a satisfactory redress for the insolence and assault on the part of two of your servants, forebearing to make any comment, however obvious, upon the above statement. I ought to add, that before they would release me, 7s. was demanded, which I gave, in payment of the fare; and also that the coachman of the Northampton coach showed me my companion's name on the way-bill, as booked from London to Northampton, and at my desire showed it to Simcox, who persisted in refusing to acknowledge its correctness.
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"To the Secretary of the London and Birmingham Railway."

To this letter I received the following reply:-

"London and Birmingham Railway-office,
Euston-square, August 30, 1838.

"Sir - Having laid your letter of the 25th inst. before the committee of management, and a rigid investigation into all the circumstances connected with your complaint having been immediately instituted, I am instructed to express to you the regret of the company that you should have been exposed to so much annoyance, and to apologize on their behalf for any failure in proper respect to a passenger on the part of any of their servants. I am desired to add, that the immediate cause of this annoyance is the conduct of persons connected with the intermediate coaching, and that this evil will cease on the general opening on the 17th September.

"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"R. CREED, Sec.
"To the Rev. S. Phillimore, Willen, Newport Pagnel."
Richard Creed was the London Secretary of the Company, which also had another, in the person of Captain Moorsom, at its Birmingham office. Both held important and influential positions and may have had a larger role than Company Secretaries have today.
The Rev. Phillimore was not to be fobbed off so easily.

To this I replied as follows:-
"Sir, - I received duly your letter this morning; and, in reply, must candidly confess that the explanation which it contains is anything but satisfactory. I do not find therein any mention made whatever of reprimanding, or in any way punishing the servant or servants, through whose negligence I was insulted, but the onus of the transaction is attempted to be laid upon the 'persons connected with the intermediate coaching,' a statement which, if borne out by the fact, would only throw additional blame upon the Company for their bad arrangement. Again, a point upon which not only myself, but the public at large, are materially interested, viz., the extortion of money for a fare already paid, and the restitution of money obtained under circumstances of personal violence and detention, is passed over, after the "rigid investigation," which you state to have taken place, in total silence. What am I to infer from this! Either that the 'investigation' was a very loose one indeed, or that the money will not be restored. Once more, therefore, I am compelled to draw your attention to the following points: - 1. The book-keeper of the Golden Cross, which in your advertisement in The Times is stated, under the signature of your two secretaries, to be one of the offices where places may be taken, gives my servant a ticket, upon payment of the fare, to Northampton. The servant expressly asks whether that ticket is sufficient. The book-keeper replies that it is.
"The book-keeper at the Watford station, after learning from the guard of the train that the lady whom I accompanied was duly booked, desires the guard to pass her on to Northampton free. Now, in the case of this ticket being an improper one, the book-keeper at the Golden Cross (which is expressly declared by public advertisement as an authorized office for booking places on the railroad), was to blame for not giving a correct one; and in any case, it was the duty of the Watford book-keeper to have seen that she was provided with a proper ticket before allowing her to enter the carriage. But it does not appear that the latter ever doubted the validity of the ticket, for he took the assurance of the guard, and declared the fare paid to Northampton. Is the negligence of your servants to be made the cause of assaulting and wounding the feelings of a gentleman, and the justification of committing extortion upon a passenger? Are the public to suffer from the carelessness or faulty arrangements of the railroad directors? Are they to believe the advertisements which they seen in the newspapers, signed by the two secretaries, stating that there are certain offices in London where places may be booked? Are they made to be liable, when travelling by your conveyances (whether male of female, gentle or simple) to be assaulted, and, for a mistake clearly committed through the fault of your Company's servants, to be collared, and given in charge to a policeman, and, in order to obtain release, to be compelled to pay a fare over again; and in the end, when demanding redress for such usage, to be soothed with the satisfactory intelligence that "the immediate cause of this annoyance lies with the conduct of persons connected with the coaching department?" I am very much mistaken if the public at large will put up by these things, or if the Birmingham Railroad Company will find their interests advanced by such occurrences, and such unsatisfactory replies to just complaints. I am not of a litigious disposition, but every man possesses feelings which may properly be called into exercise on certain occasions, and these urge me, as well upon public as upon personal grounds, to seek a satisfactory redress and a restitution of my money, both of which demands I feel confident the committee will see the propriety of acceding. I await your immediate reply, &c.

"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"To the Secretary of the London and Birmingham Railroad."
In this account we only get the Reverend Phillimore's side of the story. It does appear that he had foundation for his grievance. In mitigation for the railway, these were very early days. All the jobs were new and the Company was unable to call upon any experience. Men were hired, provided they could read and write, on the recommendation of a worthy and respectable person. Staff training, as such, was probably non-existent, but employees were provided with written instructions, or "rules" for the execution of their duties. They probably did not cover situations like this.
To this the Committee replied as follows:-
"London and Birmingham Coaching department,
"Euston-station, Sept. 3, 1838.

"Sir,- I am instructed to transmit to you a Post-office order for 7s., in reference to your communication of the 31st ult., to which the Seretary has replied.
"I am, your obedient servant,
"Rev. G. Phillimore, Willen.
At this point Richard Creed was unwilling to waste any more time on this country parson and delegated the matter to someone in his office. He may have overlooked the fact that Phillimore was 7s. out of pocket from the first letter. His instruction must have been, "pay the man and close the matter."
Reverend Phillimore still had bruised feelings.
Upon submitting the above to a respectable solicitor, it appeared that my only remedy for the above treatment was to enter an action against the Company - a remedy expensive and unsatisfactory; but upon mature consideration, reflecting that my end being not merely of a personal nature, but to expose the abuses of a great monopoly to the public, with the hope that the Legislature will interfere to put a stop to them, I deemed that the most effectual means of doing so would be to obtain a place for the above correspondence in the columns of your widely circulated journal.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Willen Vicarage, Sept. 7.
A few days later, Phillmore threw in the towel and resorted to the publicity he could get from The Times. I don't know if this is one of the first instances of a customer using the press as a means of getting attention to a perceived wrong but it is probably an early instance. The London and Birmingham Railway is an early instance of a large public company providing service to the public and entering into a new type of customer service. If Josiah Wedgewood sold you a flawed piece of china it could be replaced, and no harm done. If a railway traveller had a poor travelling experience it could not easily be put right. The L&BR plainly did not know how to deal with such situations as experienced by George Phillimore and by today's standards would fall very short. Everybody was learning.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Steam power on the Farm

Edward Hayes, one of Wolverton and Stony Stratford's steam pioneers found an early associate was a farmer from Little Woolstone, William Smith. Smith came from a well-established farming family in that area and was born at Church Farm in 1814. His father, like many successful 18th century farmers, had expanded his faming interests to include farms at Woughton and Great Linford and young William cut his farming teeth on these farms before returning to Church farm on his father's death in 1837.

Smith was a man of financial as well as intellectual resources and began to experiment with steam power for agricultural applications and before long he found a fellow traveller in Edward Hayes, who was then working at Wolverton. The problem for Smith and all steam pioneers in the agricultural area was the excessive weight of steam traction engines which quickly bogged them down in the soil while they were in use. Smith's eventual solution was to design a stationary engine which could haul ploughs and cultivators through the fields through a system of ropes and pulleys.

He had some success with these monstrous machines in the mid century and by 1862 was reported to have 200 customers on his books. Sir Frank Markham describes the efforts of a day's harvesting in July where a field of wheat was harvested at Linford, threshed by another machine and taken to Little Woolstone Mill to be ground into flour. The effort of days or a week was dramatically cut.

This was not without its social impact. In 1851 his farm at Little Woolstone employed 21 men. By 1861 this number was down to 7 men and 6 boys. By 1877 trade union organisers were speaking at Little Woolstone and finding a ready ear amongst workers who saw their jobs disappearing and their wages stagnating. Smith was not accustomed to this method of dealing with his workers and appears to have been unable to make the adjustment. His response was to cease farming and building machinery. The fields were  left to grass and pasture and he put all his machinery in a barn and bricked up the walls. The machinery was discovered in 1958 and restored. I am not sure where they are to be found today.

William Smith, although married twice, had no children. His first wife, Susannah Williamson, was 14 years older than he and probably about 40 when they married. Likewise his second wife Louisa was in her 50s. So the fact that he had no children to take over the family business may in part have led to his uncompromising position.

The steam engine had a relatively short history on the farm. Once lighter, more maneuverable oil powered engines appeared the steam engine quickly vanished from the farm. Thomas Hardy describes the impact of the steam engine  in his 1891 book, Tess of the Durbervilles.

Close under the eaves of the stack, and as yet barely visible was the red tyrant that the women had come to serve – a timber- framed construction, with straps and wheels appertaining – the threshing-machine, which, whilst it was going, kept up a despotic demand upon the endurance of their muscles and nerves.

The "red tyrant" works remorselessly and agricultural workers in Dorset were now experiencing the domination of the machine, much as their industrial cousins earlier in the century. The natural rhythms of working in the countryside, once governed by daylight and the weather, were now under the rule of an unseen clock.

William Smith's minor legacy was to be an early adopter of the industrialization of agriculture.

Edward Hayes and the Watling Works

One of the more remarkable men to come to Wolverton in those early railway years was Edward Hayes. He was born in Manchester in 1818 where he did an apprenticeship. Then he found work at the new Engine Repair shop at Wolverton, probably in 1839. We know a little about those years because he was a room mate of Hugh Stowell Brown, who later wrote about him in his own autobiography. They were both serious young men, eager to make their mark in the world and keen on self improvement.

Four of us, Edward Hayes, William Harvey, William Mickle, and myself, drew together. They were journey men, but young, the oldest not more than twenty-five years. We agreed to lodge together with a peasant named Cox at Old Wolverton. Hayes was a little man, a clever, skilful workman ; he came from Manchester, and was great in phrenology, and in Combe’s ‘Constitution of Man.’ Harvey was a Derbyshire man, one of the best workmen in the place, and gifted with a dry and pleasant humour. Mickle was a Scotchman, brought up in London; a boisterous but kindly fellow, whom Hayes pronounced to be a man in whom combativeness and self-esteem were abnormally developed. The four of us slept in two beds placed in one small room. We had our meals in the lower room of the cottage, which was the kitchen, and there was a small room, about eight feet square, which we converted into a study, and in which we tried in the evenings to improve our minds, which, sooth to say, sorely needed improvement. On Sundays, Hayes generally went out into the fields to meditate; Harvey went to the Methodist Chapel at Stratford; Mickle wandered from one place of worship to another; and I went to church somewhere in the neighbourhood, generally to Stratford, because there was an organ there, which, however, was very execrably played. Our studies were various. Hayes went in for philosophy; Harvey for theology; Mickle for mechanics ; I for mathematics. I don’t think we read a novel all the time we were together, and our whole stock of books was not worth £5.
A few years later Edward Hayes found a sponsor, William Smith, a Woolstone farmer, and set up his works at the Wolverton End of Stratford. At first he made agricultural machinery, for which there was a demand in the 19th century. He then used the knowledge he had acquired at Wolverton to develop steam engines to power agricultural machinery. These were successful.

In the late 1860s, when the Watling Works were well established and thriving, he turned his hand to boat building. Apparently he had some knowledge of this from his apprenticeship in Manchester. Boatbuilding in the middle of he country did not strike people at the time and since as a natural fit, nevertheless, Hayes' energy, engineering know-how and product quality made sure of success and orders came in from many parts of the world. At one time they were building vessels up to 80 feet long.

These vessels, once finished, were transported up the High Street to the canal wharf at Old Stratford. There they were slid into the water and comfortably delivered by canal to their destination. Even though this was one of England's major trunk roads it was still possible for a slow moving wide load to take up the road without traffic hold-ups.

Edward Hayes died in 1877 and his son (also Edward) took over the firm. Boat building was now the mainstay of the business. The firm continued to thrive into the first quarter of the 20th century but then seemd to lose the drive and energy of its founder. edward Hayes junior died in 1917 and his son only lived to 1920. After this the firm continued to 1925 when it closed down.

Hayes' commitment was not simply to making money (which he did) but also to spreading his engineering knowledge. In this sense he was also remarkable and quite early he took on apprentices, which he managed to attract from across the country. Sir Frank Markham notes three who went on to distinguished careers after learning the ropes at Hayes: Osborne Reynolds, Professor of Engineering at Manchester University, Sir Frederick Rebbeck, Chairman of Harland and Wolff, who had a hand in the design of the Titanic, and B J Fisher, who became Chief Engineer of the London and South Western Railway.

One of the last boats to be built was acquired by the Milton Keynes Development Museum in 2004. It can be seen at the entrance to the museum.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bletchley in 1839 from the Railway.

In 1838 James Drake, a Birmingham printer, published his first "Road Book" of the Grand Junction Railway, which connected Birmingham to the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. The book was a great success and quickly went into a second printing. Thus emboldened, Drake produced a similar volume for the London and Birmingham Railway in the following year.

Travel guides were not new, but the speed and relative cheapness of railway travel quickly opened up a new demand.  George Bradshaw, the Manchester cartographer, had a similar idea at this time and his guides and timetables became more famous.

Drake's technique is to describe the scenery and the outlying villages as he journeys from London to Birmingham and throw in a few interesting facts. It is still a rural world he sees. Bletchley is almost non-existent and Water Eaton, Newton Longville and Fenny Stratford appear to be more significant.
One interesting little nugget is his reported description of the Denbigh Hall Inn as a "Tom and Jerry shop". Today we associate Tom and Jerry with the Hanna-Barbera cartoons but in Victorian England the phrase came from two characters in a once popular novel and the phrase slipped into common use for a period at least.He makes assumptions about his readership that could not be made today. There are several allusions in the text that assume a classical education and a knowledge about history, literature and religion. I have provided footnotes to explain where I can.

Drake’s Description of Bletchley

            In taking a survey of the outstanding scenery from this station, Bletchley appears close to the line on the left. On the extreme left, Drayton Parslow can be distinguished, and a little in advance of it is the village of Newton Longville. More distant is Whaddon Chace and Hall, in which Queen Elizabeth was enter­tained by Arthur Lord Grey; and in which Spencer, the poet,[1] who was secretary to that nobleman, fre­quently resided. The village of Whaddon contains 889 inhabitants, and is celebrated as having been the birth-place of Richard Cox, one of the principal com­posers of our English Liturgy, and also as having given to ViIliers, the celebrated favourite of James I. and Charles I., his first title, namely, that of Baron.
            On the right of the station, and standing on a gentle eminence, at a distance of rather more than a mile, is the little market town of Fenny Stratford. This place takes its distinguishing appellation from the nature of the ground by which it is surrounded. In 1665, it was almost depopulated by a plague, and it has not yet recovered from its effects. It at present contains 635 inhabitants, who are chiefly supported by travellers and lace making.
            Continuing our survey from the Bletchley station, the village of Water Eaton is seen on the right, in the fore­ground; and on the richly wooded hills which rise be­yond, the three Brickhills are still discernible. In the beautiful vale beyond these hills, and, of course, invisible from the railway, stands the healthy town of Woburn. This town is about six miles from the sta­tion, and occupies a gentle eminence on the main road from London to Leeds. It is surrounded with planta­tions of evergreen, and consists of four broad and handsome streets, which intersect each other at right angles, In the centre of the town is a noble market house, erected by the Duke of Bedford, in the Tudor style of architecture. The church was erected by the last abbott of Woburn, and being nearly covered with ivy, has a remarkably beautiful appearance. In the immediate vicinity of the town is Woburn Abbey, the seat of his grace the Duke of Bedford. It occupies the site of an ancient Cistercian Abbey, and is sur­rounded by a noble and extensive park; but to attempt to describe all the splendid adornments of this magnificent seat, - the statues, paintings, galleries, and columns, - the noble Ionic entrance, the artificial lake, the miniature temple, and all the other valuable works of art, which unbounded wealth and refined taste have collected together, - would be very incon­sistent with the brevity required in a Road Book. We will, therefore, here conclude our survey, and suppose ourselves again bounding with the fleetness of the mountain roe along our iron pathway.
            After rapidly sweeping through a cutting, we cross the London road by a stupendous iron bridge, which has a most noble appearance from below, and come to what was formerly known as the Denbigh Hall station. Here, for several months after the first opening of the railway, the trains were accustomed to stop, and the traveller had to adopt the ancient methods of convey­ance, for the performance of the next thirty-eight miles of his journey. To describe in all its serio­comic reality the scene which this now secluded spot was wont then to present, would require the pen of a Washington Irving. Luggage lost, tickets missing, coaches overfilled, and a thousand other disastrous occurrences, altogether formed a spectacle which we would defy the most sorrowful disciple of Heraclitus[2] to view without a smile. All the busy multitudes however, that so lately thronged this spot, and rendered it a scene of intense animation, have now vanished, like the fabric of Mirza's vision[3]; and as we rapidly sweep by, and look in vain for some tokens of anima­tion, we are reminded of the feelings which travellers have had while sitting on the ruins of some ancient city. The building called Denbigh Hall, respecting which it is very probable our reader may have formed the same conception as ourselves, and imagined it to be the august mansion of some illustrious grandee, is nothing but a paltry public house, or “Tom and Jerry shop,"[4] as we heard an indignant fellow-traveller con­temptuously style it, which has taken the liberty of assuming this magnificent appellation. Tradition ascribes the origin of the name to the circumstance of Lord Denbigh having been compelled to tarry here for a night, through an accident happening to his car­riage; and also informs us that his lordship left some property to his host in return for the kindness with which he had been entertained; but whether this story is deserving of credit, or has merely been in­vented for the amusement of the visitors at this Denbigh Hall, we pretend not to say. After leaving this ci-divant [5]station, and passing through a cutting three quarters of a mile in length, we perceive on he left the church of Loughton, and also that of Shenstone, which is a very good specimen of the Norman style of architecture. Close to the line on the right is the village of Bradwell, where was formerly a priory of Black Canons[6], founded in the reign of Stephen, and of which the abbey, transformed into a farm house, may still be seen standing on the left of the line. A short cutting, which is crossed by a bridge handsomely faced in a rustic style, brings us to Wolverton station.

[1] Edmund Spenser (1552- 1599) best known as author of The Faerie Queen.
[2] Heraclitus was an ancient Greek philospher, circa 500 BC. He held a low opinion of humankind’s ability to organize it own affairs.
[3] A reference to the Persian poet Iraz Mirza, a contemporary of Omar Khayyam.
[4] The phrase first makes its appearance in a novel by Pierce Egan's Life in London (1821) and describes a hot drink made of rum and brandy or whiskey, beaten eggs, sugar, water or milk, and nutmeg, after two characters in the story. The context here is disparaging.
[5] Should be spelled ci-devant, a French phrase meaning an office holder of former glory. In other words Denbigh Hall station had former importance which has now passed.
[6] Black Canons were Benedictine Monks.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Loughton Manors

The old boundaries of Loughton are defined by the Watling Street from Two Mile Ash to near Bleak Hall and forming boundaries with Simpson, Woolstone and Bradwell. There were approximately 1500 acres; under the Saxon system this was 10 hides. Whaddon Brook divides Loughton and this naturally led to two manors: Great Loughton to the north of the brook, including all the high pasture, and Little Loughton to the south.

The name probably derives from one Luha (Lucca). The "gh" in the word would indicate that it was at one time sounded and in the 13th century we have documents where the name is written phonetically - Geoffrey de Lucton. So it may have been named for Luha ing tun - Luha's farm enclosure.

In 1066 Great Loughton was split between five thanes and Little Loughton was in the hands of Aelfric, a Thane of King Edward. Obviously they were dispossessed and we can only speculate about these men and their families. Presumably they continued to work the land with diminished status.

The Domesday Book of 1086 records Great Loughton in the hands of one Ivo, who holds in in service to Walter Giffard, one of the magnates of William's reign. Little Loughton was part of the territory of Maigno, the Baron of Wolverton, who has given it to two unnamed men-at-arms for their service.

The overlordship of Loughton was vested in Walter Giffard and in his descendants, variously the Clares and Valences and subsequently in the late 13th and 14th century in the lords of Buckingham and in the 16th century the Bishop of Peterborough.

Not that this mattered much to the peasants working the land; one overlord was much the same as another. The lord of the manor probably did matter as he was the one who led the management of the estate. Without getting into too much detail the manor does seem to have passed from Ivo to his descendants until 1313 when it was acquired by one Henry Spigurnel. We don't know how. It could have been through marriage. There was similar continuity on the Manor on the other side of the brook until the 14th century when both manors came under the control of one Thomas de Loughton.

While there were two manors there were two churches, at least until 1409 when the two parishes were amalgamated. All Saints, the surviving church, dates back to at least 1219 but has been much modified and enlarged over the centuries.

The Manor Farm house dates to the 16th century and was probably the site of the farm house for the Little Loughton Manor before amalgamation. There were three other farms in the 19th and 20th century: Old Farm, Rectory Farm and Loughton Lodge Farm on the Bradwell Road. I suggest that Old Farm, even in the 20th century quite isolated east of the railway, may relate to Grteat Loughton Manor. Rectory Farm, on Common Lane, may have been established when some land was given to the Rectory in the 19th century. Loughton Lodge Farm may also have been a 19th century creation, although I can find little about it.