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The Wolverton Mechanics Institute

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March 2002
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It was lamented that not many London celebrities had been present, other than Mr. G.C. Glyri, MP, the Company Chairman, Captain Mark Huish, the Secretary, and a handful of lesser officials. The chair of the soiree was taken by Mr. McConnell, and it was he who stated that 500 mechanics were constantly employed at Wolverton, men whose characters were exemplary, for

‘... they conducted themselves peaceably and orderly at all times, and manifested the best of dispositions for their own elevation – religious, moral, and intellectual, and for the education of their children’.

Captain Huish also had time to deliver a speech to the assembled guests, in which he gave some interesting facts about the LNWR:

‘... rather more than 10,000 men were constantly employed; 140,000 passengers were carried along the line every week, carrying with them about half-a-million of portmanteaus and band boxes, and when he reminded them that a great portion of these were ladies, who almost invariably left everything behind them, and not once in three months were the Board called to pay for the lost luggage, they would see how much the Company were indebted to these 10,000 men for their care and attention’.

The mechanics and their families were also reminded that since the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, 100 million passengers had been carried over the LNWR line. With the exception of one accident which had occurred at Wolverton station [2], the Company had maintained an accident-free service to the public, and

‘This was all the more remarkable, as there were no fewer than 900 policemen employed, carelessness on the part of any of whom might produce a fatal accident’.

 

Following the speech, the doors of an adjoining room (similarly lighted and decorated) were opened for the amusement of the females, whereupon dancing began just after 10 o’clock and continued into the small hours.

The News observed that the proceedings had given great satisfaction and enjoyment, and it looked forward to a repetition of the same on another anniversary.

Notes.

[1] Wolverton station was opened by the London & Birmingham Railway on 17th September 1838. The same company was responsible for developing the town and the railway infrastructure. A comprehensive description of the workshops is given in Francis Wishaw’s Railways of Great Britain and Ireland (1842), but reference is made to Sir Francis B. Head’s vivid description of the railway town, written in 1849:

‘... a little red–brick town composed of 242 little red-brick houses – all running either this way or that at right angles three or four tall red-brick engine chimneys, a number of very red-brick workshops, six red houses for officers – a red beer-shop, two red public houses, and, we are glad to add, a substantial red school-room, and a neat stone church, the whole lately built by order of the Railway Board, at a railway station, by a railway contractor, for railwaymen, railway women, and railway children’.

There was also a gas works which supplied the works, plus a number of garden plots (allotments) for employees’ use, a reading room and library, and, of course, the celebrated station refreshment room. Head does not mention the Mechanics’ Institute.

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