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Help with wolverton works heritage centre

Wolverton Railway works heritage centre

In mid 2013 an idea was formed by 2 of my well know friends who have a lot to do with the works thought about setting up a visitor centre in the works when it was under railcare and it was going to be where tours of the works could be undertaken and have a room for research and it will be a place where we could collect photo’s and stories etc.
when Railcare went bust we were concerned that nothng would happen all thought of a visitor centre died until early 2014 when i said about having a heritage centre in the works as it came to to attention that there is nothing to celebrate and remember wolverton. The musuem has some works artefacts and a room dedicated to the works but there is not enough room in there for anything to big. When the news came that the works site was going to be redeveloped we said this can’t really happern as the history will be gone for good so a few emails to St Modwen ended up in a meeting in September 2014 where we put forward a business play for the centre. It was touch and go at the time to get them to agree to a heritage centre two days later i found out at a meeting that the heritage centre was in the outline plans for the site and i started on doing plans when i found out the lifting shop or part of it was going to be where it would be i used photo’s i had and really sdtarted to plan it. The rest of the wolverton works heritage project team started to find ways of founding and see what grunts are out there for us Talks have also been had with york museum to have some of the wolverton collection back home including carriages.
The centre is also going to be bridging a gap between the museum and living archive in a way that there will be a place to research family history in the works go through newspapers and photo’s any old artefacts from the building that are falling down will be used and when the buildings come down all signs and artefacts will be used aswell.At this time in early 2015 plans are still on going but due to St Modwen still not putting in the planing to council means things are slowing down. We are also looking for any one that has any photos of the works and artefcts from there if any one also knows of ways of getting funding to help fund the project

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Wolverton Works 1838 – 1993

Wolverton Works was born when the Royal Assent was given on 6 May 1833 for the London & Birmingham Railway Act.  Work began on the line in June 1834 and it opened in stages – Euston to Boxmoor in July 1837, Boxmoor to Tring in October 1837, Tring to Denbigh Hall on 9th April 1838.  The site for Wolverton Station and Central Depot was chosen by E. Bury because it was midway between the two termini – 60 miles from Birmingham Curzon Street and 52 ½ miles from London, Euston.  It was also alongside the Grand Junction Canal so that building materials could be easily transported to the site and it was also close to two mail coach roads.


Wolverton Works (at the time called Wolverton Station) opened on 17th September 1838 with a workforce that numbered 203 men.  E. Bury resigned in July 1846 of the formation of the L&N.W.R.  In February 1847 J E McConnell was appointed Loco Superintendent of the Southern Division of the L & N.W.R. with his HQ at Wolverton.  Under his superintendence, which lasted some 15 year, his Wolverton designed and built locos led the field in performance, design and reliability.

Bloomer 2

His best known and most successful type were the “Bloomers,” of which there were three classes, all with 2-2-2 wheel arrangements.  McConnell resigned on 1st April 1862.  Under his control the Works expanded to incorporate a large Smithy, Erecting and Boiler Shops, which covered some 13 acres – five acres being enclosed. The workforce in 1862 was 2,200 and 421 engines were in stock for the Southern Division, Wolverton, maintaining them.

In 1865, carriage work was introduced and the Works became “The L&NWR Carriage works, Wolverton” Carriage superintendent.  It was extended and re-arranged for the building of carriage stock.  From then onwards, it was periodically extended to meet increasing demands and further undertakings, including the construction of road vehicles (horse-drawn and motor) of all types including “buses, goods shed barrows and trucks, and station and office furniture.

Mr Bore retired in 1886 and the post of Superintendent was taken over by C.A. Park who brought Wolverton right to the fore with his first-class carriage designs, and Wolvertons’ high class workmanship. During his command (1886-1910) the Works reached its zenith, both in size and achievement.  He designed the power station which enabled driving and lighting throughout.  When train electric lighting was rapidly superseding gas, a special single battery system was developed in the Works (patented in 1912) and called the “Wolverton System”.  Construction and Repair Plants were laid down (during the BR era some 30 sets were manufactured per week).  It remained in use in its original form (except for modification to the regulator in the 1930’s) through the L&NWR period and was adopted by the LMSR and selected by BR as their train lighting system in 1948.


When railway amalgamation took place under the Railway Act of 1923, the old L&NWR Co. became the largest constituent of the new LMSR Co.  At the time the Works were again re-named, becoming “Wolverton LMSR Carriage and Wagon Works”.


Perhaps its most significant achievement between the wars, alongside the manufacture of the three ten-coach “Coronation Scot” trains, was that of the invention, design and manufacture of the Wolverton coupling.  This equipment was, in fact the precursor of the modern articulated lorry.  The complete unit of coupling was manufactured within the Works from design to smithing, machining, assembly and fitting to the vehicles.  The first was put on the road in late 1929.


The works in time of war from the Crimea to World War II served the country well, being involved with Royal travel from the beginning of mainline railways.  Firstly, it supplied motive powered and, since 1865, it has built, stabled maintained and supplied the crew for the Wolverton Royal Train in the beginning for the L&NWR, then the LMSR, and today BR – one hundred and fifty three years of continuous service.

Royal Train 1887

In 1948 the railways were nationalized, the Works becoming the “BR Carriage and wagon Works, Wolverton”.  It retained the role of a new-build unit and production was maintained at the same level in all departments as during its LMS days, with one exception – the increased manufacture of the Wolverton System of Train Lighting.  1962 brought a heavy blow to the Works in the form of Beeching.  Due to the Beeching Plan and after some 98 years of carriage-building, Wolverton Works built its last carriage and wagon – the former a sleeping car No. M2454 and the latter a covered goods.  The date was May 1963 and the Works was now relegated to carriage repair.

To adopt this change, re-organisation took place, including the workforce being halved to some 2,000 men.  This change in role, together with new techniques, allowed a reduction of about 30 percent in the size of the Works.  An area of 16 acres, of which 10.5 acres were under cover, were vacated and sold, these being the three Paint Shops, Cell Shop and Stores area.

In May 1986 the BR Board announced a complete re-organisation of BREL, dividing it into two distinct business groups – the New Build and Repair Group (NBRG) and the British Rail Maintenance Group (BRNG) which was subsequently re-named British Rail Maintenance Limited.  Wolverton was a member of the latter.  From April 1987, the Works was again vastly re-organised and became a Level 5 Depot.  The Works now (1992) covers some 37.37 acres of which nine are covered and it employs some 1,000 men.

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Bancroft Roman Villa

In 1967, fragments of Roman pottery were noticed in the banks of Loughton Brook.  This was the first clue to the existence of a Roman site at Bancroft.  Four years later, its position was pinpointed under an extensive scatter of Roman tile, pottery and other material on the ploughed surface of the adjacent field.  Extensive excavation  during the period 1973-1985 revealed the site to be a 4th century Roman villa with an earlier Roman house beneath it.

The first house built at Bancroft in about AD100 was a substantial structure, with limestone foundations supporting timber-framed walls.  The weight of its thatched roof was carried by ten large timber posts.  The interior was very basic with floors of beaten earth and mainly undecorated walls.  There were two rooms at the east end and a corridor on the north side, leading to a bath suite decorated with sea creatures.


The house remained in use until about AD170, when it was destroyed by fire.  Afterwards the remains were leveled and a new house was constructed at right angles to the original house, on the same site.  It was built entirely of stone, with a tiled roof, and faced onto a cobbled trackway leading to the farm buildings.  Inside there were three principal rooms, one with underfloor heating and a bath suite at the south end of the house.  Floors were of mortar painted red or black, and the walls were also brightly painted.  There may also have been an upper floor.

The people who lived at Bancroft and farmed the lands around it, were almost certainly native Britons who had adopted Roman customs and dress.  They may have been direct descendants of the Iron Age farmers who lived on the nearby hilltop.  It is possible that they sold the farm in the fourth century (AD340) to a wealthy new owner, perhaps a merchant.


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The Iron Trunk Aqueduct


The Grand Union Canal, or Grand Junction Canal as it was called until 1929, was built between 1793-1805 to provide a vital link between London and the Industrial Midlands.

The lowest point between the canals’ two summits at Tring and Braunston, was here, at the River Ouse in Wolverton.  William Jessop, the engineer for the Canal Company, decided to cross the valley on an embankment with an aqueduct across the river.  This avoided the need to build a large number of permanent locks which would have been time consuming, wasteful of water and still would have required a special bridge or ferry for the horses.

A temporary flight of wooden locks was built between Wolverton and Cosgrove, so that the new canal could be used during the construction of the aqueduct.  The side of these old locks can still be found in the copse to the west of the canal and south of the river.  The present Cosgrove Lock was part of that original flight.

The first aqueduct was built of brick.  Work on it proceeded slowly and it was plagued with problems, even before it opened in 1805.  It was perhaps no surprise when it collapsed on the night of February 18th 1808, and the temporary locks had to be brought back into use to prevent interruption of trade.


This contemporary report from the “Northampton Mercury” gives an account of the disaster.


“On Friday morning last, the inhabitants of this town were thrown into the utmost consternation, by information which arrived from Wolverton, that the large aqueduct arches under the immensely high embankment for carrying the new line of the Grand Junction Canal across our valley, about a mile below this town, had fallen in, and that the river Ouse w\s so dammed up thereby that this town must shortly be entirely inundated to a great depth. On repairing to the spot, however, it was found that one of these arches which had been propped up underneath with timber, soon after the centres were removed, was still standing, and that this one arch, owing to there being no flood in the river, was able to carry off the water of the river as fast as it came down.  On examining the other two arches, it appeared, that about 22 yards in length of the middle part of each had fallen in, and blocked up the arches laying the canal above in complete ruins, emptying it as far as the nearest stop-gate on each side, and exposing the remains of 500 quarters of coke or cinders, which the contractors, had laid on the arches. The ends of each of the broken arches were found standing in a crippled state – Most fortunately for the public as well as the Company, the old line of canal and locks across this valley are still remaining and in sufficient repair immediately to convey the barges and prevent interruption to trade but the loss of £400 per month, which we are told has of late been the amount of the extra tonnage received lost to them during the period of rebuilding the arches and repairing the canal over them.


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McCorquodale Printing Works

The Chairman of the L. & N. W. Railway Co., Sir Richard Moon, expressed his desire to have a Printing Works at Wolverton to employ the daughters of the men working in the Railway Works. Mr George McCorquodale readily agreed to this and opened a branch in 1878 with approximately 20 employees, the land being purchased from the Radcliffe Trustees.

The work carried out when the factory first opened was the manufacture of Official Registered Envelopes for the G.P.O., and for many years a Government Excise Officer checked the number of envelopes stamped. The first building consisted of one floor, running north to south, and was in use until 1897 with a six horse power gas engine in the north end providing the power. The Office, which was in part of the building, was used in later years as a paper warehouse, and the Engine House was the first dining room for the male employees. The first three-floor building was erected in 1884. About this time general envelope making was commenced on the ground floor, and a little later General Printing, Ruling and Binding was added. By 1886, there were 120 females and 20 males employed.

In 1889, a further three-floor building was added, part of it running parallel with the Stratford Road, the ground floor being used for a printing department. A 12 horse power Crossley Gas Engine was then installed to augment the one previously referred to. Even then it was a frequent experience for one or both of these engines to fail, leaving the plant at a standstill. Some cottages were also erected for the employees, and a house built and occupied by the then manager, Mr. John Appleton.

XWNS004 Stratford Road, Wolverton

About 1890 a dining room was built between the two three-floor buildings and was formally open by the late Mr. George McCorquodale, the founder of the Company, this being his last visit to these Works. The development of the works proceeded rapidly. In 1894, another three-floor building was erected, the ground floor now being used as a Paper Warehouse, the first floor the Miscellaneous Dept., and the top floor the Folding and Sewing Section. In 1897 the cottages were pulled down and yet another three-floor building was erected by Henry Martin & Son of Northampton, the ground floor being used as the Large Machine Printing Dept., the first floor the Ruling Dept., and the top floor as the Binding Dept. In 1899, a one storey building was erected by T. P. Robinson & Sons and used as the Composing Dept., later occupied by the Warehouse and Engineers` Dept. A private Fire Brigade was formed in 1904.

In 1905, the Envelope Works, a building 300 feet long by 100 feet wide, was built, and a large proportion of the Works was reorganised and re-arranged. In conjunction with the building of the Envelope Works, a Power House was erected and two 85 horse power suction gas engines with dynamos were installed for the generation of current for power and lighting of the factory. All the other gas engines were scrapped and in 1911 it was necessary to increase the power units with the addition of a 300 horse power suction gas engine with necessary generators and dynamos. These continued in use until 1924 when replaced by the Northampton Electric Light & Power Co. The old Power House was then used as a Waste Paper Dept. and Carpenter`s Shop.

In 1910 a Government contract for postal stamped Stationery was secured and another ground floor building erected on the south-west end of the Envelope Works. This was known as the Inland Revenue Works. A Government staff of about 12 or 15 people was appointed to supervise the creation and checking of the production of this stamped stationery. Soon after this four acres of land were acquired on the south side of the Stratford Road, and another building erected in 1912, and extended in 1914. After Armistice a large army hut was purchased for use as dining, reading and recreation rooms. Towards the end of 1920 and early 1921, a new case room and stereo dept. was erected behind the three-floor building erected in 1897.

In 1923 contracts were secured for the production of postal orders and old age pension forms. Special machinery was constructed for the production of the work, and the whole Stamped Stationery was transferred to the factory on the south side of Stratford Road. A further contract was then undertaken for the production of Widows and Orphans Pension forms. The annual issue of postal orders increased from 100 million to 350 million over the years, and was presumed to the success of the Football Pools.

In 1926 another floor was built over the warehouse to accommodate the offices. In the same year the automatic Sprinkler Fire Protection system was installed throughout the Works and the Fire Brigade disbanded. During 1935 -1936 the yard on the north side of the General Works was built over, making a small machine printing room, 386 feet long by 29ft wide. The total frontage of the various buildings on the north side of Stratford Road was 986 feet, and the whole factory approximately 4 ¾ acres. A further 2 ½ acres of land was let as allotments to the Bucks C.C.

XWNP221 McCorquodales

Records of 1937 -39 indicate that the total number of employees was nearly 800 and 11 of the men had over 40 year’s service. In the early years the majority of the 700 to 900 girls working at McCorquodale were between the ages of 13 and 21, the school leaving age in 1914 being raised from 12 to 14. One former employee, Mabel Archer, explained at that time “You were not allowed to work at McCorquodale when you were married. When you married you left, and if you had worked there for ten years you received a grant of £10”. In the early 1890`s, to encourage female employees to remain in the factory as long as possible, the Directors, it would appear, decided to give a wedding grant on their wedding day of £10 to those who had completed 10 years service; £15 for 15 years, and £20 to those who completed 20 years service.

From the time the factory started until 1909 the working hours were from 6 am to 5.30 pm and 6am to 12 noon Saturdays, with ¾ -hour break for breakfast and 1-hour for lunch, making a total of 54 hours per week. In 1909 this was changed to a 50-hour week, subsequently reduced to a 48-hour week by national agreement, and by 1935 wages had risen from 4/6d to 10 shillings per week. By 1959 this was reduced to a 42-hour week. McCorquodale not only provided shorter working hours but contributory pension funds, the marriage bonus, paid holidays, a mutual sick society, as well as providing a dining room. Early records claim that holidays consisted of Bank Holidays, without pay, and apprentices were allowed an additional half-day on “Pancake Day”, also without pay. It was customary for the firm to subsidize an outing once a year, usually to the seaside. The outing cost employees 9d each which included the train fair and access to the pier. Normally the hired train would leave at 4am and meet many delays on the way. There is no mention whether this was held on a Sunday or an unpaid  day in the week.

In 1912 the Good Samaritan Society was started, and continued as a voluntary movement until 1926, when about 50% of the employees were members. This movement was then reorganised and all employees voluntarily agreed to a deduction from their wages of 1 ½d. per week for juniors and 2d. per week for seniors, with the Company occasionally giving substantial donations to help this worthy cause. The directors gave permission for the Reading Room to be used for dances, whist drives, etc., in aid of this fund, and the cash benefits given to the employees were then considered to be amongst the best in country.

At the outbreak of World War 1 McCorquodale suffered the loss of senior male staff through enlistment and the women workers were not only under pressure to work harder, but had the increased responsibilities of running a home and suffer increases in the cost of living. The government then organised war bonuses to be paid to workers to help compensate. The actual amount paid varied depending on the area and the type of work. It also depended on employees working a full week, for if one day was missed the bonus was not paid. However, in many cases women were being paid half the war bonus that men received, causing discontent. By 1915 Wolverton had a well established cooperative movement, a Labour Party branch, and a branch of the Women`s Cooperative. In 1909 there were reports of suffragette activity in the area.

On June 5th 1915 the Wolverton Express described the following:-

“The work girls and men at Messrs. McCorquodale`s Works were locked out on Thursday 20th May, in consequence of a demand for a war bonus which it was alleged had been given to some men. Some 800 to 900 workers have been affected. Negotiations between employers and employees failed to bring about a satisfactory settlement to both sides and on Wednesday morning when the works were re-opened only about 50 workers entered the factory”.

The Wolverton Express also reported women marching through Wolverton with “red ribbons flowing from their coats and hats”, with other reports of bands playing and a garden party. The strike lasted for more than two weeks. Five Hundred of the women workers joined the Paper Workers Union and their demand for both a war bonus, and recognition of the Union, involved pickets, parades, collections and meetings. The women eventually succeeded in securing a 7.5% increase in their weekly earnings as “war wages”.


An article in the Bucks Standard, November 5th 1938 edition, mentioned that employees of McCorquodale embarked on a “mission of mercy” to raise at least £500, following an appeal by Lord Hesketh to help meet the £100,000 extensions and improvements to Northampton General Hospital. Employees spent months in preparation, with every encouragement from the General Manger, Mr H.E. Meacham, and the firm`s directors. A grand floral bazaar was staged in the works Reading Room with the stalls representing the four seasons of the year. The opening ceremony was attended by Mr Hugh McCorquodale, son of the Work`s founder, and his charming wife {known in literary circles as Barbara Cartland}. The stalls were judged by Mrs de.Chair of Bradwell House with prizes presented of £1, for  the Small Machine Dept., 15/-, the Binding Dept., and 7/6d, the Reading Room. Mrs McCorquodale was presented with a model motor car, with electric lighting, and a model garage for her 12 month old son Ian. A gift of an invalid bed-table made in the works was presented to Lord Hesketh for the hospital. A final total of £660 was raised.

The buildings on the north side of the Stratford road were demolished in 1988 and later replaced with car salesrooms. The buildings on the south side of the Stratford Road were purchased by Bong {UK} Ltd and they submitted an application in December 2005 to replace the existing buildings with a mixed use development of 134 dwellings {including 16 flats for the elderly}, 6 workshops and 4 commercial properties.  A report from an archaeologist at that time suggested that this may be a site of a Roman or Anglo-Saxon cemetery. However, the new residential streets were completed in 2010, centered on the new McCorquodale Road, retaining the front wall of the McCorquodale building facing the Stratford Road.

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A School in Moon Street Wolverton

Wolverton-County-Secondary- In 1902, the first co-educational secondary school in Wolverton, serving the North Bucks district, was opened.  It had 17 pupils and was based at the Science and Arts Institute in Church Street, Wolverton.  In 1907 it moved into its own premises in Moon Street.



 An Important step in the educational progress of the County of Buckingham was marked on Wednesday by the formal opening of the fine new Secondary School, erected by the Bucks County Education Committee, at Wolverton.

Science-&-Arts-Institute-WoFormerly the classes, in connection with the Wolverton and District Higher Education Centre, were held at the Science and Art Institute, but since November, when the new buildings were completed, the school has had a separate building thoroughly worthy of it.

It is situated in a convenient spot in Moon Street, and is a very attractive and well designed structure, being built of red brick with white stone dressings.  It has separate entrances for boys and girls, a handsome central hall and four classrooms on the ground floor.  Also two good cloakrooms.  On the first floor is a convenient and well equipped laboratory, lecture rooms and two classrooms.

The floors of the entrance hall cloak rooms and lavatories are of terrazzo mosaic paving and the other floors are of pitch pine blocks.  The stair steps are made of granite concrete.  Internally the walls are finished with siripite plaster and coloured with Olsina washable distemper.  The building is heated throughout with hot water pipes, and the ventilating arrangements are on the most up-to-date system. Accommodation is provided for 160 scholars, and the building is so arranged that extensions can be added in an economical manner.

Messrs. Harrington, Ley and Kirkham of London were the architects and Mr. E. Green of Northampton, the builder.  The schools were crowded with visitors on Wednesday afternoon, who evinced great interest in the various departments and also in an exhibition of student’s work in one of the class-room.  Mr. D. Clarke, C.A. took the chair at the opening ceremony.  He had much pleasure in calling upon the Chairman of the County Council,  Mr. Tonman Mosley, to formally declare the school open.

Mr. Tonman Mosley recollected very well the time when he came down to Wolverton with other members of the Bucks County Council and having a most interesting inspection of their Institute.  He remembered how well they considered technical education was being conducted in the district, and he felt that, after that, the County Council ought really to take a second place, because Wolverton itself was so much in the forefront of advanced education.  Proceeding, he said, he hoped the County Council were doing their duty.  They had devoted some £25,000 to the advancement of Secondary Education and, in nearly every district, they had already provided or were providing means for parents to send their children to school for higher education.  An adjournment was then made to the Wolverton Science and Art Institute where the prize distribution took place in the large hall.

First-HeadmasterThe Headmaster (Mr. E.J. Boyce), submitting his very satisfactory report, said in 1902 the school had 17 pupils.  Now there were 52 boys and 31 girls drawn from nearly all parts of North Bucks.  Last year two pupils matriculated at the London University.  The Headmaster said the work of the school had increased so much that the new buildings were already not large enough, and pleaded for extensions.  Thanks to the Chairman concluded the proceedings.  Refreshments were then served, and subsequently an interesting exhibition of drills and exercises was given by the girl scholars.

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Free Creative IT Course


Are you interested in local history and want to learn some new skills? Come and join our free course at the Old Bath House starting 6th March. For more details or to book a place call 01908 322568

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Life of a Soldier in World War I

LewisExcerpts from original letters sent to his mother:

Arthur Lewis, born 14th May 1895 and died 20th August 1916 at the battle of the Somme.  He was a stretcher bearer in the RAMC and was training to be a language teacher at Borough  Road College, Isleworth, after gaining a county scholarship (second in the county).

He wrote to his mother in July 1915 mentioning that he had put forward his name to join the Army.  He had gained a provisional certificate from College and reimbursed half of the money – £12.10.  He had thought long and hard about joining up and, as he said, ‘We are not doing at all well.’   He knew his mother was not happy about this as she wanted him to finish his education.

His next letter as Private Lloyd 61048, R.A.M.C Aldershot, to his mother said ‘we now have our kit and today had a breakfast of steak and onions.  We are billeted at the local Y.M.C.A, sleeping in tents on boards with 3 blankets – no mattress, no pillow.  I think we are going to France soon.  That is where all the fighting is.’

August 8th France…’I am quite well, living under canvass.  One of my  Seniors has been killed, and if I pull through, I shall get leave in winter. Your affectionate son, Lewis.’

December 1st 1915   ‘Yesterday we came up the line.  We are living in a barn with straw – it is cold but gives shelter. We are about 200yds away from the nearest shells.  I am practically free from vermin – I borrowed some “Keatings” ( Lice Killer?)

I get my clothes washed by French people.  They have been driven out of their homes, further up the line.

There are rumors of a party on Christmas day.  It will cost us 21/4 Francs.  Can you send me a parcel early?  We got some of our pay – 50 Francs.  This month I shall not spend all of this, but if I send it home, you will be able to change it at the post office?’

December 4th  ‘I am on night police tonight and am in good health.  The weather is changeable – some days rain, others frost.  They have issued us with more vests and new boots as the mud and rain soon rot them.  The mackintosh is also very useful – they are good ones and cost 30 shillings so must be good.’

December13th ‘I wish you a very happy Christmas and a happy New Year.  I received your parcel yesterday.  We are near the line now and can see Loos. The Germans shell nearly every day.  This is the dressing station where patients are sent down to the Hospital.  We live in the cellar of an old ruined Brewery, so we have shelter.  We lie on stretchers for beds and very comfortable they are.  The weather here is wet and the trenches are very muddy making the great coats very heavy.’

December18th ‘I have received your parcel.  The weather is better than what you are having . There are three other fellows from Cosham in this ambulance team.  These cellars are the best we have had.  The officers are friendly and it makes working here better.’

December 27th  ‘We had a very good time on Christmas Day – started off with ham and eggs, then turkey, ham and all the trimmings.  And Christmas pudding plus fruit, cigarettes, beer and sweets.  Boxing Day, much the same.  But was no different to any other regarding the injured and sick.’

December 30th  ‘I received your letter.  I have plenty of money – we are well fed so no need to spend any. Reading matter is about the only thing I need.  Have found another man from Wolverton.  He was married in the Wesleyan Church.  His brother lives in Green Lane – his name is Morgan and works in Wolverton Works.’

To be continued……..

January 17th  ‘Sorry I have not written  but I was thrown off the lorry and skinned my hands. But am fine now. We are now at rest in Ouchel.   A fairly large place. Could you please include some candles in your next parcel as I am getting low?’

January 22nd  ‘I received Dad’s letter yesterday.   We are at rest now, though doing drill as usual.  This place is very muddy and rambling. There are mines in this part of the country. There are many estaminets (pubs) about the same size as Stony but about 50 more. Being in the fresh air, I am feeling well.  I received the papers but could you send some cake!?  I am sending some more money, either in this letter, or by registered envelope.’

Wednesday  It snowed yesterday so is now cold and slushy.  I now have enough socks and cakes, but could do with books and candles.  There is a band here – it is very good and reminds me of Sunday afternoons at home.’

Monday May 15th   ‘Dear Aunt, I received your letter yesterday. I am back at the ambulance but free from the immediate thoughts of bullets and shells.  I am quite well although the weather is colder. I hope you are all keeping well and that the War will soon be over.’

‘Dear Mother, I received your letter and one from Percy.  I hope the war is over before he is eighteen.’

Monday May 22nd ‘I received your letter yesterday.  I am up the line and we have been bombarded heavily yesterday and today. Yesterday we had tear gas over.  It makes one’s eyes smart. I’ll answer Percy’s letter as soon as possible.’

Monday May 29th    ‘I am stretcher bearing with the ambulance now.  We have not had a rest lately.  The places we have been in have been nice pleasant places in the summer.’

 Thursday   ‘I received the paper yesterday.  I have found out where Mr Dean is and hope to see him when I get back to base.  I am quite well.  We found a stray dog ratting so we joined in – we wanted to keep it but the sergeant said no!’

Sunday July 16th  ‘I received your letter yesterday.  I am well I hope you are all well.’

Monday  ‘Thank you for the parcel . I am with the Trench Maintenance, now the weather is wet.  I met one of the men from Cosham who was accepted by the army but who had had two abdominal operations and was found to be unfit and discharged.’

Friday  ‘I have just done eight days up the line.  Bullets came near once or twice.  I slept in the dug out.  I am hoping to see a Wolverton man one of these days. It is snowing again.’

‘There are preparations being made for heavy fighting. I see that German aircraft have again visited England.’


The battle of the Somme. 61048 Pte A.L Lewis died in action, aged 21 yrs, in his first year of action.

 Dear Mr Lloyd.   It is with deepest regret I have to inform you of the death in action of your son.  He had been sent to escort another ambulance. A shell came into the dug out where he was and injured him so severely  that he died within minutes of being rendered unconscious.

HeadstoneHe was buried in the Quarry cemetery about 500yds due south of Bazentin-Le-Grand.  It is not possible to do much with the grave as we are under heavy fire.  But, rest assured, that it will be marked with his name and will be made up by the Graves registration Commission.

He was one of the best Bearers and had volunteered repeatedly for especially dangerous duties.

Please accept, from myself and every officer and man of 141 Field Ambulance, our deepest sympathy for you and your family in you great loss.

When I found these letters written to his mother, what started as an interesting story, developed  into a strong interest in WWI,  finding the horrific numbers of our brave soldiers some of them only serving for 1 year in active service. Let us never forget…..


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The History of The Fegan’s Home

J W C FeganMr. J. W. C. Fegan, Born April 27th 1852. This is a record of a ‘Knight Errant of the Gospel’.  ‘Mr Fegan’s Homes’ are his enduring legacy.  He was born to a very religious family and it is this belief which steered his path to the founding of his homes.

Walking through town, he befriended a group of urchins and started a ‘ragged school on a Sunday’. But he became convinced he should be doing more, to which end he rented a cottage.  Here the boys were given shelter every evening, and were taught, continuing their street occupations during the day.

It soon became evident that this was not enough and, with small donations from friends, it was decided to open an Industrial Home, in the heart of the neediest district in Bradford. The house had been previously used for wandering wax works exhibitions.  The date being May Day 1872 – he was just 20yrs old.

It soon became so popular, that further Homes were opened.

On coming of age, he knew he had to follow his conviction to help the boys. He became an evangelical priest, well known for his open air sermons.  But he never lost touch with his boys, still spending evenings searching for homeless boys and forming a friendly rivalry with Barnado.

In the early days, Mr Fegan would bring in, sometimes, between 12-15 boys.  But as he had never been in the best of health, he again became ill , and it became clear he could not continue with the nightly excursions.  But his fame had spread, and soon, the local police would recommend boys to his care .

For thirty years his work continued, but now, boys came to him .

A new home in Westminster was set up for one hundred and fifty boys.   Here, they remained, taught trades which fitted them for life as adults.

Mr Fegan lived then in Southwark.  Here he met and married Miss Mary Pope on August 23rd 1889.  She became his loyal wife and helper for 23yrs.  Their thoughts were only of “the boys” – giving them love and support.

Owing to the success of his venture, several more homes were opened.  It became evident that a home in the country would be beneficial to the health of the boys and a search began. A member of the council brought forward plans for some buildings in Stony Stratford. Designed as a school for the sons of gentlemen, the buildings were almost luxurious and of the highest quality, but the high cost of £40,000 was not viable.   However, the premises were derelict – “why not offer a tenth of the cost?”  An offer of £4,500 was made and instantly accepted, the purchase being completed on 25th June 1900.

The problem of trying to get the money seemed almost impossible, and prayer meetings and letters asking for donations were sent.

Mr Fegan said “at first our faith was tried very several.  After making our cause the matter of a special prayer, responses began to filter in and after a week, by Monday, we were just short of £9.00.  At a meeting of the local poor people, I explained our plight and one of the congregation – a poor man living in an alms house – gave us the £9.00. What a marvelous thing.”

Soon the Greenwich boys were moved to Stratford. Visitors were escorted through the large airy dormitories, where 150 bright boys were housed.  The kitchens and bathrooms were very fine and a play area was constructed in the grounds, with kitchen gardens where the boys could grow vegetables. The beautiful Chapel was used for prayer meetings, and the fine Coronation hall was used for Sunday School and Mothers Meetings and other such. Several homes were opened after the one at Stony Stratford and Mr. Fegan’s life’s work continued, even after his death in 1925. And although the homes have closed, his work has continued and has changed from helping the boys into help for the families – giving aid and support.

The photograph below shows The Stony Stratford Orphanage, showing the high regard given to the detail of the buildings.  Visitors were escorted through the dormitories, where 150 boys were housed.  The kitchens and bathrooms were very fine, the play area for the boys, and the gardens where the boys were able to grow vegetables, were met with approval.

Fegans Home Stony Stratford

The boys were later integrated into the local schools.  I attended New Bradwell school in the 40;s and 50s and met, and became friend with, several of the boys.  Some I remember – there were Raymond and David Smith. David?Felthan who sometimes came for tea. David Kay who returned to Chatham when he left here and hoped to join the Merchant Navy.  My memories of The Home are of attending services on Sunday’s and the annual bonfire night with hot chocolate and baked potatoes.

All the “Boys “would be in their 70’s now, but any memories would be appreciated.

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My Dad

Mr. John (Jack) Robinson. He was born in Wolverton at No 1 Young Street on 11th November 1919. He went to school in Wolverton and he went as an apprentice at Wolverton Works.


After the War he went to play tennis at Wolverton Sports Club in Osbourne Street.  He played in the North Bucks Team and captained them to win North Bucks Shield in 1952. He also won with his tennis partner Mr. Stan Norman the All England Railway Cup. He worked in Wolverton Railway Works as an apprentice, and after going to Night School at the Science and Arts Institute in Wolverton.

Winners of Bucks County Mens Team Shield 1952In 1954 he went on to be a Lecturer at Wolverton College of further education ending up as a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering & Technical Drawing.  He retired from the college in 1984.

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Mr Jack Rowledge


He was born and lived in Thompson Street until 1916. Very happy community in Bradwell.  When they moved to Wolverton they went into a different atmosphere – People leaving New Bradwell and buying new homes in Wolverton.  Writer in “Daily Herald” said that “if you went to a club in Wolverton without a collar, they wouldn’t look at you and nobody would speak to you.  But in New Bradwell, everybody would accept you.  It came about with people trying to live above themselves”.  The neighbours were never the same in Wolverton.  We rented a house.   Nobody was neighbourly because they were property owners – they thought themselves superior.

He went to school in Wolverton and fitted in fairly well.  He got a job as a milk boy for Mr. Beasley.  Took milk to all the “personalities” in Wolverton district – Rev. Harnett, Dr. Penny etc.  He was often late for school.  Mr. Hippsley, the head, gave him a rap one or two times.  So some mornings, he didn’t get any breakfast milk – then got another rap!  Boss went with him and had a good go at him – then he didn’t get into trouble for being late.  He went with a pony and float and collected milk from Beasley’s farm at Hanslope.  He went early to do blackberrying there and then took them into class – got pat on head for that.

Day he was 13, he went to school at 9.00am.  Had to see the headmaster, left school and started work at the Print at 10am (1918).  Rather than go another year, his father got a job for him.  He knew nothing about it, just told by his father to take the job.  This was parental control.  Had to have the money with eight children.

Got up at 6.50am and never drew a penny.  Another boy had his “wages” in milk, butter and cheese.  In 1920, after men came back from the War, he lost job and went back to the milk – a few more months there before going back to the Print again.

Mr. Beasley’s farm was at Hanslope, but his brother had a depot in Church Street, next door to Kings’ the Bakers.  They had ponies kept beyond their home in Western Road.  They took milk and bakers ponies down before 7.00am and then had to carry 2 x 5 gallon cans carried around the streets with them.  This was from the age of eleven or twelve.  The milk was collected the night before in order to deliver in the morning.  Pony and trap went off in the morning, to collect the rest of the day’s supply.  Milk was served out with scoops into jugs, filled up and covered with a lace doily to keep the dust out. Some houses wanted second delivery later in the day.

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Hawtin Mundy



My dear old Dad.  On my thirteenth birthday he brought me a brand new bike – that was a three-wheel bike.  That was like, today, anybody’s Dad buying them a Rolls Royce!

I came peddling away, back home from Northampton, all by myself, down the Old Haversham Road.  All up the side of the road there were hedges and bushes. As I came along, I got my old oil lamp on the bike, and just as I got to the Old Wolverton turn, a policeman stepped out, and said “Hey, boy, get off that bike, your lamps out!”  I thought “ooh ‘ell,” so instead of me stopping to get off, I pedaled like Hell – hard as I could go – up the hill towards the Stations.

The old copper went up the corner of the Old Wolverton Road, and blew his whistle.  I tore up the hill, and I had to pause when I got to the top of the hill, to turn down to Bradwell, and another policeman stepped out, pushed me off me bike on the road.  And, course, I knew what had happened.  He knew I was on my way up the hill, and he had me.  He says, “Now what’s your name?”  With no hesitation about it, I tried to think of somebody’s name, but I couldn’t.  But any rate, it didn’t take him long.  “All right” he says.  If you won’t tell me your name, I’ll come home with you”.  I thought “oh that’s buggered it”, so I told him me name and address, and so on.

A few days later, I had a summons come, to appear at Stony Stratford Court.  ‘Ooo, Hell!’  I turned up at Stratford Court, and I stood in the dock.  I could hardly see over the top!  The policeman gave his evidence – you know, riding the bike without a light.  I said to this policeman, I said, “my lamp’s all right!”  “Out” he says.  “Oh no it isn’t. It just blew out then.”  He put his hand on the top, and he said, “It’s as cold as ice”.  I knew it was.  Anyway, the copper at Stratford told them what happened – that I wouldn’t stop and went straight on.

Sitting on the bench in those days – there were no working class people – the magistrate then was the old Duke of Grafton, from Potterspury.  Anybody in those days, who lived at Potterspury, it was said, ‘Oh, he grew up on the old Dukes dripping’.  There was a tale then – I don’t know whether its true or not – but the Earldom of the old Duke of Grafton was caused years ago, because the old king, when he was having a run round with Nell Gwynn, it happened at the palace that Nell was there with her old King.  And some of other kids were running about.  So Nell said to this kid, “Come over here and be quiet, you little bastard!””  So the old King said “Ooh don’t call him that!  We’ll make him the Duke of Grafton”.  I don’t know if that’s right – that always has been the tale, but I bet you won’t find it in history!

I was stood in the Dock.  I never said a word, and the old Duke, he was there – magistrate. Along each side of him were these ‘ere local people.  They was all top notches, shopkeepers, and so on.  But the one that sat next to him was Purslow – Dick Purslow – and he was manager of Wolverton Works.  He sat next to the old Duke – was deaf as a post!  He used to have one of these ear-trumpets.  He used to put that in his ear and they used to have to talk to him.  When he heard what I’d done – riding a bike without a light – he never hesitated!  He said, “Ten shillings.”  Purlow shouted down the Duke’s trumpet and he said, “He’s only a boy – six shilling!”  And I am blowed if I didn’t have to pay six shillings – or my Dad did.   That was nearly two weeks wages!

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The Rev. Alan Newman Guest

The Rev. Alan ‘Joey’ Newman Guest M.A. was an eccentric Irish priest who was appointed Vicar of St. James, New Bradwell on 25th September 1908. He discovered in 1909 that his church had not been licensed for marriages for the past 50 years – approximately 1000 during that period – and announced that all marriages at St. James were illegal, and couples in New Bradwell were living in sin.  This created headlines in the local press “1000 marriages ILLEGAL Startling Disclosure at Bucks Church”.

He discovered that the marriage register being used at the church was actually the one for St. Peter`s Church, at Stanton Low and, as such, St. James Church was not licensed for the solemnisation of marriages.  An Act of Parliament was hurriedly passed on June 4th 1909, declaring all marriages at the church were now valid, and confirmed, in the House of Lords on July 16th that year. This incident was turned into a play by J.P. Priestly.

Alan Newman Guest was born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1862 – a family of French origin. He took a BA. degree in divinity at Trinity College, Dublin in 1889, and MA in 1893, before coming to England in 1894.  He had friendships whilst in Ireland with renowned Protestant Loyalists and left because he believed he was on an IRA hit list. Previous to moving to New Bradwell, he held two curacies in Ireland, four in London, and one in Brighton, before becoming Curate of St. Johns at Stanford Hill.  The first parish he was offered was Piddlehinton, in Dorset, but he declined because he took objection to the name. He was finally appointed vicar of Stantonbury in 1908 on £350 per annum.

His experience in that parish was not a happy one, for he could not tolerate other churches – all others he considered to be interlopers. He particularly disliked the Salvation Army, kicking a hole in their drum one Sunday.  In 1915 he was summoned to court for striking a 14 year old girl for attending the local Methodist Chapel, instead of his church and fined £3 plus costs.  This was followed in 1918, with a second appearance at the courts, for insulting behaviour in the public streets.  For which he was fined one pound or, in default, fourteen days imprisonment.

His sermons at times were more political than religious and he condemned the Labour Party for being pacifist – upsetting Stantonbury and Wolverton, which were Labour strongholds.  For some years, there were differences between himself and the lay officials of his church.  Stormy vestry meetings followed, which gradually developed into an attitude of antagonism to the vicar and, which ultimately, resulted in the withdrawal of Mr Guest’s warden, the organist, and the whole choir.  The Sunday School teachers with their scholars also left.  The church which, under the guidance of former vicars, was filled on Sundays with worshippers, slowly became deserted. This was not because there was a lack of loyalty to their church by residents in the parish, but because they could not see eye to eye with their vicar, his method of conducting services and his failure to co-operate with his flock.

Following a petition, the Bishop of Oxford attended a service to meet the parishioners. Over 1,000 are reported to have attended the meeting in the evening, at the local school, where the Bishop called for “give and take”, and sided with the vicar.  There were reports of uproar when the Bishop and Rev. Guest left the building and police were called from Newport Pagnell.  The result was that, eventually alone, he went through the offices of the church and played the organ with only himself forming the congregation.

As early as Sept 1916, letters between the Bishop of Buckingham and the Archbishop, suggested that the Rev. Guest be allowed to go free with an income and be replaced by the, then, Bishop Powell – Vicar of St. Saviour`s, Poplar in the London diocese. But the Reverend Guest declined the invitation. When World War I started, he volunteered to be a chaplain in the Royal Navy, but the Eccelastrial Commissioners told him, if he went, he would forfeit his living.  So he stayed in Stantonbury.

He married in 1916 to Miss Dorothy “Dolly” Cook from Eastbourne – much younger than himself and described as “a smart, well-spoken woman, quite a lady”.  They had three children – two boys and a girl – Castell-Franc, Betty and Newman.  They made frequent visits to his disgruntled mother-in-law in Bournemouth, where it is reputed that he made a nuisance of himself there, by playing the piano into the early hours of the morning – police being called to stop him.  Mrs Guest eventually could stand no more leaving him in 1926, taking the oldest son, aged 9, to return to her mother in Bournemouth.  The Reverend claimed custody of the other two children, as he believed was his right.  He employed a local housekeeper to help bring up their children, until, eventually being sent to private school. After college, their son Newman, worked in Barclays Bank, Bedford, before serving in the Royal Navy during WWI.   The Elder daughter worked as a nurse in Bedford hospital.

Rev. Guest was considered an eccentric, renowned for his “ sit-up and beg”  bike.  It had a large motorbike saddle and wide handles which he rode down the steep canal hill into New Bradwell with his feet on the handlebars and cassock flapping behind.  On one occasion, the handlebars came adrift and he crashed, hurting himself badly.  A friendly parishioner called for Doctor Penny and he was laid up for a fortnight.  He was a fine athlete, often jogging around the fields bare footed and vaulting five bar gates to save time opening and closing them.  He was also a swimmer, challenging others for a race in the river and a boxer, challenging one person to a match.  This fight was stopped by the Bishop, having discovered that betting was on the outcome.

The Rev. Guest was a fine musician and composer and writer.  His two main compositions being a book of hymn tunes and a book called Stantonbury Tales – both printed by George Withers and Sons in London. There are copies of both of these in the British Museum.

He suffered several bouts of illness, from 1928 to 1930 – pernicious anemia.  And the church almost closed during the 2nd World War due to his illness and people being away. After 38 years, the Rev. Newman Guest resigned as Vicar of Stantonbury and New Bradwell, on 3rd October 1946, and died at a Bedford nursing home at the age of 79 in the same year.   His body was cremated at Golders Green.  In remembrance of this eccentric vicar, a street “Guest Gardens” was created in New Bradwell, approved by the Council in 1908 and after his death the local public house was named ‘The Jovial Priest’. It would appear that the name Jovial Priest was a complete misnomer, for it was reputed that he had very little sense of humour.  And being a teetotaller he would not have approved of this.   His nick-name of “Joey” has never been explained.

Ref.  Streetwise. Street Names box 2{108}.  Hawtin Mundy, Mr William May, interview with son Alan Newman Guest.

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The Connie Barker Sick and Comfort Fund

On receipt of a letter from Parrott and Son Solicitors, enclosing a letter from the deceased, Mr Walter Barker, formerly of Wolverton, who had experienced the trials and suffering of his wife and daughter, Connie felt constrained to leave a small legacy  to extend a touch of sympathy and comfort to others who may suffer. The chairman of Wolverton Urban Council, in 1960, set up the Connie Barker’s Sick and Comfort Fund  to provide aid to those in need. Trustees were appointed (one these was my father) and meetings to apportion grants to organisations of local clubs and individual persons in need.

The Trust ran for many years, helping many with monetary gifts to lessen their suffering –  the original remit of the trust.  But as with all things, interest waned and the decision was made to transfer the funds to Willen Hospice Charity who runs similar help (with the thought that Mr Barker would approve of the wonderful work, not only to the terminally ill, but also for the relatives also involved).

Reading this I am struck by the fact that even in this day and age, nothing much has changed.  We are being asked for donations to help those more needy than us – either by putting in the trolleys outside supermarkets or donations of clothes and money to provide food and shelter (especially at this time of the year).  The season of goodwill and hope to all men.   Happy Christmas and may the New Year bring Hope for everyone.

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Ask Us

Can we help you?

If you need information on street names in and around Wolverton; the meanings of street names; the history of Wolverton Works; the building of the railway between Birmingham and London; photographs of the area; local people’s memories; 1841 Census school logs and lots lots more…..

Please ask us!

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Wolverton Technical College

Latest additions to our archive is a set of photographs from the Wolverton Technical College around the 1970s, courtesy of John Worland.

Do you have any memories, photos of your time at Wolverton Technical College if so we would like to hear from you. Please contact us via email or on 01908 322568

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The Agora, Wolverton

The Agora is one of the most controversial buildings in Wolverton.

It was designed and built by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in the mid seventies.

It was intended to be a central meeting point for commercial, social and sporting activities. The idea, I believe, originated from the Wolverton Council who decided that the area to the north of the Market Square should be developed together with much of the land to the south of Church Street and around what is now Glynn Square.

A design team was set up in the MKDC Northern Towns Group to investigate the idea further.  The area was surveyed and zoned.  Early decisions were to build large retail and service units in the Glynn Square area and some form of multi-use commercial/social building at the top of Market Square.  For inspiration, a the team visited  a town in the Netherlands, where they had built an Agora which was a large building with a large hall which could be used as a market, sports hall, dance hall and general meeting hall.  In addition it had a cafe, a restaurant and other facilities.  It appeared very popular and successful.

On our return, we investigated a number of forms including a circular building.  This was difficult to roof and dispose of the rainwater.  A rectangular hall with shops and offices each side gave difficulties with levels.  A square hall with the shops and offices on four sides was adopted as the solution and it was decided to rotate it so that the diagonal axis was on the centreline of the old market square to try and encourage pedestrian through routes.

Red brickwork was proposed for all the major walls in keeping with Wolverton and it was hoped to cover the hall, which was 120 feet square, with a spectacular space frame with plenty of roof-lights.  Unfortunately, about that time, there was a serious fire in a leisure centre in Douglas, IoM where a similar roof collapsed with loss of life.  So this was abandoned and a heavy steel lattice girder frame employed instead with no roof-lights.  The roof was constructed at ground level and hoisted into place on columns in one piece.  An exciting event!  The brick built structures were then erected.

The building was completed in 1979.   By that time I had departed for Hong Kong.  I understand it was used for its intended purpose for a few years but never really realised its potential nor was a financial success.

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Wolverton Bloomer


Wolverton Bloomer, drawn by Phillip Webb.

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Free Creative IT Course

Living Archive presents a free creative IT course
Starting Friday 21st Sept for 6 weeks
10.30am – 12.30pm
At the Living Archive
Old Bath House
205 Stratford Road

You will learn how to:

Use basic Microsoft Word
Scan photographs
Use Photoshop Elements software to manipulate and repair photographs
Use digital cameras and download images onto a computer
Use blogging software
Create a digital scrapbook of your photographs

To book your place or find out more contact Living Archive on 01908 322568

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