Make Wolverton Railway Works a listed site
This petition had 450 supporters
Why should Wolverton Works be Listed?
The town of Wolverton owes its existence solely to Wolverton Railway Works which today is the World’s longest continuously open Railway Works.
It was built by the London and Birmingham Railway (LBR) in the mid-1830s opening for business in 1838. The choice of location was deliberate, roughly half way between London and Birmingham and at that time, locomotives and crews had to be changed at this stage of the journey.
The Works was the engineering HQ of the LBR and its activities encompassed locomotive, carriage and wagon building. It widened its activities under the London & North Western Railway from the 1840s to housing the early Royal Train carriages. It built Royal Train Saloons commencing in 1869 up to and including the current Royal Train in 1976-7. It is still home to the Royal Train today.
Former parts of Wolverton Works have been listed and converted into various uses, housing, retail and light industrial but crucially, the exterior aspects of these Workshops are still extant and allow a glimpse into the past of the World’s first railway town.
It is very important to understand that other railway towns such as Swindon, Derby, Crewe, Darlington and Doncaster all followed Wolverton. The difference is that after the late 1860s, Wolverton relinquished its locomotive work to Crewe but then became the centre of excellence for carriage and wagon work.
In both World Wars Wolverton payed a hugely significant part in building Ambulance Trains, General Haig’s train, manufacturing munitions, repairing aeroplanes, constructing mobile radar wagons for coastal use.
Between the wars, carriages for The Royal Scot and Coronation Scot were constructed at Wolverton. At the other end of the scale, Circus and Sausage Vans were also built there!
Wolverton’s Royal Train involvement brought design innovation to ordinary carriages with electric lighting, toilets and catering facilities used in restaurant cars. The research and development carried out by Wolverton’s engineers was World renowned.
A century ago, over 5000 people were employed at The Works in forges, saw mills, its own power station, erecting shops, repair shops and in railway operations.
The buildings that remain today still carry World War Two camouflage paint and many are in full use having been refurbished in the last 18 months after new operators bought the rail business from Administrators.
Even today, The Works is a perfect example of a railway factory production line with carriages travelling on a renovation journey through the various Workshops.
The Lifting Shop is still one of the dominant buildings in Wolverton itself and has several other huge workshops around it served by traversers, another key part of industrial heritage still used today.
The endangered buildings today date from the 1860s but the completeness of the site makes it one of the last extant examples of a major UK railway works still in use. There are enough workshops left to allow people to understand just how large the Works was a century ago.
If they are demolished, a historic opportunity will be missed and future generations of historians will be left to wonder at just what created the town Wolverton. This has now been subsumed into Milton Keynes and therefore forms a major part of Milton Keynes’ history, made even more relevant as the town supports thousands of railway jobs with the Network Rail HQ based there.
These existing Wolverton buildings are based on functionality and clearly demonstrate the grand Victorian and Edwardian industrial ideals and were built to last. The scale and design features all exist today as built (apart from the air-conditioning equipment!).
Individually, the buildings may not be worthy of Listing, together though, they form a strong case for consideration. This is now urgent as St Modwen, the owners has submitted an outline redevelopment plan to be decided on in late November 2015.
If approved, over 95% of the site will be raised and Wolverton will lose its identity at a stroke while the UK will lose one of the last significant Victorian & Edwardian railway locations.
The Works is in a Conservation site with an adjacent LNWR built housing estate and forms a unique part of our industrial heritage. The redevelopment of the site would represent a huge loss in educational and historic terms for the future.
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