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Commercial Life 1886
Turn of the century view from the council offices in Fenny along Victoria Road.

Sunday Citizen May 19, 2002

With their legacy still to be variously viewed - examples being Ropley House, the memorial home in Denmark Street and cottages in Brooklands Road - for many years the Rowland Brothers, timber merchants, were predominant employers in the locality.

As we begin our voyage into the commercial life of Fenny Stratford, towards the year 1887, it is therefore of little surprise to find the employees of the firm enjoying their annual Christmas Eve supper at the Red lion, provided by the courtesy of their benevolent employers. (For the daughter of Mr W Rowland, the coming year would also bring a cause for celebrations, when she passed the third division of the Cambridge exams.)

In this season of festive feasts the Maltsters, in Aylesbury Street, hosted a similar gathering for the Town Band and much merrymaking was the order of the day. Of more sober pursuits, the proprietor of the 'Fenny Stratford Mineral Water Works' had his thoughts on the profit to be made in the coming months and begged 'to inform his Friends and the Public' that he had recently purchased and fitted up 'a Most Complete Plant of SODA WATER MACHINERY', manufactured by no less than Barnett and Foster, the recipients of many awards and three gold medals at the International Health Exhibition.

Also warming to the coming months were the members of the local co-op who at their quarterly meeting announced a profit of £160 5s 1d. They were thus able to declare a rosy 'divi' of 2s in the pound although on a frostier theme the natives were dismissively short-changed by a lady who, in her quest for a general servant, specifically advertised that 'No one from Fenny or Bletchley need apply'.

No such discriminations were applied by a randy grocer in Aylesbury Street, however, whose frolics with a lady assistant spelled his eventual commercial demise. Yet in his more well behaved moments, for the meanwhile he was able to not only supply the great unwashed with 'Sunlight self washer soap, in 3d Tablets' but also 'Jubilee Drops', at 9d per lb. When finally lust overruled business acumen, inevitably he was obliged to 'do a runner' although before disappearing perhaps had the option to stow a few household effects up the road with the ironmonger George Pacey and his 'house furnishing warehouse', established 1840.

Just in case other ardours were in need of cooling it was just as well the essential question of watering the streets during the summer months had now to be considered. As a primary measure, Mr Thomas, the Grand Junction Canal Engineer, gave consent for a reduction in the price of water from £10 to £8 and in association, an agreement was reached with Mr W E Clarke to pay him 15s pa, for the right to cart water across his timber yard. For a lump sum of £25 10s, Mr Rollins eventually gained the watering contract and the terms required his attendance for seven hours a day if necessary.

It was also hoped he would perform his duties rather better than his predecessor, by whom some streets had been watered several times but others not at all. As Mr Rollins went about his daily business, so others continued theirs, including Mr H W Welsh, builder and contractor, who 'trusts to receive a continuance of a share of the patronage of the public'. Perhaps not from Mr C Stuart, of the Bletchley Iron Works, however, for whilst completing some works at Mr Stuart's foundry, Mr Welsh completely forgotten to mention the need for planning

As a result, Mr Stuart now had to apply for the Parochial Sanitary Committee or else he would have to take his Works elsewhere.

That would certainly have been a pity, depriving Fenny not only of Mr Stuart's patented 'Pneumatic Boxing Gloves' but also his 17 imp gallon railway milk churns 'Made of Best Bessemer steel. Gauged and Plated, at 27s 6d each. Happily the necessary permission was swiftly granted.

As the New Year approached, dinners were held, toasts proposed and new horizons envisaged although in the toast proposed by Mr Illing, these extended somewhat beyond the boundaries of Fenny; 'I love the Arm/, he enthused, 'and if I were a single, young man I would not hang about Fenny but would go and join up.'

Sentiments no doubt also expressed by many a resident, increasingly fed up with several