Milton Keynes is Just a Village
At the bottom of the war memorial are the usual crosses and a wreath, but there’s pebbles painted with poppies, and for some reason, wooden spoons.
Until the late 60s, if you knew of Milton Keynes at all, you’d probably be a local. Before then it was just a tiny village on a side road three miles from Newport Pagnell, but with the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1967 this began to change.
Until the new town came, Milton Keynes village sat in flat, pond strewn farmland in the Ouzel river valley, about a mile from the water.
It was well connected with the surrounding villages. An unclassified road ran through from Willen in the North to Watling Street (the A5 trunk road) in the South, via Walton.
Footpaths once took you West across the fields to a bridge over the Ouzel, next to a mill at Little Woolstone. The spot is now under the V10 Brickhill Street.
There’s not much left of the Willen road, but parts of the road to Watling Street are still there, including a stretch by the Open University called Milton Road.
Another minor road went East from the centre of the village (by the pub) then curved North to Broughton; a lot of this road still exists, though of course it doesn’t run between fields any more.
I had a look round the village yesterday. Of course I wasn’t allowed into the church, but in the graveyard are buried remains from older graves, found on the other side of Willen road in 1992.
They are believed to be the bones of Christian Saxons, buried around 900 AD. There are two stone slabs set flush with the ground to mark their resting place, just inside the gate.
The old smithy, now a bus shelter with a chimney. The Swan is in the background.
The World War One memorial in the graveyard is a bit different from the usual cross and plinth design; I like it. It’s also unusual because it has not been altered to include deaths from the second World War. I like to think that everyone from the village came back from WW2.
One day I’ll be able to look inside the church, and I’ll report back. A few parts of it date from the 12th Century, but most of the church is 14th Century. Outside, I found a nice clear benchmark on a tower buttress, on the North side of the church.
At the village centre is The Swan, a timber framed 17th Century pub, much altered over the years. There should be another benchmark on the South East corner, but I couldn’t find a trace of it.
The Old Post Office was once a Medieval open hall.
Close to the pub is a bus shelter inside a small brick building. This was the smithy. A travelling smith would visit regularly to shoe horses and make or repair farm or household implements. One oddity is that just one back corner of the smithy is rounded, not square.
A little way up Broughton Road on the opposite side is The Old Post Office. It is part Medieval and part 17th Century. In the centre of the house is a Medieval cruck truss, and the roof timbers are heavily smoke blackened; this house was built as an open hall and only later divided up and chimneys added. The Post Office moved out in the 1900s.
In the 1950s the district nurse lived in a 17th Century cottage a little way along Walton Road. It’s still called Nurse’s Cottage.
Further along Walton Road is Southside Farmhouse. It seems to be early 19th Century, but that’s just the front. It wasn’t uncommon to update an older building and the original building was 18th Century.
It’s a big and impressive farmhouse, and there’s a big and impressive farmyard with good solid buildings next to it. The farm was large, stretching into modern Oakgrove and Monkston, and down as far as Walton.
Milton Keynes still has the feel of a small village, though it’s surrounded by the new town. Perhaps next time I visit it will not be raining.
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The mention of Walton prompts me to ask: What about an article on Walton village Roger? – including a nice pic of the old manor house (now an Admin building in the Open University’s HQ), with its swank portico entrance. Prior to the MK Corp taking it over, it was the home of Brigadier Earle and his wife – she was related to the Harleys (of Harley St fame), and the small community centre (in the middle of the village) is named The Harley Hall.
The Jubilee Oak there used to have a brass plate detailing the planting ceremony, naming the woman who officiated (she might have been the lady of the manor then?) – years later it seems to have disappeared from the tree/seating, hopefully not souvenired – maybe in safe keeping at the church (St Michael – now owned by the OU) – I can’t recall her name, but do recall she is mentioned on memorial plaques mounted inside the church.
Posted by: John O'Hara | 11 March 2022 at 07:44 AM
I think a look round Walton would be very interesting. As well as the church and manor house, there are the buildings of Manor Farm. The last two aren't accessible to the public, but I might know somebody in the right place who can help me there.
I've often driven past the Harley Hall but didn't know what it was; I'll go and have a look.
Thanks for the inside info.
Posted by: Roger Bradbury | 11 March 2022 at 09:19 AM
St Michael’s is an interesting and very ancient church, I gather a few years back they had to spend serious money combating foundation subsidence. As a schoolboy, I used to work at manor farm in the hols and on Saturdays. On one of my Saturday sessions, Mrs Earle was very unhappy – she’d looked out the bedroom window one morning that week to see that the church roof had been stripped of its lead; thieves had driven a lorry down the lane late the night before, that’s why it’s now a slate roof.
Inside the church, I think it’s on the wall facing the river, there’s a lengthy description of an ancient ritual/tradition, where alms were distributed to the poor, and where I first came upon the word Moiety. Visiting Walton in early 1974, I spotted a delightful hand written poem on the church noticeboard in the porch entrance – obviously composed by someone who found all the surrounding MK development/upheaval an unwelcome disturbance to the prior village tranquillity. Last year, I showed it to a friend of mine here, and she published it in their weekly church magazine – I wonder who the author was, and what they would think of the poem travelling half way round the world?
Posted by: John O'Hara | 12 March 2022 at 03:09 AM
Not wishing to hog the comments space, a final comment - if it’s of interest to readers, I can post the poem I copied from the church porch.
Posted by: John O'Hara | 14 March 2022 at 11:59 PM
don't worry about hogging the comments space, it's been very interesting talking with you.
I'd love to see the poem here, but I can't publish it because it will be copyrighted to the author. Speaking as somebody who has had at least one photo used without permission, I couldn't do that to anyone else! Thanks for the offer, though.
Posted by: Roger Bradbury | 15 March 2022 at 04:01 PM
Ah yes, good point, I’d forgotten about copyright. When my religious friend here asked if she could put it in their church magazine I pointed out it wasn’t my poem, and I didn’t know who the author was, but since they had displayed it in a public space they must have wanted others to enjoy it – but of course that doesn’t mean it becomes public property, and I accept that – maybe I was wrong to let her publish? – it’s a tricky area, I used to work in patents, but don’t know about IP law in Trademarks and Copyright. Hmm, food for thought.
Posted by: John O'Hara | 15 March 2022 at 11:23 PM