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How We Built Britain

You are in: Beds Herts and Bucks > How We Built Britain > The architectural secrets of Milton Keynes

The architectural secrets of Milton Keynes

As part of the new BBC series 'How We Built Britain', highlighting the dramatic and heroic story of the nation's architecture, BBC Three Counties Radio presenter Martyn Coote discovers some of the hidden architectural secrets of Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes City Centre

Milton Keynes City Centre

With local expert and historian Dr Michael Synnott from the City Discovery Centre, Martyn Coote visited five areas of architectural interest in Milton Keynes to uncover their fascinating stories.

Bradwell Abbey

Bradwell Abbey dates back to 1154 when 181 hectares of land was granted to Meinfelin (Lord of Wolverton) to build a Benedictine priory. All that remains today is the 14th centuary Pilgrim Chapel of St Mary, thought to be the oldest building still standing in Milton Keynes.

The Abbey was built to the south of Stacey Brook and to the west of Loughton Brook, which would have provided drinking water and a supply of fish.

In around 1330, the chapel of St. Mary dedicated to 'Our Ladie of Bradwell' was built against the west front of the church. This was, it is thought, in response to the discovery of healing properties of a statue of the Virgin Mary displayed in a niche on the west front of the church and would have been seized upon as an opportunity for much needed revenue.

Bradwell Abbey

The oldest building in Milton Keynes

Under the Act for the Suppression of Minor Houses, Bradwell Priory was given to Cardinal Wolsey, by papal consent in July 1524. The site is described in detail by Brabazon, Wolsey’s surveyor. Small areas of rubble stone from several medieval outbuildings survive. These fragments are now incorporated into the Manor House, the attached Medieval Interpretation Centre and the Stone Barn, which all form the City Discovery Centre in MK. In addition there are three more positively identified medieval buildings; the chapel of “Our Ladie”, the building known as the Bakehouse and the Cruck Barn.

The chapel of St. Mary remained in use as a domestic, private chapel until at least the early 18th century. By 1798 it had become a farm building.

After 1700 there are few evident works on the site until the early 19th century. The earliest surviving map of the site is an estate map of 1797, which identifies the full extent of the parish (then the Manor) of Bradwell Abbey . It remained at this size until the development of Milton Keynes and the industrial estate in 1973, when the site became confined to the boundary of the Priory Precinct, the same extent that is visible today.

Wolverton Park

Ariel view of Wolverton Park

Wolverton Park

Until recently Wolverton Park was home to a Victorian velodrome and the UK's oldest football stand. The site is bordered on one side by the 150m long, brick built Royal Train shed. 

It's here that developer Places for People is building 300 new homes over the next three years that will bring back into use three listed buildings that were at the heart of the town’s economic railway boom in the 1840’s - the former Royal Train Shed, the Triangular building where locomotive engines were built and the adjacent Reading Room that provided educational facilities for employees.

Wolverton Park - the future

Wolverton Park - the future

The site falls within a conservation area and because the train shed is listed the building's exterior will remain unchanged.

The interior will include modern town houses with state of the art fixtures and fittings. This is a typical example of Victorian architecture and, like so many buildings of it's age, although in the process of development the facade will be protected for others to appreciate in years to come.

The Centre MK

Love it or hate it Milton Keynes shopping centre is one of the architectural icons of it's age.

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the original building in 1973. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Chris Woodward who followed the minimalist principles of German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Queens Court, Centre:MK

Queens Court, Centre:MK

With its glass covered arcades, tropical and temperate trees and shrubs and high ceilings it was supposed to have the feel of European-style glass-covered shopping streets or arcades of the Galleria in Milan.

The centre was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher and was described in 1993 as "still the best-looking if no longer the biggest shopping centre in the British Isles".

The Milton Keynes shopping centre is in the Guinness Book of World Records, holding the title of World's Longest Shoppin Mall.

Energy World

If you ever hear people in Milton Keynes (or elsewhere) referring to the 'Teletubbies House' they're probably talking about one of the properties built in the Shenley Lodge district of Milton Keynes in 1986 as part of the Energy World exhibition.

Architects from around the world were invited to design and build 51 low energy houses. The project culminated in a public exhibition that attracted visitors from around the world.

The 'Teletubbies House' at Shenley Lodge

The 'Teletubbies House' at Shenley Lodge

It was a significant landmark in the design and construction of low-energy housing and has had a long-term impact on Government policy and building regulations.

The houses were designed to be at least 30% more efficient than the building regulations that were in force at the time. The architecture and technologies used were varied, and included designs from Canada, Denmark, Finland, germany and Sweden. Although it was later removed, the exhibition also featured a wind turbine, then an uncommon sight.

Oxley Woods

Designed by the same architect who designed the Millenium Dome and the Lloyds building in London, Lord Rogers, Oxley Woods is a development of one hundred and forty five two, three, four and five bedroom houses on the western edge of Milton Keynes.

Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes

Oxley Woods

They've been called flat pack houses because much of the house is made off site and can be altered to suit changing tastes and space requirements. Cladding can be clipped on to suit the buyers taste. You can even add more rooms if you need to.

All the houses have been constructed from sustainable materials and have what's called an 'EcoHat' which allows hot air to be re-used to optimise energy consumption and provide passive solar water heating.

last updated: 22/06/07

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