Milton Keynes Museum is an independent local museum in the parish of Wolverton and Greenleys in Milton Keynes, England. It is mostly run by volunteers with a small number of paid staff and as such is exceptional in it's quality of presentation. The museum is housed in a former Victorian farmstead. It covers the history of the Milton Keynes area, including northern Buckinghamshire and southern Northamptonshire, from the year 1800 onwards. It includes the Stacey Hill Collection of rural life, consisting of agricultural, domestic, industrial, and social objects connected to the area before the 1967 foundation of Milton Keynes. There is also a collection of many memorabilia of the nearby Wolverton railway works. The museum's Connected Earth collection includes a variety of historic telephones and switchboards, many still in working order. The museum also has some historic Post Office and British Telecom vehicles. The largest of these is the Road Phone, an enormous working telephone used for promotional purposes. The museum was previously called the Stacey Hill Museum.
Long before England existed, this area was at the bottom of a primeval sea. The most notable of the fossils uncovered is that of an ichthyosaur from Caldecotte, now on display in the central library. Human settlement began in this area around 2000 BCE, mainly in the valleys of the rivers Ouse and Ouzel and their tributaries (Bradwell Brook, Shenley Brook). Archaeological excavations revealed several burial sites dating from 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. Evidence for the earliest habitation was found at Blue Bridge – production of flint tools from the Middle Stone Age. In the same area, an unusually large (18-metre or 59-foot diameter) round house was excavated and dated to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age, about 700 BCE. Other excavations in this Blue Bridge/Bancroft hill-side uncovered a further seven substantial settlement sites, dating from then until 100 BCE. The area that was to become Milton Keynes was relatively rich: the Milton Keynes Hoard is possibly the largest (by weight, 2.2 kilograms or 4.9 pounds) hoard of Bronze Age jewellery ever found in Britain. It was discovered in September 2000 at Monkston (near Milton Keynes village) and consists of two Bronze Age gold torcs and three gold bracelets in a datable clay pot.
The moot mound of Secklow Hundred has been found, excavated and reconstructed – it is on the highest point in the central area and is just behind the Library in modern Central Milton Keynes. Only one medieval manor house survives: the 15th century Manor Farmhouse in Loughton. There are sites of other manor houses in Great Woolstone, Milton Keynes village and Woughton on the Green. The oldest surviving domestic building is Number 22, Milton Keynes (village), the house of the bailiff of the manor of Bradwell. Newport Pagnell, established early in the 10th century, was the principal market town for the area. Stony Stratford and Fenny Stratford were founded as market towns on Watling Street in the late 12th or early 13th centuries. By the early 13th century, North Buckinghamshire had several religious houses: Bradwell Abbey (1154) is within modern Milton Keynes and Snelshall Priory (1218) is just outside it. Both were Benedictine priories. Many of the medieval trackways to these sites still survive and have become cycleways and footpaths of the Redway network. Britain's earliest (excavated) windmill is in Great Linford. The large oak beams forming the base supports still survived in the mill mound and were shown by radio carbon dating to originate in the first half of the 13th century. (The present stone tower mill at Bradwell was built in 1815, on a site convenient to the new Grand Junction Canal).
The Grand Junction Canal came through the area between 1793 and 1800, with canal-side wharfs in Fenny Stratford, Great Linford, Bradwell and Wolverton. The route bypassed Newport Pagnell but, in 1817, an arm was dug to it from Great Linford. Trade along the canal stimulated the local economy. A large brickworks was established near the canal in Great Linford: two bottle kilns and the clay pits can still be seen on the site. Pottery from the Midlands begins to appear in excavations of dwellings from that period. The London and Birmingham Railway brought even more profound changes to the area. The coach trade on the turnpike through Stony Stratford collapsed, taking many businesses with it. Fortunately, Wolverton was the half way point on the rail route, where engines were changed and passengers alighted for refreshments. Wolverton railway works was established here, creating work for thousands of people in the surrounding area. In the period 1840 to 1880, new towns were built in New Bradwell and Wolverton (about 2 km east of the original deserted village) to house them. A narrow gauge railway, the Wolverton to Newport Pagnell Line, was built to Newport Pagnell in 1866, much of it by closing and reusing the Newport Arm of the canal. The Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway ran to Stony Stratford from 1888 (to 1926) and, in 1889, was extended to Deanshanger in Northamptonshire. Bletchley, on the 1846 junction of the London and Birmingham railway with the Bedford branch, was to become an important railway town too. In 1850, another branch from Bletchley to Oxford was built, later to become the (Cambridge/Oxford) Varsity Line. Bletchley, originally a small village in the parish of Fenny Stratford, grew to reach and absorb its parent. In Stony Stratford, expertise learned in the works was applied to the construction of traction engines for agricultural use and the site of the present Cofferidge Close was engaged in their manufacture.
The museum has a number of fascinating galleries and exhibits. The Connected Earth gallery, tells the story of human communication from smoke signals and cannons sounding the alarm right through to the very latest in phone technology. Learn to send and receive Morse code, practice sending signals up the railway line 19th century style, visit the police phone box, and play at being a switchboard operator at their fully working telephone exchange. The Victorian street is excellent. Step back into the days of bustling high streets to see how people used to shop for groceries, clothing, medicines and other essentials. Youngsters love seeing how we used to shop, while anyone past a certain age will enjoy spotting the things they remember from their own childhoods. Their popular street of shops features the sights – and the sounds – of a butcher’s, Post Office, haberdasher, pub, hardware store, chemist’s, grocer and department store. Look out too for the cinema, and the glass hearse used to transport coffins in days gone by.
One particular facet of the museum is the way they encourage everyone to touch any and all of the objects - a great boon for the visually impaired. Almost all of the museum’s galleries and facilities are at ground level and accessible in a wheelchair or with a pushchair. However, please be aware that in the historical areas of the site some of the doorways are narrow, and some floor surfaces uneven. They are always happy to assist if you need help negotiating these areas. They have a number of standard wheelchairs available on site for those visitors whose motorised chairs are unable to access the main house area. Parking is free at the museum, with plenty of space, even on busy event days. There are toilets throughout the site, with baby changing facilities in the toilets alongside the Granary Tea Room. Assistance dogs are welcome. Milton Keynes Museum covers a large area and we recommend you allow 2-3 hours (longer if you have children) to explore the site and the very many ‘hands-on’ exhibits to get the best experience they offer. If you are limited for time you may take advantage of their Gift Aid tickets, which allow you to re-visit the museum as many times as you like within the next 12 months, including the memorable events days.
Location : Milton Keynes Museum, McConnell Drive, Wolverton, Milton Keynes MK12 5EL
Transport : Wolverton (National Rail) then 15 minutes. Bus Routes : 6, 23, 33 and 33A stop close by.
Opening Times : November - March, Weekends 11:00 to 16:30; April - October, Wednesday - Sunday + Bank holidays 11:00 -16:30
Tickets : Adults £9.00; Concessions £7.00; Carer Free; Children (5 - 16) £6.00
Tel. : 01908 316222