Milton Keynes History

History of Milton Keynes

Because Milton Keynes is famous as a new city, visitors to the borough could be forgiven for assuming that Milton Keynes has no history – nothing could be further from the truth!
The building of the new town in the South East of England provided a unique opportunity to study and record the archaeology and landscape history of some 22,000 acres of countryside.The Milton Keynes Development Corporation, charged with the task of building the new city, employed a team or archaeologists who located and excavated many sites in the area, making it, in effect, one of the largest archaeological sites in the country in its day.

The excavation of Caldecotte Lake unearthed the fossilised remains, of an Ichthyosaur, approximately 150 million years old. The same area also provided signs of early human activity when gravel deposits exposed by the construction of the lake produced evidence of the manufacture of flint tools around 6000 BC.

At Heelands, the discovery of an occupation site of 2000 BC dates the earliest known settlement in Milton Keynes and there is evidence of other activity shortly afterwards in the Stacey Bushes area.

Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples hunted and settled in the Ouse Valley and its tributaries. Stone and bronze axes have been found at Olney, Ravenstone, Chicheley, Newport Pagnell and Bradwell. Bronze Age burial sites have been excavated at Ravenstone, Wolverton and near Milton Keynes Village, whilst in the meadows near Tyringham a cemetery of this period has been identified by aerial photography. The remains of a nationally important large circular timber house dated 1000 BC were excavated at Bancroft.

From then on, the local population expanded and from 500 BC Iron Age settlements began to develop in several locations around the borough. At Danesborough, near Bow Brickhill, the remains of an Iron Age camp enclosed with a massive bank and ditch are visible.

Visit the archaeology site for more information

By the time of the Roman conquest in AD 43, it is thought the area was extensively settled and farmed. A major Roman villa, containing some of the finest quality mosaic floors, was excavated at Bancroft Park. The occupants erected a large stone mausoleum on an adjacent hilltop, on the site of an earlier cemetery. The remains of the villa have been preserved and on-site interpretation panels give a good impression of the building and account of life in Roman Milton Keynes.

There were other Roman buildings in various parts of the borough and several areas such as Haversham, Stanton Low, Emberton and Olney were extensively settled.

To the south of Fenny Stratford, in the Southeast of the borough, the Roman town of Magiovinium was established on Walling Street, the famous Roman Road which passes through the Borough. From Magiovinium a road ran north to the Roman town of Orchestra, near Wellingborough, and this passed through a major Roman settlement which existed just north of Olney.

The first Saxon settlements in the area were at Pineland, Milton Keynes Village, Great Linford and Bancroft. These date from the 6th and 7th centuries, and a cemetery of this date was discovered at Newport Pagnell. By the 9th and 10th centuries the villages and parishes now encompassed in the borough were established. Excavations at Great Linford, Walton and Woughton have shown how the size and location of the villages has varied over the years, largely as a result of economic changes.

In the 9th century the borough area was contained within the Saxon Hundreds (a Hundred was an administrative area made up of units of land known as hides) of Bunsty, Moulsoe and Secklow. The elders were entitled to gather outdoors at a special meeting place, usually a specially-constructed mound, to discuss land management, collect taxes and dispense justice. The Secklow mound was thought to have been located on what is now Bradwell Common, but in 1978 it was reconstructed on a site behind the Central Milton Keynes library to be preserved as an Ancient Monument. Later these Hundreds were combined to form the Newport Hundred which, coincidentally, covered roughly the same area as the current borough.

Further information can be found in the Milton Keynes >>  Local Studies and Family History Library web pages