Poised For A Leap Into A Tremendous Future (11 April 1974)
When all the natural excitement anent the take-over of Bletchley Urban Council by Milton Keynes Borough Council has subsided, it may well be that the most interesting thing to come out of it will be seen to be just 22 pages of the souvenir brochure produced for the Bletchley Pageant.
In those pages the history of the council from their beginning as Fenny Stratford UDC in 1895 to the present day is excellently recorded – the period up to 1944 by Mr. Edward Legg and from then onwards by Bletchley’s retiring Town Manager and clerk, Mr. John Smithie.
Their text alone makes the brochure worth keeping. Of equal interest, however, are the two Ordnance Survey maps included. The first of these was published in the year 1900 and the second is the provisional map for 1950. The maps are not co-extensive but are near enough so to give a very graphic idea of all the development that took place over the half-century.
The survey for the first map was apparently made two or three years before its date of publication, since it is labelled Fenny Stratford UD and does not reach as far as Tattenhoe Lane, though by 1900 Bletchley had been included in the urban district.
The first map shows that at about the turn of the century what is now Bletchley comprised five settled areas which were practically isolated from each other – quite apart from Simpson village, which isn’t on the maps at all. From left to right across the map these areas were the Old Bletchley crossroads; the very small settlement at the church end coupled with Bletchley Park; the development immediately to the east of the railway station; Fenny Stratford with Simpson Road; and finally, well to the south of the latter, the village of Water Eaton.
The Old Bletchley settlement was mainly and sporadically along the Buckingham Road from near Tattenhoe Lane to the top of Meager’s Hill. The Shenley Road branch extended little further than the Old Swan on either side and the Newton Road branch only as far as the first bend. The north side of Buckingham Road was bare of property from Meager’s Hill to the Eight Bells inn. Development on the southern side was confined to the Brooklands house complex – later renamed the Grange; the adjoining Holne Chase complex; and near the top of the descent to the station a small row of cottages which were demolished after 1950.
There were the three thatched cottages in Church Walk and Old Bletchley School at the junction of Church Walk and Church Green Road on the way to the church end settlement. This settlement comprised merely a few old cottages at the sharp turn in Church Green Road, but opposite stood Elmers, St. Mary’s Church, the rectory and its garden and beyond that the Bletchley Park complex. A feature of the park was two avenues of elm trees, one extending from the park lodge gate to a similar distance beyond the mansion and the other running at right angles from the mansion to the station spinney. These avenues, together with the park lake, were all that remained of an earlier park mansion and fish pond called Water Hall which were developed by Dr. Browne Willis in the 18th century but had a very short life.
At the bottom of Church Green Road opposite the Eight Bells, stood Noel cottages, built by Mr. H.S. Leon (hence the “Noel”) for a park laundry and to house park workers, and then the Buckingham Road property up to and including the Freeman chapel. Further down the road, after the junction with Water Eaton Road, stood Railway Terrace and another building.
After the big cut-off caused by the railway, its 12-foot high bridge and dog-leg road (created when the bridge had to be built while the earlier and straighter level crossing was continuing to be used) came the station end settlement on and off each side of Bletchley Road – which the Buckingham road had here become and which is now Queensway.
On the northern side were all the streets up to a partly-developed Cambridge Street. Then a space, then the New Inn (now the Bletchley Arms), another space, then a few houses, then open land again until part-way along Victoria Road.
On the southern side there was sporadic development on the Bletchley Road frontage as far as Brooklands Road. Duncombe Street was three-parts developed from the Park Hotel end. The next off-street was Brooklands Road, which was just partly developed. The Bletchley Road frontage was bare from there to the schools.
The Fenny end was the most developed, though not as much as one might think.
Water Eaton especially was isolated. It clustered around the green and the mill road. There was no property in what is now Manor Road between Manor Farm at the Aylesbury Street end and the old Plough. In Water Eaton Road there were a few small cottages near the brook, together with Brooklands Nurseries on one side and a small brickworks on the other; then nothing more until the three railway cottages fronting on the road beyond the three bridges. In fact, one might have driven all the way from Water Eaton to Old Bletchley without coming across more than half a dozen cottages on the nearside.
The 1950 map presents a very different picture, even at the Fenny end. There are very few open spaces left on any of the main road frontages from beyond Tattenhoe Lane and the Newton Road railway bridge on the west to beyond the saw mills in Simpson Road, and Drayton Road and Stoke Road on the east. Progress is still bedevilled by the 12-foot railway bridge and the absence of any new outlet onto the A5. But although the Town Development Act is still to come all the streets we now know in the Queensway area are in being and many others besides.
The five settlements have largely become one, new factories are appearing on the industrial estate and the town is well poised for its leap into the tremendous future.