Alex Wells



I have lived in Tinkers Bridge for 4 years (since 2009) and am involved with community projects including writing a book about Tinkers Bridge and the Tinkers. Back in the 1970s, all the wood cladded houses in Tinkers were meant to be temporary as Milton Keynes grew. However, Milton Keynes Council have decided to keep them some 40 odd years later!

The Meeting Place community hall is the main hub of all activity and it now has an award winning garden, from debris to topiary. This has been documented in the local Milton Keynes Citizen. It is managed by a team of volunteers and, in the holiday period, children get involved with many different projects from cooking to hand printing.

From stories I have been given, the Tinkers tales through to gossip, I can safely say that the area has quite a lot of history….

From humble beginnings with the Tinkers living their nomadic lifestyles and speaking to local people about my book, Bill Bowler stands out and I went to see him in his bungalow in Simpson.  He can remember seeing the horse-drawn Gypsy Caravans being guided over Bowlers Bridge over the canal and the shouting as they guided the horse over the hump.

Tinkers were, however, apprentice tin-men, and they lived in a temporary camp made of canvas with a willow stick. They were approached by locals wanting their knives, forks and pans fixed and made their own niche career out of it! Tinkers were from all over the UK for a long time, including alongside the Grand Union Canal helping out with the working narrowboats. When industries started to develop, cheaper utensils and tools and the arrival of the container ships, the Tinkers faded out and along came the Travellers and the metal trade. The gypsies were camped in Simpson and their metal industry was taken over by the modern day Travellers.

Reference is made these days to Travellers being loosely called Tinkers, didicoys, gypsies. Even documentaries on TV (Big Fat Gypsy Weddings) about the modern day gypsies loosely called Travellers by the gypsies!
From the Victorian era and the working narrowboats, the Bowler family who lived right by the Grand Union Canal at Tinkers Bridge, had a canal bridge named after them and their cottage still stands today (pictured).

Comments about this page

  • Sadly Bill Bowler passed away last August aged 91. There’s a new street named after him, Bowlers Close in Simpson . His bungalow still stands there as of March 2022.

    By Alexandra Wells (18/03/2022)

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