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A short history of Milton Keynes Museum

Children Using the Telephones in the gallery.



The Stacey Hill Society 

The Museum was founded in 1973 when a group of local people began to collect items found in farms and factories that were being closed down to make way for the development of Milton Keynes, the UK’s last ‘new city’.

Milton Keynes Development Corporation allowed the enthusiasts to house the items in Stacey Hill Farm, Wolverton.

The estate itself had strong historical interest having been bought by the eminent physician Dr John Radcliffe in 1713, when he became MP for Buckingham.

The volunteers formed themselves into the Stacey Hill Society to develop the collection with the long term aim of creating a proper museum. Since this time, ownership of the collection has remained separate from the ownership of the land and buildings.

Developing Milton Keynes Museum into a popular local attraction

The collection grew rapidly in the early years as thousands of items were found and donated. Support from the local community was strong, even though opening times were limited to a few Sunday afternoons and working weekends each year.

By the 1980s the museum had developed into a popular local attraction. Visits by local schools were increasing and the collection now occupied almost the whole of the Stacey Hill Farm site.

Opening hours were extended and while the Museum continued to be largely run by volunteers, the board appointed a director to steer the museum into an era of sustainability. The museum itself became known as Milton Keynes Museum.

Museum Director, Bill Griffiths

Museum Director, Bill Griffiths

Out of the ashes

On 1 January 1996 a fire destroyed the museum’s grade II Listed threshing barn and cowshed, both built in the 1850s, and two smaller buildings. Many agricultural implements, stationary engines, cameras, radios and domestic items were severely damaged or destroyed.

The museum’s development plans were revised after the fire to include provision for the rebuilding of the lost buildings. Work began in December 1996 and was completed by the end of 1997. During 1997, the land and buildings passed from Commission for New Towns ownership to the Borough of Milton Keynes. The ownership of the artefacts and day to day control of the museum remains with the Museum Trust.



Making Chain Mail

Successes for Milton Keynes Museum

School visits continued during the period of closure and the museum finally reopened to the public at Easter 1998 with a number of new exhibits and additional facilities for visitors.

Since then the museum has gone from strength to strength with the support of its volunteers and the local public. In 2013 a new gallery – Connected Earth – telling the story of human telecommunications, opened. Our events programme has continued to expand.

We are now a highly commended attraction on TripAdvisor, and in 2014 expect to see a record 30,000 people through our doors.

architects' drawing of the new galleries at Milton Keynes Museum

Architects’ drawing of the new galleries

£7.3 million expansion for the Museum

This year the museum announced plans for a £7.3 expansion, funded by Milton Keynes Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council.

The expansion will see two major new galleries designed and fitted out to tell the whole story of the Milton Keynes area. One of the galleries will tell the story from pre-history through to the 1800s, enabling us to bring back some of the rich archaeology of the area – currently in storage or in other museum collections. The second gallery will tell the story of the new city’s creation – including special exhibits featuring some of Milton Keynes’ biggest success stories: Marshall Amplification, Red Bull Racing and The Open University.

See the news section for the latest update on the expansion.

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