‘New Town’ Milton Keynes isn’t so new anymore – it’s 50 years old today! It was formally designated a new town by the government on 23rd January 1957 and is famous for its roundabouts. But it must have more going for it than that, surely?
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Enigma code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, is situated in the area, and is credited with shortening World War II by between 2-4 years. Alan Turing, whose story is told in The Imitation Game, was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code while at Bletchley, working alongside other mathematicians, chess champions, linguists and crossword experts to crack transmissions made by the Axis powers.
Bletchley hosts the National Museum of Computing. It opened in 2007 and houses Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and offers the opportunity to revisit all those old games in the PC Gallery.
The government intends to open a cyber-security college at Bletchley in 2018, for which students would be selected due to their aptitude (see above criteria) and include coders and computer programmers rather than academic achievers.
Reigning Ping Pong World Champion, Olympian and winner of Britain’s most table tennis medals in the Commonwealth Games, Andrew Baggaley was born and raised in the town. His mum began playing table tennis with him in their back garden and he hasn’t looked back. He will be defending his title this week at Alexandra Palace.
Arguably Britain’s most famous television Geordie, actor Kevin Whatley – a star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Morse and of course his own spin off, Lewis – has made the Woburn Sands area his home.
Award winning horror writer Sarah Pinborough aka children’s fantasy author Sarah Silverwood, was born in the town and has written a series of spinoff novels based on the shared Torchwood/Dr Who universe.
Where to go and what to see:
The town’s most iconic attraction is cows! Concrete Cows, to be exact, a sculpture created by Canadian artist Liz Leyh in 1978 from materials donated by a local builder. Comprising three cows and three calves, all half life size, they reside in the Milton Keynes museum, while Bill Billings’ more famous replicas are situated on the A422 Monks Way.
The National Bowl is the town’s major entertainment venue, playing host to any and everyone from the late David Bowie to the Foo Fighters. Formerly a clay pit, it’s an open grassed area in the form of an amphitheatre which holds 65,000 people unseated, but is the subject of constant speculation about its future.
The Bounce Trampoline Park was the first of its kind in the UK. Forget spotters, this is wall to wall trampolines where you can play with your mates or all the family, engage in dodgeball or dive around in foam pits!
Wimbledon FC moved from south London to MK when it became apparent their home ground at Plough Lane wouldn’t allow them to keep growing. They eventually changed their name to MK Dons, and enjoyed a second round Capital One Cup victory over Manchester United in 2014, beating the self styled Biggest Club in the World 4-0!
The Buddhist Peace Pagoda – erected in 1980 in Willen Lake – was the first Buddhist stupa built in the western hemisphere.
There is evidence of human settlements as far back as 2000BC, with the Milton Keynes Hoard, a valuable bronze age find, now housed in the British Museum
Fears that this new town would be a concrete jungle proved unfounded – there are three ancient woodlands, 4000 acres of parks, 400 acres of lakes and at least 20 million trees. The Parks Trust, an independent body, is pledged to prevent building on any of the park lands, a power bestowed upon them by the departing development corporation.
50th anniversary celebrations are taking place throughout the first part of the year, including this weekend – find out more here.