- Bradwell Mill
- Local History
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 Stacey Hill Society was formed 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.
The collection grew rapidly in the early years as thousands of items were accumulated. Support from the local community was strong, even though opening times were limited to a few Sunday afternoons and working weekends each year.
It was clear from the start that agriculture and industry would be major parts of the collection. Items connected with domestic life and local commerce were also strongly represented.
By the 1980s the Museum had developed into a popular local attraction. Visits by local schools were increasing. The collection now occupied almost the whole of the Stacey Hill Farm site.
In the mid-1980s a Board of Trustees was established to oversee the management of the collection and the museum. A new building was constructed for storage and restoration of exhibits. Opening times were extended to include every Sunday afternoon during the Summer and then Wednesday to Sunday afternoons from April to October.
In 1989 the museum changed its name to Milton Keynes Museum to reflect its status as the city's only museum and to help promote it to a wider audience. At around this time, ownership of the buildings and land passed from the Development Corporation to the Commission for New Towns.
For the first 21 years of its existence the Museum was managed and operated almost entirely by volunteers. In 1994 the Museum appointed its first full time Director, Bill Griffiths, who had previously worked at London Zoo.
With significant support and encouragement from the Commission for New Towns, Bill Griffiths and the Trustees devised a development programme to improve the Museum facilities and bring self funding a step closer.
By 1995 these plans were almost complete, and the Museum was looking forward to implementing the initial phases during 1996.
Out of the Ashes
A fire on 1 January 1996 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 development plans were revised after the fire to include provision for the rebuilding of the lost buildings. Work commenced 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.
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. A record number of people visited during 1998.
Onwards and Upwards
The Museum has forged ahead with its development plan, focusing on displays that reflect the experiences and requirements of the local community in the 21st century. The layout of the site and the displays has been extensively reorganised so that visitors can take a logical journey around the site to see items housed in relevant areas. For example, the rebuilt timber threshing barn houses displays that portray the farming year and all of the transport related exhibits are housed in a new Hall of Transport.