Newest Review: ... social history of the area. They have transport displays and farming displays with all sorts of equipment showing how things used to be ... more
A Museum of Local Social History
Milton Keynes Museum (Milton Keynes)
Member Name: Vialdana
Milton Keynes Museum (Milton Keynes)
Advantages: Lots to see and do, great for familes
Disadvantages: Smallish car park so can be hard to park on weekends and bank holidays
I first encountered Milton Keynes Museum in it's original guise as Stacey Hill Museum - this was back when I was about 13 in the 1980's and my mum worked there helping to catalogue the many items they were given. Back then it was a bit of a mess in many ways with lots of things all gathered together in quite a higgledy piggledy way in some old farm buildings, and they were working hard to catalogue everything that they had.
Today 38 years after it's beginnings in 1973, the museum has much more structure and the items are displayed so you can truly enjoy them, and the museum is designed with good accessibility in mind, and a much more logical route around the site than they had back in their early days.
The museum is still located in Stacey Hill Farm which was built during Queen Victoria's reign well before Milton Keynes existed and when Wolverton was the biggest location nearby (Wolverton was one of the first 'railway towns' and was the half way point on the original London to Birmingham railway line, as well as being near to the Grand Union Canal so that goods could be moved from canal boat to railway easily here).
The museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am-4:30pm. It's also open for some bank holiday Mondays in May and August. It does close around Christmas time for a few weeks, so if you're planning on visiting in the winter it's best to check first that they're open. Prices to get in are quite good - £6 for adults, and £5 for concessions (Kids, OAPs and Disabled), and there is a fair amount to see, so I personally think it's worth the cost.
Milton Keynes Museum houses all sorts of items both household, shop, and rural that portray the social history of the area. They have transport displays and farming displays with all sorts of equipment showing how things used to be done. Because the museum is housed in what was once an old farm, it's spread about amongst a variety of different buildings. This means that its much pleasanter going there when the weather is decent as you don't get wet rushing from one place to another, and you can actually enjoy spending a few minutes out in the courtyard watching the chickens, or admiring the wonderfully sturdy work horses who live here. What's nice is that through the year they have a carter who does displays with the horses to show how they would have worked with farm machinery and wagons so you can actually see how these things were done.
In the main farm house building, only the downstairs is open to the public, but in the rooms that you can see, are some lovely displays showing rooms as they might have been when the farm was built in the 1940's. There's a beautiful highchair here for a baby that I love to look at when we visit, as well as loads of other interesting things. One of the rooms here is set out to look like the board room of the Wolverton Works boardroom - they've even got the old boardroom table here, as well as various other pieces of furniture, medals, photos and other bits and pieces.
One of my favourite displays is the Victorian kitchen which is housed out in one of the outbuildings. It's got a proper range and brick oven as well as lots of different gadgets that would have been used to help with cooking and storing food. They often have someone here to explain to you how various things would have been used and it's rather nice because she is dressed as a Victorian cook might have been.
Although the museum is very good in terms of wheelchair accessibility, one of the least easy bits to view I find is the Victorian shops section. This bit is laid out almost like a small section of a Victorian street with lots of small shops along it. They've used some original shop fronts and re-created some too, and there's a Post Office, a public house, a lace makers cottage, a cobblers, a general store and a chemist as well as a number of others. Because you have to peer in through the windows of some of these to see what's inside, it's not always easy to see everything from within a wheelchair, and with those where you can step inside the doorways, it's even harder in some ways as I found that because many of these doors are quite narrow, I couldn't get inside easily. Having said that, I love this display very much as it really gives you a feel of how some things have changed dramatically and how others are still very much as they were then.
The transport section is one of the largest collections within the museum, and is housed in a huge barn space. There's masses of different transport on display here from an old Wolverton to Stony Stratford Tram which is one of the main features here, a Wolverton Works Train Carriage, lots of cars and motorcycles, bicycles galore and even an old local co-op delivery truck. Going backwards in time there are carts and carriages, hand cards and barrows. This isn't one of my favourite parts of the museum, but my husband who's a big car fan found it absolutely fascinating. I think I'd have liked it if there was more information about some of the items, as although many have a small bit of info, there are many many more that are just there on display with no information given.
The carpark here isn't huge, but there is a dedicated disabled parking section close to the entrance which is good. There's a small shop that sells souvenirs, postcards, sweets and also some quite nice local history books, and there's a rather nice tea room on site too. Actually I love this bit as they do a nice range of bits and pieces here and their prices aren't bad. 65p for a cup of tea, or £1 for a pot for one person (2 cups ish). Their scones are lovely, and I think to be able to buy a fresh scone complete with jam and cream for £1.20 is pretty amazing for somewhere like this. The also do a small range of sandwiches which cost between £2 and £3.50 as well as home made soup, salads, pieces of quiche and cakes.
I could keep talking about this place for a lot longer as being very local to me, and having seen it grow up and change over the years, I find it a very special and interesting place. However, I'm sure you don't want me to waffle on much more, so I'll just say that I would reckon most people would enjoy a good few hours spent here, and I'd advise arriving as close to opening time as you can so that you have plenty of time to go round and see everything. Lunch is easy with such a nice tea room available, and there are decent loos here which are well looked after and kept nice and clean. When we've taken guests to visit here over the years, and particularly in the sumertime, we've often been here for around 4 hours as we always stop for a bite to eat here at lunchtime when we visit.
*Just to note, Milton Keynes Museum isn't actually in an 'out-of-town location' as Dooyoo have suggested. It's actually to the north edge of Milton Keynes as opposed to being centrally located, but it's certainly not out of town.
Summary: A really interesting museum in Milton Keynes looking at the local history.
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