Stony Stratford

Stony Stratford
Stony Stratford
 Stony Stratford shown within Buckinghamshire
Population 7,735 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSP787404
Civil parishStony Stratford
Unitary authorityMilton Keynes
Ceremonial countyBuckinghamshire
RegionSouth East
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode district MK11
Dialling code 01908
Police Thames Valley
Fire Buckinghamshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK ParliamentMilton Keynes South
List of places

Coordinates: 52°03′24″N 0°51′09″W / 52.0567°N 0.8526°W / 52.0567; -0.8526

Stony Stratford (often shortened to Stony) is a constituent town of Milton Keynes (in north Buckinghamshire, England) and is a civil parish with a town council[2] within the Borough of Milton Keynes.[3] It is in the north west corner of Milton Keynes, bordering Northamptonshire and separated from it by the River Great Ouse. Before the designation of Milton Keynes in 1967, Stony was in Wolverton Urban District, north Buckinghamshire.

Since at least Roman times, there has been a settlement here at the ford of Watling Street over the Great Ouse.[4] The town's market charter dates from 1194 and its status as a town from 1215.


The town name 'Stratford' is Anglo-Saxon in origin, and means 'ford on a Roman road'. The Roman road in this sense is the Watling Street that runs through the middle of the town. The ford is the crossing of the River Ouse. The prefix 'Stony' refers to the stones on the bed of the ford, differentiating the town from nearby Fenny Stratford.

Part of the Stony Stratford Hoard, on display in the British Museum

In 1789, at Windmill Field in the parish of Old Stratford near Stony Stratford, an urn was uncovered which contained three fibulae and two headdresses. Known as the Stony Stratford Hoard, it also contained around thirty fragments of silver plaques which were decorated with images of the Roman gods Mars, Apollo and Victory. There were also inscriptions to Jupiter and Vulcan leading to theories that this was a votive hoard at a Roman temple.The hoard is now kept at the British Museum.[5][6][7]

There has been a market in Stony Stratford since 1194 (by charter of King Richard I).[8] (Until the early 1900s, livestock marts were still held in the market square but in more recent times the square has become a car park, apart from a monthly farmers' market in one corner. The weekly market has moved to Timor Court, and of course no longer deals in livestock). Stony Stratford formally became a town when it received letters patent from King John in 1215.[4]

Stony Stratford was the location where, in 1290, an Eleanor cross was built in memory of the recently deceased Eleanor of Castile. The cross was destroyed during the English Civil War.[4]

ARCHBISHOP: Last night, I hear, they lay at Stony Stratford,

Wm. Shakespeare, Richard III, Act II, Scene 4

The Rose and Crown Inn at Stony Stratford was reputedly where, in 1483, King Edward V stayed the night before he was taken to London (to become one of the Princes in the Tower) by his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later became King Richard III.[4] The inn is now a private house but a plaque on the front wall gives a brief account of the event.

Queen Anne House also known as Shell House, at 48 High Street, was once the Dower House for nearby Wolverton Manor (demolished in 1728). This house has many distinct sections, spanning from the 1520s to the early 1700s, with a rare number of original features still intact. The front portion is believed locally to have been underwritten in some way by Sir Christopher Wren or – more likely – his colleague Nicholas Hawksmoor circa 1700–1703. At dates which would appear to concur with this, Wren and Hawksmoor were sourcing building materials from Stony Stratford whilst working on other estates in close proximity. In 1700, Wren was busy remodelling Winslow Hall to the South; and at the same time Hawksmoor was working on Easton Neston to the North, which he completed in 1702.

Both men were known personally to one early 18th century owner of Queen Anne House, John Radcliffe, as all three belonged to the same masonic circle. Radcliffe, who was Queen Anne's physician, took ownership of the house in 1713 as part of his acquisition of the Wolverton estate. Architecturally, there are features within all three properties that bear more than a passing resemblance. The drawing room at Queen Anne House has scallop shell recesses which are notably similar to stairwell features at Easton Neston. Interestingly, the hallway is dominated by a grand oak staircase with carved inverted pentagrams: Hawksmoor was well known for his fondness of using pagan symbols in his designs, and as such has been posthumously referred to as "The Devil's Architect". Such use of appropriated "warding off" medieval symbolism would be entirely consistent with his hand. Despite compelling circumstantial evidence, given the passage of time it is unlikely that direct evidence will be uncovered linking Wren or Hawksmoor to Queen Anne House.

Catherine of Aragon rode from London to address her troops assembling here for the battle of Flodden, and went on to stay at Woburn Abbey in September 1513.[9]

The town has twice become almost completely consumed by fire, the first time in 1736 and the second in 1742. The only building to escape the second fire was the tower of the chapel of ease of St Mary Magdalen.

Since at least the 15th century, Stony Stratford was an important stop on the road to Ireland via Chester, becoming quite rich on the proceeds in the 16th century.[4] In the stage coach era of the 17th and early 18th centuries, it was a major resting place and exchange point with the east/west route with coaching inns to accommodate coach travellers. In the early 19th century, over thirty mail coaches and stagecoaches a day stopped here.[10] That traffic came to an abrupt end in 1838 when the London to Birmingham Railway (now the West Coast Main Line) was opened at Wolverton – ironically, just three years after the bridge over the Ouse had been rebuilt.[4] For the rest of that century, Stony was in decline until the arrival of the motor car, when again its position on the original A5 road made it an important stopping point for motorists.

The modern town

The High Street in festive mood

Today Stony Stratford is a busy, picturesque market town at the north-west corner of Milton Keynes. The many pubs, restaurants and specialist shops attract visitors from some distance. The highlight of the annual calendar is in early June (second Sunday) when Folk on the Green, a free (voluntary contribution) festival of folk music, folk rock and eclectic taste takes over Horsefair Green.

Cock and Bull Story

Pub signs of the Cock and the Bull

Due to the juxtaposition of the pubs in the centre of town, The Cock and The Bull, (both originally coaching inns) on the main London to Chester and North Wales turnpike), it is believed locally that the common phrase a cock and bull story originated here, however there is no evidence for this.[11] Today, there is an annual story telling festival to celebrate these Cock and Bull stories.

Sport & Leisure

Stony Stratford has a Non-League football team Stony Stratford Town F.C. who play at Ostler's Lane. At the Ansell Trust Sports Ground in Ostlers Lane is also the Tennis, Bowling, Crocquet and Cricket Clubs.

In film

Scenes from the 1987 cult film Withnail and I were filmed in Stony Stratford. Cox and Robinsons chemist is the 'Penrith tea rooms' where Withnail demands " the finest wines known to humanity." The Crown pub became the 'King Henry pub' in the film. Both premises are on Market Square.

Historic parish

From about 1648, Stony Stratford was divided between the ecclesiastic parishes of Calverton and Wolverton, and covered by two chapelries, St Giles, attached to Calverton, and St Mary Magdalen, attached to Wolverton. St Mary Magdalen dates from about 1450, though only the tower remains from the 1742 fire.[4] St Giles dates from the 15th century [as a chantry chapel], but all but the tower was rebuilt in 1776 to accommodate the parishioners of St Mary Magdalen.[4] A single civil parish was established 'early' and from 1767 a single ecclesiastical parish covered the two. In modern times, the ecclesiastical parish of Stony Stratford was merged with another parish, Stony Stratford St Mary the Virgin (prior to 1953 known as Wolverton St Mary), in 1968, to create the parish of Stony Stratford St Mary and St Giles.

Around this time, the civil parish was also divided, into East (St Mary Magdelene) and West (St Giles) sides.[12] Both the civil parishes became part of Wolverton Urban District in 1919. These urban parishes were wound up in 1927 and both added to the parish of Wolverton.[13]

Modern parish

The civil parish consists of the land north H3 Monks Way to the south, the city boundary to the west, the Great Ouse to the north and the A5 road to the east. The V4 Watling Street becomes Queen Eleanor Street here as it follows the original Stony Stratford bypass. Its districts are

The modern civil parish was established in 2001.

See also


  1. Neighbourhood Statistics 2011 Census, Accessed 4 February 2013
  2. Stony Stratford Town Council website
  3. Parishes in Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Council.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 'Parishes : Stony Stratford', Victoria History of the Counties of England, A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4 (1927), pp. 476–482.
  5. "Monument no. 343084". Pastscape. English Heritage. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  6. British Museum Collection
  7. British Museum Collection
  8. R. H. Britnell, 'The Origins of Stony Stratford', Records of Buckinghamshire, XX (1977), pp. 451–3
  9. Thomas Deloney, The Pleasant Historie of Jack of Newbery, London (1626), chapter 2: Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920) no. 2278: Calendar State Papers Venice, vol.2, no. 340: Hall, Edward, Chronicle, (1809), 564: Ellis, Henry, ed., Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 1st Series, vol.1, Richard Bentley, London (1825), 82–84, 88–89.
  10. History of Stony Stratford at MK Heritage
  11. Quinion, Michael. "Cock and bull story". Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  12. Youngs. Guide to Local Administrative Units of England: Volume 1
  13. Stony Stratford EastVision of Britain
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Stony Stratford.
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