Linford Manor Park, Great LinfordHome of the MKFoodFest
A Brief History...
The beautiful setting of Linford Manor Park, with its mature trees, sweeping lawns and buildings is the perfect venue for the MKFoodFest, being somehow fitting for the slow food, artisan products on offer. It is a part of Milton Keynes that is in stark contrast to the modern, commercial heart of the town and this too is appropriate to the traditional crafts and food production methods on show at the festival.
The parkland and its buildings have a history way beyond that of the town that has built up around it. Indeed the church stands where a church has been for a thousand years. Even today, a tower from the 12th century still survives on the church. At that time St. Andrew’s Church was on a medieval trackway that led from the River Ouse to the High Street and Green. Next to the church was a medieval manor house and farm buildings, the remains of which are now beneath the car park at the Art Centre.
The focal point of Linford Manor Park is the Manor House itself. The central portion the Manor House seen today was built in 1678 by Sir William Pritchard, Lord Mayor of London as his principal country seat. He also had a school house built for the education of boys and the Almshouses for six unmarried poor people of the parish and these still exist today as studios for artists.
In the mid-18th century Sir William’s relatives, the Uthwatt family, extended the manor house to its present size and added the two pavilion buildings. These were stables but were built to look like houses. The gardens were also extensively landscaped, adding a haha ditch to keep out animals, a gazebo, trees and four water gardens.
Around the same time the canal was built nearby, including Linford Wharf. This quickly became an important centre of commerce with horses and carts collecting loads from narrowboats from London and the Midlands. The brick kilns towards the southern end of Great Linford were built in the late 1800s by George Osborn Price of Newport Pagnell. The canal wharf next to the kilns was used to take about 20 000 bricks at a time by horse-drawn narrow boat to Wolverton, New Bradwell, Cosgrove and Castlethorpe for building. This ceased around 1911.
In 1972 the Manor was bought by Milton Keynes Development Corporation and converted into an arts centre. However, the arts centre closed in 1984. Then Harry Maloney bought the manor and converted it into a residential recording studio. For a time it housed an impressive 48 channel/56 frame SSL recording/mixing desk and was one of the first UK studio to invest in digital recording. Upstairs there was accommodation available for artists and producers. A second studio was built in one of the Pavilion Houses and accommodation for artists using this studio was available in one of the almshouses.
The Pete Winkleman Era...
In 1993 Pete Winkelman bought the manor, and continued using the property as a recording studio. However, with his time taken up with the development of Milton Keynes Dons and the building of the new football stadium, over time the manor became less and less utilised for music recording. For a number of years during this time Linford Manor Park was the venue for the very popular Waterside Festival. This was a three day music festival taking place in June, run and organised by a dedicated team of volunteer local residents and supported by Pete Winkleman. However, the last of these festivals took place in 2014.
Pete Winkelman now uses the manor as his family home and the surrounding parkland is owned and managed by The Parks Trust. The MK Arts Centre occupies the barn, the almshouses and school house. St Andrews Church was extensively renovated during the 1980s and made suitable for modern church uses to meet the needs of the growing community around it and is remains very much an active church today. For a year from July 2016 the south pavilion was the home of Forest and Folk, selling whole foods and other eco-friendly products. Since 2014, the north pavilion has housed Coldsmoking Cookery School, offering courses in food smoking, sausage-making, charcuterie, and cheese making. Recently, the BBC filmed in the park when Nadiya Hussain visited Coldsmoking Cookery School for her 2017 television series.
In 2016 the Parks Trust secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund for the development of Linford Manor Park. This ambitious eighteen month project plans to work towards the restoration of the park to the 18th century design, explain the history to the public and improve accessibility. This includes reinstating the pleasure garden ponds, the stepped cascade, the wilderness garden and the haha, and implementing new planting to restore the historic character of the grounds. Paths will be improved and there will be clear entrance points with signage and education resources available. There is also the intention of increasing the number of events and activities for the local community, in which the MKFoodFest will play its part.