Early History

At the north west corner of Kingsmead lies the site of Snelshall Priory. Little is known of its history except that it was a Benedictine Priory first recorded in 1228. It appeared to support no more than a handful of monks and they barely scraped an existence - no doubt because of the poor land in the area. With the acknowledgement of the supremacy of Henry VIII, and the establishment of the Church of England, the Priory was probably surrendered in 1535 and fell into disuse.

An 18th century map of the area records the site and shows the name "Kings Mead", "mead" being a meadow. It appears likely that the area which is now Kingsmead was common land since it is at the conjunction of three parishes, those of Shenley Church End, Tattenhoe and Whaddon. The fork in the road is still visible today travelling from Whaddon on the Whaddon Road, at the bend where the North Bucks Way footpath begins, just before the first houses, the footpath being the left fork and the Whaddon road the right fork. A map from the early 1960's shows the site of the Priory and to the right of it Shenley Common Farm South. The parish boundaries are also shown.

18th century Kingsmead
Kingsmead circa 1960
Kingsmead today

The de Walden Estate

At some point the land came into the ownership of the Howard de Walden Estate. The Howard de Walden Estate dates from 1715 when Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, began the development of Cavendish Square in London, and the streets around it. This land had previously formed part of the Marylebone Estate of the Dukes of Newcastle. It had passed from Margaret Holles, nee Cavendish, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, to her daughter Henrietta Cavendish Harley. At the death of Henrietta's husband, Edward Harley, in 1741, this new Harley Estate passed to his only daughter, Margaret Cavendish Harley, who in 1734 had married William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland. It was subsequently known as the Portland Estate, and was handed down to successive Dukes of Portland. In 1879, the 5th Duke of Portland died without issue and his estates were divided between his sisters, (according to the terms of the 4th Duke's will), and his cousin, who succeeded him as the sixth Duke. The Portland Estate eventually passed to the last surviving sister, Lucy Joan Ellis, who was the widow of the 6th Lord Howard de Walden, and has remained in this family since then.

The Estate's first business trust, General Real Estates Investment and Trust Limited (GREIT), was formed in 1918, changing its name to Howard de Walden Estates Limited (HDWEL) in 1953. The company was incorporated in its present form in 1963, but the estate is still owned by the family.

During the twentieth century two major portions of the Estate were sold: in 1914, Portland Town, an area east of St John's Wood High Street around 60 acres in extent, and in 1925, another 40 acres, much of it along Oxford Street, south of Cavendish Square and east of Great Portland Street. Kingsmead is pretty small beer by comparison!

The Beginnings of Kingsmead

On 16th September 1998 a contract was signed between Welbeck Land (MK) Ltd and JS Bloor Ltd and Alfred McAlpine for the purchase of Shenley Common Farm, the land which was to become Kingsmead, for the sum of £11,600,000 (including VAT!).

Welbeck Land was formed in 1994 to carry out the commercial and residential property development of the Howard de Walden Estates.

Uniquely, Shenley Common Farm remained outside the land acquired by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation for the new town but fell within the Designated Area. David Lock Associates prepared proposals to develop over 1000 new mixed tenure homes, community facilities and public open space.

Plans for the first phase of 260 dwellings plus extra care sheltered housing was given a conditional consent following the provision of a development brief, which was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance in 1999. Planning was also in hand for the second and third phases - a process that required the integration of highly sensitive sites, including a medieval hay meadow which is designated an SSSI.

The construction of Kingsmead commenced in 2000 #, the first (McAlpine) house being No 6 Carisbrooke Way#, notable for the large "Wheel" outside the front door. Number 12 Carisbrooke Way was the Sales office and show house for Alfred McAlpine Homes, Number 10 was the other show house. Early residents will remember the redoubtable Ann Devine who vetted all prospective purchasers for their "suitability".

In the early days we really did live on a building site with the site offices and materials yard where numbers 1 & 3 Carisbrooke Way now stand, at the junction of Carisbrooke Way and Picton Street. The V1 did not exist and all traffic came in and out via the old Whaddon Road, which ended at the roundabout at Alton Gate. A Health Centre housed in a series of portakabins was situated here. All the roads were un-made and there was a constant flow of site traffic churning up mud. To get an idea of that it was like in early summer 2000 click here. Those of you who arrived more recently might well say "so nothing new there then"! In those heady days however it was possible to "buttonhole" the site manager as he walked on his rounds and if you had a problem, an ill fitting door, a plumbing problem or you needed a few bricks or a barrow load of sand, the matter was dealt with the same day. The one thing that never seemed to be available though was top soil: but then there isn't much of that particular commodity around MK.

# 'Informed sources' tell me that construction actually commenced in 1999 with a new contender for oldest (sorry, longest standing!) residents possibly being at No.14 Bridgnorth Drive or maybe No. 6 if they are still here. - Information please!

The Present Day

At the 2001 census the total population was 164 in 52 households. At the beginning of March 2006 there were 436 properties on Kingsmead with a further 14 nearing completion. It was almost another year however before contractors completed the roadworks. Although no detailed statistics are available the current population is probably around 1500. Kingsmead North is now complete but work on the infrastructure for the development of Kingsmead South commenced in early 2007. The extension of Cranborne Avenue to join up with the Whaddon Road at the Bridgnorth Drive roundabout came to a halt in May 2007, some yards short of its destination, for lack of the appropriate legal agreements (whoops!!). By June 2007 there was no sign of house building getting underway but will eventually add a further 500 properties to the final grid square.

In January 2008 residents were advised of a planning application by Lagan Homes to build the first 160 dwellings on Phase 1 of Kingsmead South. Such was the radical design of the proposed properties that a campaign was launched to oppose the development. After three months of concerted effort on the part of residents, and with the support of the Parish Council, the application was abandoned. The landowner, English Partnerships will re-market the site in due course and the planning authority Milton Keynes Partnership are on record as confirming that the community will be consulted on any further plans for the site.

To see what might have been click here.

Meanwhile plans for the development of phases 2 and 4 by Paul Newman Homes are to be considered soon.

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