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THE RADCLIFFE ESTATE, WOLVERTON

"It is a curious and somewhat surprising fact that every one of the great enterprises of the Radcliffe Trust during the first two hundred and sixty years of its existence - the Library, the Infirmary, the two Observatories - were largely supported out of the rents of the Buckinghamshire estate which Radcliffe had purchased the year before his death, and which his Trustees retained until 1970. And indeed, were it not for the fact that the new town of Milton Keynes cast its web of urban development over the productive farmland they had been carefully and sympathetically managing for so long, they might be owning it still."

Dr John Radcilffe and His Trust by Ivor Guest, The Radcliffe Trust,1991

Dr John Radcliffe died on 1st November 1714, aged about 62. He had made his name and his money by successfully treating first nobility and then royalty. Moving to London from Oxford, he was appointed as physician to Princess Anne by James II. He went on to treat her son, the Duke of Gloucester; her sister Queen Mary and eventually King William and his court favourites. His relationship with the Royal Family was seldom untroubled - he enjoyed his drink and spoke his mind. That this Yorkshireman was so successful during this time of religious and political instability is a testament to his judgement and skills as a physician rather than his diplomacy.

The Estate of some 2,500 acres lay between Roman "Watling Street", the River Ouse and Bradwell Brook. Among its five main farms, was Stacey Bushes Farm where the Victorian model farmstead of Stacey Hill now houses Milton Keynes Museum. At his death, Radcliffe's estate was valued at £126,000 - the Wolverton estate contributing something over one third of the value of the total. Through good management the Trust has continued to flourish and support a wide range of projects beyond Dr Radcliffe's primary concerns of medicine and learning in Oxford. One of the most difficult tasks must surely have been maintaining the viability and profitability of the farms while meeting the competitive demands for land for building the canal, the railway and then the Railway Town of Wolverton.

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