Fullers Slade, Early housing in northern Milton Keynes

May 25, 2012

In early 70s, while the large scale housing grids were being developed on southern flank of Milton Keynes near Bletchley  (Coffee Hall, Netherfield, Eaglestone, Netherfield have already been covered in my earlier Blogs) northern flank started slightly more cautiously and more traditionally.

Milton Keynes, was badly suffering from shortage of skilled labour and contractors due to its huge building programme and distances from existing conurbations. There were attempts to design housing by using simplified and if possible use factory built or repetitive elements of construction where possible.

The first housing scheme near Stony Stratford, Galley Hill, was nearing completion and DOE’s granted permission for the same contractor to continue working on Fullers Slade provided the work continued from first site to the second. This imposed a much reduced design period (almost two months) and resulted in a simpler layout and quick decision making.  Long delivery periods for bricks made it necessary to use diagonal cedar boarding as external cladding and a concrete system using a box system of shutters was used  on a standardised 3.60m module for all dwellings.

In retrospect you can notice the direct or indirect influence of Wayland Tunley working with Derek Walker. Pithed roofs  and familiar building materials were used whenever possible. This was in contrast wit Grunt Group’s bold use of flat roofs and metal windows and cladding at Netherfield (Ralph Erskin at Eaglestone performed a similar function) which ran into all kind of technical difficulties and windows and roofs had to be changed to make the dwellings habitable.

The decision was taken to use simple terraces with houses of different sizes, generally following the contours of the site. An ancient existing mature hedgerow offered a natural anchor to the generous communal spaces around terraces. The stepped section offers maximum living accommodation on the ground level and daylight within the units also allowing sun to reach the private garden positioned on north-east side of the terraces.

After about 40 years use.

As usual the landscaping is wonderful. Some of the large trees perished during Dutch Elm disease but others were planted. Unlike unfortunate  disunity/disfigurement/multi-colour additions and ad hoc alterations to individual houses within the terraces of Netherfield, it is a relief to notice that there is a satisfying unity of colours textures and window designs despite quite a few major alterations to exterior design at Fuller Slade.

I read quite a few reports about fire incidents in local newspapers of Milton Keynes (unfortunately social housing schemes are often involved), I can only assume that the possibility of spread of fires with timber boarding and lack of vertical barriers may have added to this problem and perhaps explain the resulting changes.

The clay tile hanging has replaced the timber boarding between the window bands, simple (and controlled coloured) fins have appeared between dwellings. There is a relaxed and easy going use of car ports, stores and sheds which are often modified but are not offensive by any means. Children and families enjoy the public spaces in a safe and relaxed environment.

I must find out the reasons for this positive use after seeing the terrible failures in housing in other areas. This may be due to different ‘owner occupation’ ratios or the imposed rules on the new occupiers to conform with some acceptable communal responses to retain some visual unity. It is also possible that there is a large proportion of dwellings under a housing association control which carries out its own maintenance. There is no doubt that the north and south divide has some lessons to offer in Milton Keynes.

3 Responses to “Fullers Slade, Early housing in northern Milton Keynes”

  1. Alison Says:

    We moved to Galley Hill when My mother LenaGarraway joined The Development Corporation in 1974. To the Residents of Stony Sratford it was refered to The Reservation! Didn’t take too long to blend in, helped when I married a Stony Lad!

    • winslowhub Says:

      What did your mother do at MKDC? I was also offered a job as an architect there in 1973. Later I made many friends there. Galley Hill looks very settled now. I had a ‘soft spot’ for the school there which was designed by a talented architect in my office, although it looks rather sadly ‘besieged’ now.

      • Alison Says:

        I think her title was an information officer, she worked for John Platt in Wavendon Towers. It was her who took us friom Stanmore to this giant building site, as it seemed to a 16 year old. From the start she loved it and knew how it would look. Sadly she died in 1976 just after our wedding. If you knew her you would remember her, she laughed at everthing, very wicked sense of humour. We lived in Buckley Court a very nice house, to us very modern and huge rooms. Sadly have odd names like Peter, might have been an architect, lived in a lovely barn conversion before they were trendy! Nearly lived in Fullers Slade glad we didn’t! Now back in Wolverton where we started married life!

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