Millbrook, Bedfordshire

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Millbrook Village, Bedfordshire - - 96647.jpg
Grid reference: TL011593
Location: 52°2’20"N, 0°31’30"W
Population: 130  (2001)
Post town: Bedford
Postcode: MK45
Dialling code: 01525
Local Government
Council: Central Bedfordshire
Mid Bedfordshire

Millbrook is a small village near Bedford. It had a population of just 130 at the 2001 census. Millbrook railway station, on the Marston Vale Line is about two miles from the village.

Local legend has it that the vale adjoining Millbrook is the location that inspired the 'Slough of Despond' in John Bunyan's 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.

Millbrook is home to the famous Millbrook Proving Ground and The Millbrook Golf Club.

Parish church

The parish church is St Michael & All Angels, a church of the 13th century, with later additions.

Millbrook Proving Ground

Millbrook Proving Ground

Millbrook Proving Ground, 52°2’43"N, 0°31’58"W, is a vehicle testing centre by Millbrook, run by General Motors; it is one of the largest vehicle testing centres in Europe.


Modelled on the Milford Proving Ground in Michigan in the United States, Millbrook was constructed [1] in the 1960s by the GM subsidiary Vauxhall. The two-mile, five-lane high speed track came into use in 1969, and construction of other sections continued into the early 1970s.[1]

Due to the geographical needs of a full testing centre, including both hills and flat land, the traditional choice of a former RAF airfield was ruled out and many sites around the UK were surveyed before the location at Millbrook was decided upon, especially due to having the benefit of being close to Vauxhall's production site at Luton.

Construction began in 1968 and once opened acted as the testing site for many European GM models from, amongst others, the Vauxhall and Bedford companies. In 1988 the site was transferred to a new company, Millbrook Proving Ground Ltd as part of Group Lotus and began to offer its facilities to non-GM companies as well. With the sale of Lotus in 1993 Millbrook was transferred to GM Holdings UK Ltd as an independently managed company and began to diversify into all aspects of vehicle testing including emission control.


The centre provides vehicle test and development facilities including:

  • Vehicle and system assessment
  • Powertrain development
  • Safety testing.

These are staffed by engineering teams who work with manufacturers on their test and development programmes.

Millbrook has a wide range of types of test tracks. The most prominent are the:

  • Hill Route - divided into three sections or loops which contain progressively steeper gradients and tighter corners. Sometimes seen in motoring television programmes, for example Top Gear, particularly the "ski-jump" where it is very easy for vehicles to become airborne. Also used for the James Bond film Casino Royale.
  • Outer and Inner Handling (or City Course) circuits - extremely technical twisty circuits used for extreme testing of vehicle handling characteristics.
  • High Speed Bowl - a two-mile circular banked circuit used for higher speed testing.

The proving ground maintains a high standard of security and secrecy to protect the commercial interests of its customers. Public access is not generally permitted and the facility is hidden from view by belts of trees. Limited supervised access to the facilities is available through some driver training organizations.

Millbrook has been the site of many challenges featured in BBC's Top Gear, such as the Non-Porsche Coupé challenge in Series 6 (using the Hill Route, dubbed the "Alpine Circuit" by the presenters), the Convertible People Carrier challenge in Series 8 (using the High Speed bowl) and the "Lorryist" challenge in Series 12 (using the Skid Pan, the Hill Route and the High Speed Bowl).

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Millbrook, Bedfordshire)


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Vauxhall Owners' Supplement". Autocar nbr 3466: pages 1–52. 23 November 1968.