Stony Stratford

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Stony Stratford
StonyStratford HighStreet01.jpg
Stony Stratford High Street
Grid reference: SP787404
Location: 52°3’24"N, 0°51’9"W
Post town: Milton Keynes
Postcode: MK11
Dialling code: 01908
Local Government
Council: Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes South
Website: Stony Stratford Town Council

Stony Stratford is a town within Milton Keynes in northern Buckinghamshire. It stands on Watling Street in the northwest corner of Milton Keynes, where the Great Ouse divides Buckinghamshire from Northamptonshire; across the river is Old Stratford. Stony Stratford retais is separate appearance, at least along the High Street which is the centre of the little town which stood here for many centuries before the New Town of Milton Keynes was created which engulfed it to the east and south.

Since at least Roman times, there has been a settlement here at the ford of Watling Street over the Great Ouse.[1] The town was granted a royal charter in 1194 permitting the holding of a market and it has been denoted a town since 1215.


The town name 'Stratford' is Old English, stræt ford, and means "street ford", which is to say where a street (usually a Roman road as here) crosses a ford. The road here is Watling Street that runs through the middle of the town and forms its high street. The prefix 'Stony' refers to the stones on the bed of the ford, differentiating the town from nearby Fenny Stratford further south on Watling Street.


There has been a market in Stony Stratford since 1194 (by charter of King Richard I).[2] (Until the early 1900s, livestock marts were still held in the market square but in more recent times the square has become a car park, apart from a monthly farmers' market in one corner. The weekly market has moved to Timor Court, and of course no longer deals in livestock). Stony Stratford formally became a town when it received letters patent from King John in 1215.[1]

Stony Stratford was the location where, in 1290, an Eleanor cross was built in memory of the recently deceased Eleanor of Castile. The cross was destroyed during the Civil War.[1]

ARCHBISHOP: Last night, I hear, they lay at Stony Stratford,

Wm. Shakespeare, Richard III, Act II, Scene 4

The Rose and Crown Inn at Stony Stratford was reputedly where, in 1483, King Edward V stayed the night before he was taken to London, to be imprisoned in the Tower by his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who soon became King Richard III.[1] The inn is now a private house but a plaque on the front wall gives a brief account of the event.

Queen Anne House also known as Shell House, at 48 High Street, was once the Dower House for nearby Wolverton Manor (demolished in 1728). This house has many distinct sections, spanning from the 1520s to the early 1700s, with a rare number of original features still intact. The front portion, built in 1703, is believed locally to have been underwritten by Sir Christopher Wren (also considered to have worked on nearby Winslow Hall in 1700). Certain features within the two properties bear more than a passing resemblance. The hallway is dominated by a grand oak staircase.

Catherine of Aragon rode from London to address her troops assembling here for the Battle of Flodden, and went on to stay at Woburn Abbey in September 1513.[3]

The town has twice become almost completely consumed by fire, the first time in 1736 and the second in 1742. The only building to escape the second fire was the tower of the chapel of ease of St Mary Magdalen.

Since at least the 15th century, Stony Stratford was an important stop on the road to Ireland by way of Chester, becoming quite rich on the proceeds in the 16th century.[1] In the stage coach era of the 17th and early 18th centuries, it was a major resting place and exchange point with the east/west route with coaching inns to accommodate coach travellers. In the early 19th century, over thirty mail coaches and stagecoaches a day stopped here.[4] That traffic came to an abrupt end in 1838 when the London to Birmingham Railway (now the West Coast Main Line) was opened at Wolverton - just three years after the bridge over the Ouse had been rebuilt better to accommodate this traffic.[1] For the rest of that century, Stony Stratford was in decline until the arrival of the motor car, when again its position on the original A5 road made it an important stopping point for motorists.

The modern town

Today Stony Stratford is a busy, picturesque market town at the north-west corner of Milton Keynes. The many pubs, restaurants and specialist shops attract visitors from some distance. The highlight of the annual calendar is in early June (second Sunday) when Folk on the Green, a free (voluntary contribution) festival of folk music, folk rock and eclectic taste takes over Horsefair Green.

Cock and Bull Story

Pub signs of the Cock and the Bull

Due to the juxtaposition of the pubs in the centre of town, The Cock and The Bull, (both originally coaching inns) on the main London to Chester and Anglesey turnpike), it is believed locally that the common phrase a cock and bull story originated here, in which wild tales were told in one inn, growing ever more ludicrous as they were retold back and forth across the road. However, there is no evidence for this.[5] Today, there is an annual story telling festival to celebrate these Cock and Bull stories.

Sport & Leisure

  • Football: Stony Stratford Town FC who play at Ostler's Lane.

At the Ansell Trust Sports Ground in Ostlers Lane is also the Tennis, Bowling, Crocquet and Cricket Clubs.

In film

Scenes from the 1987 cult film Withnail and I were filmed in Stony Stratford. Cox and Robinsons chemist is the 'Penrith tea rooms' where Withnail demands "the finest wines known to humanity." The Crown pub became the 'King Henry pub' in the film. Both premises are on Market Square.

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 'Parishes : Stony Stratford' - Victoria County History: A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4 (1927), pp. 476-482.
  2. R. H. Britnell, 'The Origins of Stony Stratford', Records of Buckinghamshire, XX (1977), pp. 451-3
  3. Thomas Deloney, The Pleasant Historie of Jack of Newbery, London (1626), chapter 2: Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920) no. 2278: Calendar State Papers Venice, vol.2, no. 340: Hall, Edward, Chronicle, (1809), 564: Ellis, Henry, ed., Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 1st Series, vol.1, Richard Bentley, London (1825), 82-84, 88-89.
  4. History of Stony Stratford at MK Heritage
  5. Quinion, Michael. "Cock and bull story". Retrieved 26 November 2010.