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Fenny Stratford is a constituent town of Milton Keynesmarker, ceremonial Buckinghamshire, Englandmarker and in the Civil Parish of Bletchley and Fenny Stratfordmarker. Originally an independent town, it was included in the Milton Keynes "designated area" area in 1967. From 1895 it formed an urban district with Bletchleymarker, until 1974 when it became part of the borough of Milton Keynesmarker (since 1997 a unitary authority). It is located at the south east edge of the city and is its gateway to northbound travellers on the A5.

History

The town name is an Old English language word that means 'marshy ford on a Roman road'. The Roman road in this case is the Watling Streetmarker. There are traces of the Roman settlement Magiovinium on the edge of the present day occupation. (Possibly the oldest known gold coin in Britain was found here, a gold stater of the mid-second century BCE). The town was recorded in manorial rolls in 1252 as Fenni Stratford, though previously it was just known as Stratford: the prefix being added to distinguish the town from nearby Stony Stratfordmarker.

Being an ancient market town, Fenny Stratford was the location of a weekly market for many years until 1665 when the town was badly hit by the bubonic plague. As a result the main road that ran through the town was diverted away from it, and the market died as a result. The market was never reinstated: the town was very much in ruins by the early Eighteenth century, and had by this time joined with both Bletchleymarker and Simpsonmarker, being commonly considered a hamlet of the former.

Parish church

St Martin's Church
On St Martin's Day 1724 the first stone was laid of the new parish church of Fenny Stratford, marking a fresh start in the town's history. Browne Willis, a historian of the day, had raised the funds for the reconstruction. The Church was built on the site of the old Chantry Chapel of St. Margaret and St. Catherine at Fenny Stratford. He erected the church as a memorial to his grandfather Dr. Thomas Willis, a famous physician, who lived in St. Martin's Lane in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, and who died on St. Martin's day, 11 November 1675. In order to perpetuate his own memory, Browne Willis arranged for a sermon to be preached at St. Martin's Church on each St. Martin's Day, for which a fee was payable. During his lifetime, he also celebrated the occasion with a dinner attended by local clergy and gentry, an event which has continued to the present day.

St Martin's has a website which can be found at http://www.stmartinmk.co.uk

The Fenny Poppers

The Fenny Poppers are six small ceremonial cannon which date from this time and are still fired ceremonially (with blank charges) today.

There is no record of their first use. In 1740, Browne Willis bought a house in Aylesbury Street, Fenny Stratford and the rent from this was used to pay for the sermon and gunpowder. Following his death in 1760, the traditions were carried on and later documented.

All six Poppers were re-cast by the Eagle Foundry, Northampton in 1859, after one of them burst. It is these that are still in use today and they were recently examined and x-rayed to ensure there are no cracks. During their long history, many sites have been used for this battery. These include; the Canal Wharf, land behind the Church, St, Martin's Hall, the Churchyard and now the Leon Recreation Ground that was once part of the lands belonging to the Chantry.

The Poppers each weigh about 19 pounds (8.5 kg). The bore, 6" by 1¾" (152 mm x 44 mm) will take one ounce (28g) of gunpowder, which is plugged with well-rammed newspaper. They are fired three times on St. Martin's Day (11 November); noon, 2.00pm and 4.00pm precisely. There is of course no connection with Remembrance Day (also 11 November). In 1901 they were fired to mourn the death of Queen Victoria; the 81 salutes were heard as far away as Olneymarker. On the 1 January, 2000, at 11.00am the Poppers were fired to mark the beginning of the Second Millennium. At 2.00pm on the 4 August, 2000, a salute of six Poppers was fired to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Queen Mother.

A video of the Poppers can be seen here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-FgrsSHzqM).

Invention of the Diesel Engine in Fenny Stratford

The world's first successful heavy oil engines were invented and built by Herbert Akroyd Stuart in Fenny Stratford. There is a plaque commemorating this at the westerly end of Denmark Street in Fenny Stratford opposite The Foundry public house - though the location of Akroyd Stuart's workshop is usually given as "Bletchleymarker", which is a larger town adjoining Fenny Stratford. These engines were precursors to what is now known as the Diesel engine: Rudolf Diesel based his designs (1892) on Akroyd Stuart's proven inventions (1890) of direct (airless) fuel injection and compression ignition. An experimental model was tried out at the offices of the Fenny Stratford Times Newspaper, and the first production models were installed at the nearby Great Brickhill Waterworks where they were in operation from 1892 to 1923. (It has been argued that engines of this type might have become known as "Akroyds", had Diesel not been a rather paranoid person not prone to giving other inventors credit.)

Today

Aylesbury Street
Fenny Stratford is a busy small town at the edge of the Milton Keynes urban area. It still doesn't have a market, but the small shopping street gives the town a real community feel. It has its own railway stationmarker on the Marston Vale Linemarker, one of the five that serve Milton Keynes.
Bull & Butcher


The Grand Union Canalmarker runs through the southern outskirts of the town and Fenny Lock is located a few tens of yards to the east of Watling Street. It is notable both for the manually-operated swing bridge which crosses the lock and for the very small rise in the lock (around 30 cm or 12 inches). This was deemed necessary by the canal engineers in order to avoid building an expensive embankment off to the east. The level persists from this lock for eleven miles, through what is now Milton Keynes and the older town of Wolverton, to the next lock at Cosgrove.


References


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