Willen Lake and Village

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The name Willen was spelt Wilinges when it was first referenced in the 1100's and is thought to mean 'the place of the willows'.

Despite its long history, the village never grew beyond a hundred people. By the 1700s, it comprised several key landmarks: a watermill (now submerged beneath Willen Lake), around ten labourers' cottages, a vicarage (later known as Willen Priory), Brook Farm, Manor Farm (which now houses Willen Hospice), and St Mary Magdalene church. Remarkably, the village's core has remained essentially the same since the 18th century and is now designated as a conservation area.

St Mary Magdalene church stands out prominently in the village, resembling a structure one might expect to find in the City of London rather than a small village. It is an impressive Grade I listed building, uniquely designed by Robert Hooke, a prominent scientist and polymath renowned for his contributions to various fields, including the development of Hooke's Law, microscopy, and astronomy. Hooke was also involved in rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666. The church's construction was commissioned by Dr Richard Busby, the Headmaster of Westminster School in London, who acquired the village in 1672 for £2,202.6.0d, which was considered a fortune back then. Legend has it that he funded the church's construction by soliciting silver spoons from his pupils, reflecting the wealthy backgrounds of those who could afford education at the prestigious Westminster School.

The church, which has an almost complete 1680 interior, is open on Sundays and Mondays from 10.30am to 4.00pm or by arrangement through churchwradenmm@gmail.com

Even though expectations of finding evidence of prehistoric settlement during 1972 excavations for the construction of Willen Lake, archaeologists primarily uncovered medieval artefacts, with minor traces of Roman and Saxon activity. The area was primarily farmland, characterized by medieval ridge and furrow farming patterns, which are still visible in other parks in Milton Keynes, such as Waterhall Park. The map below shows the names of the fields and the location of the lakes.

Willen's Twin Lakes

Willen Lake, one of Britain's largest purpose-built balancing lakes, spans around 100 acres. It was created during the development of Milton Keynes to prevent flooding downstream in Newport Pagnell and Bedford. Controlled by Anglian Water's computer systems, the lake has sluice gates that manage excess water during heavy rain, releasing it back into the river when levels drop.

Willen Lake North is a wildlife habitat with areas for fish and shallow banks perfect for invertebrates and birds. It also boasts cultural landmarks like the Peace Pagoda, Labyrinth, Medicine Wheel, and the Hiroshima sculpture.

On the other hand, Willen Lake South serves as a recreational park offering leisure and entertainment opportunities. It connects from the City Centre, leading visitors to a pleasant stroll through Campbell Park. Known for its diverse range of activities, including running, cycling and various watersports, it attracts numerous families and residents throughout the year.

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