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Bletchley Pageant
The Milton Keynes Express brought out a special Pageant supplement in 1974.

Sunday Citizen April 22, 2001

With regard to a previous article, in a recent letter Mrs W Stanley drew attention to the Bletchley Pageant in which she proudly played a role.

Staged in 1974, the Pageant proved a significant local event and commemorated the point at which the town ceased to be a separate local government unit and instead became a part of the Milton Keynes District.

In this week's article it might therefore be appropriate to briefly recall the origins of the local council, which played such a significant role in the development of the town.

Previously, public responsibilities had been rested in a proliferation of different 'Boards' and bodies - the Highways Board, Burial Board and so on - and although worthy in their aspirations, the overall result produced a somewhat wasteful and inefficient system.

On 13th August, 1888, Queen Victoria set her signature to an Act to amend the laws relating to local government in England and Wales, whereby A council shall be established in every administrative count/.

Having set up the county councils there then came into being the Rural District and Urban District Councils and of local relevance by Local Government Board Order No. 32776, Fenny Stratford and Simpson amalgamated to form a UDC in July 1895, having responsibility for such matters as sanitation, water supplies and housing.

In the following years the benefits of the new UDC became increasingly apparent with vast improvements made to the water and sanitary facilities, leading to a consequent decrease in the mortality rate.

In 1898 came a formal agreement to transfer Bletchley Parish to the UDC and although a proposal was made to also simultaneously change the name to the Bletchley Urban District Council, not until May 1911 did this actually take place.

Bletchley Urban District Council then remained in existence until 1974, having included Water Eaton within its jurisdiction in 1934.

After World War Two BUDC enthusiastically embraced plans to expand the town and in accordance, having purchased towards this intention the Manor Farm Estate and other land interests, house building began, employing - because of the shortage of manpower - Italian prisoners of war.

At the other end of the town the Saints Estate took shape during 1951 and with provisions now made to accommodate the increased population, the need for their employment became a parallel necessity.

Industrial estates were consequently begun, encouraging many new firms to set up their operations in the town. Since the London overspill formed the basis of the additional population, in January 1956 a delegation from the London County Council arrived in the town to witness for themselves the progress being made.

In the company of members from BUDC they toured the housing estates by coach and visited several homes, to see how the Londoners were settling in - some 162 workers and their families having, by then, been nominated under the council's 'Industrial Selection Scheme' for employment in the new factories.

By the 60s the council realised that a new city would be the ideal means by which all of these expanding activities could be accommodated and administered and of a similar view, in 1967 the Government then announced the beginnings of Milton Keynes New City.

Reflecting the coming needs, on Sunday 31st March, 1974, Bletchley and BUDC became a part of the Milton Keynes District and it was to celebrate this historic event that between March 27 and March 31 the Bletchley Pageant was held at Bletchley Leisure Centre.

With a script written by a local author, Douglas Loak, in a series of '14 vivid episodes, linked by narrations', the Pageant told the story of the district from ancient times to the present day and employed a cast of more than 200 actors. Events were brought to a close by a firework display on the Leon Recreation ground and at midnight many watched the final lowering of the Bletchley Council flag at the council offices.

So came to an end a significant chapter in the town's history but for many people, memories of the Pageant are still alive.