By November 1968 Walton Hall, a stately home and farm in the new town of Milton Keynes, had been identified as a potential site through the offices of Lord Campbell of Eskan, the chairman of the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
On 1 April 1969 building began to incorporate the new staff and the move from Belgrave Square in London to Milton Keynes took place in October. In the subsequent years, the campus has changed enormously. Below is a chronological guide to the campus, adapted with kind permission from a guide produced by the University Archive.
This information is difficult to get right as some of the information sources contradict each other, and there are constant changes to the campus. This site welcomes comments and clarifications.
St. Michael’s Church
The first church on this site was built in 1189. At this time the area was ‘walled’ or fenced, giving it the name ‘Walton’. When the University moved into the campus the church was quite dilapidated. It was refurbished and is now used for University clubs and functions.
In 1201 Walton appears in records as an estate, consisting of land that had been taken from the Bow Brickhill Parish. The earliest owners are believed to have been the Rixbauds. The earliest surviving part of Walton Hall was built in 1622 by the Beale family. The Hall was then was owned by the Gilpins and then the Pinfold family. Thomas Pinfold (1638-1701) pulled down most of the Hall. The front white square part of the Hall was built by Thomas’ descendant, Captain Charles Pinfold, in 1830. The Hall was sold to Dr Vaughan Harley in 1907, a distinguished heart specialist of the family that gave its name to Harley Street in London. Dr Harley’s daughter and his son in law, Brigadier Eric Earle, were the last family to live there.
During the latter part of the Second World War the Hall was used to house forty WRNS who worked at Bletchley Park. The Earles moved into the nearby Walton Lodge cottage during the war. The Brigadier died in 1965 and the Hall was briefly occupied by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation Planning and Architects’ Offices. The Open University officially moved in on the 1 September 1969. The Walton Hall building continues to be used as office space, and includes the Vice-Chancellor’s Office.
The Walton Hall Estate included a walled garden when the OU moved in, which has now almost entirely disappeared under the University buildings. In the early years of the University’s occupation of the site, the garden was cleared and uses included growing crops for use in home experiment kits.
Park Corner Cottage built in 1961 is the other building on campus that pre-dates the OU. It is a residential building used for postgraduate student accommodation.
The RAF Hut was one of the earliest buildings the University added to the site in 1969/70. It came to the University from RAF Cardington. It was originally intended to be a temporary measure to house the large number of staff being recruited before the more substantial first university buildings had been completed. It is due to be removed from the campus.
Several huts were erected as temporary accommodation in 1969 and 1970, but because of a shortage of capital funding ended up being in still in use a decade later. The University also occupied offices in Sherwood House, Bletchley for its first fifteen years, until sufficient accommodation could be built on campus to fulfil the requirements of the growing University.
The science preparation labs were one of the first buildings to be built on campus when the University moved in. They were opened in 1970 and demolished in 2009. Also built in 1970 was the ‘Catering Building’ later called the Refectory and now rebranded as ‘The Hub’.
It was Harold Wilson, Prime Minister 1964-1970 and 1974-1976 who created the Open University, tasking Jennie Lee as responsible minister, effectively reporting directly to him. The Wilson building was the first major building to be completed and remains one of the largest on campus. It was mostly built in 1971, with K block built in 1978 and the H block extension added in 2000.
Geoffrey Crowther building
Lord Crowther of Headingley was the first Chancellor of the University, from 1968 until 1972. The building that bears his name was built between 1969 and 1971 with its extension opened in the early 1980s. The Crowther building is due to be demolished in 2010/11.
Jennie Lee Library (demolished 2006)
In April 1973 Jennie Lee laid the foundation stone for the University’s first library, which opened in 1974. She had been one of the earliest women MPs and in 1965 Harold Wilson appointed her as Minister of the Arts with additional responsibility for a ‘University of the Air’. It was Jennie Lee who formulated the first solid ideas about the University, how it would be run, its independence from other educational institutions and that it would be open to all with no necessity for previous qualifications. Lee retained a very close relationship with the University and bequeathed her personal and political papers to the institution. She died in 1988.
The Chambers Building is named after Sir Paul Chambers, first Treasurer of the University. Also known as J Block, it was built in 1973 and houses the Finance Division.
Alan Turing building
The Mathematics block was built in 1973; in 2010 it was officially re-named the Alan Turing Building. Alan Turing, described as ‘the father of computer science’, was a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist who was a main participant in the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park, not far from the Walton Hall campus. He died in 1954.
The Gass building was completed in 1974 and named after Ian Gass, the founding Professor of the OU Earth Sciences Department and later Deputy-Vice-Chancellor. It houses the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
The boiler house - the main source of heating for the University - was built in 1974.
Sir Peter Venables was Chair of the University’s Planning Committee, set up by Jennie Lee in 1967. The Planning Committee was responsible for the structure and initial course layout of the University. Sir Peter was also Pro-Chancellor of the University from 1969 to 1974 and responsible for the 1976 Venables report, which paved the way for the massive expansion of Continuing Education at the OU.
The Venables Building has been built in various stages from 1975 to 1988.
Reg Meacham was Head Porter and the first Mace Bearer of the University. He died in 1976, the year that the building bearing his name opened. It hosts the Estates department.
The sports pavilion, squash courts and tennis courts were completed in 1977.
M Block (Jim Burrows building)
Jim Burrows joined the Open University to help set up practical computing activities for the Mathematics Faculty in 1970. His early work evolved into the Student Computing Service housed in Wimpy 3, a temporary building on campus now removed. In 1979 he moved to M block and in 1981 his operation was renamed Academic Computing Services. He headed that unit for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2000. This building also hosts the University’s shop and bank.
Walter Perry, later Lord Perry of Walton, was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, from 1969 to 1981.The Perry Building was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1982. It was built as a joint OU/BBC production centre. OU course programmes continued to be filmed in the Perry Building until 2001, when filming was outsourced. East Perry (Offices 5) opened in 1995.
More recently, part of the Perry building was used as a ‘clean room’ for the preparation of the Beagle 2 ‘Mission to Mars’ probe. The Perry building has now been refurbished for office accommodation for Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS), as well as some faculty offices.
A Visitor Centre was was built in 1982 to be used as the main reception to the University. When the Berrill Building this became the main reception and the Visitor Centre is now used for offices.
Professor Abell worked closely with the OU on the first ‘Understanding Space and Time’ course in 1983. Unfortunately he passed away later that year and the observatory, opened in 1984, now stands in his memory. One of the first objects seen through the telescope was Halley’s Comet on its approach to pass the Sun in 1985-86.
Named after the second Chancellor (1973-1978) of The Open University, Lord Gardiner of Kittisford, this building opened in 1985 and was occupied by the Social Sciences Faculty. Gardiner Building 2 (Offices 3) opened in 1992.
North Spur (Vaughan Harley building)
The North Spur building also opened in 1985 and was renamed after Dr Vaughan Harley in 2010. Dr Harley acquired Walton Hall in about 1903. He was then Professor of Pathological Chemistry at University College, London. In addition to his work as a physician, Vaughan Harley was much interested in farming, especially in shorthorns. He applied scientific methods at his farm at Walton Hall and took a particular interest in forming the herd of shorthorns known as the ‘Notlaw’ herd. His cattle won numerous prizes at all the big livestock shows. He was also a breeder of Oxford Downs sheep, Shire horses and large black pigs. He died at Walton Hall in 1921 was buried at Walton Church.
The current Children’s Centre opened in 1988 following the destruction of the previous Children’s Centre by fire in 1987. It is now known as the Mulberry Bear Day Nursery.
The Security lodge opened in 1992.
Mike Pentz was the first Dean of Science at the University. He pioneered the teaching of science at a distance with the use of home experiment kits. The Pentz building was completed in 1993.
The Earth Sciences Extension to the Gass building, was opened in 1993. The Wolfson Foundation helped to finance the building of the extension. The foundation is a charity that awards grants to support excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education, the arts and humanities.
Asa Briggs, was a member of the original Planning Committee for the University and became the third Chancellor of the University from 1978 to 1994. The building that bears his name (Offices 4) opened in 1994.
Christodoulou meeting rooms/Central meeting rooms
Anastasios Christodoulou was the first University Secretary. The meeting rooms were built in 1996
Offices 6 (The Charles Pinfold building)
Offices 6 were built in 1996 and rebranded as the Charles Pinfold building in 2010. The Pinfolds owned the manor of Walton for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Captain Charles Pinfold added the brick and stucco mansion to Walton Hall in 1830. He died in 1857.
New Science and Technology Workshops were added in 1997.
Named after Sir Kenneth Berrill, OU Pro-Chancellor from 1983 to 1996, the building was opened in 1997 and was designed to be a flagship building for the University, housing the main reception.
Michael Young building
During the 1960s Micahel Young (1915-2002), later Lord Young of Dartington, agitated for the expansion of educational opportunity. He is often described as one of the Open University’s founders. In 1962 he wrote an article advocating the creation of ‘an open university’ and went on to create the National Extension College in Cambridge.
The Michael Young building was built in 2001 as a low energy consumption building, with rainwater collection for toilets, the use of recycled and earth-friendly materials, and designed in such a way as to conserve solar heat. The building has won architectural awards for being environmentally friendly.
The Stuart Hall building
Named after Stuart Hall, Professor of Sociology at the University, this was built in 2002 and houses the Faculty of Education and Language Studies.
Betty Boothroyd Library and Learning Resources Centre
The ‘new’ Library building was opened in 2003 by Baroness Boothroyd and is named in her honour. Baroness Boothroyd was Chancellor of the Open University from 1994 to 2006. Her archive of papers has been deposited into the University Archive in the Library and is available to view by appointment with the University Archivist. Further information about the Betty Boothroyd collection can be found here.
East Campus buildings
The East Campus was originally built as the Milton Keynes branch of De Montford University and was opened by the Queen in 1992. De Montford University withdrew from the site in 2003. In April 2006 the site was officially opened as the Open University’s East Campus by Chancellor Baroness Boothroyd. It houses much of central Student Services.
Originally, the three buildings were named after people associated with De Montfort University – the Green, Edwards, and Henshaw buildings. The Open University renamed two of the buildings as The Joe Clinch Building and The Philip Sully Building. Joe Clinch was University Secretary from 1981 to 1998. Philip Sully is the student who has successfully studied the largest number of courses – 56. He has seven awards from the Open University at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He became an OU student in 1973 and continues to study.
Frank Henshaw, while being associated with De Montfort University, also had links with the Open University. He was a member of Council between 1994 and 2002 and Chair of the Estates Committee from 1995 to 2002. It was decided to retain the name of the Henshaw building.
Robert Hooke building
The Robert Hooke building broke the tradition of naming buildings after people associated with the University. Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was, amongst other things, an inventor, scientist, natural philosopher and architect. He is most famously known for Hooke’s law of elasticity. From a local perspective he designed Willen Parish Church in Milton Keynes.
The Robert Hooke building houses the University’s Planetary Science and Chemistry departments and was completed in 2004.
Jennie Lee building
Built on the site of the Jennie Lee library, and opened in 2008, the building houses the Institute of Educational Technology.
For further information regarding the history of the Walton Hall estate, contact the Open University Archive email@example.com.