Industry and Commerce in Great Linford
Great Linford was once a bustling centre of industry and commerce, with shops, farms and a variety of trades represented, including brick kilns, a stone mason, baker and a blacksmiths; there was even a bank run by the Lords of the Manor. The arrival of the Grand Junction Canal in 1800 brought huge change, with an influx of new people and business. The subsequent building of the Newport Pagnell canal branch route, which was opened in 1817, would have made things even busier, with a purpose-built wharf having been established to store, load and offload produce. The Newport Pagnell branch railway line that followed in 1867 brought even greater change, signalling the death knell of the canal as a commercial waterway, but providing even faster connections between the village and the wider world, allowing for instance for the shipment of perishable products such as milk as far afield as London.
It is easy to forget that the new city of Milton Keynes was built on farmland, with the Lords of Great Linford manor owning in the region of 2000 acres, which they rented out to tenant farmers. The farming landscape of the parish has undergone great change, especially with the imposition of enclosure in 1658, which saw a significant reorganisation of land use from arable to pasture farming. Certainly farming has never been the easiest of professions, and tenant farmers, having paid their rent to the Lords of the Manor, would have faced many challenges in turning a profit, and it is not unusual to find farmers moving on, or with “distress for rent” notices in newspapers announcing the sale of assets to cover debts. Equally, several farmer in the parish evidently succeeded in amassing some considerable wealth.
All this activity must have been thirsty work, and the brewing of beer and other alcoholic beverages would have been a cottage industry for millennia, with archaeological evidence proving that the old medieval manor house (located under what is now the Arts Centre car park) had its own brew house, as did some of the surrounding crofts of the same period. There is plenty of evidence that farmers in the parish were brewing, not just for their own use, but as part of the rural tradition that agricultural labourers were to be liberally supplied with copious flagons of (weak) beer to sustain them during long hot days in the fields. Thirsty workers would have also wanted to enjoy a beer or two in more convivial surroundings, and they were also well served in this regards, with a number of pubs and beerhouses to slake their thirst.