Bletchley Park

©English Heritage/Jeremy Lake
©English Heritage/Jeremy Lake

Region: South East

Unitary Authority: Milton Keynes

Owner Type: Trust

Funding Body: English Heritage

Year of Intervention: 2003

Summary: Understanding Significance- Bletchley Park is the only site in the world that has a range of intact structures relating to the birth and formative development of the Information Age, from 19th century punch-card machines to the first programmable computers.

Description: Bletchley Park is globally renowned for the achievements of its codebreakers, and for their contribution to the outcome of the Second World War, the development of the modern computer and associated achievements in a whole range of subjects from mathematics to linguistics. Its evolution from a cryptographic research centre into a global signals intelligence (SIGINT) hub shaped the development of SIGINT as a vital contributor to the global mission of Britain and its allies in the Cold War period and beyond. The site was designated as a Conservation Area in February 1992. The main house and the stable yard buildings are listed at grade II, but in 1993 the wartime structures were rejected for listing and in 1999 the site was not included by DCMS on the shortlist for UNESCO UK world heritage sites.
Issue: All these decisions reflected uncertainty concerning the degree to which the landscape and surviving fabric at Bletchley Park provided a tangible reflection of its role and contribution to the outcome of the Second World War and the birth of the Information Age. The lack of an informed understanding of the character of the site, embedded into the wider master planning for the regeneration of the area, has also in the past presented obstacles to an agreed approach by the site’s many stakeholders to sustainable development proposals and funding options
Strategy: The English Partnerships’ bid to ODPM for Community Programme Funding, to which English Heritage has contributed, has been successful. There is now recognition that Bletchley Park’s unique importance has great potential to contribute to the regeneration of both Bletchley and the wider Milton Keynes conurbation, identified by ODPM in 2003 as the target area for approximately 70,000 new homes over the next generation. EDAW have now been commissioned to produce a Masterplan for the site, which will examine options for the sustainable development of the site, underpinned by a strong urban design rationale and a Conservation Management Plan. The latter will be drafted in March and April. The Masterplan process, which includes at the final stage the preparation of Supplementary Planning Guidance, is scheduled for completion in June 2004.

Following considerable research English Heritage is well placed to contribute to this process, having initiated discussions with the Bletchley Park Trust late in 2002 which resulted in the co-funding of an initial documentary-based survey, which was circulated to Trust members and other stakeholders in March and April 2003. A team from the Cambridge office commenced a survey of the fabric and site in September 2003. This will in March 2004 deliver a comprehensive investigation and analysis of both landscape and fabric, resulting in the production of an illustrated report which will bring together the results of investigation, documentary research, measured survey and photography. At the same time, in anticipation of the need to provide a positive basis for informing future development strategies, Jeremy Lake of Characterisation Team has drafted an outline contribution to the Conservation Management Plan that sets the results of this documentary and survey work within its broader historical context. It aims to inform the key stages of the Masterplan process through providing a platform for an open process of understanding and evaluation and the consideration of other views and perspectives, in particular:

  • an agreed understanding of the overall cultural values, context and historic character of the Bletchley Park site as a whole;
  • to inform consideration of the extent to which surviving fabric and landscape both informs and reflects these key values, and where relevant to those elements – external form, scale and detail, internal plan and detail - which best retain and/or enhance the cultural significance of the site.
  • to ensure that the cultural value of the site is thus fully appreciated and understood, prior to the consideration of other key issues: the capacity for change of individual structures, their condition and their viability for reuse.

Keywords: Assessment and Characterisation, Designation, Management Plans

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