A view of Olney and the River Great Ouse
Olney shown within Buckinghamshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||60 miles (97 km)|
|Unitary authority||Milton Keynes|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||Milton Keynes North|
Olney (//, rarely // OL-nee) is a market town and civil parish in the Borough of Milton Keynes, England, with a population of around 6,000 people. It is also part of the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire. It lies on the River Great Ouse, very close to the borders with Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire and equidistant from Northampton, Bedford and Milton Keynes with easy access to the M1 at Junction 14 (approximately seven miles) and with fast train links to London from Milton Keynes Central or Bedford (each approximately twelve miles distant). It is a popular tourist destination perhaps best known for the Olney Pancake Race and for the Olney Hymns by William Cowper and John Newton.
First mentioned as Ollanege in 932, the town has a history as a lace-making centre, and as the place where the Olney Hymns were written. John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace was curate of Olney and is buried here. His guest was William Cowper (English poet and hymnodist (1731–1800)) and the town hosts the Cowper and Newton Museum dedicated to them. The museum was William Cowper's actual house, and was given to the town in 1905 by the publisher William Hill Collingridge (who had been born in the house himself). Newton was succeeded as curate here by the biblical commentator Thomas Scott (1747–1821).
The Olney Pancake Race
Since 1445, a pancake race has been run in the town on many Pancake Days. Tradition records that back in 1445, on Shrove Tuesday the "Shriving Bell" rang out to signal the start of the Shriving church service. On hearing the bell a local housewife, who had been busy cooking pancakes in anticipation of the beginning of Lent, ran to the church, frying pan still in hand, still in her apron and headscarf.
The women of Olney recreate this race every Shrove Tuesday (known in some countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday) by running from the market place to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, a distance of about 380 metres. The traditional prize is a kiss from the verger. In modern times, Olney competes with the town of Liberal, Kansas in the United States for the fastest time in either town and winner of the "International Pancake Race". There is also a children's race, run by children from the local schools. The children have to run a distance of about 20 metres. This competition has been run every year since 1950.
The A509 road runs into the wide High Street bordered by historic town houses and the Market Place is home to a general market on Thursdays and a farmers' market on the first Sunday each month. The vast majority of Olney shops are independents, attracting shoppers from further afield to find the galleries, antique, rug & furniture sellers, as well as interior design and fashionable clothes boutiques & perfumery. There are restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways offer a wider variety of British and international food.
As Olney continues to expand, with new housing estates, a secondary-level satellite campus, Ousedale School has opened for students from year 7 to year 11. Olney Infants School for reception to year 2 children and Olney Middle School which takes the children up to year 6, at the age of 11.
The route for an A509 by-pass may continue to be an issue for the residents of the town, as are the various wind farm sites proposed in the locality.
Olney has for many years been a rugby town with its rugby team dating back from 1877, called Olney Rugby Football Club, which has four regular senior teams. They also cater for Colts rugby, women's rugby, girls rugby and mini rugby. The club holds many social events for the town, one of these being a Rugby 7's tournament, with teams attending from all over the country. Olney's rugby is played to a high standard at level 6 in the English rugby union system, winning the Lewis Shield in 2007, the Southern Counties North League in 2008 and The Bucks Cup in 2010.
The town also has a junior football club, Olney Town Colts. The club has 19 teams ranging from U6s to U17s (all run by FA qualified coaches), offering both girls and boys the opportunity to learn the game and develop their skills to the highest possible standards. There is also a ladies' team.
There is also a Cricket Club, Tennis Club & Bowls Club.
At the 2001 Census, the population of the parish was recorded as 6,032.
- Thomas Armstrong, organist and college administrator
- Moses Browne, poet and clergyman
- William Cowper, poet and hymn writer
- Clem Curtis, musician, television personality, a member of The Foundations
- Henry Gauntlett, organist and composer
- Susannah Martin, a woman executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials
- John Newton, clergyman, slave trader turned abolitionist and writer of Amazing Grace
- Dan Wheldon, racing driver, winner of the 2005 IndyCar Series and twice winner of the Indianapolis 500
- 'Parishes : Olney with Warrington', Victoria History of the Counties of England, A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4 (1927), pp. 429–439.
- Calm Retreat
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Olney, Buckinghamshire.|
- Neighbourhood Statistics 2011 Census, Accessed 4 February 2013
- Olney and its associations, or, Reminiscences of the poet Cowper. Oxford: University of Oxford. 1880. p. 61.
- Parishes in Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Council.
- Oxford Dictionary of Placenames (ed. A.D. Mills and Adrian Room, 2002, Oxford University Press)
- Town re-enacts battle of 1643 – Milton Keynes Citizen, 8 May 2008
- THE NORTHAMPTON – OLNEY- BEDFORD (LMS) RAILWAY: A View from Olney – Milton Keynes Heritage Association
- Bucks Lacks Enough Wind
- Olney Rugby Football Club home page