Olney, Buckinghamshire

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Olney Buckinghamshire 1.jpg
High Street, Olney
Olney is located in Buckinghamshire
Location within Buckinghamshire
Population6,477 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSP889513
• London59 miles (95 km)
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townOLNEY
Postcode districtMK46
Dialling code01234
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
List of places
52°09′10″N 0°42′05″W / 52.1529°N 0.7015°W / 52.1529; -0.7015Coordinates: 52°09′10″N 0°42′05″W / 52.1529°N 0.7015°W / 52.1529; -0.7015

Olney (/ˈni/, rarely /ˈɒlni/ OW-nee, rarely OLL-nee)[3] is a market town and civil parish in the unitary authority area of the City of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England.[4] At the 2011 Census, it had a population of 6,477.[1]

Lying on the left bank of the River Great Ouse, the town is located around 8 miles (13 km) from Central Milton Keynes, and 10 miles (16 km) from Bedford, Northampton and Wellingborough.


During Roman Britain, an area NE of the current town was occupied by a Roman settlement.[5] In 2023, archaeologists uncovered a villa mosaic which were declared "remains of high significance".[6]

Olney is mentioned as Ollanege (Olla's island) in 932,[7] the town has a history as a lace-making centre. According to the Domesday Book the place, later called Olnei, was held in 1086 AD by Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances, as its overlord.

During the English Civil War, Olney was the site of the Battle of Olney Bridge.[8]

In the late 18th century, William Cowper and John Newton collaborated here on what became known as the Olney Hymns. The town has the Cowper and Newton Museum dedicated to them. The museum was adapted from Cowper's former residence, which was given to the town in 1905 by the publisher William Hill Collingridge (who had been born in the house). Newton was succeeded as curate in Olney by the biblical commentator Thomas Scott (1747–1821).

The hamlet of Olney Park Farm to the north of the town of Olney derives its name from a park established in 1374 by Ralph, Third Baron Bassett of Sapcote in Leicester. In 1861 it attained civil parish status, but was subsequently incorporated into an enlarged Olney civil parish around 1931.[9][10]

The 1841 census gave the population as 2,362.[11]

Olney Pancake Race[edit]

Signpost advertising 2009 Pancake Race

Since 1445, a pancake race has been run in the town on many Pancake Days, the day before the beginning of Lent.[12] Tradition records that 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, tossing the pancake to prevent it from burning, and dressed in her kitchen apron and headscarf.[13][14]

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 over 400 yards. 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 to win 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 yards. This competition has been run every year since 1950.

Listed buildings and structures[edit]

The parish has one grade I listed building, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul;[15] four grade II*,[16][17][18][19] and a further 114 at grade II.[20] The church is 14th century, with later additions.[15] There is a scheduled monument, a Romano-British settlement, on the northern outskirts of the town.[5]


Olney town sign, depicting a women's pancake race

The A509 road runs into the wide High Street bordered by historic town houses. The Market Place is the site of 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 and furniture sellers, as well as boutiques for interior design, fashionable clothes and perfumery. There are restaurants, pubs, cafés and takeaways offering a wide 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 pupils from year 7 to year 11. Olney Infants School is for reception to year 2 children and Olney Middle School takes the children up to year 6, at the age of 11.

Olney is the northernmost town in the Milton Keynes UA, Buckinghamshire and the South East of England region, close to the boundary with Northamptonshire (and the East Midlands), and Bedfordshire (and the East of England).



The closest passenger rail service is at Wolverton (approximately 8 miles (13 km) distant), with inter-city services from Milton Keynes Central and Bedford railway stations (each approximately 12 miles (19 km) distant). Olney formerly had its own railway station on the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway and the Bedford-Northampton line, but passenger services were withdrawn in 1962.[21]


The town is bisected by the Central Milton Keynes-Kettering A509 road, which runs southbound towards the M1 at Junction 14 (roughly 7 miles (11 km) distant), and northbound towards the A428 (which runs westbound towards Northampton and eastbound towards Bedford, and Cambridge further afield).


Bus 21 (Red Rose) connects the town with Lavendon to the north-east, and Newport Pagnell and Central Milton Keynes to the south running approximately every hour from Monday to Friday. Bus 41 (Stagecoach) connects the town with Lavendon, Bedford and Northampton, formerly running approximately every 30 minutes from Monday to Friday.[22] In October 2022, service 41 was reduced to one service to and from Olney per day.[23]


Olney has been part of the Borough (now City) of Milton Keynes since 1974, which has been a unitary authority since 1997.[24] This gives Milton Keynes City Council the responsibility for the provision of most local government services. Voters registered in the town are represented on MK City Council, which has (since 2014) been divided into 19 wards each carrying 3 councillors with Olney being part of the larger ward of the same name.[25][26]

At the parish level, Olney has a town council based at the Olney Centre on the town's high street.[27]


Rugby football[edit]

Olney has for many years been a rugby town, with its rugby team dating to 1877. Called Olney Rugby Football Club, it 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 7s tournament, with teams attending from all over the country. Olney's rugby is played to a high standard in the English rugby union Leagues, winning the Lewis Shield in 2007, the Southern Counties North League in 2008, and the Bucks Cup in 2010.[28]

Association football[edit]

The town's football club, Olney Town, played in the United Counties League but closed down in 2018.[29]

The town also has a junior football club, Olney Town Colts FC. The FA Charter Standard club has 27 teams ranging from U5s to U18s and an adult development team ensuring local players can continue playing beyond youth football.


Other sports activities are supported by clubs for cricket, tennis and bowls, and a hockey club for juniors.

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Olney (E04001268)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  2. ^ Olney Town Council
  3. ^ Murrer, Sally (13 June 2022). "The 6 most mispronounced Milton Keynes place names people are always getting wrong". Milton Keynes Citizen.
  4. ^ Parishes in Milton Keynes Archived 8 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine – Milton Keynes Council.
  5. ^ a b Historic England. "Roman site at Olney (1006918)". National Heritage List for England.
  6. ^ "Olney: Roman villa mosaic found under Aldi supermarket site". BBC NEWS. 17 March 2023.
  7. ^ A.D. Mills and Adrian Room, ed. (2002). Oxford Dictionary of Placenames. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Town re-enacts battle of 1643 – Milton Keynes Citizen, 8 May 2008
  9. ^ British History online – Olney Park Farm, Accessed 1 August 2014
  10. ^ A Vision of History Through Time Olney Park Farm, Accessed 1 August 2014
  11. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge, Vol.III, London (1847) Charles Knight, p.898
  12. ^ Olney pancake race Archived 13 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Olney Parish
  13. ^ "The origin of pancake racing". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  14. ^ Pancake races in Olney
  15. ^ a b Historic England. "Church of Saints Peter and Paul (1125308)". National Heritage List for England.
  16. ^ Historic England. "OLNEY WINE BAR AND CROSS KEYS HOUSE, 9 AND 11 HIGH STREET SOUTH (1332279)". National Heritage List for England.
  17. ^ Historic England. "THE VICARAGE INCLUDING ATTACHED COACHHOUSE, CHURCH STREET (1158059)". National Heritage List for England.
  18. ^ Historic England. "GILPIN HOUSE 29 MARKET PLACE (1125295)". National Heritage List for England.
  19. ^ Historic England. "ORCHARD HOUSE INCLUDING FRONT RAILINGS, 67 AND 69 HIGH STREET (1222060)". National Heritage List for England.
  20. ^ "Search Results for 'Olney, Milton Keynes'". Historic England. Retrieved 2 January 2023. (Note: the 144 results returned by the search include sites in Emberton, Lavendon, Newton Blossomville, etc.)
  21. ^ THE NORTHAMPTON – OLNEY- BEDFORD (LMS) RAILWAY: A View from Olney – Milton Keynes Heritage Association
  22. ^ "Bus and Taxi, Bus Timetables, Maps and Travel Updates". Milton Keynes City Council.
  23. ^ "Olney: What happens when a town loses bus services?". BBC News. 13 January 2023. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  24. ^ "Contact your parish or town council". – Milton Keynes Council.
  25. ^ "The Milton Keynes (Electoral Changes) Order 2014".
  26. ^ Local electoral arrangements for Milton Keynes (final recommendations) (PDF) (Report). Local Government Boundary Commission for England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Olney Town Council". Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  28. ^ Olney Rugby Football Club home page
  29. ^ Olney Town set to fold after unsuccessful board hunt Milton Keynes Citizen, 30 April 2018
  30. ^ "Olney church to remember slave trader turned abolitionist". BBC News. 1 June 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Dan Wheldon crash findings due to be released by IndyCar officials". the Guardian. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2022.

External links[edit]