Fred Roche Gardens is a public space where you see art, architecture and nature come together seamlessly and epitomise our design heritage. The Gardens plays host to festivals, films and music throughout the year, or at quiet times, it offers the perfect place to stop and relax in the heart of the city. It is flanked on each side by typical modern Milton Keynes architecture with Christ the Cornerstone Church at its head, and Acorn House, Margaret Powell House and Regency Court to the south west leading to a series of courtyard style developments.

Originally called ‘City Gardens’, it was renamed in 2012 in honour of Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s first General Manager Fred Lloyd Roche who worked for MKDC, 1970 – 1981.

Central Milton Keynes is dotted with parks gardens and informal green spaces which punctuate the grid system. The city was designed carefully with nature in mind. The land on which Milton Keynes was built was originally agricultural fields, marshlands, hedgerows, ancient woodland and meadows. The design took inspiration from townships in The Netherlands that adopted a naturalistic approach to landscaping, deploying native species in housing areas. Houses and industrial estates are often secluded and flanked by grassy banks and thickets of willow, pine, dogwood and roses. Today, Milton Keynes has more than 22 million trees and shrubs, around 100 for every resident.

The Chief Landscape Architect for MKDC, Neil Higson, was strongly influenced by the Garden Cities movement, national parks and the varied landscapes of Great Britain. Among other developments, he is responsible for a number of key parks developments across Milton Keynes including the city park, Campbell Park, the Tree Cathedral and a vast swathe of adjoining parkland down to the Ouse Valley, one of the largest and most imaginative parks of the Twentieth Century.

Watch Neil Higson speaking about the importance of the landscape in attracting people to live in a town which was still under construction.

“The landscape of the city is the great labyrinth of freedom where young people, old people, weird people can wander and be themselves.”

Neil Higson

Margaret Powell House

Margaret Powell House is an office building on the east of the park. Previously it was known as Midsummer House, alluding to the Midsummer Boulevard’s approximate alignment with the summer equinox.

Margaret Powell was one of the owners of Tattenhoe Bare Farm, located in the west of the designated area of Milton Keynes. It was sold to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in 1989 for £8 million.

When she died, Powell left much of the money from her share of the sale to set up a trust fund to be given as grants to organisations and projects helping people with disabilities and the elderly in the new city.

The Powell Foundation was set up to look after and distribute the fund. In 2013, the foundation was closed and all its assets were given to the Milton Keynes Community Foundation, who took over responsibility for its distribution.

Christ the Cornerstone Church

Milton Keynes’ Cathedral is not the building which stands in this square, but is rather the unique living Tree Cathedral found in Newlands designed by the landscape architect Neil Higson. Christ the Cornerstone was the first ecumenical city centre church in the UK and opened in 1992. The church hosts worshippers from many denominations including Baptist, Church of England, Catholic and United Reform.

Designed by Ian Smith of Planning Design Development, the church has a grand dome, reaching a height of 101 feet. The cross was created by artist Alan Evans and was lifted into place on Good Friday in 1991, adding another 18 feet to its stature. This simple cross can be viewed from 360º and consists of 8 blades wrapped together with steel. The artist reflects the ecumenical nature of the church – ‘the coming together of different denominations, the binding together of the elements whilst still retaining their individual identity.’

Head into the church to see how the architecture creates a very modern space for worship, where light interplays with the simple architecture. Here you can also see contemporary works in glass by artists, Alexander Beleschenko, Ruth Ward and David Peace in its windows, and the stunning altar panels by Diane Radford and Lindsey Ball.


Fred Roche Gardens is a public space where art, architecture and nature come together as they do across other parks in the city. Bernard Schottlander was born in Mainz, Germany in 1924 and came as a Jewish refugee to Leeds in 1939. He studied sculpture for a year in London, and his training as a welder influenced his work heavily. He opened a studio in North London with his assistant George Nash, who had himself learned his craft in the Royal Air Force’s workshops.

“Sculpture is the art of silence, of objects that must speak for themselves.”

Bernard Schottlander

The three sculptures in the park are simple and brightly coloured abstract forms made from steel. The dynamic lines and colours of the sculpture offset the geometric and monochrome buildings around them. Within the park, they create a sense of place in this sheltered public space. The titles relate to the artist’s initials (BMS) and he enjoyed the fact that MS could also be seen as an abbreviation of mild steel.

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