Lloyds Court


Lloyds Court was the first site to be developed in Central Milton Keynes (CMK) and once completed in 1975, it stood out in sketched out dirt grid running through the surrounding fields. In many ways, Lloyds Court represents the birth of Milton Keynes in how it both broke the ground for building the city centre but also in its style, design language, public art and construction. Today, it is a focus for the public realm heritage of the city where you can see original materials and street furniture being preserved. The conservation work here protects and tells the stories of the city’s origins for future generations.

Lloyds Court, originally coined D.1.4, after the grid location that CMK was divided into, was envisioned to accommodate a mix of commercial users, much as you see it today. Lloyds Bank funded its construction and still occupy part of the site today. Joining the bank were retail units, offices for Milton Keynes Development Corporation, a Chinese restaurant and a pub – later named The Starting Gate.

The prospectus pitching the project to developers outlines the vision for the area of mixed use and ‘being a place wrapped into the new citizens everyday lives’, giving a snapshot of a 1970s British high street containing a tobacconist, grocer, driving school, hairdresser, photographer and community organisations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam and St John’s Ambulance.

At the beginning of its construction, the landscape of CMK would have been much the same as it had been for hundreds of years before. Seeing it emerge from the fields must have been quite the experience for those pioneers who were creating it!

“The last crop under Lloyds Court and the Shopping Building was wheat – a classic example where the crop was farmed, the farmer left, and straw was left on the land – and we had to deal with it! Duncan Kirby (and I) had to burn that crop of straw off. Somewhere under the Shopping Building is one of my cufflinks. When I got back to the office that evening I realised I only had one cufflink left.”

Henry Diamond, MKDC Land Agent 1971 - 83, Living Archive Milton Keynes

In the Lloyds Court architecture you can see a model of building which is evident across CMK. The low-rise modernist façade with colonnades and covered walkways, hiding a courtyard within its centre. Long sheets of solar glass on the upper floor show where the offices were housed, reflecting the sky and creating a structure which feels smaller in scale than it actually is. And whilst the paving slabs might look utilitarian and simple in approach, they hide an amazing fact that for CMK the 597mm x 597mm square paving were placed into the design first!  This then formed the blocks in which the buildings would then be placed, creating the building frontage line maintained (for the most part) across the entire city centre.

Built with a fixed cost of £2.2 million, the building and surrounding street area uses high quality materials meant to last. Lloyds Court is clad in grey Cornish granite with its colour and texture continuing to the paving slabs surrounding it. This same strong material can also be found in famous London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square and the Royal Opera House.

“…there was a big emphasis on putting the money where it showed. People appreciate quality finishes…”

David Hartley, MKDC Architect 1972 – 87, Living Archive Milton Keynes

Take a look at the public spaces surrounding Lloyds Court and you will see a blueprint for the city as a whole. The “portes cochère”, the long black shelters running from the road to the building’s colonnade, would shelter visitors and employees from the rain and expand the grid roads into the pedestrians’ experience of crossing the city too.

Brian Milne

To express a truly modern city, the design of every element was considered and all around you will see the influence of MKDC architect Brian Milne (1933 – 96). His influence on urban design can still be seen and felt on streets in cities across the world today.

He studied at Ipswich School of Art where he gained the National Diploma in Design for painting and lithography. During this time he worked for Geoffrey Clark, one of the Coventry Cathedral artists. This established an early interest in stained glass, and in 1959 he became a student in the Royal College of Art stained glass department.

In 1966 he joined the newly formed Art/Design Group at the Greater London Council. This involved working with housing and landscape architects on the design and detailing of buildings and associated open space, producing murals, sculpture, play equipment and colour schemes.

In 1971 he moved to Newport Pagnell to work with the planning and design team building the new city of Milton Keynes. He left MKDC in 1983 and set up as a stained glass artist. Amongst his commissions have been windows for self-build houses, Giffard Park Housing Co-operative in Milton Keynes, St Paul’s Church in Tadley and two Greene King pubs, The Cricketers at Oldbrook Milton Keynes and The Barn Owl at Northampton.

Milne also took responsibility for the design of play areas in the city. Look up to the globe street lights providing illumination at night-time, with their characteristic black steel poles, stretching in long lines down the boulevards.

“If you look at the double lots of car-parking at the end of Lloyds Court the lampposts all line-up with each other…I remember saying to my brother, ‘Isn’t it nice how all the lamp-posts line up?’. He said, ‘I hadn’t noticed’…”

Keith Mason, CMK Divisional Engineer 1977 – 85 © Living Archives Milton Keynes

And all around the city centre you can take a rest on Milton Keynes’ iconic black perforated metal benches. Even the dustbins were designed to create a shared language and look which would tie the streets together. The influence of these practical, robust and utilitarian designs can be seen in towns and cities across the globe, with the bench being considered a contemporary design icon.

Black Horse

Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930 – 1993) was one of Britain’s foremost sculptors emerging from the Second World War. Unlike many of her contemporaries in the mid-Twentieth Century who moved towards abstraction, rejecting modelling and working in clay, Frink created her own figurative approach tackling issues such as war, religion and nature.

Frink sculpted in wet plaster of Paris which was then chiselled and carved. This created highly textured surfaces that perfectly fit the menacing characteristics of the birds, animals, warriors and hybrid figures that were her main subjects during the 1950s. Her childhood memories of the war and her life in the Suffolk countryside fed her imagination throughout her career.

“Black Horse” was commissioned by Lloyds Bank in 1978. Frink had been a lover of horses since her childhood. From 1969 until the end of her life, she created several sculptures of them with and without riders. Here, the monumental bronze horse reflects the brand of the bank to the right of the sculpture, but also symbolises the pioneering and symbolic breaking of the ground in Milton Keynes journey.

“The horse has done so much for man, works for him, carries him into battle — and yet has retained its independence… it can in a flash transform everything by chucking him off. And I like that idea.”

Elisabeth Frink, 1992

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