Sounding Space Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent #031

Compiled by Percival Denny

Ed. Dr Stella Barrows



Stoke-On-Trent is a polycentric city made up of six towns which became a federation in 1910. Taking its name from Stoke-Upon-Trent which was the primary railway station in the area, the other towns are: Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton. Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing and it is often referred to as ‘The Potteries’.


The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early development of the local pottery industry and the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall in the late 1700s. It is the hypothesis of the NISG that the extensive disruption of mineral and rock extraction over hundreds of years from the subterranean strata has led to the emergence of wider sonic phenomena and the eruption event which is taking place today. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery opened on its current site in 1956. We believe that the recent landscaping around The Potteries Museum site has triggered this most recent eruption event. 




The word Stoke comes from the Old English ‘stoc’ which means a crossing place, or a place of worship.


Frequently suggested interpretations suggest that it is a word which has derived from the Roman road that ran from present-day Derby to Chesterton, or the early presence of a church which is said to have been founded in 670 AD. These entomological explanations also give us clues to some of the sounds we have picked up via our Ear Trumpet listening apparatus – the sounds of Latin and Roman cavalry, as well as several instances of what can only be describes as church bells. Members of the NISG have also discerned some Anglo-Saxon chanting which could well be attributed to the ancient settlements in these parts. 


It is worth remembering that this area was part of Mercia, one of the three main Anglic Kingdoms founded after Roman Britain was settled by Anglo Saxons in an area called the Heptarchy. It was centered on the River Trent and its tributaries in the area now known as the Midlands. 


(Gemorphically speaking, the site proximity to the Peak District and the Pennines must also be a factor - SB) 



The geological strata of North Staffordshire are very unusual, and with vertical faulting and extensive outcropping a great variety of clays are available in the local area. We believe that this clay, which has been so formative for the history of this city is why we are experiencing this eruption event today.


North Staffordshire was also great centre for coal mining. The first reports of coal mining in the area come from the 13th century and The Potteries Coalfield (part of the North Staffordshire Coalfield) covers 100 square miles. Wolstanton Colliery, had the deepest mining shafts in Europe at 3,197 ft and Florence Colliery repeatedly set regional and national production records.


(Ahhh, the unique geomorphology of a place always forms people, their work, and of course the sonic hot spots which subsequently occur. This is why this is such a rich science! - SB) 


As already mentioned, this region is exceptionally rich in natural resources, and has a long history of mineral extraction. Stoke-on-Trent lies at the southwestern end of the Pennines, where Carboniferous (360 and 300 mya) strata are flanked by Permo-Triassic cover rocks to the south and west. The Potteries conurbation, which includes Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, forms a built-up tract on the Carboniferous outcrop. These Carboniferous rocks include the Coal Measures of the Potteries and Shaffalong coalfields. These strata contain probably the thickest sequence of workable coals in Britain and have been of major economic importance to the district, as have the clays of overlying Carboniferous red-bed formations. As any sonic geologist will know (be they professional or amateur) clay is an excellent conductive substrate for transmission and emission of sonic phenomena.


We posit that sedimentary clay deposits from the water may be a factor in the transmission of proto historic sounds from these surrounding settlements, which date back to Neolithic, Roman and Saxon times. This sounding space boasts significant proto historical sonic activity.


NOTE: Studies by NISG have revealed significant imprinting of bass-frequency sound associated with the movement of ancient glaciers. This ground-breaking research (no pun intended) is generating a glacial sonic map that reveals processes that have shaped the very Earth itself (Brunel, H. & Lathenby, B., Journal of Experimental Sonic Geology: 22.1, 75-91).



The first church on the site was built of timber in 670. It was replaced with a stone building in 805 which was extended over the centuries. Some remains of these early buildings survive in the churchyard. The re-erected arches date from the 13th century when the chancel was rebuilt. Saxon evidence survives in the baptismal font rescued from use as a garden ornament and restored in 1932.


The west tower has a ring of 10 bells, all of which was recast in 1971. The tower has also a clock with a single bell, which John Taylor & Co cast in 1888. The NISG posit that the sounds of these bells, which have rung out for generations in this landscape have percolated through proto-historic seeding into the clay and are being replayed during this eruption event. It's worthy of note that the church is the burial place of several generations of Josiah Spode’s family, as well as Josiah Wedgewood, that there are ceramic memorials to many of the potters of the district and that there is a modern memorial to the football player Sir Stanley Matthews. 



Stoke-on-Trent is the smallest city to boast two professional clubs in the English Football League. The sound emitting from stadiums is known to percolate into rock layers due to its sheer force and decibel level. The NISG have noted that over many eruption events that due to the frequency of sustained sound music, singing and chanting seem to percolate and seed more readily than any other sound. Additionally, British Geological Survey (BGS) reports indicate glacial carving by meltwater during the last Ice Age and deepened by the high speed 'sludging' of the saturated clays which we feel may have created the transmission layer for ‘crowd sound’ – which is very loud and akin to sonic Earth Trauma.


NOTE: At least three NISG field workers have confirm suffering temporary hearing loss after tuning into these intense sonic historical imprints of past football matches without the regulation headgear.


(Plum, as the force of eruption is probably also down to the post-glacial landscape it is seeded into practitioners MUST remember to practice SONIC SAFETY! – SB)



Geological connectivity through the canal area suggests that we might expect to detect Reflection Phenomena, as geological sound ‘flows’ along the riverbed via underwater Transmission Layers. Atmospheric and radio wave imprinting within the surface geology of the area is expected to be a significant influence on the background sound profile. 

Because clay is a weak mass of particles it erodes more rapidly than the more resistant rock. Rain and rivers also wash and reform the land in a constant cycle, releasing historic sound and creating a sonic porosity that is unrivalled in the UK.


(This also reminds me of Godfather of geology, William Smith and his obsession with canal basins – I often wonder if he heard anything in his work! - SB)



Earth Trauma caused during the Industrial Revolution, in which countless building works were completed, dislocating surface geologies and exposing the ground in a manner conducive to seeding and percolation of contemporary ambient phenomena. Stoke-On-Trent saw an expeditious period of growth and development during industrialization in the 1800s with the rapid expansion of heavy industry and coal mining. More recently though, The Potteries Museum site has recently been re-landscaped as part of significant building work for the ‘cultural quarter’. This layering of earth traumas (almost like sedimentary layers of rock in complex lithological formations!) is surely a factor in this eruption event.  




A final note here is to Arnold Bennett, an English novelist, playwright, and essayist, born in Hanley in 1867, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. Hanley was the real-life model for one of the "Five Towns" of his novels. After a local education Bennett finished his education at the University of London and for a time was editor of Woman magazine. The Clayhanger Family is a series of novels published between 1910 and 1918. Bennett is best known for his novels, several of which were set in The Potteries, and he is known as a celebrated chronicler of this place, its people and rock. Whilst sonic geology does not seem to feature in his work, Bennett has a great listening ear for detail, people and the distinct ‘potteries dialect’.


NOTE: It would be well worth keen amateur sonic geologists keeping their ears peeled for other extraneous eruption events beyond our specific (physical) field of study due to the richness of this place, despite its outwardly urban location.




Mission statement: 
‘Audiendo ad terram’: Listening to the Earth
The Institute exits for the purpose of exploring, recording and interpreting geological sonic phenomena in the British Isles and sovereign British territories worldwide.
For the purposes of this mission statement, ‘sonic geology’ shall be defined as the emerging, experimental science derived from the empirical analysis of subterranean sonic phenomena, and the tapping of historical sonic substrata for the release of revelatory data. 

The Institute aims to:

1: Be the leading voice for sonic geology and an authoritative source of sonic geology information for the advancement of sonic geology and the benefit of humanity;
2: Provide effective programs in support of the sonic geology community and the conduct of sonic geology;
3: Collaborate with international sonic geology societies for the advancement of science, science education and the science community;
4: Cooperate with international sonic geology societies, to promote sonic geology, to support sonic geologists worldwide and to foster international collaboration;
5: Promote an active, engaged and diverse membership, and support the activities of its units and members.


National Institute of Sonic Geology

Dr Stella Barrows, (BsC, PhD, NISG)

Born in Dorset and educated at the Sherborne School for Girls, Stella Barrows first became interested in notions of subterranean resonance when, as a young woman, she met the pre-eminent Archeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler who was then head of the Institute of Archeology. Sir Mortimer was conducting his (now famous) excavations of the Iron Age Hill Fort of Maiden Castle and nearby tumuli sited on the South Dorset Ridgeway. Upon meeting her, Sir Mortimer invited Stella to assist on the dig. Although this was during the heady time of National ‘Hill Fort Mania’ Stella’s attention drifted, and she started to become enthralled by the older Bronze Age Bincombe Bumps (sited near Weymouth, also on the South Dorset Ridgeway), a series of six burial mounds which local myth suggested emit music at midday if listened to carefully enough. Stella experienced the melodic phenomena herself, but swiftly dismissed notions of supernatural or folkloric explanation for these ‘singing barrows’ and started to theorise about how sound might have become trapped within the bedrock of the British Isles. Her conclusions around the specific geology of place being fundamental to these emissions led her away from her first love of Archeology into an interest in the formation of the earth itself.
Stella subsequently attended University College London and graduated with a first in Geological Science. Her postgraduate thesis waswritten on ‘Sonic Resonance in Neolithic Topography’. During the war, Barrows found employment working on the development of Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR), focussing on the impact geological configurations and seismic events have on the density and resonance of underwater sounding. Post-war, her passion for sonic emissions reignited and she decided to dedicate herself fully to the nascent fields of Sonic Geology and Sonic Investigation. Stella quickly established the ground-breaking National Institute of Sonic Geology (NISG) of which she is founding member and President. Since its formation, the NISG has grown to include several enthusiastic field operatives and a permanent team who Stella affectionately refers to as ‘Sonic Investigators’, including Roger Millington, Beatrice Lathenby, Hildegard Brunel, Mavis Collingwood and Percival Denny.

Although most of Dr Barrows’ time is taken up with her passion for NISG she occasionally dabbles in landscape painting and learning the Piano Accordion in her Dorset home.

Percival Denny, BsC, NISG, 

Born and raised in Norfolk, Percival 'Plum' Denny attended the same school as the regions' other distinguished son and early amateur subterranean sonic enthusiast, Lord Horatio Nelson. Somewhat of a dullard, Plum bungled his way through his time as a border until he was granted a scholarship to Oxford thanks to his skills as a wicketkeeper. Deft behind the sticks, Plum soon gained a reputation as one of the finest cricketers on the university circuit. Fame beckoned, and Plum was sent on a MCC Exhibition Tour to the Far East, with the purpose of spreading the popularity of God's Chosen Game (locals still talk of his majestic 136 against a Presidents XI in Kuala Lumpur).
However, it was on this tour that events in Plum's life took a mysterious turn. Taking a day trip into the Himalayan Mountains, Plum disappeared. He returned three years later. Although rumours abound of what happened during his time in exile, very few facts have come to light. What we do know is: 

1) Evidence suggests that Plum was almost certainly completely silent for these three years 
2) During that time he developed an incredible ability to listen to the smallest of sounds from the longest of distances 
3) There is some talk of the influences of a shadowy Far Eastern Organisation dedicated to practicing the ancient art of subterranean listening mythologies
4) Plum never played cricket again.
On his return to England Plum switched courses at Oxford and transferred to study Physics, writing a seminal paper on "Ancient Eastern Philosophy and it's Influence on Transverse Waves". Whilst many considered Plum to have gone off the rails, his work attracted the attention of Dr Stella Barrows and he was asked to join the NISG, a position he still holds. Plum is a passionate campanologist and owner of a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driving licence.

Hildegarde Brunel (BsC, MsC, NISG)

Hildegarde grew up in Richmond Upon Thames not far from Marble Hill Park. Her parents were 
eminent Egyptologists and the young Hildegarde would often go with them on their archaeological 
digs. Hildegarde first became interested in audiology science when her Mother was pregnant with her younger brother Bertie and she would use a pinard horn to listen to her unborn brother's heartbeat. 

The Pinard Horn is still Hildegarde's preferred listening device and she recently published a short paper on its use in mathematically mapping sonic porosity on the glacier's in southern Iceland. 
Hildegarde briefly flirted with the notion of becoming an aviator before taking up a place at Cambridge to read mathematical science. Whilst at Cambridge she set up the (now disbanded) SLS (Secret Listening Society) – a group dedicated to the exploration of the aural architecture of the environment. After graduation Hildegarde was recruited to take up a post for His Majesty's 
Hildegarde became interested in sonic geology and the work of the NISG after reading of the ground-breaking discoveries of Dr Stella Barrows and shortly after Roger Millington was invited to deliver a lecture at the SLS in the development of ear trumpet technology. After leaving the secret civil service, Hildegarde was delighted to have been invited to work with the NISG. She joined the team for the first time last summer at the Little Bredy Sounding Space. A keen diver and a passionate baker, Hildegarde's speciality is lemon drizzle cake.

Lola Thistlewind  (BsC, BPhil, NISG)

Lola Thistlewind is an eminent scholar of Sonic Geology. Her masters thesis on the epistemological implications of acoustic seabed mapping and her latter popular non-fiction book on the subject “Bedding down where the sirens hit rock-bottom” brought her esoteric field of interest into the public eye; to both wide critical acclaim and exceptionally good peer-review.

Born in Marseille to a cartographer mother and The Great Alberto (the unicycling one-man-band travelling sensation) she spent much of her childhood on mapping expeditions; sailing the mediterranean by starlight and pacing topographical anomalies behind her mother or drumming up audiences in harbour markets before her father’s recitals.  When the time came for her to be more formally educated she was sent away to the Sherborne school for girls. It was here that she first heard tell of the Institute for Sonic Geology and its project when a young Stella Barrows gave a visiting lecture at her alma mater. The pair’s conversation afterwards initiated a decades long letter-correspondence about the metaphysics of the phenomenon of the Bincombe Bumps.

Her interest being sparked Lola decided to combine her love and curiosity for land, sea, sound and thought at Girton College where she read for her simultaneous degrees in Philosophy and Natural Sciences. She delivered her final oral examinations in the form of an evening of lyric poetry on coastline rock formation and natural design accompanied by The Great Alberto on the violoncello. Needless to say, her rather traditional professors were not particularly impressed and she left Cambridge without honours. (Only years later, after the poems and sheet music were printed as the introduction to her prize-winning book, was she retrospectively granted her Bsc and BPhil 1st class degrees) Luckily the Institute was not too concerned with honour and Dr Barrows was pleased to welcome Thistlewind on board to continue in the library, the laboratory and the field the work they had been discussing by pen since Lola’s schooldays. Lola has remained integral to the NSIG ever since.

When she hangs up her ear trumpet, Lola is a scuba enthusiast, using her dives to collect subaquatic sounds which she recreates and arranges into experimental compositions. Otherwise she can be found in the mountain with her pencils and watercolours drawing for her upcoming encyclopaedia on Alpine mycology.

Desmond Willis (BIM, NISG)

Desmond has had a lifelong fascination with metallic alloys: his father was a trombonist and in his youth brass bands were his preoccupation. After attending Middlesbrough college of Technology he served as an apprentice at the then thriving Walsall Bell Foundry, an experience which shaped him. 

Forty years on, as he neared retirement he was delighted to find a post, which combined the care and maintenance of fragile and intensively worked metals with the calibration of audio-sensitive apparatus when he joined the NISG as Interim Technician.


Roger Millington, NISG
(Extract from Sonic Geology: Pioneers of a radical new science? The Times Educational Supplement)

Roger Millington’s interest in geology began as a boy, when he read Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, and developed a passion for digging holes, much to the annoyance of the gardener at the Norfolk vicarage in which he grew up.

Millington left school at 14, with a solid devotion to mechanical tinkering and outdoor activities, but no qualifications to speak of. After an extensive hands-on practical training as a mining engineer in the South Wales Valleys, where he developed a love of colliery brass band music, he enlisted in the Corps of Royal Engineers as a Sapper. War soon intervened, and he found himself involved in the dangerous tasks of military tunnelling and the preparation of defensive earthworks. This involved long hours underground amid the mud and horror of war, digging beneath enemy lines and listening carefully to vibrations from below ground that might indicate an imminent attack. 
It was during one such mission that Millington had his first experience of geological sonic phenomena. Deep below ground on a Spring day in France, he found himself listening to the unmistakable sounds of medieval plainsong and the playing of spoons, as they oscillated within a large crystalline boulder around which he and his team were attempting to tunnel. Dismissing the experience as evidence of his slow slide into post-traumatic stress, Roger at first denied the preposterous notion that sound could be held in the Earth’s geology. He gritted his teeth, and plunged further into the jaws of international conflict.

The war was not kind to Millington, and eventually he was invalided out of the Army with shellshock and neuralgia, a shadow of his former self. He was shipped to a convalescent home in a former boys’ preparatory school at Seale Hayne, near Newton Abbot, where his recuperation centred on the restoration of a mountain of abandoned orchestral instruments that he had found in a dusty basement. Recovery was a slow and hesitant process. Peace and quiet, and gentle listening to the sounds of nature and light classical music were the order of the day. 

All this changed when Dr Stella Barrows, president of the newly-established National Institute for Sonic Geology, arrived at Seale Hayne to investigate sonic phenomena that had been stimulated by the excavation of an unexploded bomb from the German Beidecker raids on Exeter. Encountering Dr Barrows as she sought to manage an aural upsurge behind the stables with only a battered Henley Audiophone in the way of equipment, Millington learned that the geological sonic phenomena he had experienced in the tunnels of wartime France were in fact geological reality. His world was turned upside down. What he had thought of as madness - sound emerging from the fabric of the Earth itself - was actually scientific fact. Barrows explained to Millington that the phenomena he had experienced had arisen from a verifiable feature of geology that could be empirically proven, catalogued and recorded, if only an appropriate form of reliable detection technology could be developed.

Invigorated by his epiphany, Roger joined NISG as technical advisor. He quickly turned to his basement of musical horns for inspiration, as he wrestled to find a method of improving the detection of subterranean sonic phenomena. Three days of frenetic tinkering led to the creation of the Ear Trumpet, and the detection and recording of the Seale Hayne phenomena.

Evelyn Summerfield

Evelyn first discovered the NISG when, as a girl, she happened upon the National Institute for Sonic Geology (NISG) field unit whilst visiting

Salisbury Cathedral. 

The team were investigating Sounding Space #012 (Wardrobe Museum Gardens) in the Cathedral Close and Evelyn was soon captivated by the sounds emanating from the ground below. It was at this point that Evelyn became fascinated by the idea of geological sonic phenomena.


In her home-county of Wiltshire, a place of ancient civilisation and settlement, Evelyn was able to make her own forays into sonic investigations listening to the fleeting emanations of Old Sarum. Whilst studying at Wentworth College for girls she paid great attention to geological sciences as well as pursuing an interest in maritime sciences. Later she departed Salisbury for University College Plymouth’s School of Navigation. 

As a very recent graduate with a first class BSc Evelyn felt frustrated by the lack of teaching and knowledge around Sonic Geology. She therefore attended a research symposium with Dr Barrows who upon reconnecting promptly offered this promising young scientist a paid summer internship with the NISG.


Evelyn is hoping to take up further study later in the year. Her hobbies include healthy pursuits such as swimming, sailing and also listening to jazz records.

Dr Wolfgang Lovejoy (BSc, PhD, co-opted NISG)
University of Wisconsin, Barron County Extension Campus

Dr Lovejoy grew up between Palos, Illinois and Long Lake Wisconsin. Born to a boat-builder father and a landscape painter mother, Wolfgang frequently roamed the wild and geologically fascinating countryside, which skirts the Second City of Chicago and Lake Michigan. 

Dr Lovejoy's primary research areas are the geomorphology surrounding the formation of the Laurentian Great Lakes of North America (for the European reader, these are a series of interconnected lakes located primarily in the upper mid-east region of North America). 

Wolfgang trained at the University of Wisconsin in Freshwater Geology and was latterly was part of the first team to be situated at the Barron County Extension Campus. Dr Lovejoy studied glacial formations of Lake Michigan for his doctoral thesis. He first perceived subterranean sounds in his native environment, when upon walking near a log cabin (in which he now resides) an unexplained forceful sonic discharge emitted from the ground beneath his feet. With the help of NISG scientists, this sound has latterly been identified as the movement of vast ice sheets and voices of indigenous peoples from around 14,000 years ago.
Since this first eruption event, Dr Lovejoy has energetically pursued answers – and as is often the way with scientific discovery – has found more questions. He happened upon the academic papers of Dr Barrows and was excited to discover that the study of the sonic phenomena he had experienced had a name: Sonic Geology.

Dr Lovejoy is proud to be the first official International member of the National Institute for Sonic Geology, and the NISG are indebted to the forward-thinking University of Wisconsin for granting his research sabbatical.

Dr Lovejoy has a specialism in the movements of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Quaternary (Pleistocene) Glaciation, but he dabbles with piano in the evenings. 

Beatrice Lathenby BsC, NISG

Beatrice is the only child of Dr Harold and Margaret Lathenby, renowned archaeologists. She was brought up in London in a house overlooking Regent's Park. Whilst playing in the garden as a child 

Beatrice heard conversational phenomena coming from the ground. When she told her parents they 

worried for her sanity and sent her to eminent child psychologist Dr Heideberger, but finding nothing wrong with her the incident was soon forgotten, by her parents. 
Beatrice gained a Bachelors degree in Geography from St Hilda's, Oxford University. She was employed as an air raid warden in her time there and was praised for her cool head and practicality. Beatrice was also in the ladies cycling and swimming club.

Whilst on a Geography field trip to North Yorkshire, Beatrice happened across Roger Millington at the Brimham Rocks Sounding Space, and was intrigued to hear about the work of the NISG relating it back to her childhood experience. She questioned her professors about NISG and sonic phenomena but was told that they were not a respectable scientific organisation, some even dismissed them as a bunch of fanatics, but undeterred Beatrice started carrying around a stethoscope borrowed from a friend studying medicine. She found a subterranean hum with what sounded like choral voices on the lawn of Queen's College and immediately sent for the NISG. Roger Millington arrived with his investigative equipment but was refused entry by the college. Roger told her about a new sounding space that they were investigating that summer on the South Coast and the need for strong swimmers to join the snorkelling team. Beatrice immediately volunteered and after graduating a few weeks later she joined the NISG down at Burton Bradstock.

Beatrice 'Flippers' Lathenby has been with NISG for two and half years and visited 8 sounding Spaces with them. She has published three papers: The Common Emission of Melodic Events in Alluvial Valleys, The Suspected methods of Seeding on the Southern Shore and Imprinting of Bass Frequency Sound Associated with the Movement of Glaciers all published in The Journal of Sonic Experimental  Geogolgy. She is Captain of the snorkelling team and has produced a pamphlet entitled Snorkelling tips for Sonic Investigators.

Sounding Space Fred Roche Gardens, Milton Keynes #30


Fred Roche Gardens, Milton Keynes



Field Notes compiled by Miss Evelyn Summerfield (intern) 

Ed. Dr Stella Barrows



Milton Keynes is the largest settlement in Buckinghamshire, it is bordered by the River Great Ouse on the Northern boundary, and unlike many urban centres is at least ¼ set to park or woodland. Although known as a ‘New Town’ there have been plentiful settlements in the area over millennia which might account for some of the sonic ‘hot spots’ we have so far experienced during our investigations.




According to the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust the “Fred Roche Gardens lie in the heart of the city centre, behind Christ the Cornerstone church and The Guildhall, and overlooked by offices on Silbury and Midsummer Boulevards. They provide a tranquil haven in the busy commercial district of Central Milton Keynes. The gardens include lawns, borders, formal features, and quiet seating areas, all laid out on a number of different levels by the original designers of Central Milton Keynes. A remnant of a lane predating Milton Keynes is preserved in one corner, and a number of sculptures by Bernard Schottlander are given an attractive setting.”

The Fred Roche Gardens were previously known as City Gardens, with the area renamed in 2012 to honour Fred Roche CBE who was appointed in 1970 as the first General Manager of Milton Keynes Development Corporation 1970-1985. 

Fred Roche's vision for Milton Keynes developed from his fascination with the Garden City Movement. He guided the development of the city into a richly landscaped place, integrating the surrounding countryside, with a network of parks, which provided a beautiful environment for its new population. He was Vice President of the Royal Institute of British Architects 1983-1985.

Modern Milton Keynes was part of a hopeful and optimistic time of new home building and City-making:


The thinking behind the city was set out in bold, if rather vague terms: “The purpose of our future cities, for which Milton Keynes could be the prototype, must be to provide a setting for learning, for the development of imagination, and for exchange of information”. 


       -John Grindrod, pg.387, Concretopia, 2013 (quoting Judy Hillman)

Dr. S. Barrows (President of the NISG) has posited that building work in the environs of this park over the past 50 years may well have stimulated conversational, melodic, ambient and proto-historic sonic phenomena through its disturbance of the underground strata over multiple years. This fortunate occurrence, as well as the potential effect of the surrounding buildings acting as sonic ‘baffles’ offers NISG an opportunity to record and analyse this extraordinarily rich urban field site.




With reference to the British Geological Survey’s notes on the area, in general terms Milton Keynes can be considered as a portion of more or less dissected boulder clay plateau. With streams falling fairly steeply to the Ouse and Ouzel flood plains, across slipes cut chiefly in Oxford Clay, Middle Jurassic rocks. In particular, the Blisworth Limestone and Cornbrash form strong features in the lands bordering the Ouse Valley to the North.

The final stages (in geological terms) of the physiographic evolution can be related to the erosional and depositional events of the Quaternary period. It is considered that there were several glacial and interglacial intervals in Pleistocene times, but locally evidence of only one major ice sheet has been found. The buried channels beneath the present Ouse and Ouzel valleys were cut before the advance of the Chalky Boulder Clay ice sheet over the area. They are infilled with alternations of laminated lake sediments and boulder clays which can be related to oscillations of the ice front.


[NOTE: there is fascinating research into post-glacial river morphology and sounding spaces being undertaken by Dr Wolfgang Lovejoy into this field in his popular science book: Meander With Me Awhile! Adventures in Alluvium. – SB]



At designation, Milton Keynes incorporated the existing towns of Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Wolverton and Stony Stratford, along with another fifteen villages and farmland in between. These settlements had an extensive historical record since the Norman conquest; detailed archaeological investigations prior to development revealed evidence of human occupation from the Neolithic period to modern times. A further consideration is the Earth Trauma caused during the building required to make a city, in which countless works were completed, dislocating surface geologies and exposing the ground in a manner conducive to seeding and percolation of contemporary ambient phenomena and thereby LAYERING and FOLDING lithological soundscapes of wildly differing timeframes together.


[NOTE this is a particularly interesting phenomena you’ve picked up upon Evelyn, and one which I hope to demonstrate to you more fully during the course of our field research. Well done, excellent work in drawing on your own research notes. SB]  



As with most of Britain, during the Palaeolithic era (50000 – 10000 BC) most of the area was covered with ice but with intermittent warmer periods. Flint hand axes have been found in river gravels from this time. During the Mesolithic (10000-4000 BC) more technologically advanced flints were found as were narrow blades. In the Neolithic (4000-2200) there is evidence of settlement and the removal of tree cover. 

In common with many of the best Sounding Spaces, the area we now know as ‘Milton Keynes’ saw significant activity in the Bronze Age (2500 – 700BC) particularly with burial mounds and barrows which were constructed close to the river. 


[Evelyn, a general comment on style, the average enthusiast/interested amateur/citizen scientist will broadly know when the various historical eras are, you do not need to tiresomely quote dates at them! SB]


The Milton Keynes Hoard is a hoard of Bronze Age gold found in September 2000 in a field at Monkston Park. The hoard consisted of two torcs, three bracelets, and a fragment of bronze rod contained in a pottery vessel. The inclusion of pottery in the find enabled it to be dated to around 1150–800 BC. The hoard was described by the British Museum as "one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Great Britain" and "important for providing a social and economic picture for the period". The hoard was valued at £290,000 and is now in the British Museum. 

Several other antiquities, including Romano-British hoards, have been found within a 10 mile radius of the centre of Milton Keynes.


[NOTE: the phenomena we now know as sonic geology was first perceived by myself from a series of six bronze age burial mounds, the Bincombe Bumps, outside of Weymouth in Dorset, so we certainly know that Bronze Age landscapes are rich sounding areas - SB]



As every schoolgirl knows, in AD 43 the Romans invaded Britain and Watling Street was constructed shortly afterwards. During her revolt against the Romans by Queen Boudicca after destroying Verulamium (now St Albans) her forces marched northwards along Watling Street [we believe this to be the A5-ish - SB], through the Milton Keynes Area - her final bloody battle somewhere between St Albans [south of MK] and Wall (Staffordshire). According to Roman historian Tacitus, Boudicca’s rebels massacred 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons and cut to pieces the Roman 9th Legion. Possible Roman Fort and remains (pottery, villas etc. etc.) have been found all over the area which might account for such highly charged sonic events which may well have percolated into the surrounding rock.



During the first English Civil War in 1643 the Parliamentary Army of the Earl of Essex spent 6 weeks at Great Brickhill. Royalist forces encircle Newport Pagnell with defences, a short section of which still survives in Bury Field. Newport Pagnell subsequently taken by the Parliamentarians. John Bunyan was a member of the Newport garrison for several years. In our early research phase we perceived sounds of proto-historical battle emanating from the ground beneath our feet.



In 1939 the Government Code and Cypher School took over Bletchley Park to work on intercepting and transcribing German military communications. This work was very influential in numerous operations in WWII.

1952 the Town Development Act leads to Bletchley becoming an overspill town for London and in 1967 Milton Keynes New town was begun with 1969 seeing the Open University created at Walton and construction starting on the first ‘New Town’ flats in Simpson. 2008 saw the completion of the original plan for Milton Keynes. At the millennium, the nearby Midsummer Place Shopping Centre Opened. 



Although there is a distinct lack of church bells in central Milton Keynes which is at its oldest only around 60, there are several possibilities of where these sounds might emanate from. 

Research shows that circa 1000 the Tower of the Church of St Michael, Lavendon was built. Medieval markets were established in 950 at Newport Pagnell, 1199 at Stony Stratford and in 1204 at Fenny Stratford and at similar times Churches were also constructed. 

Woughton-on-the-Green is an area of south-central Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. It takes its name from the original ecclesiastic parish of Woughton and its original village, Woughton on the Green. There is still a very active local band of ringers. Martin Petchey, Chair of the North Bucks Branch of the Diocesan Guild of Bellringers, said [in Milton Keynes…] “Bells have always rung out to celebrate national occasions”. 



One of the sonic hotspots seems to definitely have the sound of a tavern sing along, possibly circa the 18th century (from dating the songs). I have identified two possible sources of the music, which we believe might have percolated into the strata. 

Ye Olde Swan pub (also at Woughton on the Green) is rumoured to be haunted by famous highwayman Dick Turpin. 

The Old George Inn in Stony Stratford on Watling Street is a hotel and bar situated in the centre of the historic market and Roman town of Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes. This 16th Century inn is steeped in history.

OTHER contributing factor: 

The Bernard Schottlander sculptures could be acting as a focusing antenna that channels electromagnetic frequencies into the ground, releasing dormant resonances in the manner of a lightning conductor. Geometry within the construction of the park itself may also be a factor here.


[Well-compiled site notes Miss Summerfield, a good first attempt and I’m sure the NISG team will agree. This last point is however sheer conjecture and I'd suggest you return to more rigorous data collection and observation - SB]



As the NISG have visited many Sounding Spaces in the course of our investigations*, we have decided to instigate a coding system for the sites we have visited and documented. These are listed below. We will start publishing short field notes (including geological information and historical background) in advance of our investigations at each site in due course.

CODE    Location
001     Bincombe Down, South Dorset Ridgeway
002     Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire
003     Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire
004     Burton Bradstock, West Dorset
005     Ringstead Downs, Norfolk
006     Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Isles
007     Ulsta, Yell, Shetland Isles
008     Little Bredy, South Dorset Ridgeway
009     Rushcombe, Corfe Mullen
010     Talbot Village, Bournemouth
011     Queens Park, Brighton
012     Wardrobe Museum Garden, Salisbury
013     Winchester Cathedral (Grounds)
014     Bell Meadows, Chelmsford
015     Bournemouth Lower Gardens
016     Castle Mound, (Higgins Museum) Bedford
017     Greenwich, St. Alfeges Park, London
018     Wrotham Park, Hertsfordshire
019     Queens Gardens, Kingston Upon Hull
020     Miller Park, Preston
021     Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury
022     Oil Tank Culture Park, Seoul, South Korea
023     Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
024     Morecambe, Nr. Midland Hotel
025     Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire
026     Chesters Roman Fort, Northumberland
027     Marble Hill House, Twickenham, London
028     Charterhouse, Coventry
029     Trinity Gardens, Stockton upon Tees
030     Fred Roche Gardens, Milton Keynes 
031     Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent         

*There are several sites which have been visited pre-systematisation on a more 'ad hoc' basis. Some of these sites have been visited multiple times, namely Bincombe Down on the South Dorset Ridgeway whilst other sites have been less fruitful on investigation (the small port of Ulsta,  on the Isle of Yell in the Shetland Islands being one such site where adverse weather conditions mitigated against ourselves and our monitoring apparatus).