14 Market Square: A brief history of the house
The house stands on a site which has probably been occupied since Roman times: a previous owner found evidence of the foundations of a Roman villa and coins, whilst digging in the garden. In the thirteenth century, the end of the garden was part of the site of the local leper colony, and is believed to be the site of a leper chapel mentioned in a will of 1202.
The main structure of the house, originally timber-framed, probably dates from the 1600’s, or even earlier. Some major re-building occurred in the mid-1700’s after the fires in Stony which destroyed or damaged many of the then thatch-roofed houses. A new brick frontage with sash windows was almost certainly added at that time, as well as a new roof, fireplaces, and chimneys.
The house was purchased by Henry Potter in 1725: he ran a grocery shop at the front, a brew house in what is now the kitchen, and set up a pin factory for lace-making pins in a barn at the back. Henry died in 1745, but his ghostly presence still lingers in this and neighbouring houses.
In 1770 the house appears in the records as The Fighting Cocks, and many broken clay pipes and fragments of beer flagons have been found whilst digging the garden. Meanwhile, Henry Potter’s daughter Amy married a rich Chelsea merchant, Joseph Malpas, who in 1790 purchased the house next door (no 12) and bought back The Fighting Cocks. The combined properties were then known as Malpas House. A coat of arms with the initials of Henry Potter’s three daughters can still be seen on the facade of No 12. Later on, No 14 became a chandler’s shop, and candles and soap were made in a building at the back.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the the house came into the hands of of the Plumb family. Henry Plumb was a …. plumber (and glazier), and used one of the two front rooms as a shop. It was probably around this time that the ground floor sash windows at the front were replaced by bow windows (although why two different styles is anyone’s guess!). A building at the end of the garden (demolished in 1949) seems to have been used for window making and leading – a buried rubbish tip full of pieces of broken hand-blown glass was found there.
During WWII the premises were used to house children evacuated from London, and several of the bedrooms seem to have been partitioned then. After the war, it became a private hotel or boarding house, and, during the 1960’s, a doctor’s surgery. When Stony became part of Milton Keynes, the house, like many others in the town, was Grade II listed.
From 1970 to 1985 the house was owned by a zoologist from the Open University, who used part of the ground floor living room and the space under the stairs to house a family of bush babies (apparently the only ones to have bred in captivity in the UK).
In 1986 Danielle Maunier-Kaye, who, several years earlier had co-founded AFMK with Maryvonne Kendall and Hélène Roberts, established the front ground floor part of the house as the new headquarters of AFMK, with a dedicated office, classroom, and library (until this time, all the AFMK classes had been run in borrowed school classrooms or OU meeting rooms).
Since then, the Alliance Française de Milton Keynes has gone from strength to strength.