Wolverton Works

Regenerating and redeveloping historic railway carriage works 

London & South East
S Modwen Properties PLC

Purcell was approached to explore how the Wolverton Railway Works site could be re-used for residential development, whilst preserving the inherent character of the industrial complex. Our solution proposed a series of creative adaptations to manage the existing buildings’ industrial scale and introduce a secondary grain of daylight and soft landscape more appropriate to residential use.

Additionally, through historic analysis, we successfully identified areas of the site that could absorb new development with minimal impact to the existing buildings, achieving a relatively high-density development that has secured planning approval with the confirmed support of Historic England.

Wolverton Works was founded in 1838 by the London and Birmingham Railway Company as the route from London to Birmingham required a locomotive works at the mid-point of the line. The Works consists of a highly significant collection of C19 industrial buildings that once formed the largest railway carriage works in the UK.

With a long association with both technical innovation and the manufacture of the British Royal Train, the buildings have a high collective value that is reflected in their designation as a Conservation Area. However, despite this status and following a reduction in operations during the later C20, a substantial part of the site had become derelict. Currently, the site comprises over 500,000 sq ft of industrial and workshop buildings.

Preserving the Past

The regeneration of Wolverton Works aims to support hundreds of current and future rail-related jobs for the town and consequently retain the heritage of Wolverton Works through its ongoing rail use, whilst delivering much-needed new homes and community facilities for Wolverton, as well as a new food store. A key driver for the development was to provide modernised accommodation for rail-related use to ensure railway-related works continue to operate on the site.

Heritage expertise

Significantly, the site falls within the Wolverton Conservation Area — a designated heritage asset. This was a key challenge for the development of the site, together with the industrial scale of existing buildings. Purcell’s expertise working within historically sensitive locations provided a clear understanding of how to maximise the development potential while respecting the historic setting. Through this process, we added significant value to the development and secured a future use for the site. Key features of the wider heritage initiatives include:

  • Large community space overlooking the new industrial-feel public square
  • Retention and restoration of the historic wooden gate within the Stratford Road wall
  • Heritage display boards on the Stratford Road wall
  • Salvaged artefacts or rail-related materials/features designed into the landscape
  • Heritage centre dedicated to reflecting the life of the site and the town of Wolverton


Purcell was responsible for developing the residential masterplan for the site. The key features of the layout include:

  • Creation of a main boulevard through the site which follows/ reflects the current east-west railway line
  • Layout of new buildings to reflect layout of existing sheds
  • Retention of key façades of existing sheds
  • Retention of railway and traverser tracks
  • Scale of open spaces to reflect large working yards
  • Provision of new workspace for new and growing businesses

The masterplan has evolved and developed as a result of feedback received and a design review undertaken by Purcell. The current plan retains the same key elements listed above. In addition, St. Modwen Properties PLC has now identified an opportunity to provide small workshop spaces suitable for existing and new start-up local businesses.

Location: Wolverton, Milton Keynes
Client: St. Modwen Developments
Construction Value: £85m