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Beaumanor Hall

Beaumanor Hall is a stately home with a park in the small village of Woodhouse on the edge of the Charnwood Forest, near the town of Loughborough in Leicestershire, England. It was built in 1845-7 by architect William Railton in Elizabethan style for the Herrick family.[1] and is a Grade II* listed building[2] It was used during the Second World War for military intelligence.[3] It is now owned by Leicestershire County Council as a training centre, conference centre and residential facility for young people.[4]

Beaumanor Park history

Until just preceding the Second World War in 1939, the Herrick family owned the park. The estate consisted of Beaumanor Hall, several farms, St Mary's in the Elms church, the vicarage house (Garats Hay), workers houses/cottages along Forest Road and 350 acres (1.4 km²) of beautiful parkland.

In 1939 the War Office requisitioned the estate, including Garats Hay, and the vicar moved to a cottage in the village.

The park became a secret listening station where encrypted enemy signals (Morse code) were intercepted and sent to the famous Station X at Bletchley Park (by motorbike everyday) for decoding. Beaumanor Park was to be the home of the War Office ‘Y’ Group for the duration of the war.

After the war (1945) the Beaumanor estate passed back to Lt. Col. Assheton Penn Curzon Howe Herrick, who in 1946, for financial reasons (death duties, etc.), decided to dispose of his assets. In a sale conducted at the Town Hall in Loughborough on December 20–21, 1946, the War Office bought both Beaumanor Hall and Garats Hay and some of the immediate surrounding grounds used during the war.

Beaumanor Hall history 1939–1970

From 1939 the hall itself was occupied by Number 6 Intelligence school, and the rooms inside Beaumanor Hall were used as a training centre for the Civilian Staff of the Post Office, Civil Service and Merchant Navy. The Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were also having military staff trained inside the hall.

The huge cellars stretching underneath the whole of the building were used as electricians' workshops. The outbuildings and stables at the side and rear of the hall were used as workshops. These housed aerial riggers, a barracks store, M T Office, transport garage workshop and the instrument mechanics' laboratory.

By late 1941, most of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force military personnel had left for duties at other Y-stations, and the main part of the site became the home of the Royal Signals. Military personnel were still being trained inside the hall for various tasks until the end of the war. In February 1942 the first of the newly trained ladies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service arrived at Beaumanor and were billeted in outlying villages and Garats Hay hall. Beaumanor became one of the most important of the small number of strategic intercept stations, or "Y stations", intercepting enemy radio transmissions and relaying the information to "Station X", at Bletchley Park, for decryption and analysis.[5] It is known that one of the first confirmations of the successful Operation Chastise mission was received here. It is also widely rumoured that this listening post knew details of the Katyn massacre as early as 1941; however, the British government files were not released to the public, as it would implicate surviving perpetrators.

By 1943, Room 61 on the top floor of the hall was being used for Radio Finger Printing (Ackbar 13). This new technology was employed to uniquely identify the particular wireless set that was being used to send the transmissions.

Special receiving sets filmed the signals as they came in, like a cathode ray tube, and then the signals were captured on film and developed. Light tables were then used to compare the signals in order to verify who was sending them. A civilian from military intelligence at Bletchley Park was in charge of this room.

The Radio Direction Finding records room was next door and kept records of the signals' exact locations of origin.

In 1940 the use of the hall for all of these different functions allowed for the required specially designed wireless set rooms to be constructed in the grounds of the hall. This was instead of converting the existing rooms within the building for this purpose. A field to the north of the hall was chosen as the ideal location to construct the new set huts.

In the mid-1970s the hall was bought by Leicestershire County Council, developing quickly into a busy Conference and Education Centre.

The operational huts

The War Office Y Group had acquired an architect who worked as part of the local staff at Beaumanor, and he was tasked with designing the set rooms and other buildings. These were to be disguised and fitted into their surroundings by being made to look like normal outbuildings associated with a country house. This disguising is unique to Beaumanor, and there are no current records of any other buildings the military used during the war being disguised in this way.

A twenty acre (81,000 m²) field to the north of the hall was chosen as the appropriate site to build the required operational set rooms (huts). The huts were spaced far enough apart to avoid collateral damage should a bombing raid occur. Each hut was brick-built with blast walls, and then a disguising outer covering was put over it.

The huts were disguised in different ways: one to look like a cart shed with barn (J), two to look like cottages (H&I), the fourth to look like stables (K), the fifth disguised as a glasshouse (M) block, and the sixth, Hut G, as a cricket pavilion complete with a false clock tower.

To give them an identity, the huts were each given a letter of the alphabet. The four huts around the perimeter of the field were lettered H, I, J and K. These huts were to be the four set rooms, which housed the wireless receivers for intercepting messages.

All of the cables and aerial feeds were located in underground ducts. Each hut had a pneumatic tube for sending the handwritten, received messages to G hut via a cylinder, which was shot down the tube. This tube system was also underground and out of sight.

In order to carefully conceal them, the other huts were given wooden exteriors and located in the wooded area to the rear of the hall on its western side. These huts were lettered A, B, C, D, E and F.

References

  1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography William Railton. Accessed 09 Jan 2009
  2. Heritage Gateway: architectural description of listed building
  3. Sinclair McKay (4 Oct 2012). The Secret Listeners: How the Y Service Intercepted the German Codes for Bletchley Park. UK: Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1845137632. 
  4. Beaumanor Hall Conference Centre
  5. Nicholls, J., (2000) England Needs You: The Story of Beaumanor Y Station World War II Cheam, published by Joan Nicholls
  • This article contains text that has been reproduced by permission of Beaumanor & Garats HaY Amateur Radio Society M0GBY.

External links

Coordinates: 52°44′10″N 1°12′18″W / 52.736116°N 1.204998°W / 52.736116; -1.204998

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