Welcome to Houlton - Rugby's new neighbourhood named in honour of town's radio heritage - The Rugby Observer

Welcome to Houlton - Rugby's new neighbourhood named in honour of town's radio heritage

Rugby Editorial 29th Apr, 2016 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

RUGBY’s new neighbourhood – currently under construction at the old radio mast site – has been named Houlton, commemorating the world’s first transatlantic phone call which was made from the site.

The 1,200 acre development has been named after the town in Maine, USA which received the famous call in 1927 from Rugby Radio Station – the world’s most powerful radio transmitter at the time.

Local historian and former manager of Rugby Radio Station Malcolm Hancock has been working with the RadioStation Rugby partnership behind the new neighbourhood to promote the site’s history.

Malcolm, who lives in Hillmorton, worked at the station straight from school as an apprentice in the 1960s until his retirement in 2002 – shortly before the station closed in 2007.




He said: “Local people remember the huge masts that were a familiar part of the landscape of Rugby but are less familiar with its fascinating history as the World’s Telephone Exchange from 1927 until the 1950s.

“Its role in the Second World War and the Cold War led to a veil of secrecy about what happened at the station and through the work I am doing with RadioStation Rugby, we hope to tell more of the story.”


The equipment inside the C Station building in 1933, used to make the world’s first transatlantic phone call.

Johanne Thomas, from Urban&Civic – which is leading the project on behalf of the partnership – said: “We wanted to come up with a name that was rooted in the history of the site and which also fitted well into the Rugby landscape alongside neighbouring Hillmorton, Clifton and Newton. Houlton seemed a perfect choice.

“Working with Malcolm Hancock has been inspiring and while I knew the site had a fascinating history, I learn something new every time I speak to him.

“With his help we are developing several projects to tell the story of Rugby Radio Station both for existing communities and future residents at Houlton.”

Mayor of Rugby Coun Richard Dodd said: “As a town we are incredibly proud of our heritage. I’m pleased that as we continue to grow and welcome new communities and neighbourhoods, we will also be marking a significant moment in our history.”

The development on the eastern edge of Rugby was formerly home to 12 820ft masts which helped pioneer global communications in the 1920s. They also played a vital role in the county’s advancements in telecommunications, as well as its defence and military efforts. During the 1950s, the site was also the world’s largest radio station.

RadioStation Rugby is a joint venture between developers Urban&Civic and Aviva Investors, which co-own the site. Over the next 15-20 years, 6,200 homes, three primary schools, one secondary school, an eight-GP health centre, a link road connecting the site to the town centre and extensive green spaces and amenities will be developed in and around Houlton.

Work began at the site earlier this year. Work currently underway includes a new junction, roundabout and cycleway along the A428 Crick Road, refurbishment and redevelopment of Dolman Farm to create a visitor centre, and a café and community facilities which are set to open in the summer. The first roads and houses are set to begin construction in the summer.

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