Hanslope Park: Home of Britain’s ‘real-life Q division’

The Buckinghamshire haunt of spooks, BOFHs and boffins

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Murder most foul

On Sunday, 21 July 1912, Watts, 67, and his wife Edith were walking back from the village and the morning’s church service. As they neared their home - they were just a few dozen yards from the Park’s former gatehouse - two shotgun blasts rang out and Watts collapsed to the ground, blood gushing from a head wound. One of the two shots hit him in the back, though it’s not known whether the blast was intended for the Squire or his wife. She was reported to have seen the shooter.

The shots attracted the attention of others from the Park. Another shot was heard. Shortly afterward, the body of William Farrow, the Squire’s head gamekeeper, was found in the bushes to the left of the road. Farrow was dead, his shotgun resting against his body. He had fired the weapon into his own mouth.

The Watts Memorial

Memorial to murdered Watts
But please keep orf moi laarnd

Edith was related by marriage to General Sir John French, who, two years later, would lead the British Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium at the start of the First World War. The story of the shooting was written up by the Times and the Daily Mirror.

Why did Farrow fire on the couple? At the inquest held the following day, the jury found him guilty of wilful murder. It was said he had taken revenge after being told by Watts that his services were no longer required.

The event was soon forgotten, but from then on there were tales of ghostly sightings and experiences in and around the manor house and on the road to Hanslope. Whose spectre haunts the spooks of Hanslope Park? William Farrow? His victim, Squire Watts? Or Watts’ distraught wife, Edith? We will never know, though a neigbour of mine in the village once claimed to have been grasped on the shoulder while at work in the manor house. No one was there when he turned round, but they’re a rum lot up at there the Park, eh, Mr Smiley?

These days the only tapping to be heard at Hanslope Park is the rattle of keyboards and the staccato morse on the HMGCC promo video. With the arrival of the HMGCC moniker, the site has been expanded considerably in the past decade or so. There are visibly more buildings there than there were when I used to cycle past as a kid, though in summer time it’s hard to see past the surrounding greenery.

Hanslope Park

"Number Two's house, the green dome": Hanslope Park's homage to The Prisoner?

Some of the extra space is said to be occupied by MI6’s Technical Security Department (TSD), but in the information age you clearly need more staff to go over the data picked by the the likes of GCHQ Cheltenham and RAF Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire than you do for producing spy gadgets.

And not just the latest information. Hanslope Park is home to the SIS’s archive, if we're to read between the lines of a 2009 BBC Radio 4 series about MI6 called Century in the Shadows. It noted the presence of “cavernous vault” of historical SIS information “somewhere just outside London”. Two years later, confirmation of sorts came from the Foreign Office itself in a document describing the movement of FO colonial papers to an trove in Hanslope Park.

Cloudy computing

Much of HMGCC’s kit - that not developed internally, that is - comes from HP, which was contracted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2005 to design and build the next generation of the FCO’s "Firecrest", the system that connects Britain’s embassies and other diplomatic outposts around the world. Signed in 2005 and expected to be implemented by February 2012, the "Future Firecrest" deal was worth £401m.

And it’s appropriate, don’t you think, that HP (Hanslope Park) was kitted out by HP (Hewlett-Packard).

Providing a home for the technology was a new “secure hub for our global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure”, construction of which began in 2005. Part of it was the FCO’s “new centre for cyber security”, opened in November 2010. The ICT housing is known simply as “Building 38”.

Hanslope Park

Hanslope Park’s modern centre, as seen on the HMGCC homepage
Note the highly recognisable St James church in the logo

The FCO also maintains a 612m2 “goods store” at Hanslope Park. These are maintained by FCO Services, the commercial wing of the FCO, which sells “secure” IT and communications - satellite, landline and mobile - testing services plus “perimeter and protective security” services too.

”With over sixty years’ experience as the UK National Authority for Counter-Eavesdropping (UKNACE), we’ve got the technical means to detect or prevent eavesdropping devices compromising the security of your site,” its website says. It also developed the Government Secure Application Environment (GSAE) cloud computing infrastructure.

Still, it can’t be that hush-hush when so many FCO operatives mention their involvement on their LinkedIn pages. ®


52.106228, -0.809405

Post code

MK19 7BH

Getting there

Hanslope Park is situated four miles north of Milton Keynes and 10 miles south of Northampton, between junctions 14 and 15 of the M1.


Not open to the public.


Nearby Hanslope is home to the Watts Arms, which was a shocking pub in my day but now scores 3.5 out of 5 in the Good Pub Guide, is recommended by the local branch of Camra, has some decent real ales and welcomes kids.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story


Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.