Britain's HF Radio Heritage: Rugby


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Rugby A site antenna farm. Image courtesy Google

Rugby is famous for its huge LF transmitter GBR that used to operate on 16kHz. However it was a huge HF site- the largest in the UK with literally hundreds of antennas spread across two adjacent sites.

The 'A' site was located to the west of the LF site near to hillmorton village and was opened in 1929, after experimentation the previous year with radio telephony to the United States had proved successful.

The 'B' site was opened in 1953, to the east if the LF site on the other side of the A5 in response to the huge increase in demand for HF services. As services from other stations were moved to Rugby, the expansion continued.

You can read more about the history of Ruugby Radio Station here:

Alan Melia's site 

and the official history written by the station manager here.

The Demise of Rugby

With the decrease in demand for HF point to point circuits as services moved to satellite and transoceanic cables, the A building was closed and remaining HF services transferred to the B building. The maritime mobile (ship to shore) service continued until 2000, when it too ceased. There were now no HF services transmitted from Rugby at all.

Sometime later the antennas themselves and the most of the overhead twin-wire feeders where removed; however the masts and poles that supported them remained.

In June 2004 following the closure of the 16kHz GBR service, 8 of the 12 820ft masts supporting the main LF antenna were demolished. The remaining 4 lingered on a little while later as they were required for the 60kHz MSF antenna. This was transferred to Anthorn however shortly afterwards, and the remaining tall masts demolished in August 2007. 

In 2014 planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the site as a housing estate. At around this time, the HF masts around the A building were cleared, although the A Building itself remains. Between January and April 2016 the site on the other site of the A5 was progressively cleared of the remaining masts and the B building has been demolished.

This marks the end of the 93 year history of probably the most famous radio station in the UK.

The developer has stated that the estate will be named Houlton after the destination of the first transatlantic radio telephone call to made from Rugby in 1927.  

Archived Images

Google archive their satellite imagery and you can therefore see the masts as they were before demolition, by using Google Earth. You can turn on Historical Imagery by going to the View menu and checking the Hostoricl Imagery box, or you can click the clock face icon just above the main view. A slider will appear, which will enable you to go back to 1945; however the masts are only shown from about 2004. 

Last Modified 26/2/2018; previously 2/5/2010