The partnership delivering the 1,200 acre development has named the place after the town in the United States of America that received the first ever transatlantic telephone call in 1927. This call was sent from Rugby Radio Station, which at the time was the world’s most powerful radio transmission station.
RadioStation Rugby is a joint venture between developers Urban&Civic and Aviva Investors, and the development sits on the eastern edge of Rugby. Known locally as the ‘mast site’, it 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.
Enlisting the support of local historian and former manager of Rugby Radio Station, Malcolm Hancock, RadioStation Rugby is investing in promoting the site’s history as well as its future.
Johanne Thomas, from Urban&Civic, who are leading the project on behalf of the joint venture, 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 whilst 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.”
Malcolm Hancock, 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 added: “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 Johanne at RadioStation Rugby, we hope to tell more of the story.”
Commenting on Houlton as he newest neighbourhood in Rugby, Cllr Richard Dodd, Mayor of Rugby, 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 site is owned jointly by Urban&Civic and Aviva Investors. Over the next 15-20 years, Houlton will be developed to feature 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.
Work began at the site earlier this year and the following activity is underway:
- A new junction, roundabout and cycleway along the A428 Crick Road
- Refurbishment and redevelopment of Dolman Farm to create a Visitors Centre, Café and community facilities – set to open in summer
- The first roads and development parcels are being built with Davidsons housebuilder set to begin construction of homes in summer this year