The story of the Estate to September 1939

LINKS to other pages in the Bletchley Park site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

1 : Bletchley Park Estate to 1939
2 : Enigma and GC&CS.
3 : The Poles and Enigma
4 : Turing and the Bombes
5 : The Huts: An overview
6 : German Naval Codes
7 : Huts 3,4,6 and 8
8 : Blocks A,B,C,D,E and F
9 : Views of the Estate (1)
10 : Views of the Estate (2)
11 : Lorenz and Colossus
12 : Finale, Links, Bibliography
Bletchley Park Guest Book:
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THE BLETCHLEY PARK estate is situated in the small town of Bletchley which now forms part of the sprawling 'new town' of Milton Keynes. Before World War 2 Bletchley was a just a village nestling in the gentle hills of the Buckinghamshire countryside. Its main claim to fame at that time was as a railway junction on the main LMS line from London (Euston) to the North West and for the branch lines that ran westwards to Oxford and eastwards to Cambridge.

   The estate mansion house, situated just to the west of the railway, had been built by a ‘Mr Coleman’ in the late 1870s and later enlarged by its next owner, a Samuel Seckham, who had purchased the property in 1881.

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   Herbert (Sammy) Leon, a London stockbroker and friend of David Lloyd George, bought the estate just a year or two later. The main building on the estate is the mansion, a mixture of mock-Tudor and Gothic styles and constructed mainly of red brick.

   At the time of the Leons' residency the extensive grounds also contained the Home Farm (which became well kown for its cattle breeding), various outbuildings, stables, cottages, a small lake, croquet lawn, a maze (now the site of the tennis courts) and rose gardens. Herbert Leon was made a baronet in 1911. He died in 1926.

The balcony over the main door, showing the crest of Sir Herbert Leon. (Right)

The octagonal building with the conical roof was the mansion's ice-house used as a produce and meat cold-store. (Below)

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   Sir Herbert’s widow, Lady Fanny Leon, continued to live in the Mansion until her death in January 1937. Her son, Sir George, divided the estate into several lots which were subsequently sold. The present Bletchley Park lot of fifty-five acres was bought by a developers’ syndicate led by Captain Hubert Faulkner, a local builder, who intended to demolish the mansion and build a new house close by on what still remains as the croquet lawn.

   In the spring of 1938, however, Faulkner was approached by the British Government on behalf of the Government Code and Cypher School and the property was leased to it for a period of three months.

    At the end of the three months the property was purchased (probably compulsorily) by the government. Actually for use by MI6 and GC&CS, the government claimed it was to be used for training purposes by the Air Ministry. A story in the Bletchley District Gazette at the time said that the government claim had been refuted by 'its sources in Whitehall' and that whatever was 'going-on' at the Park was obviously ‘hush-hush’.

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    In the latter part of 1938 a radio listening station, one of a chain of similar stations spread throughout the country, was established in a small room under the turreted water tower situated in the mansion. It was called Station Ten and, being usually written with a Roman numeral, it later became known as Station X.

   Its extensive aerial ran first to a ‘cedar’ tree (actually a sequoia!) some thirty metres from the mansion’s front door, then to several elm trees, first beside the lake and finally to another near the present tennis courts. A return wire to the mansion completed the antenna loop.

   The purpose of the station was to maintain contact with British embassies. The radio room was later moved to one of the new wooden huts, Hut 1. However, the presence of the large aerial was shortly after considered a potential threat to security and the radio station was relocated to Whaddon Hall half a dozen miles away. This particular enterprise became known after the war as the Diplomatic Wirelss Service and was later moved to Easthope Hall. (See also Part 10)

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   More local interest was aroused when, in late August 1938, Captain Ridley's ‘shooting party' arrived. Throughout the month various groups, composed of middle-aged men and a number of young women, were accommodated in the local hotels. Each morning they went off to Bletchley Park and returned to their hotels that evening. However no-one outside Bletchley Park would be able identify the members or purpose of 'Captain Ridley's shooting party' until the mid 1970s.

   The secret was held for all that time, not only by the original ‘visitors’ who began working there that September, but by the thousands of people who would later join them over the next six years. Captain Ridley, leader of the so-called 'shooting party', was in fact a naval officer attached to MI6 who later also organised the permanent move to Bletchley. (See the next page for more details of GC&CS)

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   For several months prior to the outbreak of war members of GC&CS had been told to prepare to receive orders to move to another location. A telephone call indicating that 'Auntie Flo is not so well' indicated that they were to go immediately to Bletchley Park. On 15 August 1939, the main contingent of code breakers, again posing as ‘Captain Ridley’s shooting party‘, was sent to Bletchley in order to test communications. The next call to Bletchley Park was for real..........

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