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

Hanslope Park sits just outside the small, quiet North Buckinghamshire village of Hanslope. I grew up there, and the Park and its occupants would always be mentioned by conversing grown-ups in suddenly hushed tones. Who might be listening? Other villagers were quietly pointed out with the words: “You see him? He works at the …

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Hanslope Park, once the scene of notorious murder and suicide

I did initially wonder if the murder / suicide involved the giant razer blade visible in the middle of the grounds as shown in the aerial picture..

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LinkedIn & other social media

Interesting that they're presumably allowed to mention where they work. In the early days of social media (when FriendsReunited was the new thing) we (working at a certain aerospace company with close ties to the MoD) were warned not to mention our employer publicly on such sites.

I notice that nowadays LinkedIn offers me several company-themed communities to join, based on my links to my ex-colleagues, so presumably that policy has changed.

Amusingly, I heard recently that the company intranet had started its own internal social network. This was several years after the unofficial one (based on newsgroups that had existed under the radar for some time) had been closed down for fear of creating an (uncontrollable) subculture (i.e., employees sharing news that had only been released to certain parts of the company at certain times). Other Imscers (I'm sure there must be some around here) will know to what I am referring...

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Turing was 'ere

Good article. Just thought I'd add that Turing worked at Hanslope after he left Bletchley Park in 1943. He worked on a speech encipherment system, but, away from the pressures of Bletchley Park, he also had the time to develop his ideas on building a Universal Turing Machine - an actual computer. Whch he did after the war at NPL.

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Tunnel to the M1?

I was always led to believe that there were a network of tunnels and underground storage at a nearby facility, and that one of the tunnels had been extended to Hanslope Park.

I have spent quite some time at the nearby facility, but never been in the rumoured tunnels or to Hanslope Park.

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Anonymous Coward

There's a not-so-secret shortcut from the M1 -illegaly come out of the Newport Pagnell services and follow the road left past the hotel and keep going. You'll be in Hanslope in about 5 mins.

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So this must be where they design those weird UIs that we see in the Bond films ( and pretty much every other spy movie ) with scant regard to usability or practicality, but lots of complicated and excessive graphics.

You would think it would be more productive to use something a bit more standard.

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Coat

No Mr Bond. I don't expect you to talk. I expect you to CLI.

*ahem* I know. Coat. I'm getting it...

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Go

Not forgetting the small beep that sounds as each character is displayed on screen that seems to be also popular with some fly-on-the-wall documentaries like that Australian customs programme 'Nothing to Declare'.

Well if their computer systems make that noise everytime something is displayed on-screen I'm sure they will have something to declare - and it won't be printable.

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http://www.scifiinterfaces.com/

Is a fun, if serious, blog about the fictional user interfaces seen in sci-fi and thrillers. And yes, they are mostly designed for the benefit of the viewer, not for the convenience of the fictional character who uses them.

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xyz

The best stories are about the on site pub...

Every Friday afternoon the cops used to hide outside the site and "fish in a barrel" drivers with breath kit. Needless to say the pub is now shut down due to the "staff shortages" this caused.

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re: Bletchley Park

I fail to understand why the writer referred to Bletchley park as having a "shady past" ! Most people in this country (and much of the world) believe they did a marvellous job !

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Boffin

Re: re: Bletchley Park

"Shady" as in "shadowy" as in "cloaked in secrecy"

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Geeks Guides

The Geeks Guide articles are, I believe, my favorite regular feature on El Reg.

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Blooming heck!

I used to drive past there every day for months without even knowing what it was!

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Brought back memories

Another great article in this series!

Back in the late 90's I worked for a company which provided 'online information' which wasn't online as we think now but was in fact connecting to a mainframe in London which held lots of newspaper/magazine/journal articles which you could search and download.

One day as the 'senior' tech support person I was request to go with a trainer to install our software and make sure it all worked, then wait while the trainer delivered a days raining in 2 hours. The reason for all this was the fact it was at Hanslop and we could only attend once and not return.

After arriving at the gate house and upsetting the security guy as the person we were seeing had not informed him we were attending, we were read a list of things we couldn't do, such as take pictures, go anywhere but the library, etc. We then followed another guard in a van to a central car park and were pointed to the library entrance. We went in, did the install/training etc, no problem.

I asked the Liberian 'so what is this place then?' Only to be told it was a management training collage which we both knew was rubbish but they were following orders. The things I remember most were, the rabbits which were everywhere and didn't run or do anything as we walked across the car park, the six or so unregistered Range Rovers sitting outside a building and the stairs when just went down into what appeared to be grassy area's surrounded by a fence with barbed wire across the top. Considering the large fence which went round the whole site, it always struck me as a bit over kill.

The other strange thing was that in all my time there, apart from the two guards and person in the library I never saw anyone. No one came into the library in the 3 hours I was there and although the car park was 90% full, no one was around. It was almost like they all hid as there were 'strangers' on site!

Just like all 'secure' locations I've been to, once they realise you not a spy they are pretty relaxed. Although we were told we would have to be collected by security and escorted back to the gate, in fact when we called we were told just to 'keep driving round the road and you will get to the gate'.

It reminds me of working in a 'super secure' data centre where I wasn't allowed to go to the loo alone, but then everyone went home and I had to get the cleaner to let me off the 'secure' floor. But that's another story!

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Anonymous Coward

Both spookier and more mundane than you'd think...

What you don't mention is that HMGCC is a site within a site. The inner site, which is the top quarter of the satellite image, is where they hide and get up to all sorts of spooky stuff. The rest of the site acts as cheap office space for the FCO, reducing their footprint in Whitehall and spreading the jobs across the country. All sorts of fun people like accountants, HR & Payroll, purchasing, etc. sit here. Basically anyone who doesn't require access to ministers or the top management. All Whitehall departments have an equivalent: MoD at Abbey Wood in Bristol, DWP in Blackpool, HMRC in Telford. Most of them hate it, as they lose their London Weighting allowances when they're moved here from Whitehall, and it's hardly the diplomat lifestyle they all signed up for. FCO Services has been spun out of "core" FCO to provide all of those services to the dept., and potentially to other departments as a revenue-generating activity.

I always liked it as it was one of the few IT consulting jobs I did where I could see sheep out of my office window and not a souless business park or brick wall!

Anonymous so they might let me back in one day....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both spookier and more mundane than you'd think...

You really think you're anonymous? BTW, the sheep are still there ;o)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both spookier and more mundane than you'd think...

Oh, I know they know, and I know they know I know. But what I know they know I know is not known to others...

BTW, the on-site nursery for staff children is in the right-hand corner of the photo. I always thought it was the most secure nursery in Britain, behind the razor wire (and the sheep). That was until I worked at HMS Sultan in Gosport and discovered theirs was inside one of the Palmerston Folly forts, that happened to be inside the wire. All the little kiddies guarded by a moat, cannons, the steely-eyed killers of the MOD Guard Service and some goats they keep to save on mowing the grass.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both spookier and more mundane than you'd think...

I could never understand how it was supposed to be so classified, yet had HP as the outsourced service desk and none of them were cleared

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Anonymous Coward

Anonymous so they might let me back in one day....

Only if you sign the enhanced non-disclosure agreement

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Anonymous Coward

Rabbits

Every few years the real live rabbits with big ears get myxomatosis and lie around in various stages of zombification.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rabbits

A secure place I worked in had rabbit infestations with the burrows undermining some of the buildings. They couldn't use shotguns to cull them since the buildings in question were magazines filled with explosives so they brought in a gamekeeper with a crossbow instead.

Anonymous 'cause of Section 2 and all that jazz.

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I wonder if this place made the famous wifi spy rock?

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Anonymous Coward

The on site pub...

was called The Plug and Socket.

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Happy

Re: The on site pub...

"was called The Plug and Socket."

You're just making that up.

Pix or it didn't happen.

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So where is the fiber optic link...

...to Ft. Meade, Maryland? If there isn't one, there really should be one.

I guess Prisim is alive and well in lots of places. Everyone has an ear pointed somewhere!

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Went for a job interview here...

...sort of. It was an apprentice role, something to do with setting up, repairing and maintaining equipment at embassies and such like.

The guy showing us around had qualified a few years before from the same scheme and it turned out that, due to the UK's relationship with certain countries you were issued a second passport and, on some jobs, a firearm and big bundle of cash.

It sounds a little worrying now, but as a 19 year old it seemed like the best job in the world. Oh, and apparently part of the interview process involved you informing them of anything dodgy you'd done that could potentially be used to blackmail you.

Suffice to say, I never actually got that far in the process. Probably for the best....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Went for a job interview here...

Hah! I did get the job! Trainee Telecommunications Technical Officer. Only lasted a year though before the boredom of BTECs at wolverton college forced me to look elsewhere. Think the guy may have been pulling your leg about the 2nd passports and firearms though.......The pub is (was) called the plug and socket. You could get a pint and a pie for about a quid. Ah, the memories

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Shift work with trips abroad

My father worked there and at the outstation near Buckingham from the mid 60's till he retired in '92. Lots of shift work, fitting out at embassies with the occasional long tour. He did St Helena and Darwin. I think he enjoyed it but as with all things the transmitters and receivers he worked on were pensioned off, as was he:)

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Measurements

"There was talk of nuclear bunkers and a secret way from the Park to the the M1 motorway, which passes by just a kilometre away."

Here let me fix that for you..

There was talk of nuclear bunkers and a secret way from the Park to the the M1 motorway, which passes by just 0.625 miles away.

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Headmaster

Re: Measurements

That should be 7.23 brontosauruses, unless I've cocked up the maths.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/24/vulture_central_standards/

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I went there once, they had an impressive rhombic antenna on display.

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