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Hawklaw station building, 2007, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/4202
Hawklaw station building 2007
© James Allan
See also Kingask.

Hawklaw, Cupar, Fife, has been the site of a number of intelligence gathering listening stations.

The area had an early connection with communications technology, with a British General Post Office (GPO) Station being established at Cupar. AT&T initiated the first transatlantic commercial telephone service in 1927, and, although designed to link London and New York, the GPO station at Cupar was designated as the reception point for the radiotelephone signal, which originated from Radio Central, Rocky Point, New York, and was then passed on to Rugby Radio Station.

World War II

Hawklaw is believed to have become a Foreign Office listening station during 1942. After the war, right up until 1988 when it was decommissoned, There are planning proposals in place for the remaining buildings to be converted for residential use.

Aerial photographs taken in 1946 and 1948 show that there was an array of at least 20 aerial masts on the rise to the north and northwest of the site buildings. Records indicate that the station was designated as an Intercept Y Listening Station, used to monitor German naval coded traffic in connection with the World War II codebreaking centre at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England.

Further listening stations, also designated Y-Intercept, were sited a short distance to the northeast at Kingask, and at Foxton.

Cold War

After the end of World War II, the facility functioned as a GCHQ-controlled Y-Station, primarily intercepting messages from the Eastern Block. Operating as a Composite Signals Organisation Station, Hawklaw employed around 100 people working in three shifts, and fed information to GCHQ, until its closure in 1988.

The following text accompanied the picture of the former station building:

Abandoned since the end of the Cold War, this listening post at Hawklaw near Cupar was just one of many in the UK associated with GCHQ in Cheltenham. Stations such as this constituted the ground-based portion of the United States Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) System or "USSS." They were designed to intercept Morse Code, telephone, telex, radar, telemetry, and other signals emanating from behind the Iron Curtain. Currently, the US National Security Agency relies more on sophisticated SIGINT satellites with code names like Vortex, Magnum, Jumpseat, and Trumpet to gather and analyse the world's satellite, microwave, mobile phone, and high-frequency communications and signals although many ground stations remain in operation in the UK and elsewhere.


A planning application published on May 25, 2006, provided a description of the original buildings:

This application is for planning permission to convert the now abandoned former MOD Radio Station at Hawklaw into 10 houses. The site lies on a ridge overlooking Cupar and is accessed by the minor road leading off Bishopgate, which eventually becomes a private farm track just past the application site. The buildings are single storey blocks with an "art deco" character, though the building dates from the 1950s. They have not been used for a considerable number of years since the MOD abandoned the site. There are 3 separate buildings on the site. The main building is approximately 65 metres long by 24 metres deep. The building is 3.5 metres high to the main roof level however three large box structures housing water and air conditioning equipment protrude up to 3.5 metres above the existing roof line. A detached building some 8 metres deep by 29 metres long is located to the east of the main building, this was formerly a store and garage. To the west of the main building a further building formerly used as a guard house is situated adjacent to the current entrance to the site. This building is approximately 32 metres long by just over 6 metres deep. It is also single storey with a roof top tower structure. The building is 3.5 metres high to the roof and the tower is a further 3 metres higher.

- Planning application, Fife Council.[1]

A number of withdrawn or lapsed planning application have been made regarding the site:

  • 1991 consent granted for change of use to Class 4 business use.
  • 1996 Change of use of radio station to Children's Holiday Centre.
  • 1997 consent granted to convert buildings Nursing Home.
  • 2001 application submitted to convert buildings to 14 dwelling houses (including four special needs houses).

In August 2009, Fife Today featured the site, indicating that North east Fife area committee had approved another planning application earlier in the year. The original buildings have been stripped out and are derelict, however, full planning permission was been granted to convert them into nine contemporary-style homes comprising seven dwellings within the existing structure, and two detached building on either side. The suggested asking price for the site is £600,000. The plans, by London-based firm 6a Architects, include conversion of the complex into a residential development while retaining most of the existing building fabric and reflecting its historical importance.[2]

The Scottish Civic Trust also reported the approval of the planning application, giving the approval date as January 21, 2009, together with a summary.[3]


1 Planning application reference

2 Former listening station in Cupar up for sale, Fife Today. August 13, 2009.

3 Scottish Civic Trust - News & Views - SCT Comments - Hawklaw Listening Station, Cupar. Retrieved March 14, 2010

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-



Aerial views



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