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About the Emergency Planning College

The History of The Hawkhills

The Hawkhills estate stands in grounds which were once part of the Royal Forest of Galtres. The house grew from an early eighteenth century Queen Anne farmhouse with Georgian additions of hall and drawing room to its present structure. In 1874 Captain JWM Walker, owner of the estate at that time, sold the land and property to Joseph Love, a Durham coal–mine owner, and Joseph's 20–year old grandson, Joseph Horatio.

In January 1875, Joseph contracted gastric fever and, shortly before he died, transferred his share solely to his grandson “in consideration of the natural love and affection” which he had towards him.


Katharine Love

By the 1890s, Joseph Horatio, now married to his wife Katharine and with whom he had three daughters, had carried out extensive Victorian additions and improvements to the property, including its electrification, as well as landscaping the grounds and gardens. He bought areas of land and property building up a 2,283 acre estate making him one of the principal landowners in the area.

Together, Joseph and Katharine were influential in Easingwold, not only by their financial support of the community but also by their prominence on local boards and committees. In 1887, Joseph became one of the first Directors of the Easingwold Railway. Katharine, known affectionately as “Lady Bountiful”, provided the means to build St Monica's Hospital, opened in 1893, and, unarguably is still a great living legacy to her.


The Hawkhills, early 1900s

Sadly, the marriage failed and Joseph moved to Kent where he died in 1935.

After Katharine's death in January 1936 at the age of 76, the estate was sold at auction but it was in 1937 that the Ministry of Works bought the house and some of the land from a property developer for the sum of £12,150.

The Hawkhills became the second of two Anti–Gas Training Schools set up at that time, the first being at Falfield in Gloucestershire. With Commander FH Austen OBE as its first Commandant, the first course was held in December 1937. It remained an Anti–Gas School (later known as Air Raid Precautions School) from 1937 until the end of the war when it became a Home Office Police Training School.

When the 1948 Civil Defence Act was passed, the Hawkhills became one of three Civil Defence Schools, training instructors in rescue, welfare, scientific roles, as wardens and in ambulance and emergency headquarters duties. After the Civil Defence Corps was disbanded in 1968, all other Home Defence establishments were closed and training was centralised at the Hawkhills. The transformation from school to college came in 1983 following the introduction of the 1983 Civil Defence Regulations.

The title and remit of the establishment were once again changed in 1989 when, after the end of the Cold War, the UK suffered a number of serious major incidents such as the Bradford Football Stadium fire, the Lockerbie air disaster and the Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster.

The Emergency Planning College is now the leading provider of training in emergency preparedness, attracting delegates with responsibility for preventing, planning for, responding to or recovering from a major incident.

Susan Thorn

Susan Thorn joined the College staff in 1989 and is the third generation of her family to work at the Hawkhills. Her grandfather Len Toase, joined the staff when the house/estate was bought by the Ministry of Works in 1937. Her father, Des Toase followed in 1952, retiring after 40 years' service.