Grid Ref NY 179581


The remote village of Anthorn, sited on a blunt peninsula 13 miles west of Carlisle, was once home to a busy, thriving Naval air-station. Originally a WWI landing-strip in the vicinity of the now-demolished Solway House, the site was reinstated by the RAF at the start of WWII as an emergency landing ground for RAF Silloth.


The Royal Navy took over the site in December 1942, building RNAS Anthorn, eventually being commissioned in September 1944, and given the title ‘HMS Nuthatch’. The base closed down in March 1958.



The site of the former RNAS Anthorn is now a Very Low Frequency (VLF) transmitter station, which is used for transmitting orders to submarines. The site is not open to the public.


Anthorn sits on the north bank of the Wampool estuary by the shores of the Solway Firth. Much of this mossy land was drained in the 1800s for agricultural use, but mudflats and tidal sands still dominate the landscape. A number of species of birds can be spotted in the marshes.


The village itself is largely formed from the Admiralty houses which were constructed in 1952.


By the side of the road, just past one of the entrances to the radio station, and concealed by low gorse bushes, is an ancient cross, easily missed and rather unimpressive, which probably marked the boundary of the local monastery at Holme Cultram.


Near the cross is a tower known locally as St Mary’s tower, and said to be the place where Mary Queen of Scots was supposedly held prisoner on her way south to England in 1568.



Anthorn’s name means ‘the single thorn bush’. Before the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, salt was panned in the area by Holme Cultram abbey.


From 1st April 2007, the time signal, which has been broadcast from Rugby for many years, will be broadcast from the VT Communications site at Anthorn.


The time signal is generated by the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex, and boasts an accuracy of one second – otherwise defined as 9,192,631,770 periods of the caesium-133 atom – in 15m years.


The best known manifestation of the NPL time signal is the BBC’s “pips” but it is widely used in the transport and financial services sectors, among others. Banks use the signal to calculate to the last second how long they have held interest bearing balances, Network Rail uses it to help the trains run on time and for power generators the signal helps to coordinate switching output from one station to another.


The time signal is also used by speed cameras, and by digital set-top boxes.


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