The Hawkhills is sited in that part of the Vale of York which became known as the Forest of Galtres, a Royal Forest from the days of the earliest Norman kings of England. The name "Galtres" is of Scandinavian origin and means "boars' brushwood". Part of the forest known as the "great covert" was woodland devoted entirely to game, an essential element in the royal economy of the period, and a hunting rest in various forms stood on or near the present site of the College from Saxon times before housing development began.
In 1630 the Temple Newsham papers record the plan for clearing the Forest of Galtres, the King having decided upon felling the forest in the previous year. The document makes specific reference to "Grounds called Hawk Hills and the Shires of about 687 acres".
Little is known of early dwellings but the original part of the existing house was built as a farm in the Queen Anne period.
Previously owned by Capt JWM Walker, Joseph Love JP of Mount Beulah, Durham bought the estate in the early-1870s for his grandson, Joseph Horatio "in consideration of the natural love and affection" which he had towards him.
By 1890, Joseph Horatio had engaged a firm of London architects to prepare plans for enlarging the house, including the installation of electric lighting, at a cost of £12,000. He also landscaped the grounds developing lawns, the parkland and, of course, the Victorian kitchen garden now known as the Orchard.
Over a number of years, Joseph acquired neighbouring land building up the Hawkhills Estate to such an extent that he became the principal landowner in the Easingwold area.
The Hawkhills remained in use as a private house until after the deaths of Joseph Horatio Love in 1935 and his wife, Katharine in 1936 when, in 1937, the Ministry of Works bought the estate buildings and some of the land for the princely sum of £12,150.
With WWII looming and the increasing fear of the country being subject to gas attack, Hawkhills became the second of two Home Office Anti-Gas Schools (later known as the Air Raid Precautions School), the first being at Falfield in Gloucestershire. The first training course was held in December 1937 and its Commandant from then until 1953 was Commander FH Austen OBE. At the end of WWII Hawkhills became a Home Office Police Training School.
Following the introduction of the 1948 Civil Defence Act Hawkhills then became one of three Civil Defence Schools, the other two being its sister establishment in Falfield and also at Taymouth Castle, Scotland. Training was centralised at Hawkhills with the disbandment in 1968 of the Civil Defence Corps and the closing of the other establishments as well as the Civil Defence Staff College at Sunningdale.
Around the end of the Cold War, following a number of serious major incidents such as the Bradford Football Stadium fire, the Lockerbie air disaster and the Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster, the role of the College was again changed from preparing for the aftermath of nuclear attack to preparation for peacetime disasters bringing with it the new title of Emergency Planning College. Machinery of Government changes following the General Election of 2001 found the work of the College being transferred from the Home Office Emergency Planning Division to the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat.
Information taken from "The History of Easingwold and the Forest of Galtres" by Geoffrey C Cowling MA and from research carried out by Susan Thorn, Hawkhills Historian.