The tiny coastal village of Porthcurno, located in West Cornwall, was once the heart of international telecommunications, boasting the largest telegraph station in the world. As the G7 summit drew to a close last week, it was interesting to reflect that the leaders were meeting in Cornwall – a place that has a long history of global connectivity.
One hundred and fifty years ago the first telegraphic communications from India and Australia were sent via a cable which came ashore at Porthcurno beach and were received at the cable station in the Porthcurno valley. The station rapidly took on a global significance with the formation of companies by Sir John Pender including the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1872, and the Eastern Extension Australasia and China. It eventually became the busiest telegraph station in the world.
People from all over the world came to Cornwall to be trained. New ideas spread to other parts of the globe and through the company Cable and Wireless (which had origins in Pender’s Eastern Telegraph company and Marconi Wireless), the name Porthcurno was identified with excellence and expertise in international communication.
Today, Porthcurno valley is home to PK Porthcurno: Museum of Global Communications. Housing one of the most important collections of instruments and documents in the world covering the past 150 years - from telegraphic communication to fibre optic communication. The vast collection includes, for example, cable samples, company minute books, photographs, films and much more from all the countries that participated in the G7 summit as well as India and Australia. These include sections of the first cross channel cables (1851), samples of the Atlantic cable crossing, samples of the first transatlantic telephone cable (1956), published works relating to the development of commonwealth telephone cable connections and published works relating to wireless communication particularly Marconi’s beam network.
Technology has progressed and Cornwall has become a hub of communication for today’s digital economy. The cables are now, of course, fibre optic cables. Fifteen cables come ashore at Porthcurno, Sennen Cove, Goonhilly and Bude and connect to all the G7 countries (except Canada). We connect to seven cities on the East Coast of the USA (Island Park, NY, Northport, NY, Manasquan, NJ, Shirley, NY, Bellport, NY Lynn, MA, Brookhaven, NY) six in France (Lannion, Plerin, LePorge, Marseille, St Valery-en-Caux, Penmarch) three in Italy (Palermo, Mazara del Vallo, Genoa), two in Japan (Miura, Okinawa), two in Germany (Norden, Sylt), two in India (Mumbai – two cables, Cochin), one in South Korea (Geoje- two cables) and one in Australia (Perth).
Since the first undersea cable connected Britain with India via Porthcurno over 150 years ago, it is fitting and significant that the G7 leaders met in Cornwall, the birthplace of global communications, and a recognised leader in digital excellence and innovation today.
VISIT PK PORTHCURNO – MUSEUM OF GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS
PK Porthcurno welcomes visitors from all over the world, and is a vibrant and captivating heritage attraction that comprises of World War II tunnels, the secret hub of Britain’s wartime communications; the Cable Hut where Britain’s network of undersea telecommunication cables came ashore; exhibitions and interactive displays telling the amazing story of global telecommunications, from the first practical use of electricity to how we communicate today using fibre optic cables that still run beneath the world's seas and oceans.
New exhibitions for 2021:
The Cable King explores the remarkable story of communications pioneer Sir John Pender.
Lights Out For Darker Skies explores the harmful effects of artificial light pollution on humans, wildlife, and the environment. Featuring stunning dark sky images and nocturnal wildlife footage
17 MAY – 31 OCTOBER
10:00 – 17:00 DAILY
Last entry at 16:00. Pre-book tickets online for timed entry admission.
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