Marconi Centre Celebrates Centenary

By David Prudames | 14 December 2001
Marconi Centre opens fully in new year
Left: the Marconi Centre will open fully to visitors in the new year. Photo: National Trust.

On December 12, one hundred years after the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission was made by Guglielmo Marconi, a visitor centre dedicated to his achievement was opened in Poldhu, Cornwall.

Marconi monument
Right: the Marconi monument at Poldhu. Photo: National Trust.
View of early Poldhu installation
Right: View of the first installation at Poldhu. Image courtesy of Marconi Plc.

The Marconi Centre overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on the site that on December 12, 1901, played host to the transmission that paved the way for long-distance communication.

The £350,000 Centre houses an interactive exhibition about Marconi, a multi-media presentation on the history of Poldhu and communications in Cornwall and computer links to Marconi Plc's archive collection on their founder.

It will also be home to the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club. Club members John and Caroline Rule worked tirelessly to make the commemoration and the centre possible.

50 years of radio at Poldhu celebrated in 1951
Right: some of the earliest staff employed by Marconi at the Poldhu station at the 50th anniversary celebration of the bridging of the Atlantic by wireless in 1951. Courtesy Marconi Plc.

Built and funded by Poldhu Amateur Radio Club, the National Trust, Marconi Plc and the Objective One Partnership for Cornwall and Scilly, the centre aims to provide a major educational resource and tourist attraction to boost the local economy and highlight Cornwall's role in world radio communications.

Nick Lawrence, National Trust Area Manager, said: "The Marconi Centre represents another chapter in the continuing history of Cornwall and its links with world communication."

One hundred years ago Marconi questioned the orthodox scientific belief that radio waves, travelling in straight lines, would not be able to adjust to the curvature of the earth. He built a transmitter at Poldhu then travelled to Signal Point, Newfoundland, Canada, where he successfully received the Morse Code signal "s" 1,700 miles away.

Early transmitter at Poldhu
Right: Early transmitter at Poldhu. Image courtesy Marconi.

The original buildings and radio masts were knocked down in 1934, but their foundations can still be seen on the cliff-top site outside the village of Mullion in Southwest Cornwall.

As part of the December 12 celebrations, messages were sent between Poldhu and radio amateurs throughout the world culminating in Marconi's grandson, Guglielmo, re-enacting the historic transmission and linking up with Newfoundland.

As a tribute to Marconi the Royal Navy's Thunderer Signals Squadron have gone back to basics and built their own "Spark-gap Transmitter" similar to that used a hundred years ago. On December 13, 2001, together with a team of U.S. and Canadian Navy signals experts the team succeeded in re-creating Marconi's historic transmission across the Atlantic.

Royal Navy experts recreate the Marconi signal using a spark gap transmitter.
Left: Thunderer set up their restored spark gap transmitter at Poldhu.

News about this amazing experiment can be found on their website at www.soton.ac.uk/~thunder/atlantic-leap/

Opening hours for the visitor centre have yet to be confirmed, but will be added to our museum finder database as soon as possible.

Find out more about the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club by clicking here and visit the local village website, which also links to the Marconi Commemoration pages.

Also in Cornwall there is the superb Museum of Submarine Telegraphy at Porthcurno. This is also well worth a visit and the Museum can be explored online at: www.porthcurno.org.uk/. Have a look at their museum finder page here.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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