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Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

porthcurno telegraph museum

Discover Technology’s Past at Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

Just a sandy stroll from the sweeping beach at Porthcurno near Land’s End, the fascinating Porthcurno Telegraph Museum resides in buildings once humming with activity relaying mid-1800 telegraph messages between Britain and far-flung continents.

Alongside open air displays housing hulking machines, subterranean tunnels now reveal stories of Cornwall’s vital role pioneering global communication technology through interactive exhibits aimed at inquisitive young minds.

With Morse code keys begging to tapped, memories digitised by vintage equipment and first transatlantic cable dashes recreated alongside escape room team challenges, Porthcurno’s telegraph treasures promise an intriguing technology-themed family day out discovering communication innovations emerging from this quiet corner of Cornwall.

telegraph museum

Getting There

The Telegraph Museum sits on the cliffs 300m east of Porthcurno beach, 8 miles from Land’s End. Well signed from the B3315 coast road, it has a large dedicated visitors’ car park. There are charges for the car park.

By public transport, regular buses connect Penzance with Porthcurno and if you show your bus ticket at reception, you will get a discount of 10%.

Opening Times and Prices

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum opens daily:

March – October: 10am – 5pm
November – February: 10am – 4pm

During the winter, the museum is closed on Thursdays and Fridays.

Entry prices are:

  • Adult £10
  • Child £6
  • Students £9
  • Family £30
  • Under 5 Free

Members enter free while gift aid tickets offer discounted rates.

Members of English Heritage and Blue Light Card holders will get a 50% discount, while Blue Peter Badge holders can enter for free.

porthcurno telegraph museum garden

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum History

Porthcurno Telegraph, often abbreviated as PK, holds a significant place in the history of global communication.

The story begins in 1870 when the Eastern Telegraph Company chose Porthcurno as the landing site for the submarine telegraph cable that connected England with India and the Far East. The site offered a sheltered bay and a strategic location, making it an ideal spot for such a vital communication link. Porthcurno’s geographic advantage played a pivotal role in its selection, ensuring the reliability of the telegraph connections.

As telegraphy became an essential means of global communication, Porthcurno expanded its infrastructure to accommodate the increasing demand for telegraphic services. The telegraph station at Porthcurno became one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the world, handling vast amounts of telegraphic traffic.

The name “PK” is derived from the first two letters of Porthcurno, serving as an informal and convenient abbreviation. Over time, the site gained fame and recognition under this shortened moniker within the telecommunication industry.

Porthcurno Telegraph played a crucial role during significant historical events, such as both World Wars, where communication across vast distances was essential for military and diplomatic purposes. The telegraph station continued to operate until the mid-20th century, after which advancements in communication technology, such as satellites and fiber optics, made undersea telegraph cables obsolete.

Today, Porthcurno stands as a historical site and museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the fascinating history of global communication.

porthcurno telegraph history

Underground tunnels

The highlight for curious kids is escaping into Porthcurno’s subterranean tunnels housing important telegraphic equipment keeping global communications flowing from 1870-1970:

  • See original Victorian machinery powered by roaring coal furnaces automating telegraphy tasks like cable winding.
  • Follow experimental mid-20th century coaxial and fibre optic lines that evolved into today’s internet.
  • Use Morse Code transmitters tapping messages or try teleprinting prototypes – precursors to modern day texting!
internal porthcurno telegraph museum

Wartime Secrets

Porthcurno played key communication command headquarters coordinating Allied efforts against German WW2 air and sea attacks thanks to its strategic but secluded location.

Porthcurno Telegraph was pivotal in facilitating communication that was essential for military operations and diplomatic exchanges. The telegraph station, strategically located on the southwestern coast of England, became a vital hub for transmitting crucial information across the globe.

As a major telecommunication center, Porthcurno facilitated encrypted communications between military commanders, intelligence agencies, and government officials. The telegraph cables that landed at Porthcurno connected the United Kingdom with distant regions, including key theaters of war in Asia and the Middle East. This allowed for swift and secure transmission of orders, intelligence reports, and diplomatic messages.

The importance of Porthcurno during WW2 was underscored by the fact that the Axis powers recognized the strategic significance of disrupting global communication. Consequently, the site was heavily guarded and protected against potential sabotage attempts. The efficient and reliable telegraphy infrastructure at Porthcurno played a critical role in maintaining communication links that were instrumental in the Allied war effort.

Younger visitors can unravel history by assuming undercover identities trying to crack Enigma codes used to secretly direct forces on D-Day or during the Dunkirk evacuation within the museum’s special new immersive escape room challenges.

telegraph museum

Outdoor Exhibits

In the open air, find even more technological treasures:

  • Scramble right inside WWII sound mirror acoustic dishes once predicting approaching enemy aircraft.
  • Explore testing sheds housing era-spanning transmitters from spark gap prototypes through to transistor radios.
  • Crank handle generator dynamos powering electric currents.

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum Cafe

Nestled within the historical charm of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is a delightful cafe that offers a perfect blend of relaxation and indulgence. With its cozy ambiance and panoramic views of the scenic Cornish coastline, the cafe provides a tranquil retreat for visitors. Whether you’re winding down after exploring the museum or simply savoring the breathtaking surroundings, the cafe is a haven for refreshment.

The menu showcases a selection of locally sourced, artisanal treats, from freshly brewed coffees to delectable pastries and light lunches. Visitors can enjoy their meals on the outdoor terrace, soaking in the maritime atmosphere. The cafe’s commitment to quality and sustainability enhances the overall experience, making it a welcoming space where the flavors of Cornwall complement the rich history of global communication that unfolds within the museum’s walls. It’s a culinary pause that adds a touch of modern comfort to the historical journey offered by the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

cafe at porthcurno telegraph museum

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed? Yes, dogs are welcome throught the Museum, except for in the WW2 bunker.

Is Porthcurno Telegraph Museum wheelchair accessible? – Yes, the museum is wheelchair frinedly throughout.

How long do I need for a visit to the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum? – Ideally, you should allow 2-3 hours.

Why is Porthcurno known as PK? This comes from the old station handle ‘PK’ used by telegraphers when communicating from station to station.

Other attractions nearby

  • Porthcurno Beach – Right next to the museum lies this stunning sandy beach flanked by imposing rocky cliffs. Great for swimming or just taking in beautiful seaside views.
  • Minack Theatre – This incredible clifftop theatre carved into the granite cliff allows visitors to take in open-air shows framed by the sea and landscapes. Catch a summer performance.
  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary – Just 3 miles up the coast, this marine wildlife sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates injured seals while also hosting penguins, sea birds, otters and other animals. An inspiring attraction.
  • Land’s End – The iconic westernmost point of mainland England featuring stunning and rugged coastal scenery. Pose for photos at the landmark signs marking the end of the country.
  • Cape Cornwall – Nearby headland topped with an old chimney stack from former tin mining operations. Offers panoramic views of rocky coastlines dotted with abandoned mine buildings.
  • Levant Mine – Tour the claustrophobic tunnels and see the huge Victorian beam engine of this tin and copper mine dating from the 19th century with parts extending into the sea.
  • St Michael’s Mount – Just across Mount’s Bay lies this tidal island topped with a medieval church and castle that is accessible by causeway or boat. Explore the quaint village and gardens.
  • Geevor Tin Mine – Visit the ruins, museum, and underground tour of this historic tin mine to understand Cornwall’s storied mining heritage and the lives of past miners.
  • Penzance Promenade – Wander along Penzance’s picturesque promenade for striking views of St Michael’s Mount and Newlyn Harbour, or visit the subtropical gardens right by the sea.
  • St Ives – Just 13 miles away lies this picturesque seaside town renowned for its arts scene. Visit world-class galleries like the Tate St Ives plus charming shops and beaches.

With frothy seas providing atmospheric backdrops behind displays housing Cornwall’s global communication advancements, the stories surrounding Porthcurno’s telegraph relics make for an educational family day out.

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