Wireless success at Knowles Farm

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In the early 20th century, Knowles Farm on St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight was the remote place from where Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) made a breakthrough in the field of communications. Discover its history.

Nobility at Knowles Farm
In 1270, Richard Knol was bailiff of Niton - it's thought Knowles Farm was named for him. It forms part of the estate situated at the western edge of the Undercliff, which stretches from Gore Cliff in the north down to the shore.

The estate has been owned by various eminent families. These include the Worsleys, many of whom were baronets and MPs on the Isle of Wight, and the Meux – a family of London brewers.

And a future Nobel Prize winner...
The most famous person to live at Knowles is Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian credited as the inventor of radio and who set up his own wireless telegraphy company.

Failing to gain recognition in Italy for his experimental work, he came to London in 1896, at 21. In 1909, he was joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Marconi's work on the Isle of Wight
Marconi set up an experimental radio station at Alum Bay in December 1897 and transmitted from the Needles to Bournemouth. However, he wanted somewhere with better range, reception and a stronger signal.

He decided Knowles Farm would be ideal. In 1900, he dismantled and moved his equipment. George Marvin, a yacht builder from Cowes, built him a new communication mast (they had to knock down a few walls to get it along the narrow road to the farm).

In the 1920s, a farmer chopped up the now redundant mast to make ladders but its concrete base remains in the field to the south of the farmhouse. Marconi lived in the farmhouse and used the cottage next door for his pioneering radio experiments - and to design the first selectively tuned transmitting equipment.

The first transmission
Knowles Farm proved to be an inspired choice - the following year he succeeded in making contact with his new radio station at Lizard Point, Cornwall.

This was 196 miles away - the furthest distance radio waves had ever travelled. The first private ship-to-shore radio message was also received at Knowles Farm from the Solent.