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The history of the Marconi radio stations on Lizard Point

The Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point, Cornwall
The Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/David Sellman

In 1900 the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi undertook ground-breaking wireless experiments on The Lizard. With determination and vision, he developed technology on these remote Cornish clifftops that paved the way for today’s instant worldwide communication.

The Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point

Marconi was staying at the Housel Bay Hotel when he chose a nearby headland to set up the Lizard Wireless Telegraph Station.

In January 1901, in simple wooden huts, Marconi received a transmission from the Isle of Wight over 180 miles away, proving that radio would work over the horizon – something that many scientists thought impossible. Having two radio stations just six miles apart gave Marconi the perfect opportunity to work on tuning and interference.

Ship-to-shore messages

Marconi was quick to develop the commercial potential of radio. Lizard Wireless Station was one of a dozen coastal UK stations which handled ship-to-shore messages, for a fee. It was the first coastal radio station to receive an SOS call when in 1910 the Minnehaha, aground off the Isles of Scilly, radioed for help.

Restoration complete

The radio station has been restored to how it would have looked in Marconi’s day. One of the two huts, with a dramatic view across Housel Bay, is now a National Trust holiday cottage.

The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall
The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/David Sellman

The Poldhu Marconi Centre

Buoyed by his achievements, Marconi set his sights on an even more ambitious goal, spanning the Atlantic with radio waves. He chose a site above the sandy cove at Poldhu, near Mullion, for his European station. Four huge masts were constructed, 65m tall, the foundations of which can still be seen today.  On 12 December 1901 Marconi sent the signal ‘s’ from Poldhu to Newfoundland, a distance of 2,100 miles.

A royal visit

This achievement rightly received much accolade, with the station being visited by the future King and Queen in 1903. Marconi later used Poldhu for his shortwave experiments from which he developed the Beam Wireless Service for the British General Post Office.

An opening for the centenary

The station at Poldhu operated until 1933 and the site was later cleared. In 2001 the Marconi Centre was opened by the National Trust and Marconi PLC to mark the centenary of his transatlantic signal.

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