We learnt a little morse code..
You are first welcomed to the museum by Morgy the squid. A huge red interactive tool of a squid to be more precise! He works much the same way as tin-can phones that our grandparents used to play with. Try chatting down one of his tentacles and listen for what you hear in return. On entering the museum, we were greeted by a very friendly receptionist who greeted us and Toast (the dog), we passed through the shop area where you will find a National award-winning ‘Best Product’ Morse Code blanket made in collaboration with Atlantic Blankets – with the motto ‘Oceans will not divide us’. There are gifts for everyone there so be sure to browse before leaving. We paid our entrance fee of £10 per adult and also paid Gift Aid which means we can go back as many times as we like in the next 12 months. We started our tour by taking the stairs up to the main museum and were greeted by an information board charting the time it takes to communicate to the rest of the world.
Before the arrival of the telegraph station at Porthcurno it was practically uninhabited. In 1877, the operational staff were 4 married men and 32 bachelors and between them an average of 600 messages were handled daily.
The museum walks you through the discovery of electricity and how this was harnessed to make practical use of it. It charts the invention of the electric telegraph in Britain in the first half of the 19th century with an immaculately preserved first-ever five-needle telegraph instrument invented by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone. In 1832, Samuel Morse wanted to overcome the delays in long-distance communication after tragically his wife was taken ill while he was working away from home and, by the time he had received the message, she had sadly died and he even missed her funeral. Morse produced his first telegraph instrument in 1837 and teamed up with two other inventors; Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail to simplify the initial design to produce the dots and dashes we recognise today as Morse code. Billie and I had a go at communicating via Morse code and managed, after much effort and hilarity, to say ”hi”!
In 1845, a dark and sinister event pushed the telegraph into the public awareness. A man called John Tawell travelled by train from Paddington to Slough with the intent to kill his ex-lover. He committed his crime and made his escape by hot-footing it back to London on the next train disguised as a Quaker. He had felt certain, once on the train, that he was going to get away with the dastardly deed. But, what he didn’t know was that he was seen getting on the train and Slough was one of the few stations with a telegraph office! His description was ‘cabled’ through to London and he was caught and arrested when he arrived in London.
A large screen towards the back of the museum plays an information packed video on a loop so don’t worry if you walk in when it’s halfway through. It charts the history of the telegraph station from inception through the war years and then as a telecommunications college in the 1990’s.
In 1911, the below quotation was written when Porthcurno was the hub of Britain’s communications network.
At every minute of the day and night Porthcurno is in communication with some portion of the Empire or the world at large; into the peaceful cove where the cables rise from the sea flow messages which have travelled thousands of miles under tropical oceans and across burning deserts
The museum is interactive where you can get hands-on and make sense of the information given. From lifting a tiny section of cable to appreciate its weight, communicating morse code, getting to grips with electromagnetism, communicating with flags and crawling into cubby holes, the museum is a perfect way to entertain the family of all ages. We highly recommend it!