The village of Porthcurno is situated on Cornwall’s south coast, approximately 10km from Penzance Town and 4km from Land’s End, and is home to some of Cornwall’s well-known attractions including the Minack Theatre and Telegraph Museum.
The name, Porthcurno derives from 16th century Cornish spelling, ‘Porth Cornowe’ which means ‘cove or landing place of horns or pinnacles’. This is in reference to the granite rock formations found across the cliffs and coastlines, which have been officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For a small village, Porthcurno is widely known for its history as a major international submarine communications cable station. The first submarine telegraph cable was landed on Porthcurno beach in 1870 from Portugal. Sir John Pender, who created the company who laid the first cable, had intended to use Falmouth as the UK’s first landing place, however, in the town’s busy port there was a high risk of damaging the cables on ships anchors so the cable came ashore at Porthcurno. Other early cables stretched to Vigo, Gibraltar and Madeira.
The first telegraph station was built in 1870 and had several extensions over the years, to accommodate the growing numbers of cables and staff. During the inter-war years, the station operated up to 14 cables and, for a time, became the largest submarine station worldwide.
Over the years, the station attracted many telegraphy apprentices before 1950 saw the opening of a Porthcurno engineering college. In 1970, 100 years after the first cable was landed, the telegraph station closed, however, the college continued to flourish until it’s isolation from other towns caused it too to shut its doors in 1993.
The rich history of this remarkable little village, led to the opening of the Telegraph Museum in 1998 which now houses archives from Porthcurno’s communication legacy.