Is this Cornwall’s best heritage attraction?

Visitor climbing the escape steps in Porthcurno's World War 2 tunnels

A visitor climbs the escape steps from Porthcurno’s unique underground telegraph station. The WW2 tunnels and escape steps, which are Grade II listed, are a highlight for thousands of visitors to the museum.

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is delighted to have been nominated in the Best Heritage Attraction category in the new Cornwall Today Awards. Cornwall Today magazine, which has developed the awards to celebrate all aspects of life in Cornwall, has invited people to cast their votes online now.

The nomination comes shortly after the museum won Gold in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year category at the Cornwall Tourism Awards in late 2012, and then scooped Bronze Small Visitor Attraction at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2013.

“We are very grateful to be nominated for this award alongside some of Cornwall’s best known and loved heritage attractions. These awards are a celebration of the very best of Cornwall and we are extremely proud to be recognised as a part of that.” Rachel Webster, Communications Officer, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

Cornwall Today Awards 2013 Best Heritage Attraction

Anyone can vote online across the 15 award categories, including Best Heritage Attraction.

People are being invited now to vote online across the 15 award categories. The results of the voting will be announced at an awards ceremony on Thursday 26th September 2013 at the Headland Hotel, Newquay.

Click here to vote now for Porthcurno Telegraph Museum >


Porthcurno archive moves to new £1m home

Preparation for the move has taken two years, during which time the museum’s Collections Team and volunteers have used over 700 acid-free boxes and 5,600 archival envelopes to package 595 shelves of historic volumes, documents, glass slides, maps, flags and photographs. The collection will share its new home with the Clore Learning Space; a flexible space for visiting schools, colleges, special interest groups and community groups.

Photograph of Collections Assistant Eleanor Mills checking off items as they arrive in new archive facility. Rows of roller racking containing archival boxes can be seen in the background.

Collections Management Assistant Eleanor Mills checks off boxes as they arrive in the new archive facility. The high-spec space is temperature and humidity controlled.

“The collection contains objects and documents that form the business archive of Cable & Wireless. This tells the story of Porthcurno, the telegraph and early wireless. That doesn’t just mean the ins and outs of the communication technology that shaped the world, but personal stories of the people involved. During its time as a training college, thousands of people have been through these doors and called Porthcurno home for a time. Many of them went on to be stationed all over the world, and this unique collection brings their stories to life.” Charlotte Dando, Collections Manager, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

Photograph of seven Porthcurno cable station students dressed in costume for an amateur theatrical production ot the Minack Theatre.

Archive records often illustrate the social life of students and staff at Porthcurno cable station. This photograph from 1968/1969 shows staff and students performing ‘Tobias and the Angel’ at the neighbouring Minack Theatre.

Moving such an archive is a painstaking process. 7255 brand new records have been added to the archive database with a further 12,426 database records being modified and improved. Over 2,300 items which were previously un-located in the archive have also been recorded. All of this means that, once the archive re-opens again later this summer, the academics, family researchers and local historians who visit the archive will have much improved access to a collection which is recognised as being of national and international importance.

“It is an extraordinary rarity to have an archive which is one hundred percent catalogued, because most archives, like ours, are acquiring new items and updating records as they learn more about the collection. There will still be a great deal of work to do once the archive has relocated, which means there will be volunteering opportunities for people who want to get hands on with a fascinating collection.” Charlotte Dando.

The task of physically moving the archive into its new home is a joint effort for staff and volunteers. A special behind-the-scenes events will take place on Sunday the 15th of September, coinciding with the national Heritage Open Days campaign. Collections Management Assistant Eleanor Mills describes what she hopes will be achieved;

“Archives can be a bit misunderstood. They are often seen as off-limits, or a bit scary for anyone who has never been to one before. But they are treasure troves for anyone interested in their local history or family history. The September open day will give people the opportunity to get closer to the collection, and find out how they can access the archive. I hope we can make more people aware of Porthcurno’s heritage and excited about archives in general.” Eleanor Mills.

The Porthcurno archive remains closed for visits and enquiries whilst it relocates. Normal access is expected to resume in August 2013. For more information about the September open day and other events, sign-up to the museum’s email newsletter:

Porthcurno archive closes before big move

As part of the museum’s development project, the Porthcurno archive and search room will shortly be moving from its current location in the main museum building, Eastern House, to a new purpose-built facility. Due to this, the search room and archive is now closed to public visits and enquiries whilst we relocate the archive. We regret we will be unable to respond to any archive enquiries during this time, and apologise for any inconvenience caused. Normal service is expected to resume in August, with a ‘behind-the-scenes’ event planned for later in the year.

Watch out for more news and latest photos of the new building, which also houses the Clore Learning Space, coming soon.

Student TV crew interviews Telegraph Museum development team

Taking part in BBC News School Report, a national annual takeover event, three students from years 7 and 9 of Penzance school Mounts Bay Academy visited recently to get the lowdown on our ‘Developing for the Future’ project.

The young production team consisted of Freyja, Year 9, producer and boom operator; Emma, Year 7, presenter; and Oscar, Year 7, presenter.

The students were the first members of the public to get behind the scenes of the new archive and Clore Learning Space, due to open later this year.

The students donned hard hats to interview Development Project Manager, Henrietta Boex, and Chris Williams, Project Manager with construction company Midas, on site.

“Although we spent a lot of time talking to people about design before construction began, the students from Mounts Bay Academy are the very first members of the public to have actually been inside the new archive and Clore Learning Space. They were a very professional and well prepared production team and asked some searching questions. We hope these young reporters will come back and follow up on their story once the building is fully open.” – Henrietta Boex, Development Project Manager.

Students Emma and Oscar with Project Manager Henrietta pictured inside the new archive facility alongside the brand new roller racking

Year 7 students Emma and Oscar interview Development Project Manager Henrietta alongside the new roller racking in the new archive facility.

This is not the first time the academy has taken part in the takeover project; last year a different group of students’ work featured in BBC School Report’s ‘Best of 2012’ highlights film. The project, which is now in its seventh year, aims to give UK students aged 11-16 the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience.

The Porthcurno report and other films produced by the students can be viewed on the Mounts Bay Academy website where you can also leave feedback for the students:

We hope the students of Mounts Bay Academy will return to inspect the site and its new facilities once the building is completed.

Latest photos from site

The new archive and Clore Learning Space is evolving at a rapid pace, and a recent site tour on a cold but bright day revealed the light and airy nature of the new space. With rows and rows of roller racking now in place, the archive appears hungry for the many thousands of documents, photographs and objects that will soon be at home here. With around 27 trades people currently on site, the building is already buzzing with activity and museum staff and volunteers can begin to get a sense of how the building will perform for visiting schools, community groups and researchers.

A behind-the-scenes event is currently being planned to coincide with national Heritage Open Weekend in September. Details of that event will appear on this blog as soon as they are available.

Got a question about the project? Here’s how to get in touch:
Media enquiries: Rachel Webster, Communications Officer
T: 01736 811915 E:

Project enquiries: Henrietta Boex, Development Project Manager
T: 01736 810966 E:


Looking back towards the main museum building, Eastern House. Photographed 14 March 2013.

Roller racking in the new archive space

Our Collections Team has been working for several months to prepare thousands of documents, photographs and objects for relocation. This space will be handed over to them in the coming months.

Search room and digitisation suite

The search room is where visiting family historians and academic researchers will be able to access archive documents. The space is also expected to be used frequently by the Local History Group.

Linking glass-fronted corridor from search room to Clore Learning Space

This linking area connects the search room and archive facilities to the Clore Learning Space. With one side of the building tucked into the landscape, the glass front makes the most of Porthcurno’s beautiful natural light.

The Clore Learning Space with v-shape roof and high-level windows

The flexible new learning space is filled with natural light, thanks to windows on both sides. The beautiful, heavy wooden beams of the distinctive V-shaped roof add warmth.


V-shape roof as viewed from main museum building with sea view in background

Stood outside the existing archive in Eastern House, looking down towards the new building. The distinctive roof design echoes the natural landscape of Porthcurno valley.

£150,000 towards boosting coastal communities

Coastal Communities Fund logo 2013We are delighted to announce an award of £149,587 by the Coastal Communities Fund towards our capital project, ‘Developing for the Future.’ The award was announced today by Community Secretary Eric Pickles and will help to fund the two-phase project, due for completion in 2014.

“We are delighted by news of the Coastal Communities Fund award. For 140 years Porthcurno was an important hub of global communications and known internationally. Our project aims to tell this story but also to spread the benefit of development to local communities through opportunities for enjoyment, learning, volunteering and employment.” – Henrietta Boex, Development Project Manager.

Phase one of the project is the construction of the new archive and Clore Learning Space; due to open later this year. The learning space will provide a hub for visiting schools, community groups, family researchers and academics whilst the state-of-the-art archive will house some 2782 objects and over 18,000 documents… and counting!

In this, the second round of Coastal Communities funding, twenty seaside projects in England have received grants of up to £2.6 million to use on projects that will deliver almost 4,000 jobs, support 250 new business start-ups, and create more than 1,500 apprenticeships and 400 volunteering opportunities.

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum’s own project is expected to create 5 new full time posts (some of which have already been filled) as well as new volunteering opportunities. Additional employment opportunities are expected to be created indirectly through construction, exhibition design and installation and later on for the local producers who will supply the museum’s new cafe.

For more information about the Coastal Communities Fund, see:

Museum re-opens following collection move

Throughout January our brilliant volunteers have been hard at working moving our collection of 1920s telegraph equipment. The collection, known as ‘regen’, is now the first thing visitors will see (and hear!) on entering the WW2 tunnels.

From this weekend the museum returns to normal winter opening (every Sunday and Monday, 10:00 am until 5:00 pm) with introductory talks running throughout the day.


Watch out for more details on the challenges of moving an irreplaceable collection of historic objects in the next issue of our quarterly magazine, PK News. (Not subscribed yet? Become a Friend of the museum online now: )