Celebrating the telegraph this National Poetry Day

Appearing in Punch magazine on 9th July 1870, this poem celebrated the recent completion of the Porthcurno-Bombay undersea telegraph cable in mock-heroic style. It followed the first exhibition of the Siphon Recorder at John Pender’s Arlington Street, London address- a demonstration which was witnessed by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.

Tempus Fugit
When Piccadilly’s ablaze, in the height and the heat of the season –

Rises a gaily hung tent in the yard of the mansion of Pender –
Mansion belit and bepictured and crowded with stateliest swelldom,
Swelldom that, down from blood royal, in Wales and in Cambridge embodied,
Flows through the pipes of the Peerage – Diplomacy – Ministers – Members –
Thence to the Magnates of Money and so to the syndics of Science.
Ceaseless the buzz and the bowing, the flashing of stars and garters,
Ceaseless the mopping of bows and imbibing of cooling refreshments,
Endless the glare and the glitter and gossip – the wealth and the wittles,
What have they met to accomplish, these leaders of fashion and science?
What is it brings them together, before the small siphon that, waving,
Scatters ifs fine jet of ink in accord with the pulses electric,
So making plain to the eye what the spark through the wire is conveying;
What is transacting tonight in the tent in the mansion of Pender?
Lo, ‘tis Britannia stretching invisible hands under ocean,
Bringing the furthermost East and the uttermost West into contact;
So does the spark of our wires outpace e’en the fleet foot of Chronos!
Miracle-workers are we – sitting here in the mansion of Pender,
Gossiping thus at our ease, over Continents, Hemispheres, Oceans,
Saying to space “Be no more,” and to baffled Time, “Get thou behind me!”

Lord Kelvin's Siphon Recorder

This original Siphon Recorder is one of the ten original Recorders used on the 1870 Porthcurno – Bombay undersea telegraph cable. This one has until recently been on display in Porthcurno’s famous WW2 tunnels, and will feature in the museum’s new exhibitions, opening in summer 2014. The only other example known to have survived is in the collection of the Science Museum, London.



New Archive and Clore Learning Space officially opened

Lord Pender of Porthcurno has officially opened our new Archive and Clore Learning Space, marking the completion of phase one of ‘Developing for the Future.’

L to R: Tamsin Daniel, HLF; Lord Pender, Patron of The PK Trust; Dave Foot, Chariman of The PK Trust; Mark George, Chief Executive of Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

L to R: Tamsin Daniel, HLF; Lord Pender, Patron of The PK Trust; Dave Foot, Chairman of The PK Trust; Mark George, Chief Executive of Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

Following a celebratory day which saw a record-busting number of visitors, the museum has now closed its doors to the public whilst we continue with building work in the main museum buildings. We look forward to re-opening in summer 2014 with new visitor facilities and exciting new exhibitions.

“We are not closing completely. The new Clore Learning Space will open on special day for family events and activities, as well as our regular Ideas Cafe evening talks. We will continue to welcome school and college groups and we’ll also be holding community consultation sessions in the new space. Researchers who want to access Porthcurno’s archive are already benefiting from the fantastic new facilities including a new search room and digitisation facilities.” Rachel Webster, Communications Officer, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

It is fitting that Lord Pender, the third Baron of Porthcurno and great-great-grandson of the telegraph pioneer John Pender, should unveil the commemorative plaque at the entrance to the new building; his ancestors’ portrait hangs in the new climate-controlled archive store which houses over 18,000 records.

Collections Manager Charlotte Dando shows a group of guests around the new archive store.

Collections Manager Charlotte Dando shows a group of guests around the new archive store.

The museum’s project to develop for a growing and diverse audience has attracted funding from the DCMS/Wolfson Fund, the Coastal Communities Fund, the Clore Duffield Foundation, and Cornwall Council amongst others. For a full list of project funders, see the museum website. Heading up this support is the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) who awarded the museum a grant of £1.44m in early 2012.

The opening of the new building also provided an opportunity to welcome the museum’s first Chief Executive, Mark George, newly in post. Relocating to West Cornwall to take up the new position, Mark recently headed the Heritage Lottery funded development of Chedworth Roman Villa and has spent 16 years in various roles with the National Trust. Mark’s role will be to lead the organisation, working alongside the Development Project Team, to secure the long term sustainability of the site.

The new building has been designed by award-winning architects Long & Kentish.

The new building has been designed by award-winning architects Long & Kentish.

Beyond the horizon: a digital postcard from Porthcurno Telegraph Museum


Here’s our brand new 2-minute digital postcard, produced in collaboration with the For Cornwall museums partnership, and Visit Cornwall. With thanks to the Arts Council England and Sound View Media. Let us know what you think!

Please feel free to comment, and share with your own networks, re-blog, etc.

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 >

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: rachel.webster@porthcurno.org.uk

Project enquiries: Henrietta Boex, Development Project Manager
T: 01736 810966 E: henrietta.boex@porthcurno.org.uk


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.