Marconi’s Wireless and the Lizard Lighthouse

I’ve been to the Lizard a few times for walks but never realised its monumental role in long-range wireless in the early 1900s. It’s only thanks to my brother, a radio buff, that I found out when he asked if I wanted to visit the Marconi Wireless station at Lizard Point.

It’s run by National Trust volunteers, and we picked up today’s volunteer from his house which was on our way. My brother had been in contact to make sure we wouldn’t miss opening times, and the lovely volunteer gave us the whole history of the area in the car. I was absolutely fascinated by the story of Marconi and wireless radio.

Marconi Wireless Station in Cornwall, UK on the Lizard point
The oldest surviving Marconi Wireless Station in the World

The Lizard is composed of Serpentinite rock which is extremely conductive and turned out to be the perfect location for Marconi to use as a base for experiments in sending and receiving wireless signals across the Atlantic to Canada.

The National Trust have replicated the exact setup Marconi would have had inside the building, and as I was asked not to photograph it you’ll have to visit to see! They also have evidence of the first ever SOS signal, and incredible stories about the Titanic and other tales of the high seas.

My brother, as he has a radio licence, was allowed to send out some signals, and we listened to communications from nearby boats; they were speaking Spanish and joking around. I peeped out of the window to watch them go by.

My brother on the radio at the Marconi station in Cornwall
My brother on the radio

Since I’ve forgotten some of the details of the Marconi story it’s well worth looking up online, and visiting if you can get down to the Lizard. There’s also a Marconi centre further up the Lizard full of interesting stories, films, photos and equipment to play with.

Near to the Marconi wireless shack is Lizard Lighthouse, so we walked over to it as the day began to brighten up.

A view of the Lizard Lighthouse from the Coastal Path

After a confusing exchange at the lighthouse ticket office, where we were baffled with options for visiting, and then paid £0.01 extra for 4 years’ free access to the grounds (?), we entered the museum and awaited our call for the lighthouse tour.

Inside the Lizard Lighthouse
Inside the Lighthouse

The lighthouse is in full working order but there is no longer a lighthouse keeper, it’s all run by computers with backup generators and contract workers who replace the bulbs when needed. It was a highly esteemed job back in the day though, and very isolating too.

The walk back to the car was really beautiful. The Lizard never disappoints.

One of the remote beaches on the Lizard, Cornwall, England

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