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Signal Station & Marconi Wireless Station, Brow head

Category: 
Signal tower and Wireless Station

This is a well preserved signal tower dating from around 1804 - three storeys high with flat roof still intact. Interior floors and ceilings (apart from the roof) have disappeared and windows been blocked up but it still retains a sturdy feel.  It was originally weather slated and many slates still remain. There were two entrances - a first floor door in the south wall complete with machicolation overhead where missiles could be thrown at possible attackers; and a ground level door in the east wall. Bartizans, small turret like structures used for defense, can be seen on the NE and NW corners. During the mid to late 19C the site continued to be used as a means of getting information to shipping. Major shipping lines, including Lloyds and Reuters,developed the site and used it to communicate with passing ships using semaphore. Brow Head, and the nearby village of Crookhaven were the first ports of call between Northern Europe and America. Ships would refuel and stock up with provisions in Crookhaven.

Scattered around the site are other buildings in more ruinous conditions.These are the remains of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station, operational from 1904 until 1914. Marconi was keen to get a signal across the Atlantic and in 1902 a telegraphic station was established in Crookhaven. In 1904 permission was given to put up telegraphic aerials and equipment on the Fastnet Rock and the telegraphic station was moved to Brow Head. Messages were sent to the Fastnet Rock lighthouse by signalling and were then relayed on to Brow Head by wireless telegraphy.  Although the first 'over the horizon' message was recieved in Brow Head from Poldhu in Cornwall, some 220 miles away, the first transatlantic signal was eventually transmitted from Cornwall to Newfoundland.

The station was manned continuously day and night, three shifts, two operators. The station was taken over by the Royal Navy in 1914, Marconi moving out to Valentia Island.The station was finally destroyed in 1922 during the Civil War. It's quite difficult to make sense of the remains, substantial as they are, but the base of the original aerial used for transmitting can be clearly identified. In 1998, Marconi's daughter unveiled a commemorative plaque, but this has since disappeared.

The views from here are stupendous. Below the signal tower, towards the Head itself are the remains of 19C mining activity, including mine shafts, miners' houses, a reservoir and a small hamlet.

Nearby site:

Brow Head Mines

See also

Spain Tower, Baltimore

Signal Tower, Toe Head

Signal Tower Sheep's Head

 

 

Townland: 
Mallavogue
Location: 
Take the right hand road before heading towards Crookhaven and follow this small road to the end. A car parking space is available, then follow the track to the signal tower
Fieldnotes: 

The tiny road winding up towards Brow Head is an experience in itself. Park the car then admire the incredible views out towards Crookhaven and Rock Island. On arrival at the signal tower the views are even more astonishing, quite bleak and imposing but full of the signs of human activity. A small ruined hamlet, now the home of cattle, looks out towards the blond sweep of Barely Cove.  Looking down towards the Head you can see the intriguing ruins of the people who once worked at the copper mines there in the 19C. Mine shafts are now protected and other little buildings lie scattered, evidence of work and industry.  Small fields are marked out with attractive dry stone walls, and insects buzz amidst the heather and gorse. The cliffs at the very end are vertigo inducing - on a clear day you could surely see America!