Guglielmo Marconi and Weston-super-Mare

Guglielmo Marconi made telecommunications history on 3 May 1897 by transmitting a radio signal across open sea for the first time.  The transmission was sent from Lavernock Point on the Welsh coast to Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel.  The morse code message from Marconi was 'Can you hear me?'.   The reply from Flat Holm was 'Yes, loud and clear'. 

Marconi and his team then moved their equipment from Flat Holm to Brean Down near Weston super Mare where, on 18 May 1897 at 2.50pm, a successful transmission to Lavernock Point was achieved across a distance of about nine miles.   

Brean Down fort, Flat Holm & the Welsh coast
Brean Down fort, Flat Holm & the Welsh coast

There is no firm evidence to indicate that Marconi was based in Weston-super-Mare or the nearby village of Uphill at any time during the experiments.   It is claimed that Marconi's team purchased equipment from J.J.Leavers & Sons ironmongery shop at 56 High Street in Weston-super-Mare and that Marconi was a familiar figure in the town, with local people referring to him as 'that foreign-looking gentleman".    

It is also claimed that Frank Watts, who was the coxwain of the Weston-super-Mare lifeboat, ferried equipment for Marconi to Flat Holm and Brean Down. 

Plaque near Winter Gardens
Plaque near Winter Gardens
Former Radio Relay shop
Former Radio Relay shop
Coastguard cottages, Uphill
Coastguard cottages, Uphill
Marconi on Flat Holm
Marconi on Flat Holm

Mr WIlliam Badman, interviewed in 1970, claimed that the batteries used by Marconi for his experiments in 1897 were supplied and charged at his father's shop in Uphill.  Mr Badman said he took the batteries to Marconi in a basket on the front of the shop bicycle and remembered meeting the wireless pioneer in person. It is said that Marconi stayed at the Coastguard Cottages in Uphill at some time whilst the experiments were taking place.   Mr Badman later took over his father's business which operated as Radio Relay Ltd from a shop at 9 Orchard Street in Weston-super-Mare.

Operational area of Marconi's experiments (Google Earth)
Operational area of Marconi's experiments (Google Earth)

The British Broadcasting Company -  as the BBC was originally called - was formed on 18 October 1922 by a group of leading wireless manufacturers including Marconi.   Daily broadcasting by the BBC began in 2LO, Marconi's London studio in the Strand, on 14 November 1922. 

Contact Me 

If you can provide any additional information about Marconi's connections with Weston-super-Mare, I would be very pleased to hear from you.   You can contact me using this email address or by using the Contacts Page

References with links

Monty Ellis
The Journal of the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society, No 26.

Is Brean Down responsible for Wogan?
Andy Ridgway
The Weston Mercury,  16 May 1997.

Marconi and the Welsh Connection.
Phil Carradice
BBC Wales History website, 1 August 2011.

Marconi's Welsh wireless revolution
Joe Goodden
BBC Blog, 11 May 2012.

The Wireless World and Radio Review
Review of talk by O.J.Carpenter AMIRE.
Weston-super-Mare and District Radio Society, 27 January 1927.

Guglielmo Marconi
Biographical information.

Marconi Books
Details of books by author Tim Wander about Marconi and his contribution to radio.