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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Cable Cottage, Anglesey

In August 2008 John Williams asked for help on a historical research project:

I am trying to write a history of Cable Cottage, Cable Bay (or Porth Crugmor), Anglesey (grid SH 299 885) and am seeking information on the fundamental question as to its history as a cable office.

After receiving much help from site contributors and visitors John has written a 24-page booklet on the history of Cable Cottage from 1871 to date, and this is now available from him. Messages for John may be sent care of the Atlantic Cable website.

John originally sent these photographs:

Below is a photograph of the buildings as they now appear. The only other information I have is that “the iron supports for where the cable came ashore can be seen when there’s a very low tide”, although the last sighting was in the 1950s and it’s quite possible that these supports are now gone.

The current building undoubtedly comprises two (or even three) former cottages joined together. No doubt completely unrelated, the cottage interior has many features (swing doors, staircase etc) allegedly taken from the Mauretania.

Bill Glover notes:

This makes three cable stations on Anglesey, this one and the one at Rhosneigr, neither of which I have any information on; the third is at Aberffraw, a few miles from Rhosneigr. It seems as though every time a new cable was laid, a new cable cottage was built.
Further research has revealed that the cable landings variously noted as Aberffraw or Rhosneigr are in fact the same place, located at Porth Trecastell (Cable Bay) midway between those two villages.

Steve Roberts notes:

On my 1922 and 1962 maps of Anglesey the bay at that grid reference is called “Church Bay.” [John Williams adds that Cable Bay is just to the south of Church Bay]. It faces in the right direction for Ireland, due West, so this might just be a GPO cable station. The rocky nature of the coast there also might require additional protection for the shore end (in iron troughs or cages?). The first cables to Dublin in the mid-1850s landed on Holy Island, where the Chester & Holyhead Railway already had wires to England.

The Philip’s 1922 World Atlas map of the Irish Channel shows two cables from Anglesey to Ireland, landing on Anglesey just south of Church Bay:

Map showing two cables from just south of Church Bay to Howth

Detail of cable landing at Anglesey

Images from map of The Irish Channel,
World Atlas, Philip, Son & Nephew, Ltd. Liverpool
Courtesy of David Rumsey Collection

And two further cables from Trecastell, Anglesey, to Howth, Ireland, are noted in the Berne List; these were laid in 1871 and 1902. Trecastell is near Rhosneigr and Aberffraw, somewhat south of Church Bay, as can be seen on the map above.

This 1901 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of the cottage (click on image for a broader view):

Detail of cottage location

John Williams adds:

I have received a photo of Cable Cottage, near Llanfaethlu, Anglesey, taken early in the last century. This shows how small the original building was.

On 12 August 2009 strong tides uncovered the cable on the beach below the cottage. The cable was photographed in situ, and a section was also recovered for examination - see photographs below.

Very few cables had as many as seven conductors, and this is almost certainly the 1871 Porth Crugmor to Howth (Ireland) No 1 cable, made by Henley’s Telegraph Works and laid using CS La Plata for the GPO, which owned and operated it. The system was 64.5 nautical miles in length.

Cable Cottage showing the exposed cable on the beach.
Photograph courtesy of Keith Muscott

The exposed cable on the beach, looking towards the bay.
Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Muscott

The recovered cable. About 2" (50mm) in diameter, the cable has
twelve armouring wires and seven 7-strand copper conductors.
Photographs courtesy of Terry Dutton.

Dimensioned scan of the shore-end cable

In March 2015 the cable was again exposed again at a very low tide, and these photographs were taken by David Briggs:

Photographs courtesy of and copyright © 2015 David Briggs

In a British Government report on the re-organisation of the telegraph system of the United Kingdom, dated January 1871, is this description of the new landline connecting the cable station at Porth Crugmor into the GPO system:

Mr Graves, formerly an engineer of the Electric and now an engineer of the department in the north-west and west of England, said:

From Birkenhead round by Runcorn to Liverpool a new main line is in course of erection over a certain section of it three new wires, and over another section eight have been fully erected, that is from Birkenhead to near Runcorn. Between Runcorn and Liverpool the works are in active progress, and by the 10th of January [1871] at latest, at least six wires will be completed throughout on this section.

From Sutton, a point a few miles from Birkenhead on the road to Runcorn, a new line has been run to Neston, a village on the road between Hoylake and Queen’s Ferry. On this new line five wires have been erected, and they are extended at Neston upon the poles formerly belonging to the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board, which have recently been acquired by the department. These five wires are carried to Queen’s Ferry, and from Queen’s Ferry outwards to Bangor.

The very heavy work of entirely reconstructing the Mersey Dock Board’s line, and erecting upon it eight new wires, is in progress. This work is being carried on at high pressure, and with many different gangs scattered over the length. In brief, I may say that I contemplate its entire completion by the termination of the present month, or within a few days after it.

From Bangor onwards to a place known as Porth Crugmore , on the western coast of Anglesea, an entirely new line, varying from seven to nine wires, is being run. This line is intended to connect with the new English and Irish cable. The poles will certainly be up, and the greater part of the wires, by the same time as those between Queen’s Ferry and Bangor, that is, at the end of the present or early in the ensuing month.

(Report by Mr Scudamore on the Re-Organization of the Telegraph System of the United Kingdom. Presented to the House of Commons by Command of Her Majesty, page 27. London, 1871, HMSO)

Last revised: 11 April, 2015

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