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

Thomas Worrall and the 1858 Atlantic Cable

Introduction: Chris Kelly shares this interesting story about Thomas Worrall of Cronton, Lancashire, and the 1858 cable.

—Bill Burns


Chris writes: My great great grandfather, Thomas Worrall, lived in Cronton, a small village 10 miles outside of Liverpool in the UK, which was the centre of watchmaking/toolmaking during Victorian times. He was a business man who ran the Post Office, had a horse and cart taxi service, and was a toolmaker. As well as tools for watchmakers and repairers, Thomas Worrall made tools for cutting the 1858 Atlantic cable, and this story ran in the Widnes Weekly News on January 8th 1916, shortly before his death:


It was in August 1858, when the Great Britain to New York Atlantic cable was laid and I played a little part in this event.

I had the job of making the clippers that cut the cable when it was being laid and when it became foul in laying.

It was a difficult job, you know, and many a time the cable had to be cut and then fished up again from the sea. The circumference of the cable, by the way, was only ¾ of an inch, but since that time the cables that have been laid in comparatively recent years are as thick as my wrist.

When I was put on to make these clippers a sample of the cable was sent to me to test the clippers on, and when this was done I extracted the copper wires from the cable and made souvenirs, such as tie pins, studs, etc. and when these were polished up, they looked extremely well.

Once they were given out you could not buy one for love nor money, for those who were fortunate enough to possess them stuck to them because of their connection with one of the greatest feats ever performed by man.

If any of the villagers want any poetry all they do is to go to Tom Worrall and tell him the length and the style, and the next day they can call for it. He has composed many beautiful poems. He is also an elocutionist of no mean power, and his memory is really wonderful.

Mike Campbell of Cronton, a specialist in unusual clocks, noted that his workshop in Cronton[as of 2007] was originally the toolmaker's workshop and Post Office run by the above Thomas Worrall's son, also named Thomas [actually Worrall's grandson - see below].

In 2021 a site visitor advised that glazing pliers and other tools were made from 1932-1969 under the “Thom Worrall CRONTON” banner.

The Challenge community newspaper has these details of three generations of Worralls in Cronton:

Cronton was famous for its toolmaking industry and was as well known as Prescot was for its watchmaking trade. The Worrall family spanned three generations of toolmakers in the village: Thomas Worrall, born in 1834, also worked as a postman and saved enough money to build a house and workshop. He was also the first postmaster in the village. 

His son, Louis, was born in 1868 and continued in the family businesses of toolmaking and Post Office, followed by Thomas, born in 1904, who took up a toolmaking apprenticeship in 1917. He was to be the last toolmaker in Cronton.

If you have any further information on Thomas Worrall, please email me

Copyright © 2007 FTL Design

Last revised: 9 June, 2021

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