Marconi pioneer wireless site
Lavernock Point is now a nature reserve, but in 1897 it hit the headlines when equipment here received the world’s first wireless transmission across water. The remains of a Second World War gun battery nearby are a scheduled ancient monument.
Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor, had moved to Britain in 1896 seeking help with his experiments in sending messages with wireless equipment. He came to Wales at the instigation of his mentor, Caernarfon-born Sir William Preece, a pioneer of wireless telegraphy as the General Post Office’s chief engineer.
In May 1897 Marconi set up his transmission equipment on Flat Holm, the lower of the two islands you can see from here. A zinc cap was fitted to a pole, some 27 metres in height, to receive the signal on the clifftop at Lavernock. The experiment failed, but the pole was later moved down to the beach. This entailed running out more cable – which helped the equipment to receive Marconi’s message in Morse Code. The slip recording the message is preserved by the National Museum of Wales.
A triangular fort was built at Lavernock Point c.1866 to help protect Britain from French invasion. It was complemented by batteries on Flat Holm. German invasion was the threat when a new battery was installed here in the Second World War. It consisted of two octagonal positions for anti-aircraft guns. Two guns were moved here in 1941 from East Blockhouse battery, near Pembroke. Gun pits and a thick wall for protection against incoming fire are among the remains on this site, which measures c80m x 55m.
Lavernock nature reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, mainly comprises grassland on coastal Jurassic limestone and scrub. The oak copse north of Fort Road is home to the rare purple hairstreak, one of many butterfly species here. South of Fort Road is an old hayfield, last cut for hay in 1984 and since re-colonised by meadow species. This meadow is divided by the scrub around the old battery.
Flowers to look out for include cowslip and several types of orchid. Lavernock has long been a valuable place to observe bird migration, especially in autumn when large flocks of swallow, redwing, fieldfare and finches can be seen. Breeding birds include whitethroat and lesser whitethroat. At any time of year you may see a sparrowhawk, green woodpecker or long-tailed tit.
Grid reference: ST181681 (main entrance to reserve)