Sir William Preece memorial, Caernarfon

Sir William Preece memorial, Caernarfon

A plaque at the corner of the post office building in Y Maes (Castle Square) commemorates Sir William Preece, a pioneer of communications technology.

He was born in Caernarfon in 1834 to Richard and Jane Preece. The family lived at Bryn Helen on Lôn Parc (the main road south from the town) before moving to London in 1845.

In his early 20s he was an engineer at the Electric Telegraph Company and helped Michael Faraday with experiments. In the 1860s his work for the London & South Western Railway included developing a safety system for single-track lines which prevented more than one train occupying a track section at the same time. From 1870 he was involved in the telegraph system of the General Post Office (GPO).

He brought a telephone to the UK in 1877, just a year after Alexander Graham Bell patented the device in the USA.

Having become the GPO’s engineer in chief in 1892, he realised that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi had more advanced ideas than his own for developing wireless communication. William had already experimented with wireless in various places, including Lavernock Point, west of Cardiff. He encouraged Marconi, putting GPO facilities at the younger man’s disposal.

William gave lectures, published technical papers and obtained many patents. He was president of several professional bodies, including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

He lived at Penrhos in Caeathro, near Caernarfon, for the last two years of his life. He died in 1913, leaving seven grown-up children. His wife Agnes had died in 1874. His funeral at Llanbeblig coincided with a memorial service in Westminster.

In 1914 a public banquet was given in Caernarfon in honour of Marconi, who had erected a large wireless transmitting station nearby. Marconi paid tribute to the late Sir William, whose wireless technology was unsuitable for use on ships. This, said Marconi, was because Sir William had started his experiments before science had explained how wireless technology worked.

Postcode: LL55 2ND    View Location Map

More about Sir William Preece – ICE website