News & Projects
Dave Sabin (Archaeological Surveys Director) has recently posted 3 new articles (see further below) relating to early wireless sites in Wiltshire - or at least two of the sites were constructed but Marconi never proceeded with work at Avebury.
"Having a life long interest in archaeology and geophysics, plus a background in radio communication systems, it was natural for me to delve into some early wireless sites in Wiltshire. What I didn't realise though, was the part the county played in the early development of radio, from the Three Mile Hill tests on Salisbury Plain from 1896 to the origins of the internationally renown Portishead Radio which began in 1920 on Morgan's Hill near Devizes, a site that in 1913 had been constructed as the very first receiver of the Imperial Wireless Chain. Although the outbreak of WWI curtailed the IWC before it had got on air, the site became the home of wireless military intelligence until 1919. With assistance from Wroughton History Group, we now know the exact location of the Wroughton Wireless Receiving Station that along with Rugby Radio provide the world's first transatlantic telephone service in 1927.
I hope the articles are of interest and maybe inspire further research into these sites and others. When I started in archaeology Roman remains and prehistoric sites were considered rare, but having spent so much time working in geophysics mapping these ancient layers I feel that we are missing out on the stories that provide the backdrop to where we are now - that is the archaeology of modern technology.
There is an assumption that sites are known and well recorded but, if nothing else, researching 20th century remains highlights our loss of knowledge over barely a single human lifetime and understanding this helps us to become more open-minded when assessing much earlier sites and features we discover through geophysical survey. For me this really became apparent carrying out commercial surveying near Whaddon and visiting Bletchley Park. At Whaddon we located the remains of antenna arrays related to the secret communication facility based at Whaddon Hall, and at that time there were other upstanding buildings relating to the site - we could find virtually no written references or information on precisely what we had found.
Military/conflict archaeology appears to attract a healthy level of interest but many other 20th century sites relating to technological development seem to fall through the gaps, often there will be practical reasons why it is not possible to carry out geophysical survey or intrusive works, early wireless sites are to some degree and exception often due to their remoteness but we hope to provide a record of more sites in the future either through commercial surveying or personal research."
Cheers, Dave Sabin