20th June 1858. First Telecom.

The element Copper (Cu) atomic number 29 is a ductile metal highly thermal and electrically conductive. Known as Cyprium metal of Cyprus and shortened to Cuprum. Copper is a transition metal known for conductivity and malleability.

William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone had patented the Electric Needle Telegraph when a telegraph line was set up on the Great Western line from Paddington to West Drayton 1838-39. After its success on land there was a desire to use it over greater distances which meant under-water: the Atlantic.

Atlantic Cable Map.

However the first attempt ended in disaster and it was Today in 1858 that the second attempt to lay the transatlantic telegraph cable manufactured by William Kuper and Co. of Greenwich, was under way, only to be called off the next day. When finally laid, it sent its first message on 12th August.

Two ships, the USS Niagara and HMS Agamemnon carried half the cable being spliced in mid-ocean and allowed to run into the sea as the ships ran in opposite directions.

Many substances were used to surround the seven twisted copper wires: rubber, yarn soaked in pitch, glass tubes enclosed in wood and gutta-percha, a rubbery substance found in Malaya, giving its name to a company of the same name, later the Cable and Wireless Company.

The English Channel had been crossed on 28th August 1850 when the first telegram was sent via cable from Dover to Cap Gris-Nez and it was in 1857 that Cyrus W.Field and Lord Kelvin made an attempt to cross the Atlantic from Valentia in Ireland to Newfoundland, that the troubles arose.

Prince of Wales visits cable works.

Within a month of the cable laying it had broken and couldn’t be repaired and seeing the disadvantages of using two ships, found that the only ship capable of carrying the 22,500 tons of cable was the Great Eastern, unable to sail until 1865 due to the American Civil War.

It was Daniel Gooch, Great Western’s Chief Engineer, who was to be instrumental in establishing the transatlantic cable being laid by Brunel’s ship after it had snapped on the 2nd August in 1865, a thousand miles west of Ireland. Gooch had boarded Brunel’s Great Eastern ship to take control on 10th July.

He again joined the ship on the 27th July 1866 and was able to send first telegraph message from Newfoundland after successfully laying the cable.

By 8th September, his team had located and raised the earlier 1865 cable from a great depth, spliced it and brought a 2nd cable ashore at Newfoundland. Part of the triumph of the exercise was down to the Greenwich time signal, which facilitated calculating longitude accurately.

One side effect of the cable laying was that when hauled up in 1860 for repairs from more than 3km down it was found to be encrusted with corals, clams and other detritus.

This had surprised the scientific world which after a surveys by British naturalist Edward Forbes in the 1830.s, had said that below 600m, there was no light and pressure was too high for life.

Telecommunications needed copper cable. Thomas Bolton at Froghall near Cheadle was sited between cheap waterborne coal from north Staffordshire coalfield and the copper from the mines of the Dukes of Devonshire at Ecton near Hartington.

It was once the largest in the world and was to finance the building of Buxton. Water from the Churnet and a tradition of iron mining and smelting meant that Bolton thrived and in 1852 acquired Cheadle Brass Co at Oakamoor.

They converted to copper wire and was the first continuous drawing mill to spin for the Transatlantic Cable of 1858, and the two following, as well as the later Channel Tunnel.

Bolton’s sold out in 1961 when Thos. Bolton & Sons merged with Mackechnie’s of Walsall Group.

One beneficiary of the copper mines was the Cavendish Family, of Chatsworth, which was ennobled as earls of Devonshire, (later dukes), by James I in 1618.



About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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