Newbiggin-by-the-Sea has several claims to fame – my favourite, perhaps, being its place in submarine telegraphy history.
The laying of telegraph cables under the sea must have been a heck of a job, especially when you consider that it began as long ago as 1850 with a stretch across the English Channel. This unravelling of the first cable – presumably, an immense task – was thwarted by French fishermen after three days when they accidentally severed it. A year later they tried again, but ran out of wire before they reached the continent, bodged the repair, then had to do it all again a few weeks later.
So by 1868, they’d had a bit of practice. And this time it was the turn of the North Sea, and the first ever link-up between the UK and Scandinavia. The scheme was part of a master plan to link England, Scandinavia and Russia, by the Dane, C.F.Tietgen, using contractors R.S.Newall & Co to make and lay the cables. The vessels Archimedes and Chevy Chase were chosen to make the journey.
All that seems to survive of the momentous occasion is a short report in The Times which informs us that on 9th September 1868 “cables were floated by tar barrels, towed ashore by Danish seamen in longboats, then pulled up the beach by horses and placed in trenches cut by local fishermen – they terminated in the ‘Cable House’.” Longboats, eh?
Anyway, this was a notable first for Newbiggin, believe me. And the ‘Cable House’ actually still exists! Here it is…
The building's owners still received rent for what is known as ‘wayleave’ (permission for the cable company to access their equipment) until as late as 1960 when the firm set up by C.F.Tietgen all those years ago (The Great Northern Telegraph Co.) finally ceased to operate from the town.
More information on the industry’s history can be found here. The above photograph was lifted from http://www.newbigginbythesea.co.uk/ . Oh, and there’s a nice picture of the little plaque you can (just) see above here.