The building featured again in Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, when it was attacked by terrorists. The real spies who work here lead far more humdrum lives.
This is the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the old Post Office building on the corner of Newgate and King Edward Street. In the summer of 1896, a young man of 22 arrived here carrying two bags of electrical equipment and a letter of introduction to William Preece, the engineer-in-chief of Britain’s postal services.
Having failed to sell the idea in his own country, he was trying his luck in Britain instead – a maritime nation always looking for ways to improve communications at sea.
On 27 July, the young man gave the first public demonstration of radio from the roof of the Post Office. He proposed to send a signal to a bank in Queen Victoria Street, the other side of St Paul’s.
‘What are you doing there?’ demanded George Kemp, a post office worker who spotted him from the pavement below.
‘Come on up and I’ll show you,’ the young man replied.
Kemp joined him and watched fascinated as the young man fiddled with his strange apparatus of black box, rods, terminals and brass balls. The experiment worked perfectly. The signal travelled a quarter of a mile through solid brick walls and was safely received the other end.
George Kemp joined the young man in his business and worked for him for the next 36 years.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 127. Name the young man who successfully demonstrated radio here.
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