Bude Castle, the former Cornish home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, is now a Heritage Centre

PUBLISHED: 15:43 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 16:56 20 February 2013

Bude Castle, the former Cornish home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, is now a Heritage Centre

Bude Castle, the former Cornish home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, is now a Heritage Centre

The former home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, Bude Castle is now a heritage centre with exhibition galleries, an archive, an education room and an events programme, writes Patricia Wright, Bude Castle's Manager

Bude Castle, the former Cornish home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, is now a Heritage Centre



The former home of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, Bude Castle is now a heritage centre with exhibition galleries, an archive, an education room and an events programme, writes Patricia Wright, Bude Castles Manager



Bude has a wonderful location. A Cornish phrase describes the town perfectly, for with canal, river and sea it is indeed a tre an dowr or town on water. In the 1800s Bude was made up of a few dwellings around an inlet in the dangerous north Cornwall coast, a haven where small storm-driven ships scudded in for safety. Like many towns and villages in Cornwall, Budes star rose with industrialisation, which saw the construction of its canal and the building of its breakwater that increased ships safety and generated maritime trade, and it grew in popularity as a seaside resort.



A place well worth visiting that captures the towns impressive history is the castellated building set on a grassy rise, overlooking Summerleaze Beach, Bude Castle. Designed by Budes most famous Victorian, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, it has been described as a gentlemans folly, a Victorian summer bungalow and a worlds first!



Legend tells of how the inventive Gurney, after leasing what were virtually sand dunes, decided to build his country house right there straight over the sand. To the doomsayers, who believed that only a foolish man would build his house upon the sand, Gurney simply said, Wait and see.



Why has the Castle been called a worlds first? As far as it is known, it was the first building ever constructed on a concrete raft, and 180 years later, despite the Jeremiahs and the Atlantics winter fury, Gurneys sand castle stands as foursquare solid as ever.



What of the Castle today? Foresight by Bude-Stratton Town Council and others secured funding sources to completely refurbish the building and move the old Town Museum collections to The Castle, where theyve been re-displayed in a Heritage Centre. The Centres displays touch on Budes many aspects its extraordinary geology, its maritime and canal connections, the hazards of sailing into Bude, shipwrecks, lifeboatmen and rocket brigades, the English Civil War, Bude as the British Bondi and the decline of the railway.



The Centre also recalls some of the fascinating people whove been associated with the town. For example, theres the 19th-centurys wonderfully eccentric Vicar of Morwenstow, who besides dressing up as a mermaid, excommunicated his cats for mousing on Sundays. Then the US 2nd Rangers Battalion (of Saving Private Ryan fame) honed their climbing skills for their D-Day assault on the Pointe du Hoc guns on Budes cliffs.



Of course theres plenty to learn about Gurney and his remarkable inventions at the Centre. In 1829 he made the worlds first road journey London to Bath by steam vehicle, he discovered limelight a real crowd pleaser carried out pioneering safety work venting mines, and cleverly lit the Houses of Parliament with three Bude Lights instead of thousands of candles.



Stored in the Heritage Centre archives are a number of fascinating documents including the census returns for Bude, 1841-1881, and a selection of trade and family records. For anyone wishing to visit for research purposes it is always advisable to phone first.



The light and airy Willoughby Gallery has an annual programme showing the work of Cornish and Westcountry-based artists and craftmakers and also local school and community groups. The work on display ranges from representational to abstract, landscape to portraiture, group and solo shows.



Overlooking Summerleaze Beach, The Castle Restaurant is run by proprietor and talented chef Kit Davies. With more than 12 years experience in top London kitchens, Kit is now fulfilling his dream of running his own fine dining restaurant in his home town. Since opening in 2007, Kit and his staff have been awarded an AA Rosette and a Silver Medal in the 2009 Taste of the West Food Awards.



The Willoughby Gallery and Blanchminster Room are licensed for Civil Ceremonies and over the past two years have become sought-after venues. They are also able to offer dressed seating with a choice of silver or ivory ribbons and silk flower arrangements.



The gift shop provides visitors with a range of products, many of them locally sourced. Theres something for everyone: Cornish jewellery; Cornish chocolate and fudge; a good selection of books on local subjects, and a number of childrens pocket-money items.



Family activities like the Heritage Centre Quiz Trail, the Canal Quiz Trail and outside games are available and holiday activities are organised. This Easters activity, naturally enough, is chocolate making (see below for details).


The Castle is open daily, 10am-5pm, Easter to the end of October, and at other times from 11am-4pm. For more information about what to see and do, and activities at Bude Castle call 01288 357300 or e-mail: shop@bude-stratton.gov.uk

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