Sir Goldsworthy Gurney was born in the village of Treator near Padstow, Cornwall on 14 February 1793. His unusual Christian name was his grandmother's surname but taken from his godmother who was a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte. The Gurney family was long-established, and could trace its lineage back to the Counts de Gourney, who arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror. Gurney's grandfather married into money, allowing his father, and to an extent himself, to live as gentlemen. He was schooled at the Grammar School at Truro, where he showed an interest in contemporary sciences; and had the opportunity through friends to meet Richard Trevithick and see his 'Puffing Devil', a full-size steam road carriage, at Camborne. After school he took a medical education with a Dr. Avery at Wadebridge, succeeding to the whole practice in 1813, and providing him with sufficient income to marry Elizabeth Symons, a farmer's daughter from Launcells, in 1814. The couple settled in Wadebridge where their daughter Anna Jane was born in January 1815. He practised as a surgeon, but he also became interested in chemistry and mechanical science; he was also an accomplished pianist, and constructed his own piano, described as a 'large instrument'. He moved with his family to London in 1820, apparently discontented with rural life and wishing to seek his fortune. There he expanded his scientific knowledge and started giving a series of lectures on the elements of chemical science to the Surrey Institution, where he was appointed lecturer in 1822.
In 1830, Gurney leased a plot of land overlooking Summerleaze Beach in Bude, from his friend Sir Thomas Acland, and set about the construction of a new house to be built amongst the sand hills. The construction rested on an innovative concrete raft foundation, representing an early worked example of this technique. The original house called "The Castle" still stands but has been extended over the past century. In the period 1825–9, Gurney designed and built a number of steam-powered road vehicles which were intended to commercialise a steam road transport business—the Gurney Steam Carriage Company. His vehicles were built at his Regent's Park Manufactory works, and tested around the park's barrack yard, and on frequent excursions to Hampstead, Highgate, Edgware, Barnet and Stanmore, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h). One of his vehicles was sufficiently robust to make a journey in July 1829, two months before the Rainhill Trials, from London to Bath and back, at an average speed for the return journey of 14 miles per hour—including time spend in refuelling and taking on water. His daughter Anna, in a letter to The Times newspaper in December 1875, notes that "I never heard of any accident or injury to anyone with it, except in the fray at Melksham, on the noted journey to Bath, when the fair people set upon it, burnt their fingers, threw stones, and wounded poor Martyn the stoker". The vehicle had to be escorted under guard to Bath to prevent further luddism.
The Heritage Centre opens with the wonderful natural history and world famous geology of the north Cornish Coast. From surf to rock pools and grand cliff-top panoramas, learn about the origin of this dramatic landscape. The Early Years . . . of sand, sea and canal. How the canal brought trade to Bude and transported beach sand to inland Cornwall for fertiliser. Over two miles of canal are still open to the public. Three figureheads of locally wrecked ships are on display, together with a Rocket Brigade pistol, Breeches Buoy and a multi-media display of some the stricken vessels. There is a display about Bude’s most famous wreck, that of the “Bencoolen” in 1862. She was wrecked on Summerleaze beach – the very beach The Castle overlooks. You can also listen to the Reverend Hawker, vicar of Morwenstow, recount the horror of witnessing a shipwreck on the beach below the storm lashed cliffs. There are displays about Local Crafts - Shipwright tools and navigation equipment used by Bude’s ships. Lifesaving has a long tradition in Bude, from 1837 when a lifeboat station was established with a lifeboat funded by King William IV, right through to the R.N.L.I’s inshore lifeboat of today.
Admire the colourful costumes copied from the Civil War and meet the Cornish Giant ‘Anthony Payne’ who fought in the crucial 1643 Battle of Stamford Hill. It was here, after an epic ten-hour battle, that the exhausted Royalists managed to defeat the larger Parliamentarian force and secure Cornwall for the king. Bude’s fortunes changed in the 19th Century with the ‘new trend’ of healthy, bracing seaside holidays. In 1898 the Southern Railway arrived in Bude, bringing with it an increasing volume of holidaymakers. Guide and hearing dogs are welcome. For other dogs, there are ties for leads just outside the Shop together with drinking bowls. There is level access to all floors for visitors. For those who prefer not to use the stairs, there is a ‘self-service’ lift to the first floor. A transit chair is available for use around The Castle. There is an adapted toilet. The toilet, [and adapted toilet], facilities are on the ground floor. There are hearing loops in the Heritage Centre and Gallery. No large print or Braille is available at present.
Location : The Castle, The Wharf, Bude, Cornwall EX23 8LG
Transport: Exeter St. Davids (National Rail) then coach. Bus Routes : 6, 6A, 12 and 218 stop nearby.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 18:00
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01288 353576