The Castle

The Castle




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.

Re-opening The Castle as of 10am, July 13th 2020.

  • ~ Their opening times will be 10 am – 4 pm until further notice. They are closing an hour earlier to undertake additional cleaning at the end of each day ~
  • The Castle you love and know is still there but with some new guidelines in place as set out by the government, please take a moment to read through the changes so you can be fully prepared for your visit and enjoy the wonders The Castle has to offer.
  • ~ We have put in place a one- way system around the castle, galleries and exhibitions this is to support social distancing and avoid any head on meeting ~
  • ~ There are 2m distance stickers laid out on the floor to help you socially distance with ease ~
  • ~ You will be greeted at the main door, this is to monitor the visitor numbers and control the flow of access (please be mindful of any queues and socially distance appropriately while waiting) ~
  • ~ They will be asking their visitors to provide details for the test & trace scheme upon entry as well as using hand sanitiser at entrance and exit points ~
  • ~ Unfortunately they have had to disable any inactive exhibitions in the heritage centre for the time being ~
  • ~ Toilets will only be available for those visiting the castle due to limited numbers inside, disable access is still available ~
  • ~ Café Limelight will be open but serving a limited takeaway menu only, tables on the decking outside can be used but we politely request only one person in the café area to order with the remaining group waiting outside to help maintain social distancing in the limited space, staff will be wearing PPE to safeguard themselves and visitors ~
  • They offer their apologies for any inconvenience that their closure has caused in past months but your wellbeing has always been their main priority and they are looking forward to welcoming you back!

    The galleries will be re-opening with a wonderful exhibition by Bridget Winterbourne, Walk On The Wild Side. All art exhibitions affected by the COVID-19 crisis were replaced by online exhibitions and have been rolled over to 2021 gallery calendar.

    Their events calendar has been adapted to ensure certain events can be run online Bude’s Earth Festival is now available to view online with a whole list of fascinating online presentations, workshops and entertainment. The Heritage Festival will be held online on July 19th with exciting content including blogs and presentations about the Battle of Stratton, medieval Bude, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, Pamela Coleman-Smith and much more. There will be a virtual tour of the barge workshop at Helebridge and entertainment from The Countrymen, The Bencoolen Wreckers and Aidan B for you to enjoy ~ its not to be missed!

    The Bude Literary Festival is currently going ahead as originally planned on October 22nd-25th. Their staff are also working on some great new projects for you in the future so please do keep in touch with them through email and social media as they’d love to hear from you all.


    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 : see above

    Tickets : Free

    Tel: 01288 353576