The Bude Light

One of the most famous sons of  Bude is Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, whose genius for inventing literally ‘enlightened’ even the Houses of Parliament.

By feeding oxygen straight into the central flame of an ordinary oil lamp, he managed to create a brilliantly white light. With the help of cleverly positioned prisms and mirrors, this light was reflected along the chambers and corridors of his abode, the Bude Castle. This method was later used in the Houses of Parliament as well as in the lighthouses along the coast, thus saving many a life at sea. One can still find a replica of the Bude Light on Trafalgar Square in London today.

Goldsworthy Gurney had an answer to many problems. Leasing a lovely plot close to Summerleaze beach from his longstanding friend, Sir Thomas Acland, he ventured building his house there in 1830. There was one problem though. He was trying to build on shifting sand – in the middle of a sand dune. Many a Bude local predicted the house would not stand for a week, but again Goldsworhty Gurney’s genius came to the rescue. With the help of a concrete raft he managed to stabilise the walls, and it is believed that the Bude Castle was the first building to be built on such a concrete raft!

In 2000, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney and his Bude Light were commemorated by the erection of a slender and colourful cone just in front of the Bude Castle. Its lights were officially switched on by HRH, The Duke of Gloucester on the 9th of June 2000.

After an extensive repair and refurbishment, the Castle was reopened to the public in July 2007 and now serves as an heritage, archive, gallery and exhibition centre – containing a wealth of information on the local area and Gurney himself; a fitting tribute to Bude’s forgotten genius.


The Bude Light sculpture in Bude was erected in front of the Castle to commemorate the Millennium and especially Sir Goldsworhy Gurney’s achievements.  This coloured concrete cone, designed by local artists Carole Vincent and Anthony Fanshawe, has fibre optic star patterns incorporated into it and a light at the top.  This comes to life at night as the fibre optics sparkle.

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