Heritage Centre

Heritage Centre

The Heritage Centre is the ideal place to visit and find out about Bude and the surrounding area before setting out to explore the town, canal, wharf and beaches. It is divided into themed areas which represent key elements of our cultural heritage history. There is also a special exhibition area dedicated to Sir Goldsworthy Gurney who built The Castle in 1830.

Located across the ground and first floor of The Castle, The Heritage Centre is fully accessible to wheelchair and mobility buggy users, who can gain access to the first floor via the fully accessible lift. However, if visiting independently assistance with our doors may be required.

Please call us on 01288 357300 or email thecastle@bude-stratton.gov.uk if you wish to arrange assistance in advance of your visit.

Sir Goldsworthy Gurney is often described as Cornwall’s ‘Forgotten Genius’. He trained as a surgeon but excelled as an inventor, engineer and scientist. Gurney was inspired by another Cornish engineer, the better known Richard Trevithick, and you may be surprised to discover he came up with numerous inventions and innovations that changed British life.

One of Gurney’s most innovative ideas involved his home here at The Castle, where by injecting a stream of oxygen into an oil flame, he invented a completely new system of lighting known as the Bude Light which was used to illuminate Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall and the Houses of Parliament as well as The Castle.

This area of display includes the story of Bude’s most famous wreck, the Bencoolen, which ran aground within sight of The Castle on Summerleaze Beach in 1862. You might like to try your hand at navigating Bude’s treacherous waters on our interactive model.

Follow the story of Bude’s lifeboat station established in 1837 through to the R.N.L.I’s inshore lifeboat of today. Whilst Bude’s Surf Life Saving Club was established in 1953 and was the first in the country.

See shipwright tools and navigation equipment used by Bude’s ships in years gone by.

The Heritage Centre houses a comprehensive series of exhibits which feature the wonderful local natural history and our world famous unique geology. If you have marvelled at the dramatic cliff face from our beaches you’ll discover exactly how they began to evolve many years ago. We also have some fabulous fossils including an amazing prehistoric fish found locally.

of sand, sea and canal. Learn how the canal brought trade to Bude and transported beach sand to inland Cornwall for fertiliser. Today, following an extensive ongoing regeneration project, the first two miles of the canal are used mainly for leisure and recreation, proving popular with both locals and visitors alike.

In the 19th Century with the emerging Victorian appetite for healthy, bracing seaside holidays, Bude’s reputation as a holiday resort began. The arrival of the Southern Railway in the town in 1898, brought with it an increasing volume of holidaymakers.  Bude prospered until the 1970’s when tourism declined in the face of increasing availability and popularity of overseas holidays.  But the circle has once again turned with the appeal of beautiful Bude and Cornwall drawing thousands of visitors each year.

Admire reproduced colourful costumes copied from the Civil War and meet the Cornish Giant ‘Anthony Payne’ who fought in the crucial 1643 Battle of Stamford Hill, fiercely fought on the outskirts of Stratton. It was here, after an epic ten-hour battle, that the exhausted Royalists defeated the larger Parliamentarian force and secured Cornwall for the King.

was originally a secret resistance movement dedicated to restoring the Monarchy after the English Civil War.  In 1972 the local Sealed Knot commissioned the famous artist, Robert Lenkiewicz, to paint them.  The result is the stunning canvas which now hangs on the first floor of the Heritage Centre.

In 2020 our annual Bude-Stratton Heritage Festival was held online due to Covid-19 restrictions. You can access all the festival’s historical blogs, stories, entertainment and exhibitions here.


Nikolai Tolstoy, author, historian and former parliamentary candidate, visited The Castle recently to share photographs, documents and letters pertaining to members of his family who lived at The Castle. His great-aunt, father and two uncles lived with Lady Nicholson and her husband, Admiral Nicholson, who owned The Castle during 1930s.  Countess Tolstoy  set up a school with Lady Nicholson for children who were Russian emigres.  For the full story please pop over to our blog