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Cornish: Porthbud
Bude 01 River Neet.jpg
Grid reference: SS215065
Location: 50°49’26"N, 4°32’31"W
Population: 9,242  (2001)
Post town: Bude
Postcode: EX23
Dialling code: 01288
Local Government
Council: Cornwall
North Cornwall

Bude is a small seaside resort town in north-eastern Cornwall at the mouth of the River Neet (also known locally as the River Strat). The town was formerly sometimes known as Bude Haven.[1]

Bude lies southwest of Stratton, south of Flexbury and Poughill, and north of Widemouth Bay and more prosaically it is along the A3073 road off the A39. Bude's coast faces Bude Bay in the Atlantic Ocean.

The earlier importance of the town was as a harbour, and then a source of sea sand useful for improving the moorland soil. The Victorians favoured it as a watering place, and it was a popular seaside destination in the 20th century.


Many ships have been wrecked on the jagged reefs which fringe the base of the cliffs. The figurehead of one of these, the Bencoolen, a barque whose wrecking in 1862 resulted in the drowning of most of the crew, was preserved in the churchyard but was transferred to the town museum to save it from further decay.[2][3] The aftermath of the wreck of the Bencoolen was described by R. S. Hawker in letters which were published in Hawker's Poetical Works (1879).[4]

Bude Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest, located between Compass Cove to the south and Furzey Cove to the north, is noted for its geological and biological interest.[5] Carboniferous sandstone cliffs surround Bude. During the Variscan Orogeny the strata were heavily faulted and folded. As the sands and cliffs around Bude contain calcium carbonate (a natural fertiliser), farmers used to take sand from the beach, for spreading on their fields. The cliffs around Bude are the only ones in Cornwall that are made of Carboniferous sandstone, as most of the Cornish coast is formed of Devonian slate, granite and Precambrian metamorphic rocks).[5] The stratified cliffs of Bude give their name to a sequence of rocks called the Bude Formation. Many formations can be viewed from the South West Coast Path which passes through the town.


St Olaf's Church is in the village of Poughill just outside of Bude, a church in the perpendicular style. The town's own parish church is St Michael and All Angels, built in 1835 and enlarged in 1876; the architect was George Wightwick.

The town

Bude Castle

Present-day Bude is a pleasant small town with character. It has two beaches with excellent broad sands close to the town itself, and is a good centre for adjacent beaches. Its sea front faces west and the Atlantic rollers make for good surfing when conditions are right.[6] The main access road in and out of Bude is the "Atlantic Highway", the A39.

Notable buildings about Bude include the Ebbingford Manor,[7] and the town's oldest house, Quay Cottage in the centre of town. Bude Castle was built about 1830 for Victorian inventor Sir Goldsworthy Gurney and is now a heritage centre.[8]

The town's oldest house, Quay Cottage, stands in the centre of town.

Bude Castle was built about 1830 for Victorian inventor Sir Goldsworthy Gurney and is now a heritage centre. At the northernmost point of Efford Down Farm, overlooking Summerleaze Beach and the breakwater, a former coastguard lookout stands. Known as Compass Point and built by the Acland family in 1840 of local sandstone, it is based on the Temple of Winds in Athens. It was moved to its current position in 1880. It is so called as it has points of the compass carved in each of its octagonal sides.[9]

Bude Canal, which once ran to Launceston, now runs only a few miles inland. Sadly, several historic wharf buildings were demolished in the 1980s but in May 2009 a £5 million scheme funded by taxpayers' money to restore the historic canal itself was completed, making the waterway open to boats for several miles inland and also paying for the gentrification of the remaining harbourside area.


In the Middle Ages the only dwelling here was Efford Manor, the seat of the Arundells of Trerice which had a chapel of St Leonard. Another chapel existed at Chapel Rock which was dedicated to Holy Trinity and St Michael.[1]

Until the start of the twentieth century, the neighbouring town of Stratton was dominant, and a local saying is "Stratton was a market town when Bude was just a furzy down", and indeed Bude is relatively recent and its streets gorse downland while Stratton throve. (A similar saying is current at Saltash about Plymouth.)

On 10 October 1844 during an exercise the unnamed Bude Lifeboat capsized when the steering oar broke followed by four on the port side and two of the crew were drowned.[10]

The local senior school Budehaven Community College suffered a major fire in October 1999 destroying most of the older parts of the school. This meant the school was forced to close for several weeks until temporary classrooms could be brought in. The damaged part of the school was rebuilt with interactive classrooms.[11]

Victorian resort

The Haven, the Atlantic Ocean and the beach at Bude

In the latter part of Queen Victoria's reign, the middle classes were discovering the attractions of sea bathing, and the romantic movement encouraged an appreciation of wild scenery and the Arthurian Legend. To serve this desire, a railway line was extended to Bude in 1898. This encouraged the holiday trade, but Bude never rivalled Newquay or the resorts in south Cornwall and Devon.


The beach in Bude and the sea lock
The sea lock on Bude Canal
The sea from the sea lock

There are a number of good beaches in the Bude area, many of which offer good surfing conditions. Bude was the founder club in British Surf Life Saving.

  • Summerleaze, Crooklets and 'middle' beaches are both within the town;
  • Widemouth Bay is a few miles south of the town and offers a long, wide sandy beach;
  • Sandymouth Beach is owned by the National Trust, and has spectacular cliffs and rock formations with shingle below the cliffs and a large expanse of sand at low tide. There are also a number of other coves and beaches to be found and explored in the local area.

Bude Harbour and Canal

In the 18th century there was a small unprotected tidal harbour at Bude, but it was difficult whenever the sea was up. The Bude Canal Company built a canal and improved the harbour. Around twenty small boats use the tidal moorings of the original harbour during the summer months. Most are sport fishermen, but there is also some small-scale, semi-commercial, fishing for crab and lobster.

There is a wharf on the Bude Canal about half a mile from the sea lock that links the canal to the tidal haven. This can be opened only at or near high tide, and then only when sea conditions allow. These gates were renewed not long since, as the originals were damaged in a storm. They are the only manually operated sea lock gates in the land. The pier head by the locks is a Grade II listed structure.

The canal is one of the few of note in the West Country. Its original purpose was to take small tub boats of mineral-rich sand from the beaches at Bude and carry them inland for agricultural use on fields. A series of inclined planes carried the boats over 400 vertical feet to Red Post, where the canal branched south along the upper Tamar Valley towards Launceston, east to Holsworthy and north to the Tamar Lakes that fed the canal. The enterprise was always in financial difficulty, but it carried considerable volumes of sand and also coal from south Wales. The arrival at Holsworthy of the railway, and the production of cheap manufactured fertiliser undermined the canal's commercial purpose, and it was closed down and sold to the district municipal water company. However the wharf area and harbour enjoyed a longer success, and coastal sailing ships carried grain across to Wales and coal back to Cornwall.

In 2005 a major project to re-develop the canal was approved. Work included improving the banks and opening-up a long-closed section of canal.


Tourism is the main industry in the Bude area whilst some fishing is carried on. In the past, the staple trade was the export of sand, which, being highly charged with carbonate of lime, was much used for manure. There are also golf links in the town. There is some local debate as to the origins of the golf course. It has been suggested the land the course occupies was given to the town for leisure use and that a few wealthy individuals took it to create a golf course excluding most of the townspeople from full enjoyment of the land.

Bude has an industrial estate which houses Bott Ltd, who manufacture racking and tool holding accessories and storage systems for vans and workshops. It was the home of Tripos Receptor Research, which produced prototypes of drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. However, the company ceased trading in 2008 as a result of the global economic downturn and the purpose-built building it once occupied is now empty.


  • Football: Bude Town FC
  • Golf: Bude and North Cornwall Golf Club
  • Rugby: Bude RFC

Bude is the host town of the North Cornwall Cup, a large youth football event held every August. is ideally situated within the town centre.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bude)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; p. 66
  2. Mee, Arthur (1937) Cornwall. (The King's England.) London: Hodder & Stoughton; p. 38
  3. Seal, Jeremy (2 April 2002). "Cornwall: the Shipwreck Coast". Daily Telegraph (The). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/723860/Cornwall-The-shipwreck-coast.html. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  4. Hawker, R. S. (1879) The Poetical Works of Robert Stephen Hawker; [ed.] by J. G. Godwin. London: C. Kegan Paul; pp. xi-xiii
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bude Coast SSSI - Natural England
  6. "The Atlantic Roar Ten Miles Away: Bude ... nowhere do the Atlantic waters rise so high; we were told that the roar of the sea can be heard ten miles away. It has magnificent seas in a gale and glorious sunsets any time ...", in: Mee, Arthur (1937) Cornwall. (The King's England.) London: Hodder & Stoughton; p. 37
  7. Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed. Penguin; pp. 47 (in the main the house is mid 18th century though there was a manor house here in the 14th century)
  8. "Bude Castle". British Listed Buildings Online. http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-64739-the-castle-and-walls-to-the-north-west-an. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  9. "Efford Down Stables, Camping, and Business Park , Bude, Cornwall, UK". Efforddown.co.uk. http://www.efforddown.co.uk/about.htm. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  10. Larn, Richard; Larn, Bridget. Wreck & Rescue round the Cornish coast. Redruth: Tor Mark Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-85025-406-8. 
  11. "Bude Town Council; Class of 79". Bude-cornwall.co.uk. http://www.bude-cornwall.co.uk/classof79/oldindex.htm. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  • Bere, Rennie & Stamp, Bryan Dudley (1980) The Book of Bude and Stratton. Buckingham: Barracuda Books ISBN 0-86023-055-4