From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


50° 49′ 26.4″ N 4° 32′ 31.2″ W

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Bude is a seaside town in north east Cornwall, at the mouth of the River Neet.

It is though that the area has been settled since the Bronze Age. Efford Manor, seat of the Arundell family of Trerice, was the only building here in the Middle Ages.

Bude was known as Bede's Haven, Bede was a holy man who lived in the chapel on the rock, on what is now the breakwater. The original breakwater was destroyed in 1838 by a storm, while the newer version was constructed in 1839. The spectacular sandstone coast here is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, known for jagged reefs causing in many shipwrecks. Alongside the sea and by the canal runs the river Neet. The two halves of the town are connected by a small grade two listed building, a bridge called Nanny Moore's, named after a 19th-century ‘dipper’ who lived nearby. Beyond this lay the quay, rebuilt in 1577 with funds from the Blanchminster charity.

The river divided the land owned by two Cornish families. South of the river was owned by Sir John Arundell, while land to the north was owned by Sir Richard Grenville of Stowe Barton, Kilkhampton. During the 1700's, Bude was a thriving port used by smaller vessels. Over time, the land changed hands, the Grenville land passed to the Carterets and Thynnes while the Arundell land passed to the Aclands. Bude and neighbouring Stratton are relevant in the English Civil War, with Nanny Moore's Bridge featuring as a pass over the river for the Royalists.

Bude became popular in Victorian times for sea bathing, inspired by the Romantic movement. The ladies used Crooklets Beach while the gentlemen were segregated to Summerleaze. Workers flocked to Bude for the building of the canal, but as shipping dwindled, and the railway reached dominance, Bude concentrated on the emergent tourist trade. By 1926, there were 59 boarding houses and 5 hotels: the Falcon, Grenville, Globe, Norfolk and the Commercial.

In the 18th century there was a small unprotected tidal harbour at Bude. 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.

The Bude Canal was built to transport goods and sea sand, which was useful for improving the inland soil. 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 , 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. 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.

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. North Cornwall District Council administered the canal, harbour and lock gates until its abolition in March 2009. These gates were renewed after the originals were damaged in a storm in 2008. They are the only manually operated sea lock gates in England. The pier head by the locks is a Grade II listed structure.

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.

The Victorians favoured it as a seaside resort. With the new rail links, it became a popular seaside destination in the 20th century.

There are a number of good beaches in the Bude area, many of which offer good surfing conditions.