Spirit of Place

1559 Entrance Panel Final
The RIBA Spirit of Place Bude project, an exhibition of photographs and poetry created and curated by Jonathan Ball , held at The Castle Bude just before Easter 2014 by the Cornwall Branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects, has been selected as an exhibit for the RIBA Local Members’ Forum 2014 to be held at the RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London on 11th July 2014. This is the third Local Members’ Forum held nationally and annually drawing members from across England and Wales for a day of celebration of the most successful projects promoting architecture, place-making and the RIBA membership. This day is an opportunity for sharing great ideas from across England and Wales and RIBA Spirit of Place Bude is a main feature item to be presented by retired Bude Architect and the Honorary Exhibition Curator Jonathan Ball and Emma Metcalfe from the RIBA South West team. One objective is to enthuse other branches and regions of the RIBA into delivering their own Spirit of Place projects in 2015 and beyond.’

The Exhibition explored genius loci and how the thread of history is woven through our landscape from pre-history through to the intervention of mankind where architecture, down the centuries, has celebrated, defended and defined cultural essence. Since time began mankind has been occupied in serving basic needs for shelter, defence, congregation and worship, establishing commemorative monuments of and for their time and for future generations to use and to enjoy. This project aspires to unlock this magic and for the public to appreciate that our environment is as much about the setting of architecture as architecture itself. 


Dr Paul Scully Power. Oceanographer and  Challenger Astronaut.

In June 1984 Dr Paul Scully-Power a US Navy Oceanographer and first President of the UN International Commission on Space Oceanography flew on the penultimate Challenger flight, the 13th shuttle mission which studied earth sciences. At mission conclusion Dr Scully-Power had travelled over 3.4 million miles in 133 earth orbits.

 Dr Scully-Power is recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honour awarded by the US Navy, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the United States Presidential Letter of Commendation, the US Congressional Certificate of Merit and the United Nations Distinguished Service Award.

 This image, taken by him and gifted to the Spirit of Place Bude exhibition, has the vertical stabiliser of Challenger pointing at Cornwall. What a starting point for our story. Photograph  Dr Paul Scully Power


Barrel Rock is the most westerly point where Bude meets the Atlantic Ocean, where man has made an intervention into landscape. The next time you walk along Bude Breakwater please reflect … where does nature stop and where does man start? The magic is in the not quite knowing. Man and nature in perfect harmony. The architecture and engineering of elemental defence. Photograph Bob Willingham.

Bude Light

BudeLightThe Bude Light is a tribute to Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, the 19th century Cornish scientific inventor who built his revolutionary house, Bude Castle, on a raft of concrete on sand. As a statement of cultural value there could surely not be a more fitting way to celebrate the dawn of the new Millennium in Bude than this innovative beacon of light created by sculptor Carole Vincent in collaboration with Anthony Fanshawe.

Constructed in concrete with colours of sand, sea and sky it comes alive at night using latest fibre optic techniques to reflect the constellations at the time of the Millennium.

Concrete is a building material which has had a mostly bad press since its invention. The Bude Light is a celebration of what can be achieved with concrete and imagination. Photograph Ross Hoddinott. Poem by local poet Kate Compston.

Beach Huts

Beach huts at Bude, Cornwall, UK.This Beach Hut crescent says so much of the personality and character that is Summerleaze. Whilst evocative of times past these huts epitomise the spirit of our age. They touch the ground lightly. This enduring symbol of Bude’s past and present … colourful gaiety-giving in the summer…. back to mother nature in the winter …with beach huts stored away safe from the predations of the weather that have had such catastrophic consequences for so many these past months. A fine example of demountable architecture.

With such ferocious storms pounding Britain a debate will now surely advance as to how we allocate resources in the future and what small coastal communities might have to be given up to the advancing tides of time. Is demountable architecture an idea from our past to inform our future? Photograph Ross Hoddinott.

The River Trevillet

StNectansWell-SofP-90x90at St Nectan’s Glen. Delabole slate has established itself down through history as being amongst the best natural building material known to mankind. St Nectan’s Well, a few miles west of Delabole and close by where the Trevillet flows into the Atlantic, is the most wonderful place to view the nature and characteristic of this metamorphic Devonian stone.

This panel aspires, along with Tennyson at Barrel Rock, to capture the very reason why Cornwall has been so widely portrayed in poetry and literature. Here in North Cornwall we have the Charles Causley Trust. Charles was a Launceston-based poet with an international reputation and the Trust promotes his legacy and has restored his house Cyprus Well to be an inspiration to writers and poets. The Trust, this past year, organised a national poetry competition that attracted several hundred entries with a judging panel headed by Sir Andrew Motion. This poem by local poet Dorothy Coventon was a winning entry. Photograph Bob Willingham.


Bencoolen-SofP-ProofThe wreck of the Bencoolen in October 1862 was the worst shipwreck in the history of Bude with substantial loss of life. The cargo and shipwreck recovered and the remembrance and memorial these past 150 years has been deployed and expressed in various ways to forge so much of the essence of Bude. Here is the architecture of the spirit of mankind. A road, a pub, a meadow and a bridge to mention but few of the enduing legacies of that fateful day.

In the foreground of this composite panel is a 19th century engraving clearly showing the distinctive cargo of line posts amongst the wreckage with the figurehead above and alongside is the gravestone in the churchyard of St Michael’s and All Angels. Then, in a rural setting inland from Bude, a modest farm building which has employed Bencoolen recovered line posts for keeping the roof up alongside huge vertical slabs of Delabole slate as being the cheapest and nearest to hand at the time this building was constructed. Vernacular architecture at its very best. Photograph Bob Willingham.

Hawker's Hut

HawkersHut SodP lowresThe architecture of shipwreck. Hawker’s hut is a well known, if not well visited landmark hereabouts. They say it is the smallest National Trust property in Britain. It is constructed of shipwreck and was erected by Parson Robert Stephen Hawker’s own hand as a remote cliffside retreat where he went to write his sermons, poems and, some say, to smoke opium.

Made out of broken ship’s timbers that had sent sailors to their mass graves, it is a place of shelter so small in a landscape so large, timeless yet for its time in our globalised world. Photograph Bob Willingham.

Bude Castle

Castle-SofP-160x80In 1830 Goldsworthy Gurney leased this sand dune from Sir Thomas Acland and built his famous Castle on a raft of concrete on the sand in Biblical defiance. By streaming oxygen into a naked flame he created an intensified single light source that he then reflected through the Castle by mirrors. His innovative Gurney stove pioneered central heating. This notable building quickly became a local landmark.

 Think on this. This building, in remote, rural North Cornwall, embodied the leading edge technology and engineering of its day. This is the equivalent of Sir Richard Rogers or Sir Norman Foster and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw at the height of their professional powers. The President of the Royal Society, the pre-eminent scientific academy of its day, desptched an operative to Bude to record and monitor these achievements. The Bude Light went on to illuminate the Houses of Parliament for some 60 years. It was further developed for use in lighthouses with flashing beams.

The Gurney stove, first used in this building, was later developed for churches, cathedrals and public buildings. Gurney’s Steam Carriage hastened the end of the horse drawn days. Bude’s forgotten genius. Photograph Bob Willingham.

The Song of the Western Men

Trelawney-SofP-ProofSurely we could not have an exhibition such as this without dedicating a panel to the Spirit of Place …..Cornwall! Robert Stephen Hawker, Passon Hawker of Morwenstow, has assured a special place in the hearts of Cornish men and women the world over with his poem The Song of the Western Men. This was written, on his saying, under Sir Bevil’s great oak in Stowe Woods in 1825 and is sung with great fervour as the anthem for Cornwall, the Celtic Nation.

We had the notion that there should be one panel that is the work of a photography student. This photograph of the Bude annual St Piran’s Day walk along the cliffs on St Piran’s Day, 5th March 2014, is the work of Toby Ackland a student who lives in Truro. Photograph Toby Ackland.

Truscott of Bude

Truscott-SofP-90x90The architecture of townscape where buildings dominate and enclose.

 Bert Biscoe’s poem Truscott of Bude, is about Cornish Bard Peter Truscott who died in 2007. Pictured at the shop door is N J Hawking, Peter Truscott’s grandfather, with the shop name passing from the female line to Peter Truscott in 1948. Peter exemplifies the spirit of Bude and the architectural connotation that all buildings are the product of man and embrace the human spirit.

Peter was born in a room above this shop in 1923, a room he later used as his office still retaining the nursery room wallpaper.

At the turn of the 20th century Mr Hawking also ran the establishment as Shipping Agents. Five tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic were sold in Bude to local people emigrating to Canada to find work. One survived and four drowned. Right across from this shop is King Street, the oldest residential street in Bude and home at the time of Archie Jewell who was Lookout in the crow’s nest on the Titanic the night she hit the iceberg. Archie survived only to be drowned a few years later on passage with a new line. Photograph Bob Willingham.

Temple of the Winds

Here we have object architecture alone in a high value landscape. What if… . Bude’s Temple of the Winds was not there? Take away the benevolence of the Acland family and how diminished would be our landscape and our sense of romance and belonging hereabouts.

This watch tower stands guard over the passing years redolent of all that was Bude and somehow captures the rhythm of the seasons and the weather which, in turn dictate the pace of our present day lives. Photograph Ross Hoddinott.



The Citizens' Wall

Citizens'-Wall-card-close-upThe Citizens’ Wall is an integral part of this exhibition – it offers an opportunity for Bude’s residents and our visitors to the town to reflect on just what it is that makes Bude so special to them as a place to live, work or play. This interactive forum leads with a quote from the Athenian oath as recited by citizens of Athens in ancient Greece….’that we will leave this place better than when we came to it’.  Photograph Bob Willingham.