Six years ago, we visited the Bude Castle and was introduced to the remarkable scientific work of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney! He was certainly enthused by the Industrial Revolution that was centred upon the UK – and was dialectically ‘attuned’ to some of its most progressive developments as even today. As a friend of Michael Faraday – Gurney had developed firstly a brightly burning oil-lamp that evolved into a very brightly burning oxygen-fed lamp – with four examples of his ‘Bude Lights’ still functioning within London’s Trafalgar Square (although now fed by electricity)! For a time, ‘Bude Lights’ burned in Pall Mall and Parliament in London!
Goldsworthy Gurney, however, had been thwarted in his genius in the years before he developed the ‘Bude Light’. Indeed, he may well have been the first modern victim of ‘industrial espionage’ in as much as his superb invention of the world’s first ‘motor-driven’ automobile was attacked, blocked, ignored and sabotaged from all sides! The British Parliament refused to pass legislation supporting the use of such a free-moving’ and ‘self-propelling vehicle’ (mostly on ‘superstitious’ grounds), and this lack of official support led to the leading industrialists of his day ‘uniting’ to deliberately prevent the manufacture and use of his revolutionary road-vehicle! These industrialised were protecting their own industrial assists that they controlled whilst making ample use of the existing road, canal and developing rail systems. Gurney advocated a stream-lined steam-engine that once affixed to the structure of a purpose-built horse-carriage – could propel that carriage (containing passengers and cargo) along an open (conventional) road without the need for living-horses or the use of rail-tracks (the latter of which was being developed by others at the time). Indeed, at the request of the British Army in July, 1829, Gurney drove his ‘vehicle’ (nicknamed the ‘Drag’) along open roads between London and Bath (and back)! Despite accidents, breakdowns, protests and physical attacks from Luddites (and various other aggressive groups), Gurney’s journey was deemed a ‘success’ even then (despite at one-point colluding with the ‘Bristol Mail’ Coach and Horses at a place called ‘Langford’ a mile from Cranford)! A rabid crowd attacked the ‘Drag’ and occupants at ‘Melksham’ – a town in Wiltshire situated on the River Avon – with the mob shouting ‘Down with Machinery!’ Gurney and his crew had to be taken under armed guard for the rest of the journey to Bath! Although by-passing the most troublesome areas on the return journey, the ‘Drag’ was generally treated with respect and enthusiasm by the observing crowds! Unfortunately, and despite receiving full-backing from the Duke of Wellington, the British Parliament decided to throw its weight exclusively behind the developing steam-rail mode of transport, and so no financial or legislative backing was received for Gurney’s motor-vehicle invention at the time! Parliament ruled in 1831 that Gurney had been unfairly treated and was due compensation – but no money was ever forthcoming. Undaunted, Gurney contributed his genius to the construction of the Bude Canal (using ‘incline planes’ instead of ‘locks’) and, of course, his famous ‘Bude Light’ as well as many other innovations!