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Why Is #Bude Called Bude?

Posted on Jun 14, 2015 by in Article | 2 comments

2015-06-03 12.29.16Well, why is it? It’s a strange old name for a town.

I’m lucky enough to have a (very strange-smelling limited edition) copy of “The Book of Bude and Stratton” by Rennie Bere and Brian Dudley Stamp, dedicated to their respective fathers, Sir Laurence Dudley Stamp (a noble sounding name) and Montague Acland Bere (even more noble sounding).

As the book is no longer readily available, it seemed pertinent to adapt some of the information within, for wider readership because we all reckon Bude is a fascinating place.

The first riddle about Bude is its name: why is the place actually called Bude? Was it actually Budehaven, as the secondary school is now known? Well, let’s see if anyone else can shed any light on the mystery because the more I delve, the more mysterious it becomes. Even the learned authors of the above book acknowledge that the origins of Bude as a place name are indeed just that, mysterious.

Back in 1602, Carew, in his Survey of Cornwall, uses Bude for ‘haven’ suggesting it derives from St Budoc, or from Boss or Bod, which means a dwelling. That doesn’t really tell us much, but given Bude wasn’t much to begin with, then maybe it is a start.

If instead one opts for latin, then we get bed, the part of a river which could turn a water-wheel. There were two in existence, one at Efford and one at Hele, and some rumours are that Bude should have been called Efford, so maybe there is some credibility in this.

Meanwhile, the Dictionary of English Place Names suggests Bude is the name of a river, as well as a haven, which may derive from the Cornish budr, meaning ‘dirty’ (or in this case a muddy river-bed).

Bude is also a German word which translates to booth, hut, or stall, roughly linked to the notion of a dwelling.

Slightly easier, Bude may be a contraction (not quite the right term) of Bede, as seen on early maps. Take your mind away from the Venerable Bede as I don’t think he came here. Bede did mean ‘holy man’ , however, so if there really was a chapel at Chapel Rock then this bede may be the man we are thinking of. I just feel that Chapel Rock would have been a terrifying place to live unless he had a hidey hole for high tide and rough seas.

As you can see, I’m struggling. You all must know much more, so any ideas out there?


  1. The Oxford Names Companion says for Bude “Perhaps originally a river name” and then goes on to say “… of uncertain origin and meaning.”

    If that’s the best the researchers at OUP can do, I think your struggle will go on. But at times I think it better to have a discussion point than a boring certainty!

    • Thanks, John. Yes, it’s good to have something with numerous possible interpretations.

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