Industrial gases played a part in the first ever spot-light used in Victorian theatres in the United Kingdom as long ago as 1820. Sir Goldsworthy Gurney (1793 - 1875) moved to London in 1820 and two years later was appointed lecturer in Chemistry and Natural Philosophy at the Surrey Institute. It was here that he invented the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, a system for burning a jet of oxygen and hydrogen to produce an intensely hot flame. He experimented with it on different substances and discovered that a brilliant light was produced when the flame was placed on a chunk of lime.
If a lens was put in front of this light – its produced a beam – or spot. This was called “limelight” and was so intense that it could be seen 95 miles away. It found many uses in the theatre across the UK, (hence the phrase 'to be in the limelight').
However, it was “limelight's” use in lighthouses that brought about Gurney's most famed invention. Limelight presented some practical problems: it was necessary to store large quantities of oxygen and hydrogen gases in close proximity, which were then transferred to large gas bags. One small error and the theatre or lighthouse was no more. Furthermore, once the limelight was burning, it was necessary to feed in more lime gradually as the flame consumed it.
Gurney solved all these problems with his Bude Light. He used a standard oil lamp as his basic flame producer, and then introduced oxygen gas into the middle of the flame. The unburned carbon in the oil flame burned incredibly brightly and an intense, white light was produced from the weak yellow flame of the oil lamp. He used a single Bude Light to light his whole castle - in Bude - with a system of prisms and lenses running down his hallways to distribute the light into every room. His daughter reported that when Gurney's cousin visited him in the castle, he redirected his Bude light to light up her room at the Falcon Hotel, approximately 400 metres away across the canal. The light was patented in 1839.