Saturday 1st January 2011
This is the time of year when we look back and consider
what has been achieved for our communities over the past twelve months and
although no momentous events have affected Bourne, there have been small
milestones which mark our progress, the most memorable being the continuing
failure of our local authorities to meet our expectations yet persist in
collecting an ever increasing amount in council tax.
After nine years of protracted and costly negotiations, South Kesteven District
Council finally shelved the proposed £27 million redevelopment of the town
centre, a decision which was not unexpected because many believed it to be
flawed from the outset and it finally flickered out in June like a damp squib
with the economic recession a convenient scapegoat.
The scheme was an ambitious one, to regenerate that triangle of land between
West Street, North Street and Burghley Street, first mooted in August 2001 but
too many properties and parcels of land were involved and therefore a whole
series of negotiations with the owners to surmount, well over 40 and each one a
potential time-consuming obstacle. Then there was the choice of a developer, a
drama in its own right, but the council appeared unable to find common ground
with the first who was sacked in 2006 while the second withdrew last year when
the council manned panic stations by declaring that the tender process would
open to companies across Europe.
There followed a series of statements trying to paper over the cracks of a
failed project but the end was inevitable with a public that had become totally
disinterested in what was or was not happening and traders who had been holding
their breath for major change now long since resigned to the status quo. The
result is that the council has tried to save face by announcing a revised and
smaller scheme concentrated on developing a series of shops, restaurants and
flats in the Wherry’s Lane area at an affordable cost of £5 million. The council
has expressed the hope that “the community will be excited by this” but there is
little sign of rejoicing where there are currently 20 shop premises in and
around the town centre with an uncertain future.
In the meantime, more houses are dumped upon Bourne as the years pass with
little or no thought for the infrastructure required to maintain an increased
population while Lincolnshire County Council continues to act as if the town
does not exist. Yet as the highways authority, it holds the key to our
prosperity by deciding the future of our roads system. The best solutions are
usually the most obvious and so it is with the ongoing problem of our town
centre, one that could be solved to everyone’s satisfaction with the building of
bypasses for the two main roads which pass through.
This would create a pedestrianised precinct, landscaped to make it attractive to
shoppers, a place where premises would be eagerly sought and vacancies a rare
occurrence. Organic growth, as this is known, is far preferable to schemes
dreamed up on the drawing board in the council offices only to end up in the
basement along with other failed and costly endeavours. The bypass solution,
particularly for the A15 road which runs south to north through the town centre,
is not new having been suggested more than a hundred years ago. The need was
first highlighted in 1909 when horse drawn vehicles began creating problems on
this road and as traffic flows increased in the following years, the project was
mooted and scrapped on half a dozen occasions.
The town does benefit from half of a bypass for the east-west route, opened in
October 2005 at a cost of £4 million and financed by developers of the Elsea
Park housing estate as part of the planning gain. The benefits of the 1½ mile
south west relief road are not in doubt because a traffic count carried out by
Lincolnshire County Council the following year showed that 3,000 vehicles were
diverted during a 12-hour period and, as the survey reported, that is 3,000
fewer through the town centre (Stamford Mercury, 21st July 2006). Yet the
A 6141 is the least busy of the two main roads through Bourne and the amount of
traffic using the South Street-North Street route is immeasurably greater, often
causing long delays, dangers to pedestrians, unhealthy petrol and diesel fumes
and vibrations to buildings along the route.
The case for a north-south bypass for Bourne is overwhelming but an unlikely
eventuality. The last time it became a possibility was in 1991 when Lincolnshire
County Council announced that work was due to start on a Bourne by-pass in April
1994 with a completion date of October 1995 but those plans were shelved and now
there is little possibility that it will be built in the foreseeable future even
though traffic conditions continue to worsen with the years.
There were two other controversial issues during the year that remain to be
settled during 2011 but the conclusion of both should not be a matter of such
lengthy delay. The first is the future of the Victorian chapel in the town
cemetery which the town council planned to demolish. Now saved by a Grade II
listing, volunteers in the shape of Bourne Preservation Trust are waiting to
take over the building and bring it back to life with a programme of sympathetic
restoration but despite almost four years of negotiations they have still not
been given the key, their efforts thwarted by bureaucratic hindrance and
The other is Wake House, currently owned by South Kesteven District Council but
occupied by the Bourne Arts and Community Trust which has a vital role in the
life of our community by providing a home for more than 30 organisations which
meet there regularly. The trust has been trying to obtain a long lease on the
building in order that much needed repairs and maintenance may be carried out
but here too they have been kept waiting for several years while lawyers argue
the legalities and then in October last year the council dropped a bombshell by
putting the building up for sale. There is a proviso in that any purchaser must
keep the trust as a tenant but that is a most unsatisfactory solution for a
voluntary organisation which now faces an uncertain future and probably with an
In both of these cases, the cemetery chapel and Wake House, the councils
concerned appear to have forgotten that their duty is to the people they
represent and not any other imagined motivation and it is up to our elected
representatives to encourage the voluntary effort involved, a tenet currently
embraced by the present coalition government with its flagship policy the Big
Society, thus giving more power to the people through enterprises such as this.
Another outlet has been bestowed on coffee lovers in Bourne although it
will not find favour with town councillors, the majority of them condemning the
enterprise as a bad thing although in the long run the market place will decide.
We are also tempted to ask whether they are expending quite so much effort over
the other 20 shop premises that face an uncertain future in the next few months.
Planning permission over the Costa Coffee chain application to open up at No 10
North Street was never in doubt because the final decision rested with South
Kesteven District Council which was unlikely to pass up another opportunity to
collect the business rate on otherwise empty premises and therefore gave the
go-ahead on Tuesday 7th December. It is also a mystery why our town councillors
were prepared to court such public disfavour by opposing it when the outcome was
assured. Their powers are limited and they should have known that an adverse
decision would have been overruled, as they have been over housing developments
so many times in the past and despite their unpopular decision, another coffee
shop is on its way.
One of the delights of the festive season was a television screening of
The Railway Children, an adaptation of the famous book by Edith Nesbit, written
in 1905. This film will be remembered particularly by children who were resident
at the Bourne House hostel in West Street because when it was shown at the
town’s Tudor Cinema soon after release in 1970, they all believed that the paper
chase scene involving boys from the local grammar school had been shot at Toft
The disused railway line on the Stamford Road was then an attraction for
adventurous children, especially the long, dark and empty tunnel where they
would often play, hiding in the dead men alcoves used by railwaymen when the
line had been open whenever a train passed through. But this has since been
dismissed as a piece of local folklore for although there is a close resemblance
between the two, director Lionel Jeffries actually used the Keighley and Worth
Valley Railway in Yorkshire and its station at Oakworth as the backdrop,
referring to it as the Great Northern and Southern Railway.
At the time of shooting, there were very few heritage railways in Britain and
only the five-mile long KWVR could offer a tunnel which is important to a number
of scenes although in reality it is a lot shorter than it appears in the film.
Toft tunnel, however, is 330 yards long and was built during the late 19th
century when it became one of the great civil engineering feats on the rail link
between the Midlands and East Anglia.
The line closed in 1959 and the land on both sides of the tunnel was
subsequently bought by Bourne Urban District Council. A section on the eastern
side was used for rubbish dumping for a while and when the authority was
superseded by South Kesteven District Council in 1974 it was planned to extend
refuse disposal throughout the site but the proposal was shelved. Later, during
the Cold War period of 1979-85 when there was a presumed threat of a nuclear
attack, Lincolnshire County Council investigated the possibility of using the
tunnel as a public shelter equipped with beds, food stores and other survival
equipment but it was deemed not to be feasible and the idea was dropped.
Then in 1993, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust stepped in to preserve the tunnel and
surrounding area as a nature reserve open to the public. It consists of the two
deep eastern and western cuttings that include a large portion of gorse,
buckthorn and cowslips, a pond and wet areas of limestone grasses and also acts
as a linear wildlife park. In the summer of 2003, a pyramidal orchid and a
common spotted orchid were found on the site and as conditions are perfect for
both species, there are hopes that the numbers will increase in future years.
The area can become very wet in winter but an all-weather raised path in the
east cutting has been built for access. The mixture of scrub and open areas with
rich grassland provides a diverse range of habitats. Whitethroat and willow
warbler are regular nesting species, while in winter there are often large
numbers of fieldfare and redwing. Twenty-one types of butterfly have also been
recorded. The trust continues a programme of annual management, mainly
maintaining areas of dense hawthorn and blackthorn trees and also restoring some
areas of permanent grassland.
This relic from the heyday of Victorian travel now provides a new delight for
those in the 21st century who seek out nature that has colonised the abandoned
track which is well worth a visit at any time of the year although the tunnel
itself has now been closed. In the autumn of 2006, engineers ruled that it was
unsafe and that visitors would be in danger from falling masonry. Decades of
soot have taken their toll on the interior brickwork which has started to
crumble and fall in some places. Metal palisade fencing has been erected across
each end, thus isolating the surrounding nature reserve and the future of the
tunnel is now uncertain although there are fears that the new restrictions may
be the start of proceedings to demolish the structure altogether.
Nevertheless, many people now living around the world who passed through the
Bourne House hostel will still have fond memories of Toft tunnel and The Railway
Children because experiences from our early years make such an indelible
impression that they are difficult, even impossible, to erase even if we wanted
Thought for the week: Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and
sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. - Sir John Betjeman
(1906-1984), English poet, writer and broadcaster, founding member of the
Victorian Society and Poet Laureate.
Saturday 8th January 2011
The local authority is always a convenient Aunt Sally
whenever things go wrong in the community and so it has been in Bourne over the
inadequacy of the Christmas lights and the accompanying switch-on ceremony. The
town council has been getting much of the flak but a closer look at the
situation reveals that the shopkeepers and their official body are not entirely
Shortly before the holiday rush began, traders issued an appeal through The
Local newspaper (November 26th) asking everyone to shop in Bourne in the run
up to the festive season, the message being that we should support them if they
are to survive. Everyone will agree with this sentiment but the least we expect
is for them to assist with any such initiative themselves.
Unfortunately, this has not proved to be the case because once again shopkeepers
expect our local authorities to bear the brunt of providing the necessary
seasonal cheer in the streets without contributing themselves and as our
councils exist on the exorbitant council tax we pay, this means that we must
finance the marketing and advertising necessary for the shops to attract us to
buy their goods over the Christmas season. The town council has been so
concerned with criticism over the past few weeks that it has issued an official
statement about the inadequacy of the 2010 seasonal illuminations and the
reasons why, all of which reveals that it was not really their fault at all and
that the traders themselves must take a great deal of the responsibility.
In past years, the town centre and North Street have been closed to traffic on
the night the illuminations were switched on and all of the shops were open for
business with a variety of stalls outside as an added attraction. The cost of
staging this event was around £1,000 which was borne by the old Chamber of Trade
and Commerce but this organisation is now defunct, having merged early in 2009
with the Bourne Business Club to form the Bourne Business Chamber and when
approached, we are told, support was “very limited”.
In the event, the town council did its best to keep the tradition going by
organising a Santa’s grotto and increasing the lighting around the car park
behind the Corn Exchange where the switch-on took place but there was little support
from the shopkeepers. As a result, the future for this event appears to be in
doubt because the town council statement says: “With only very few traders being
members of the new Bourne Business Chamber, the council believes that the future
of any Christmas shopping event may be uncertain.”
The town council is not equipped to organise events such as this without the
co-operation of the very people it is supposed to benefit, namely the
shopkeepers. Those who keep in touch with local affairs will remember that when
the authority was planning to spend £40,000 on the present street illuminations
ten years ago, they refused to contribute (Bourne Diary 10th February
2001) even though they would be the main beneficiaries through increased trade
and so the bill fell entirely on the council tax payer. Now, the newly formed
Bourne Business Chamber appears to be equally reticent in participating in the
festive celebrations yet those members who do belong are quite prepared to reap
the rewards of any additional trade the season might bring through street
illuminations and a visit by Santa, provided someone else does the work and
foots the bill.
The council’s statement is signed by the clerk, Mrs Nelly Jacobs, who points out
that in most towns, these events are organised by a joint committee
of voluntary organisations including the chamber of trade or business club,
the town centre manager and the council. "This kind of partnership brings in
more ideas and connections and spreads the workload and cost", she writes.
So it should be in Bourne rather than leave the council to carry the burden
alone as happened this year. However, the poor turnout of shoppers over
Christmas, no doubt exacerbated by the wintry weather, appears to have focussed
minds because Kevin Hicks, the chamber chairman, told The Local (December 31st)
that he was hoping for a meeting with the town council to improve the situation
by next Christmas. “We are going to work together”, he said. “I think we have
got to remain positive.”
Perhaps then, things will be different from now on. The switch-on of the
Christmas lights in Bourne dates from 1967 and over the years the event has
become an integral and successful part of the festive season, mainly through the
joint effort of everyone who benefits but if it fails again, then it means that
someone is not pulling their weight.
Despite the atrocious weather over the holiday period, our wheelie bins
were emptied on time. There was much criticism when they were introduced in the
autumn of 2006, perhaps because of the mistaken policy of South Kesteven
District Council in secretly installing micro-chips without revealing their real
purpose, but their continual and regular use since then have proved that the
system works although this does not mean that it cannot be improved.
It has been a long haul since rubbish collections were first introduced in
Bourne with a horse and cart in 1911 and there have been many failed methods
along the way such as galvanised containers, coloured boxes and more recently
black plastic bags, but wheelie bins appear to be the best and most efficient
system so far and they are now obviously here to stay for the time being.
We should count ourselves lucky because not everyone in the country has had such
a good service over the holiday and in some places council staff are working
extra shifts to clear the backlog of rubbish which has begun to create a health
hazard, particularly in Birmingham, Exeter, North London and parts of
Merseyside. The situation has been so bad that the government has promised to
bring back weekly collections although this is an unlikely eventuality in the
current climate of public spending cuts.
Here in Bourne, we appear to have weekly collections already but that is not
actually the case because the silver wheelie bin for recycled waste and the
black wheelie bin for household waste destined for landfill disposal are emptied
on alternate weeks which means that we actually have a fortnightly collection.
SKDC is often criticised for this because the refuse collection is a basic yet
high profile public service, one that is evident by the regular clatter of the
refuse lorry outside in the street and one that householders equate with the
benefit of paying their ever increasing council tax. Once a week for emptying
both would be a more satisfactory system as can be seen by the overflowing
containers outside many homes on silver bin day but in the current economic
climate and without government intervention, it is unlikely that this will ever
be on the council’s agenda in the immediate future.
The Bourne web site has now been running continuously for over twelve
years and still attracts many thousands of visitors from around the world. The
latest figures show that 85,443 people logged on during 2010 and although this
is not the highest annual number on record, it does indicate a healthy interest
in a community web site of this size and one of the oldest on the Internet.
When we began in August 1998 there were only a few pages and it took us many
months, in some cases years, to be acknowledged by the big search engines, a
necessary factor if you wished to be read, but we are now represented on all of
them, particularly Google which is by far the fastest and the best on the
Internet today and we consistently top the list whenever and from wherever
information is sought about Bourne, Lincolnshire.
The web site is now read around the world and has not only reunited families,
but has also enabled many people who left these shores for foreign parts to keep
in touch with their home town. A record is available on site of those places
where our visitors live and it is an enlightening geographical lesson to read
them. We did not begin keeping records with the highly efficient StatCounter
service until halfway through 2003 when we started at zero. As a result,
although the total figure currently logged is now nearing 800,000, it should
actually be much higher to account for those early years and is therefore most
probably in excess of one million which is quite an achievement for such a small
undertaking and we are gratified to know that it keeps this small market town on
the cyber map.
The secret of success is to update regularly which we do, daily for our Notice
Board and Family History sections, and weekly for major changes such as new
articles, photographs and the regular Diary entry, and in this way readers are
encouraged to return. There are many web sites around which appear with great
enthusiasm and then stagnate whereas constant activity is the way forward. If
someone visits and finds no change in what was seen last time then they will
The highest number of visitors to the Bourne web site annually was recorded in
2008 when 95,593 people logged on. Other recent totals are as under:
2003 - 23,205
2004 - 49,772
2005 - 81,131
2006 - 94,516
2007 - 94,970
2008 - 95,593
2009 - 86,949
2010 - 84,443
There was also a phenomenal interest on Friday 7th November 2008
when 1,274 visitors were logged in a single day and this may have been because
the web site was mentioned elsewhere and many people came to have a look out of
interest. If you wish to see the impressive listing of countries and
organisations from where our visitors have logged on over the years, then go to
the front page and click on to Visitor Countries which you may find quite
We went walking in the woods on Monday and found the forest trails
strangely deserted for a Bank Holiday but decided that most people were resting
after two weeks of festive celebrations. On reaching the first seat on the main
path from Beech Avenue however, we suddenly found ourselves watching a stream of
people of all ages racing past and realised that we had encountered the
Christmas handicap outing of Bourne Town Harriers, an annual event which enables
members of this running club to get in trim for the coming year.
The exertions needed for such an outing were apparent but all were determined to
keep going, men and women, boys and girls, and we marvelled at the age range,
from youngsters of ten and eleven to those of more mature years, all puffing and
panting as they passed yet obviously possessed of that willpower needed to
finish a most arduous course, no matter in what position. The junior handicap
was over 1.9 miles and the senior race 3.8 miles with the slowest runner, based
on their recent race results, going off first and the fastest last, a system
designed to ensure that everyone, if on form, finished around the same
time and as we were witnessing the final stages, most of the competitors appeared to
be on the last straight at the end.
The event should have been held on Tuesday 28th December but was postponed
because of the weather, the paths being covered with ice so thick and dangerous
that it would have been foolhardy to ask anyone compete but the re-arranged date
attracted a large field, some of them in the customary fancy dress including one
chap with an outrageous head of blue hair that caused some merriment among those
who watched him race past.
Bourne Town Harriers was founded in 1987 and three of the original members are
still with the club while new recruits are always welcome for training sessions
each week and a series of track and field events throughout the year, notably
the ten kilometre run through Grimsthorpe Park on August Bank Holiday. The club
does have its own web site which may be accessed through Bourne Links and if you
have the inclination and the stamina to join them, then you would be welcome.
Who knows, perhaps you too will be among them running your heart out along these
woodland ways during the next Christmas handicap.
Thought for the week: I always loved running. It was something you could
do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or
slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new
sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs. -
Jesse Owens (1913-80), American athlete who achieved international fame by
winning four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, in 1936.
Saturday 15th January 2011
Relics of the railway age in Bourne have practically
disappeared, dismantled and demolished to make way for new developments, but
there are still some structures left to remind us that steam trains for both
passengers and freight served the town for almost a century.
The railway came to Bourne in 1860 with the building of a 6½-mile stretch of
track to connect with the main Great Northern Railway line at Essendine and
during the next 100 years the system was regularly extended and improved. The
Spalding and Bourne Railway was opened in 1866 followed by a 17-mile branch line
north to Sleaford and the final link came in 1894 with another extension west to
Little Bytham where it connected with the branch line from Saxby, east of Melton
Mowbray, thus creating a through route between the East Midlands and East Anglia
of which Bourne could take full advantage.
During this period, the railway had become one of the most useful travel
facilities in the history of the town and continued until the last passenger
train left Bourne for Spalding on 28th February 1959 while the termination of
freight facilities for the movement of sugar beet disappeared in 1965, virtually
ending the steam age for Bourne.
Complete closure heralded to start of a massive demolition programme and over
the next few months practically every remnant of the railway system was removed
including the station platforms, workshops, water tower, engine sheds and signal
boxes. Among the larger structures to disappear was the iron bridge which
carried the Bourne to Spalding line over Abbey Road which was dismantled and a
heavy duty crane was brought in to help lift the cumbersome metal sections on to
lorries to be hauled away.
There are still a few reminders of the steam age scattered around the district
such as small bridges on country roads, gatekeepers’ cottages, a few platform
lamps from Bourne railway station which can be seen adorning front gardens. The
station itself was demolished in 2005 to make way for new houses although the
old parcels office across the road remains intact.
This week, photographs of a triple arched bridge tucked out of the way in a
remote location to the west of the town that few people will even know were sent
in by Chris Roe. It was built with locally made bricks around 1860 and was known
as Overbridge 234, part of the Midland and Great Northern line to Saxby. It was
the first, and only one remaining, of three overbridges which took farm traffic
over the line between Bourne West signal box and Toft tunnel. Today it stands
isolated and in very poor condition although the Elsea Park housing development
is getting closer by the month but despite its dilapidated state, the structure
still retains that Victorian splendour which reminds us of the period’s
outstanding engineering achievements.
Chris, aged 45, moved to Bourne from Essex four years ago and now lives in
Westwood Drive from where he is busy exploring the town whenever he gets out and
about, always taking a camera because photography is a hobby and he also has an
abiding interest in railways. “The history that surrounds us never ceases to
amaze me”, he writes. “I am sure most people have no idea what is under their
noses. Bourne is without doubt the most fascinating place I have ever lived in
and I hope to spend the rest of my days here.”
For all those interested in our old railway system, this bridge is worth close
inspection and despite its lonely location in that segment of green space
between West Road and Elsea Park it can easily be reached by field walking along
the route of the old track from Manor Lane or from one of the network of
footpaths that branch out from the south-west relief road. The photographs of
the bridge have been added to our history archive and if anyone has others from
the railway age that are equally interesting, then please send them in and they
too will be preserved for posterity. In the meantime, a photographic exhibition
mounted by Jonathan Smith, our local expert on Bourne’s railway era, is on view
at the Heritage Centre in South Street and is well worth a visit.
New legislation will require local authorities publish details of all
items of expenditure over £500 online from the end of January and South Kesteven
District Council has already begun doing this. Transactions for three months
from September to November can be inspected on their web site and the lists do
make interesting reading about the minutiae of public spending but we can still
only wonder whether it is all really necessary and how much of it actually
relates directly to services.
Nevertheless, this is a welcome move forward towards total transparency and
should satisfy anyone who is concerned about where the money goes although
whether it is all being spent wisely is another matter. For instance, £1,168 was
paid for the services of a chauffeur on October 7th, £614.85 for conference
expenses (October 12th ), £64,856 for concessionary travel (October 21st),
£510.95 to a local coffee shop for hospitality (November 11th) and £720 for new
carpets (November 18th) and although these all sound extravagant at a time of
public spending economies, there are sure to be plausible reasons for all of
them if anyone asks.
There are also many payments for legal advice and accounting, even though the
council employs its own lawyers and accountants, and a large number of fees for
casual work despite the authority having a workforce of around 740. One
particular item will also catch the eye and that is £537.40 to a confectionery
firm (November 4th) and although this does seem to be rather a lot of sweets and
chocolates for a local authority, we are told that the goods were bought by the
cultural services department for re-sale although why our district council
should be in the tuck shop business is not explained.
The relevant page on the council web site is difficult to locate and I had to
seek guidance from Grantham before finding it but it is now made easier through
Bourne Links where it is just a mouse click away in the section listing
Government and Public Utilities and is well worth a look for anyone with an
inquiring mind about our public affairs.
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev John Saxbee, is retiring at the end of
this month and in a most revealing interview with Radio Lincolnshire on Sunday
morning he told listeners that the one thing he would miss was the widespread
voluntary work he found underway in his diocese. The area is full, he said, of
people doing their own thing for the benefit of the community and this has
impressed him far more than the county’s location or topographical importance.
Many share the bishop’s views because Lincolnshire does appear to be a hotbed of
unpaid and charitable effort on behalf of others and no matter what the cause,
whether religious or secular, there always seem to be dedicated helpers ready to
carry out the work in hand. This commitment is amply reflected in Bourne where
many organisations that have become a vital part of our life depend entirely on
goodwill and if those who keep the wheels turning at such places as Wake House,
the Butterfield Centre, the Outdoor Swimming Pool, the Heritage Centre and the
Abbey Church, suddenly withdrew their support, then all would close within weeks
and become so many empty places.
Voluntary work is the mainstay of any community and without it, society itself
would be the poorer. The government provides only the basic structures for
living and the rest is up to us and so the person of altruistic motives who
offers his services for purely humanitarian and charitable causes enhances not
only his own self-esteem but also the organisation with which he becomes
associated. The work of the volunteer therefore is the difference between a
basic and a sophisticated society, making life more pleasant and amenable for
those around them.
Many of the country’s community projects are run by volunteers, men and women
who give their time and money selflessly, often running clubs and organisations,
helping the sick, the elderly and disabled, or merely popping in next door in
time of need, all tasks motivated by a love of our fellow man and carried out
without thought of reward. Their work is particularly valuable in those
activities involving our young people, the scouts and the guides, the youth
clubs and junior soccer teams, the parent-teacher committees and a host of
others that have become interwoven into the fabric of our lives yet we tend to
take them for granted.
Unfortunately, those who keep them going have become the unsung heroes of
society and although occasionally honoured with a gong when their work has been
so significant that it cannot be ignored, the majority labour in the vineyards
of voluntary effort without reward but that is the very essence of their
motivation without which our town would be the poorer. There is a derogatory
term often used when they are referred to as do-gooders but why else are we on
this earth unless we are prepared to help each other without thought of reward
and in any case it is surely better to be doing good for those around us rather
than doing nothing and sneering at those who do.
There was a reminder this week that many names of local lads who died in
the Great War have been omitted from the roll of honour on the War Memorial in
South Street. Jack Clark emailed from Helston, Cornwall, seeking information
about Arthur Smith who was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and
although relatives have visited the battlefields and war cemeteries in France,
he has no known grave.
At the time of his death, the family was living in Bourne and Jack emailed the
town council seeking information but unfortunately his inquiries have drawn a
blank because Arthur Smith is not mentioned either on the War Memorial or on the
Roll of Honour in the parish church.
The War Memorial, which is the more comprehensive of the two lists, contains the
names of 97 men who lost their lives during the Great War but research has
proved that it is by no means complete and investigation suggests that at least
40 names from this conflict are unrecorded. There are several reasons for this,
the main one being that relatives were no longer living in the town when the
cenotaph was erected in 1956 when an appeal was made for names to be included.
The last known omission from the War Memorial has since been rectified. Private
George Coverley was also overlooked when the memorial was built and approaches
from his relatives to have him included were at first refused but the case was
taken up by Councillor Don Fisher and the Royal British Legion and his name was
added in 1985. The addition was dedicated at a special service on VE Day, May
8th, conducted by the Vicar of Bourne, Canon John Warwick, and attended by the
Mayor of Bourne, Councillor Mrs Lesley Patrick, and Lady Jane Willoughby.
Private Coverley, who was serving with the Labour Corps, died at a military
hospital in Scotland on 16th December 1918 as a result of war wounds. He was
aged 35 years and his body was brought back to Bourne for burial in the
cemetery. His brother kept the New Inn on the Spalding Road which is now a
private residence and no relations of the dead soldier are now left in Bourne.
Unfortunately, the family of Arthur Smith are no nearer to solving the mystery
of their ancestor and so he, as with many others, will have no remembrance in
the town of his birth.
Thought for the week: The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori
[It is a wonderful and great honour to die for your country] - Wilfred Owen,
poet and infantry officer of the Great War (1893-1918), who was killed at the
Battle of the Sambre Canal, France, on 4th November 1918 in the closing days of
Saturday 22nd January 2011
Many local councils are pulling out of this year’s
Britain in Bloom competition because of the public spending economies. The
Sunday Times reports that funding cuts mean they can no longer afford
hanging baskets and municipal gardening and that some are even grassing over
flower beds, shutting greenhouses and allowing lawns to grow longer to save
money (January 16th).
As a result, the annual competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
will see entries dip because previous winners say they can no longer afford to
take part with Darlington, Derby, Aberdeen and Leicester among the councils who
are pulling out. The good news is that Bourne will be competing in our regional
section, the East Midlands in Bloom competition, and that the town council has
earmarked its usual sum in the budget for 2011/12 with further funds likely from
the Town Centre Management Partnership.
This is encouraging because Bourne has been particularly successful in the past,
winning a silver gilt award last year, the third in a row and the fifth
consecutive success since 2006, making it the best result ever. The 162 points
awarded also made Bourne a category winner for the first time, narrowly missing
the coveted gold.
The annual event is community based and designed to encourage cleaner, smarter
and more attractive town centres in the region. There are several sections and
Bourne falls into Category B Towns, those with a population of between 6,000 and
12,000, based on the last electoral register. The judges usually give a month’s
notice of the exact date of their arrival when they tour the town looking out
for floral displays, attractive and colourful gardens and parks and so it is
important for everyone to give special attention to those places under their
control whether it is merely the lawn and herbaceous borders or a public open
space. Pupils from local schools, the scouts and police cadets all help in
keeping the streets and public places clear of litter.
The judging week this year will be July 4th-15th and arrangements are already in
hand to ensure that Bourne looks its best. Mrs Nelly Jacobs, clerk to the town
council and one of the main organisers of the event, is appealing to the public
to provide photographs and information about connected events such as tree or
bulb planting at specific sites in order that all aspects of community effort
may be co-ordinated in readiness for inspection.
Last year, their tour took the judges from the Heritage Centre in South Street
through the War Memorial and Wellhead Gardens before taking a look at the main
streets and other areas of the town decorated with planters, towers, troughs and
tubs, all ablaze with colourful blooms. The owners of several trade premises
such as the Nag’s Head, the Angel Hotel and Smiths of Bourne, decorated the
front of their buildings with hanging baskets but disappointingly many did not.
It is therefore hoped that this year, more town centre businesses will
participate because their contribution could help achieve the coveted gold
The competition carries with it an involvement of the people and the chance to
make our streets attractive throughout the summer months, not just for the
judges but also for the many visitors who arrive here with Bourne either as a
destination or merely passing through. The work carried out in successive years
is the perfect example of how a small market town should look at this time of
the year and we should remember that if people like what they see then they will
The disused railway overbridge on the edge of the Elsea Park housing
state which was featured in this column last week dates from the mid-19th
century and is crumbling and derelict yet has already attracted the interest of
local conservationists. Guy Cudmore, former town councillor, writes to say that
some years ago he tried to have the Victorian brick structure protected as a
listed building but without success and that it still deserves attention.
English Heritage is initially responsible for the listing process to protect our
ancient properties and this may be a lost cause with them because the bridge is
in an advanced state of decay but it should not be a wasted opportunity and there is
still a case for its preservation. In his posting to the Bourne Forum, Guy
points out that this is one of the last surviving structures on the old Bourne
railway system and he calls for an approach to the developers of Elsea Park by
the town council for it to be retained. “It would disable a couple of building
plots at the most”, he writes, “and the advantage would be that the bridge could
be preserved in situ.”
This is an excellent opportunity for the developers, the Kier Group, to
demonstrate a little community spirit by restoring and preserving the bridge by
turning it into a feature of the housing estate, perhaps even giving some of the
surrounding names related to the railway line to the new roads as they are
completed. It would be fruitless seeking financial help for such a project from
our local authorities at this time of public spending economies but moral
support for such an enterprise could well mean the difference between success
and failure if the developers could be persuaded to take the initiative.
Otherwise, it seems that this relic of our railway past may well be demolished
once the estate reaches this point, an eventuality that may not be too far off.
The Saturday market appears to be declining, the number
of stalls in recent weeks having dwindled to one or two and the vacant space
being taken up by car parking. This is an unwelcome development for those who
regard the market as the hub of weekend shopping and even want the stalls back
on the streets but instead, we may be seeing the beginning of its demise.
One of the reasons seems to be the occasional absence of the fruit and vegetable stall,
once the busiest and therefore the mainstay of the market and occupying several
spaces against the north wall. As a result, there were just two stalls last
Saturday, the regular eggs and pastry business and another familiar outlet
dealing in bird seed, causing speculation among shoppers over whether the
market will come to an end on that day even though this part of town is now at
its busiest following the opening of the Co-operative Food supermarket last
There has been much talk among our councillors about how to boost overall trade
at the market and in October 2009, South Kesteven District Council invested in
new blue and white awnings to make the stalls more colourful and increase
turnover, a most attractive prospect especially on sunny days, but without the
active support of all stallholders, these improvements will count for nought.
The market has been running successfully for more than 700 years under a royal
charter granted by King Edward I in 1279, originally on the streets until 1990
when increased traffic flows threatened the safety of shoppers and it was moved
to its present location at the purpose built paved area behind the town hall.
Attendance since then has been largely good with up to 30 stallholders on some
days, but a fluctuating attendance in recent years has now posed a serious
threat to its future and although there is no imminent likelihood of the
Thursday market closing, there must now be serious doubts about it being held on
Saturdays if the reduction in traders continues.
For some strange reason the town council has agreed to name new streets
in Bourne after various racecourses around the country although this town has
absolutely nothing to do with the sport of kings. The suggestion came from David
Wilson Homes who are building new houses at the Elsea Park estate to the south
of the town and they came up with a series of horse racing venues to be used
including Newton Abbot Way, Haydock Park Drive, Cheltenham and Windsor Court,
Great Leighs, Huntingdon Place and Warwick Close, all of which were approved by
the council’s highways and planning committee last week (Tuesday 11th January).
Their endorsement suggests a paucity of ideas among those responsible although a
close look at our history, which is the usual inspiration for new street names,
suggests otherwise. There are still many worthy persons, places and events
through the ages waiting to be honoured in this way without resorting to the
race track which will have no significance for those who come after. If this
trend continues, we can probably expect the next clutch of new streets to be
named after football clubs.
Pupils at the Westfield Primary School were given a project last autumn
on Bourne past and present, a perennial topic for teachers, and once again
I was swamped with emails from mothers anxious to help their children by seeking
information about life as it was. I am always ready to help anyone with their
queries and deal with many from around the world each week but this sudden flood
during term time has occurred several times before and it has been a time
consuming task to answer them all.
This occasion, however, was slightly different, because one of the mothers came
to see me and explained that although they had a copy of A Portrait of Bourne on
CD-ROM, she needed to sit with her daughter when using the disc because it
contained so much information that it was daunting for a child to take in all at
once. We had a most lively discussion about what could be done and eventually
both agreed that the obvious solution would be an easier version in book form
and so A Children’s History was born.
The book, which is published this week, is intended specifically for younger
readers as a means of stimulating interest in this town and its heritage. It is
a condensed version of our history from the earliest times telling how Bourne
began together with accounts of all the main events that have followed,
descriptions of the buildings and short biographies of prominent people who
lived here together with many photographs from the past.
Although this book has been written primarily for children, there is much in its
pages that will also be of interest to the more mature reader who is approaching
the subject for the first time, especially newcomers to the town. Once this has
been read and enjoyed, then perhaps it would be time to move on to the CD-ROM
which over the past twelve years has become a massive work now containing over
1½ million words and 4,000 photographs of the town past and present.
A Children’s History of Bourne costs £9.99 and can be obtained from Walkers
Books at 19 North Street, Bourne, or by mail order.
One of the advantages of living in South Lincolnshire is that you can buy
daffodils in January, a welcome sign that spring is not too far off. These
beautiful golden yellow trumpeted flowers are grown under glass and have become
a valuable export for this part of the country. Their increasing popularity in
recent years has replaced tulips as the most popular flower from the Spalding
area where they are grown, not only for home sales but also for markets
overseas, in Europe and even further afield, and are exported by air overnight
to destinations around the world.
The bunch my wife bought for £2 this week will be exactly the same as that
gracing a penthouse flat in Manhattan although the prices will be considerably
more in New York. The flowers look beautiful and the fragrance a delight when
they appear and bring pleasure to all who see them, despite their short time
span when compared with the hardy outdoor varieties that will soon follow and
last much longer. But the daffodil is welcome at any time and although the dozen
in my study will soon fade, they are a constant reminder of the annual renewal
of nature and the wonderful season ahead.
Thought for the week: Fair daffodils we weep to see you haste away so
soon. - Robert Herrick (1591-1674), English clergyman and celebrated 17th
century poet whose ode To Daffodils urges us to make the best use of the short
time we have.
Saturday 29th January 2011
appear to be shrinking in an attempt to squeeze more vehicles into less space
with the result that drivers face greater hazards, especially those who are less
Concerns have already been expressed in many parts of the country where new car
parks are being built and others re-laid with the result that it now requires
greater precision when entering and leaving and so it takes longer to park
carefully and without mishap.
There has already been a national discussion on whether parking spaces across
the land are wide enough to prevent damage from opening doors, especially as
cars today are generally about six inches wider than their counterparts twenty
years ago. There is also the additional hazard of those drivers who never park
prettily while people carriers frequently hog two spaces by parking too close to
or even over the white lines.
There is no compulsory regulation for the size of the average car parking bay
although some local authorities issue guidelines which say that spaces should be
2.4 metres by 4.8 metres in size but many of those now being built have been
reduced to 2.1 metres by 4.6 metres. Unfortunately, new car parks are appearing
almost weekly while the old ones are being upgraded and probably being
redesigned to take more vehicles. The only way to find out is to go along with a
tape measure and check but such activity would most certainly attract the
attention of officials and even the police and so we must accept what is on
The car parks at Sainsburys in Exeter Street and at Co-operative Food in
Hereward Street have both been redesigned recently and an even bigger one with
space for 300 cars is due to open at the new Tesco store in South Road later
this year. It would therefore be interesting to know if motorists are satisfied
that the parking bays are the same size that we have been used to in the past or
whether the spaces are noticeably shrinking.
Garages attached to modern houses have certainly been getting smaller
over the years with the result that most are filled with household detritus
rather than the family saloon and it has become a contortion to get in and out.
Space therefore seems to be at a premium both in public and private places and
although King Car rules life today, there appears to be little desire to contain
it when not actually being used. Perhaps there is a psychological reason for
this in that we are ashamed at allowing the car to take over our lives, our
household budgets and our economy and so we try to banish it from our
consciousness when not in use by consigning it to the smallest possible space.
Something has certainly gone seriously wrong with our overall planning if we
exile such a valuable artefact to the driveway or even the street with the
result that many thoroughfares are constantly obstructed by vehicles, some
double parked and many with their wheels on the pavement which is illegal. The
paradox is that car parks are now strictly controlled either by ticket machines
which allocate space by the hour or, in the case of supermarkets, by restricting
parking to shoppers only and then for no more than two hours with heavy
penalties for those who breach the regulations.
Yet the serious problems of cars littering our streets at all hours, causing a
danger to pedestrians and passing traffic, is rarely addressed by the police and
so we have the situation which can be witnessed most days in Meadowgate and
Harrington Street, Austerby, Queen’s Road and many other roads around Bourne,
which at times are only passable with extreme care and then only with
Parking overall is generally indiscriminate and even those designated
spaces around town can be a hazard as was proved on Sunday morning. Temporary
traffic lights were operating at road works in North Street in that section
opposite Wherry’s Lane but whoever organised the vehicle control had not taken
into account the parked vehicles which extended for some distance on the north
side. They were a hindrance to passing traffic turning to an obstruction shortly
before midday when an ambulance on an emergency call with red lights flashing
and warning siren sounding tried to get through.
Vehicle in the queues on both sides of the lights mounted the pavements to allow
it to pass but the parked cars had taken up much of the road space and there
were several minutes of delicate manoeuvring by all until the ambulance was
eventually able to pass, but it had been delayed by the poor arrangement of the
road works control. This was just a small everyday incident out there on the
roads but one which demonstrates that forward planning at national and local
level is not keeping pace with continued car production and as ownership and the
population increases, things can only get worse.
One of the great myths in our history is the suggestion that the
apertures in the south wall of the Shippon barn are arrow slits preserved from
Bourne Castle but close inspection even by the inexperienced eye reveals this to
be a fallacy.
This spurious identification appears to date from 1861 when a cursory
exploration of the castle site was made to coincide with a meeting of the
Lincoln Diocesan Architectural Society, a moveable feast which was held in
Bourne that year and attracted a great deal of public attention. In fact, the
dig was not so much an expert archaeological examination as part of the
entertainment laid on for visitors who flocked to the town for three days of
excursions, exhibitions and talks and consisted of little more than removing the
top soil and then replacing it when everyone had gone. A marquee was erected on
site to protect everyone in case of rain and a brass band played throughout.
An artist was engaged to draw an impression of the castle site and he was also
responsible for a drawing of the two apertures in the Shippon barn which was
claimed to have been built with stone salvaged from the castle walls and were
crossbow slits. For anyone who has inspected them closely, this will need a
lively imagination to accept because it is quite obvious that they have been
concocted on site rather than moved intact from the fortifications which was the
assertion at that time.
Unfortunately, this description appeared in a newspaper report of the event
published by the Stamford Mercury (Friday 7th June 1861) and has never
been challenged, perhaps because no one has even thought to investigate in any
detail with the result that the theory has been repeated ad infinitum through
the years, a proven recipe for turning folklore into fact.
The barn stands within the Conservation Area designated in July 1977 and is
Grade II listed, although the official description is cautious over the
perceived provenance because it says: "Part of former farm buildings, built of
dressed stone in courses with ashlar bands. Stone slate roof, red ridge tile.
Wood lintel to doorway. The barn may incorporate part of the original castle
buildings since there are what appear to be stone arrow slits on the south
The majority of the early accounts which refer to Bourne Castle are wildly
inaccurate, most suggesting that it was built in Saxon times as the home of the
Saxon kings, Morcar, Oslac and Leofric, a theory perpetuated by historians over
the years. Then in 1866 came an even more exaggerated claim with Hereward the
Wake, popularised when Charles Kinglsey wrote his famous novel suggesting that
he was the son of the Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife Lady Godiva who owned the
manor of Bourne and the castle in the Wellhead field which became popularly
known as Hereward's birthplace as a result.
In fact, no castle or manor house in mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086
which was so comprehensive that one Englishman wrote: "So very thoroughly did
William have the enquiry carried out that there was not a single piece of land,
not even an ox, cow or pig, which escaped its notice." We may therefore assume
that any building of note that did exist here was built after the Norman
A more likely explanation is the construction of a manor house by the Lord of
the Manor for his family which became known as Bourne Castle, the word castle
deriving from the Latin castellum which means fortified place, often merely a
residential hall enclosed by a defensive wall which functioned as the home of an
important person in the locality and we can most certainly dispense with the
idea of a massive battlemented stone fortress such as those we have come to
associate with Hollywood films.
Once the castle disappeared, whatever stone was salvaged was undoubtedly filched
by townspeople to build cottages and barns, and it is likely that some may have
found its way into the Shippon barn which probably dates from the 18th century.
But the apertures were clearly designed to be functional for the care of
livestock, the word shippon being derived from the old English word shippen
meaning a cattle shed or cowhouse, and so a permanent means of circulating the
air and allowing gases to escape would be necessary. Their design also compares
favourably with those which can be found in other old stone barns in the area.
The historian David Roffe, research fellow at the University of Sheffield, with
a special interest in Bourne, also has reservations. “From what I can see of the
loops from the photographs is most unconvincing”, he said. “We do not know
anything about when Bourne Castle was dismantled but I suppose that stone may
have been re-used because nothing was wasted and I am sure that this
interpretation is right.”
The explanation is therefore a simple one for those prepared to accept a
rational solution but traditional tales are a long time dying and no doubt the
story of the arrow slits in the Shippon barn, as with many other erroneous
aspects of our history, will be with us for many years to come.
In towns such as Bourne where the future of the public library is in
doubt, book borrowers should be cheered by the tale of Emily Malleson who
attracted global attention through her efforts to save hers at Milton Keynes in
Buckinghamshire, and in doing so demonstrated that people power can still be an
She and like minded readers mounted a concerted campaign to borrow the library
bare by each taking out the maximum allowance and so clearing the shelves of all
16,000 volumes. The protest was organised by the Friends of Stony Stratford
Library when they heard that Milton Keynes Council was planning to close it as
part of its plans to cut public spending by £26 million.
“A friend gave me the idea and I posted it on Facebook suggesting that everyone
take out the maximum number of 15 books and keep them for a week”, said Emily
who took a week off work to organise the protest. “The aim was to empty the
library and the support was amazing. I calculated that they were being checked
out at the rate of around 378 per hour and for a few days the shelves were bare
but at least the staff could give them a good dusting. We wanted to prove to the
council that the library is an important part of the community and is well used
by everyone and I believe that it has worked. The amount of support was just
The story was reported worldwide and has raised the profile of the public
campaign against closure but protestors will have to wait to find out whether it
has been effective until February 22nd when the council meets to decide its
Thought for the week: Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes
them down from a shelf and frees them. - Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English
author who published a variety of works including the Utopian satire Erewhon and
the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh.