Saturday 5th November 2011
History as we know it continues to be
discredited as on-going research reveals that much of what we have believed in
was, as the great American car maker, Henry Ford, so succinctly remarked, bunk.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that the
oft told story of the Gunpowder Plot being hatched at the Red Hall in Bourne was
apocryphal and explained that after several centuries the truth was eventually
tracked down by a vigilant archivist in 1964. Painstaking research led to the
discovery that the tale had originated through a mix-up in the names of past
owners leading to the mistaken conclusion that Sir Everard Digby once lived
there and as he was hanged for his part in the conspiracy to blow up the Houses
of Parliament in the early 17th century, that he and his fellow plotters had met
there to finalise their plans.
But not so. The only connection
with this account is that there was a John Digby living at the hall a century
later but he came from a distant branch of the family and he was also a law
abiding citizen as well as being a prominent land owner, magistrate and deputy
lieutenant of Lincolnshire, hardly a man to break the law in such a violent
Now another tale has been
discredited, this time the popular account of Lady Godiva riding through
Coventry naked on a white horse and although this account of 11th century
chivalry warms the heart, that too has now been found to be wanting.
Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon
noblewoman who, according to legend, made her famous ride in order to gain a
remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants. The
name Peeping Tom for a voyeur originates from later versions of this tale in
which a man named Tom bored a hole in his shutters to watch her ride by and was
reputedly struck blind.
The link with Bourne is that Lady
Godiva (1040-1080) was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and by tradition the
mother of Hereward the Wake who was born at the castle in Bourne and became a
Saxon hero by opposing the Normans who eventually trapped and slayed him in
The story has had such a
resonance in Bourne that in the summer of 1929, her famous ride was recreated
during a rag day parade to raise money for the Butterfield Hospital. Crowds
thronged the streets, attracted by the appearance of her ladyship astride a
horse, her face and features obscured by a wig with long hair, and although
there had been much speculation about her identity, it was never revealed.
But a new book* has laid this
tale to rest along with many others that have become part of our history
including the suggestion that King Harold was killed by an arrow through the eye
at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, that the Black Death was caused by rats and
that Columbus discovered America. Author Phil Mason tells us that although Lady
Godiva was immortalised in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson there is no
contemporary account of her famous ride and chronicles of the time are silent on
the issue, the first record surfacing in 1236 in the writings of the chronicler
Richard of Wendover.
It was the Tennyson poem in 1842
that popularised the story of Lady Godiva, published 800 years after the
supposed event and which cemented all the elements into the version we know
Now that this historical
iconoclasm has become so popular, perhaps we can expect more of our time
honoured legends to be found wanting. Hereward the Wake, for instance, whose
exploits and even existence owe more to the imagination of Victorian novelists
than to documentary proof, might not stand the test while more work is certainly
needed on the existence of Bourne Castle but until proved otherwise, they and
many other tales will continue to delight the imagination.
The dispute over
car parking in the
Austerby by pupils from Bourne Grammar School is still simmering below the
surface despite the possibility of a settlement some time next year. Three
solutions have been put forward by Lincolnshire County Council including (1) the
introduction of no waiting from 9 am until 4 pm Monday to Friday during term
time (2) double yellow lines which will prohibit parking at any time and (3) a
request that the school provides parking for pupils on site.
The first two options will only drive the aggravation into other streets in the
vicinity and in this column two weeks ago (October 22nd) I suggested that the third
choice would be the best way forward, especially as the school is likely to be
given academy status next year and some people fear that this could lead to an
increase in the number of pupils with cars. The proposed new status of the
school will enable the governors implement their own admissions policy and it
has been suggested that this might lead to the acceptance of pupils from a wider catchment area who would need their own transport.
However, the headteacher,
Jonathan Maddox, disagrees with this prognosis and has written to say so. "I
have no idea why you think it likely that academy status will cause the number
of students with cars to increase", he writes. "I cannot see how this could
possibly be the case. The number of students with cars depends on all manner of
factors, none of which is related to or is dependent upon the status of this
We are pleased to put his
assurance on record. This is a testing problem for the headteacher and the
governors of Bourne Grammar School who walk the difficult path between doing
what is practical without infringing individual rights, a task made all the more
sensitive because of the rancour that has been generated by those who feel they
have been wronged. It is also hoped that the county council will now come up
with a solution acceptable to both sides because if home owners in the Austerby
are faced with a continuance of this problem, then resentment will persist.
The register office is now likely to be
crammed into the new Community Access Point planned for the Corn Exchange, one
of the unnecessary projects put foward by our local authorities on the pretext of
saving money during the current economic crisis and we wonder what else will be
shunted into this space in the interests of economy.
This service is currently based
at No 35 West Street, a perfectly suitable location which has been in use for
many years but has attracted the attention of Lincolnshire County Council intent
on cutting costs irrespective of the effect this has on the community. For some
unexplained reason, it has been decided that the numbers that use it are
insufficient to justify its future, a complete contravention of the local
authority ethos of providing public services rather than making a profit.
A public consultation which has
been underway since August ended on Monday and almost 40 responses have been
received, including one of the town council, but it is doubtful if these will be
heeded if it is decided to proceed with the scheme which will mean that in the
future people from the Bourne area will face a 30-mile round trip to Stamford to
register their births, marriages and deaths.
One of our county councillors,
Sue Woolley (Bourne Abbey) has been particularly vocal over this issue although
she has admitted that savings must be made and so the present premises would
have to be forfeited although she admits that the town should not lose its
registration service altogether.
"People recognise that the
present way cannot continue but say that there should be some other provision",
she told The Local newspaper (October 28th). "I do not think that the council
officers were aware of the strength of feeling or some of the sensible
alternatives that people living locally were able to put forward and I don't see
why it can't go in the community access point. It would be a great idea and I
hope it will be investigated. Anything that keeps the service local has to be a
good thing and I will make sure that the idea is explored."
We are therefore back to the old
argument over whether the original arrangements should be sacrificed for the
sake of a few pounds and the obvious answer is that if we are to get a service
at an unfavourable location then the answer is obviously no and we look to our
county councillors to vote accordingly when the matter comes before them for
The decision is not, as
Councillor Woolley seems to be suggesting, a matter for council officers, who
are there only to offer advice, but one that should be made by our councillors
which is the very reason why they were elected and when it does come before the
authority for a final decision it is to be hoped that both of our county
representatives will support what is best for Bourne rather than merely nodding
through the party line. This will mean voting to keep the register office where
it is rather than leave the town with a sub-standard service in inconvenient
accommodation or perhaps even none at all.
An old photograph of Morton village
that has just surfaced after being hidden away for many years reveals a
horsepool in the main street, directly outside the church.
It may seem odd that a mundane
feature like this should be given such a prominent position but then the horse
was the mainstay of power in the countryside, in farming and haulage. The
wellbeing of these animals was therefore of paramount importance and the
survival of horsepool as a place name and to identify streets and farms in many
areas of England bears testament to this.
The horsepool, or horsepond as it
was sometimes known, was used for watering and washing horses and was therefore
situated in the most convenient place for all to use. The term itself dates from
circa 1700 and there is evidence that it may also have been used for ducking
people guilty of obnoxious or anti-social behaviour.
They were also situated within
easy reach of the village blacksmith who was then one of the most important
people in the community, an essential link with the surrounding farms and
tradesmen who all depended on the horse and cart for their livelihoods.
Wooden cartwheels were made by
local joiners who took them to the smithy where the iron hoops were banded, that
is shaped and fitted, and then the finished wheels were soaked in the water,
thus giving a tighter fit. But their main purpose was for the welfare of horses
and the larger pools also enabled horses, carts and wagons to enter and be
washed down after working in muddy conditions and then driven out at the other
The photograph of the horsepool
at Morton was taken by the Bourne photographer, William Redshaw (1856-1943), who
recognised the importance of the blacksmith in rural life because he himself
made his early journeys in a pony and cart, and has come to me via the family
who have kept it since his death in an album which contains many other pictorial
treasures from the past. The village feature which he captured during his many
trips out into the countryside dates from circa 1880 and survived well into the
20th century but disappeared with the arrival of the motor car and the
mechanisation of farm power when the cart gave way to the tractor.
This facility is similar to the
old Victorian horsepool which can still be seen on the north side of St Peter's Pool
adjoining the Wellhead Gardens at Bourne, another large pond which sloped gently
at one end to allow horse and cart together to be washed in the clear spring
water. This pool is thought to have been built about 1870 but was partly filled
in between 1965-70. An excavation in 1994 revealed that it had been used to dump
rubbish which was cleared away and the remaining pool can still be seen.
Thought for the week: The smith, a mighty
man is he, with large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms, are
strong as iron bands. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), American poet
and educator whose works included The Song of Hiawatha and this poem, The
* One In The Eye For Harold: Why
Everything You Thought You Knew About History
Is Wrong by Phil Mason is published by Robson Press, price �12.99.
Saturday 12th November 2011
on the way for the War Memorial Gardens in South Street with a particular
emphasis on the banks of the Bourne Eau which have been deteriorating badly in
The poor state of the protective
boarding along the waterway has been exposed for all to see when it dried up
completely during the recent dry spell and was illustrated by this web site in
our Picture of the Week last month (October 15th). The
entire section between the South Street car park entrance and Baldock's Mill is
to be replaced and the surrounding area re-grassed when the work is carried over
the next few weeks while water levels are still low and is expected to cost
The bill will be met by Bourne
United Charities which is responsible for the War Memorial Gardens and the
Wellhead Park which opened in 1956 through the generosity of local farmer and
landowner Thomas Whyment Atkinson who left money and property for the benefit of
the town. Kevin Day, environmental
consultant to BUC, told The Local newspaper ((November 4th) that the work
would be carried out as sympathetically as possible but some trees and bushes
along the bank would have to be cut back to allow access for plant and machinery
although this will grow back in time.
The War Memorial Gardens are of
particular benefit to the town at this time when we are remembering those who
fell during past wars. The centrepiece is the stone memorial, modelled on the
Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, and is the work of the architects W E Norman
Webster and Son who once had offices in North Street. It is not recorded how
many men left the town to join the armed forces during the Great War of 1914-18
but it is known that 97 men lost their lives and their names are inscribed on
the stone edifice although there have been suggestions that the figure is nearer
140 and that 40 names are therefore missing.
The memorial also includes the
names of 32 men who did not return from the conflict of 1939-45 and a further
three who died on active service before the century ended. During the Second
World War, many men also volunteered for service with the Home Guard which
raised a total force of 1,600 from the town and district.
There are few people in Bourne who did
not know of Don Fisher who has died at the age of 78. He devoted more than a
quarter of a century to the affairs of this town and his was a familiar face in
our streets, having been mayor twice and holding office with innumerable
organisations devoted to the welfare of its citizens.
Yet Bourne was his home only by
chance although his roots in administration and what he called "a commitment to
the cause" went back to his boyhood years in the north of England and a
willingness to serve that never left him.
Donald Fisher was born on 11th
September 1933 at Woodlands, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, the son of electrician
Elijah Fisher and his wife Mabel. After leaving school he enrolled as a cadet
with the West Riding Constabulary and a career with the police force beckoned
but he found the army a more attractive option and in 1951 at the age of 17�, he
enlisted as a regular soldier and served with the Coldstream Guards for 15 years
including tours of duty in Germany, Kenya and Oman.
In 1967, he took the route that
led him to Bourne when he met and married Celia Rodgers, a former pupil of
Bourne Grammar School, and left the army to work at a London store. But the
marriage was not to last and they were divorced after four years. There were no
children from the partnership but because of it, Don became acquainted with
Celia's family, well known in Bourne for their butchery and farming interests,
and it was during one visit that he had a chance meeting in the street with Eric
Cross, the furniture dealer who was then building his warehouse store in Manning
Road, now occupied by Anglia Furnishings. He asked Don if he would like the job
of manager, the offer was accepted and in 1972, Bourne became his future home.
He never remarried but devoted
his energies to the community which became his consuming interest and four years
later he was elected to Bourne Town Council, representing the old Dyke and
Twenty ward, since absorbed into the East Ward, and remained a town councillor
for 35 years, serving two terms as mayor, from 1983-84 and again in 1998-99 when
he opened the town's closed circuit television system during
his year in office (pictured above). He
also served as a member of South Kesteven District Council from 1979-2007 and
Lincolnshire County Council from 1981-89. He was also responsible for
organising many of the major events in Bourne in recent years including the
Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in the summer of 1977, the Heritage
Exhibition in 1981 and the R A Gardner Art Exhibition of 1996.
Don was involved in numerous
other organisations including the Royal British Legion, serving as chairman of
the Bourne branch from 1996-2001 when he received one of the legion's highest
awards, the Gold Badge. He was a founder member of the Civic Society in 1978 and
its chairman from 1994-96. One of his main interests was the village of Twenty
where he served as secretary of the village hall management committee from 1977,
a job he took for just six months but held office for 21 years and also served
for a similar period on the village hall management committee at Dyke. He was
also a tireless worker for charity and from 1989, was a member of Bourne United
Charities, serving for a period as chairman of the organisation which he
considered to be one of the most important in Bourne.
His other interests included
education. He was a governor of Bourne Grammar School for ten years and became
the longest serving governor of the Robert Manning Technology College (now
Bourne Academy) as well as completing spells on the board of the Abbey Road
Primary School, Morton Primary and the Willoughby Special Schools. He was also a
committee member of the South Lincolnshire Branch of the Alzheimer Disease
Society, chairman of the Kesteven Museums Panel (1985-89), former secretary of
Age Concern in Bourne, an organiser of the Bourne Evergreen Club, during which
time he arranged meals for the elderly, and vice chairman of the Bourne branch
of Disability Links.
Said Don: "I always felt it
extremely important to become involved with these organisations if you want to
do something positive for the town." He was also an active supporter of the
Bourne Outdoor swimming pool, sitting on the trust committee, and was a co-opted
member of the old Bourne Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
Don Fisher retired in 1995 but
suffered a stroke in 2001 and was later diagnosed with Parkinson�s disease
although this failed to dampen either his spirit or his enthusiasm for public
work and he continued to attend meetings and keep appointments. "I love Bourne",
he once said. "It has so much character and I will always fight to preserve
things like the church and the Red Hall. It is institutions such as this that
are the very essence of our town and must be protected at all costs. I think
that in finding this place to live, almost by accident, I made a very fortunate
In March 2010, he moved to the
Cedars Retirement Home and continued to maintain his interest in local affairs
but his condition deteriorated in recent weeks and he died on Saturday.
An email has arrived from the United
for a photograph of the town cemetery. It comes from Gene Layton of Avondale in
Arizona, whose ancestors are buried there and he wants it as an
illustration for his family tree. He
is the great great grandson of
William Layton (1799-1872), landlord of the Bull Inn in the market place, now
the Burghley Arms in the town centre, who later left the licensed trade to
become a farmer. He married Mary Ann Pears (1800-1855) and they had eight
children and it is one of them who provided the American connection.
John Layton who was born on 16th
May 1831and attended several schools in the area, then served an apprenticeship
of four years at a hardware shop in Stamford before leaving for America in 1849
and never returned home, becoming one of the thousands of fortune hunters who
joined the Californian gold rush of 1849. In July that year, when he was only
eighteen, he signed on as a seaman aboard the barque Jane Dixon that sailed from
Liverpool bound for California, voyaging around Cape Horn and arriving at San
Francisco in January 1850.
He spent the next few months
engaged in boating and fishing on the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay and
after a successful spell of mining and trading, bought a farm and established a
homestead and in the process became the head of a family that survives to this
day. He was frequently attacked by Indians but he fought them off successfully
and in order to help suppress the various uprisings, served in the army for a
John was married three times and
produced fifteen children and 25 years after leaving Bourne, he had become an
astute businessman and property owner, wealthy and respected in his community.
His local newspaper at Jacksonville reported in December 1875: �He is at present
generally acknowledged to be on the high road to fortune although the result has
not been attained without the exhibition of uncommon pluck, energy and
perseverance, through a long and protracted career of mining in which he is
monarch of all he surveys.�
In 1904, his standing in the
community was summed up in an account published in the book Portrait and
Biographical Record of Western Oregon which eulogised his life as follows:
�The claims of John Thorpe
Layton, upon the consideration of his fellow residents of Jackson and Josephine
Counties, rest upon his more than ordinary ability as a miner and prospector.
The mining camps of this part of the state have long been familiar to him and of
whom it may be said he has operated with a comparatively sure hand, and while
making rapid progress, has proceeded with extreme caution in his investments. Since becoming a citizen of this
country, Mr Layton has thrown his political sympathies with the Democratic Party
but has always been averse to office holding. John T Layton was the owner of
both the Ferris Gulch and Williamsburg mines, in active operation for more than
40 years, thirty miles of mining ditches dug by hired Chinese labourers, builder
of the Grants Pass Hotel in 1889, and owner of 800 acres of mineral and
agricultural land. He has led an industrious and well-directed life and has been
interested in mining for nearly fifty-three years. He has established many warm
friendships in the course of his coming and going in the west and is known for
his generosity, his liberal mindedness, and his enthusiastic advocacy of the
climate and resources of the state of Oregon.�
John died on 14th December 1905,
aged 74, and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery at Jacksonville, Oregon, where
his grave has recently been restored to its original condition by Gene Layton.
He is remembered today in the United States where his descendants number several
hundred but in Bourne where the name has practically disappeared, he is quite
forgotten except for his father's headstone in the town cemetery.
Local authorities do not get a good
press and so we are pleased to report that those which serve Bourne are taking
notice of public disquiet when they fail to perform.
It will be remembered that the
dangerous potholes outside the public library and fire station off South Street
were highlighted by this column two months ago (September 3rd) when we pointed
out the hazard being created not only to passing motorists but also because this
road is used daily by the emergency services, mothers with children going to and
from the library and old age pensioners collecting their weekly payments from
Bourne United Charities at their offices in the Red Hall.
Lincolnshire County Council, the
highways authority responsible, appeared to be ignoring the complaints despite
promises to repair serious potholes as and when they occurred. But we are
pleased to report that these massive cavities that had become much deeper in
recent weeks and had started to fill with water during the rainy spells
have now been filled in.
Thought for the week: Better late than
never - old English proverb generally attributed to the poet and chronicler
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) who used it in The Canterbury Tales.
Saturday 19th November 2011
Plans to concentrate all council services
under one roof at the Corn Exchange and phase out the town hall are going ahead.
The Local newspaper reports that cabinet councillors at South Kesteven District
Council have approved the scheme and work is likely to begin next year for
completion by March 2013 (November 11th).
The new facility will be known as
the Bourne Community Access Point and will be housed on the ground floor of the
Corn Exchange together with interview rooms and the public library. The main
function hall which is used for a variety of local events will remain unchanged
but the scheme will make two of our public buildings redundant, the town hall
and the present library in South Street.
Both are owned by Lincolnshire
County Council and although no alternative use has yet been announced for
either, it is unlikely that they will be left standing empty. Both are assets on
the property portfolio and will be disposed of to produce an income or realise
capital. Their future use is therefore a matter of some speculation.
The wisdom of this change is
still being discussed around the town where feelings are mixed, the main
criticism being that there is insufficient space in the Corn Exchange and that
the library will most likely be reduced in scale as a result of the transfer.
Indeed, it has not yet been explained by either the district or the county
council how the town will benefit from this particular move when the present
site in South Road is spacious with its own car parking spaces and to offer
anything less will be a departure from the intended role of the local authority
to provide public services.
Unfortunately, the thinking
behind the transfer is not one of improving what we have but of providing the
same for less money which in reality is an impossible dream. It is therefore
disingenuous of Lincolnshire county councillor Eddy Poll, executive member for
economic development, to say that "a decision will be made on what course of
action is best for Bourne" (The Local, 30th September 2011) when all he
is doing is to present a makeshift plan driven by financial expediency under the
guise of re-organisational efficiency because if you come up with a cheaper
alternative then you will end up with a sub-standard service. The local
authorities involved can then blame the current round of public spending cuts
but that it not really the answer because this scheme was on the cards long
before the current economic crisis.
In fact, the formation of a
one-step centre was first mooted in July 2008 with the town hall as the proposed
location although this building in its present state has several drawbacks,
notably the front entrance to the first floor which can be dangerous and the
need for a lift to accommodate the disabled. In a perfect world, the local
authorities would have built us a new specially designed set of offices and
public library on a chosen site but three years ago this was not even considered
to be an option for Bourne which is well down the pecking order of priorities at
South Kesteven District Council.
The plan was therefore to upgrade
the town hall and even now this would be a better alternative provided a lift
could be installed together with a separate entrance at the rear although the
question of space to accommodate the public library would still need to be
addressed. Instead, it appears to be that the Corn Exchange has become the
chosen venue, take it or leave it, and so it will be left to the two councils to
cram in what they can and hope for a successful outcome.
The realisation of property assets also
appears to be behind the sale of Wake House even though it is occupied and run
by a voluntary group which enables 46 local organisations meet there regularly.
The property is owned by South Kesteven District Council and leased since 1997
to the Bourne Arts and Community Trust for a peppercorn rent of �5 but this ran
out six years ago and they have been trying to negotiate a new agreement which
would enable them carry out urgent repairs and bring the building up to
Their plans were thwarted last
October when the council put the building up for sale by tender and The Local
reports that an offer is now being considered (November 4th) although the trust
has been promised security of tenure. Nevertheless, if the deal goes through,
their future is by no means assured no matter what safeguards are put in place.
Trust secretary Greg Cejer told
the newspaper that the trustees had worked for more than twelve years to ensure
that Wake House remained available for community use. "However", he added, "we
are not able to embark on any capital expenditure apart from keeping the
building watertight. This is because to date the district council has not given
us a lease or ownership that will enable us bid for the grants necessary to
undertake the expensive work needed to restore the building."
Wake House dates from the early
19th century and is now Grade II listed, occupying a prime frontage in North
Street with a plot of land covering 0.4 acres including 29 car parking spaces.
It was built circa 1800 and was the birthplace of Charles Frederick Worth, son
of a local solicitor, who founded the famous Paris fashion house and a blue
plaque tells us that he was born here on 13th October 1825. The house was later
used as council offices by various local authorities, the last being SKDC which
moved out in 1993 and so it remained empty until the trust took over four years
later and made the property suitable for its present use.
The most beneficial solution for
Bourne would be for the trust to take over the building but the district council
has insisted on the market rate. Councillor Linda Neal (Bourne West) has said
that there is no possibility of it being gifted to the trust (press release 9th
August 2005). She added: �This is not a council policy. Wake House is a
considerable asset that cannot be given away. The council owns a lot of property
worth millions of pounds and we have a duty to preserve and protect our assets.�
No one would doubt that but local
authorities also have a duty to assist and encourage community endeavour because
it is the people who pay their council tax to keep them in business and without
this support, voluntary effort is likely to founder and with it the Big Society
so loudly trumpeted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. While the current
impasse continues, the future remains uncertain both for the trust and the
organisations that use Wake House as a meeting place but we would do well to
remember that without them, the social and cultural life of this town will be
An enthusiastic letter of support for the
work of Bourne United Charities has appeared in The Local newspaper
praising its recent commitment to improving the War Memorial Gardens and the
banks of the Bourne Eau which runs down South Street (November 11th). A total of
�40,000 is to be spent in the coming months to enhance this area including the
reinstatement of the protective boarding along the waterway which has been
slowly deteriorating in past years.
Jack Slater, chairman of Bourne
Preservation Society, says that the gardens are a wonderful public attraction
used daily by the public, including visitors to the town, and without the
commitment of BUC this amenity would not exist. "Money is hard to secure in
these troubled times and such actions deserve support", he writes.
There is little doubt that Bourne
United Charities appears to have entered a new phase in its existence because it
is not so long ago that the organisation was being criticised not only for its
reluctance to spend money but also for its secrecy, taking decisions behind
closed doors without telling the people what was going on.
In recent years, however, there
have been many changes among the trustees who now operate a quite different
policy of openness, issuing frequent statements about their work and even
running their own web site which details their activities, all of which is to be
welcomed in this age of transparency and instant communication.
Work on improving the Wellhead
Gardens during the year has been particularly beneficial, especially the
establishment of a new wildlife habitat at a previously neglected area, while
the appointment of an environmental consultant to monitor flora and fauna is
proving to be especially fruitful.
Jack Slater points out that
Bourne Preservation Trust is currently working to secure two of the town's most
valued buildings from being lost, the cemetery chapel and the Old Grammar
School, while many other groups are active in areas relevant to their aims to
support the town. "All wish to ensure that Bourne maintains the character that
keeps us all here, or brought us to it", he writes, "and that the town embraces
change without overlooking its past."
This seems to encapsulate the
very reason why we all like living here, an awareness of our heritage, the sense
of community and an admiration for the voluntary work that is so widespread in
Bourne. Closer co-operation between all organisations and an understanding of
each other's problems would enhance these principles and such united effort
would make everyone's task that much simpler.
The town has been remembering one of our
longest serving local councillors, Don Fisher, who died earlier this month and
many stories are being recounted about his friendship and generosity. But few
people know of his distinguished army career of which he was distinctly proud
and as an old soldier from the same period, we spent many hours swapping stories
about serving with the colours at home and abroad. I am therefore pleased to
recount one of his favourite tales which involved a remarkable encounter with
one of our greatest thespians, Laurence Olivier.
How the two should not only meet
but also share the same stage can only be described as one of those highly
unusual coincidences that make life so interesting. Don enlisted in the regular
army at the age of 17 and was sent to the guards' depot at Caterham in Surrey
for basic training before being posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Coldstream
Guards. He served with the colours for 15 years and his military career took him
to many parts of the world but in the mid-1950s he was a lance-sergeant at
Chelsea Barracks in London.
Laurence Olivier was appearing in
the title role of Shakespeare�s Julius Caesar at the Old Vic and the producer
was in need of extras to play Roman soldiers in some scenes and what better
place to find them than at Chelsea Barracks where the appeal went out for
volunteers. Six willing guardsmen jumped at the chance of earning a little extra
cash and so for the next few weeks, Don found himself on stage three nights a
week playing a legionnaire and carrying a standard, ready to welcome Olivier
when he made his entrance in a chariot to be greeted by his cohorts who
chorused: �Hail, Caesar!� �They were the only words we spoke�, recalled Don. ���We
were on stage for about ten minutes but we each got five shillings a night and
it was great fun but as soon as the curtain went down we were off to the local
for a pint. After all, we could afford it.�
On leaving the army, Don worked
for a spell in London before moving to Bourne in 1972 where he remained and as
well as his council duties he also did stalwart work for the Bourne branch of
the Royal British Legion for which he was duly honoured. In 1985, he also had an
invitation to attend one of the annual garden parties at Buckingham Palace,
staying as a guest with his old regiment at Wellington Barracks, and until his
death at the age of 78, he kept in touch with old army pals although they became
fewer as the years passed.
Thought for the week: Old soldiers never
die, they simply fade away - popular saying among British servicemen during
the early 20th century and later popularised by the American military leader
General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964).
Saturday 26th November 2011
The town is now down to
eleven public houses following the closure of the Marquess of Granby in Abbey
Road which has been sold and is to be turned into a beauty salon and fitness
Opinion is probably divided
whether this loss of licensed premises is good or bad but the fact remains that
our pubs are not what they were. There was a time a century ago when there were
fourteen hostelries and an equal number of beerhouses but then the population
was far less than it is today, around 4,000 people whereas we now have almost
four times that number.
Unfortunately, these have not
been good times for our public houses and closures are being reported daily
throughout the country, the victims of changing times and habits combined with
soaring overheads. This is a pity because the local pub has been an English
institution since the earliest times, as much a part of community life as the
church and the town hall, once the social hub of its locality and a place to
meet, swap gossip, have a drink and play darts and dominoes.
But in recent years, the role has
dramatically changed and the convivial landlord of old, earning a comfortable
living with restricted opening hours, has now been replaced by a manager
precariously balancing the books while faced with increased overheads and a
necessity to provide food and entertainment to keep customers happy almost round
The result is that fierce
competition for trade has driven many to the wall and the old fashioned pub of
yesteryear has practically disappeared, either changed out of all recognition or
closed altogether while those that remain have become restaurants in all but
name. Supermarket sales of alcohol at much lower prices have made it a more
attractive proposition to drink at home and they now survive almost solely
through their provision of food with lunchtime trade supplemented by business
lunches and cut price meals for pensioners.
Bourne has been fortunate because
in recent years most of its public houses have not only survived but new ones
have opened, mainly through the entrepreneurial risk of the few, although there
are now signs that this climate may be changing here too. There were fourteen
public houses in Bourne in 1900 but more recent closures include the Crown in
West Street which ceased trading in March 1991 and the Royal Oak in North
Street, one of our oldest hostelries dating back to 1826, which was shut in 2009
and has since been converted into flats.
Now, with the end of the Marquess
of Granby, we are down to eleven. Not all of the others are doing good business
either, as recent changes in managership have shown with some vacancies unfilled
for several months while at least one other is up for sale, and so more closures
may soon become a possibility.
The Marquess of Granby has been one of our
most imposing public houses with an attractive red brick corner frontage built
to a similar design to many other buildings of the period in the town. The name
comes from the distinguished soldier, John Manners, Marquis of Granby
(1721-1770), who during the Seven Years' War, as Colonel of the Blues, headed a
cavalry charge against the French at the Battle of Warburg but his wig blew off
during the whirlwind gallop and his bald pate, glistening in the sun, became a
guiding light for his men, an episode which has given the language the saying:
"Going for it bald-headed". After his military campaigns, he set up his senior
non-commissioned officers who had been disabled in action as innkeepers which
accounts for the large number of inns throughout the country that bear his name.
It was erected during the late
19th century to replace an earlier building on the site and became one of the
busiest public houses in Bourne. But in April 2011, the last landlord lost his
licence when it was found that alcohol was being served after hours and
concerns were expressed by both Lincolnshire Police and South Kesteven District
Council. The owners, Enterprise Inns of Solihull, decided not to reopen and the
property was put up for sale for �185,000.
The freehold was sold at auction
in September that year to Mrs Claire Sanders, owner of Renu which opened in West
Street, Bourne, in 2006, who announced plans to turn the building into a beauty
salon and fitness studio. She told The Local newspaper (October 7th) that
this would mean a great deal of conversion work and relocating her present
business. Plans have already been submitted to South Kesteven District Council
and once permission has been granted, conversion work is expected to take six
The power of prayer has been the subject
of debate for centuries and it has never been proven either way whether it is
effective or not other than providing a spiritual placebo for those who believe.
There is nothing wrong with this for which unbeliever has not, like many a
biblical character in early times, promised eternal allegiance provided a
pressing problem were solved or a burden relieved.
It was therefore heartening to
read in The Local newspaper that gritting lorries and their drivers which
are already on standby for the forthcoming winter have been blessed by various
members of the clergy including the bishop during special ceremonies at county
council highways depots around the county including our own at Thurlby, near
Bourne (November 18th).
This annual ritual symbolises the
spreading of the gospel as the mixture of salt and sand is scattered over the
county�s roads in extreme weather conditions when motorists are advised not to
travel unless absolutely necessary, a most worthy event because it not only
raises the profile of the gritting fleet but also provides an assurance that our
roads will be kept safe and driveable whatever the weather. It may, however, be
tempting fate, because in the event of a gritting lorry being involved in an
accident then God will get the blame.
There is also the factor of
unforeseen circumstances that even the Almighty cannot seem to predict. When
this event took place in December 2008, the morning the newspaper report
appeared was freezing with unexpected black ice covering many roads and by 8.30
am a contributor to the Bourne Forum had complained that when he drove into town
to fetch his daily newspapers, the surfaces were treacherous and untreated with
not a gritting lorry in sight. This has been the case on many occasions in past
years and so perhaps the order of service should be changed in the future to
include prayers for a more efficient early warning system and all motorists,
believers or not, would say amen to that.
The possibility of a skateboard park
being established in Bourne is again being discussed although as before it is
unlikely to get a great deal of support. There will be aficionados who still
find enjoyment in this pursuit but those who were involved in the project some
years ago will have grown up and moved on to pastimes new while the sport itself
does not have the following it once did.
A skateboard park is one of those
lost cause projects that has been rumbling on and off for many years, the latest
initiative being mooted in February 2001 when a petition was raised in the hope
of finding the necessary �190,000 with several town mayors pledging cash during
their terms in office but little happened until the campaign won official
recognition in 2007 when it became known as the Dimension Park Project.
The police gave wholehearted
support saying that a skateboard park was necessary in an attempt to stem
anti-social behaviour in the town and the recreation ground in Recreation Road
was suggested as a suitable site despite being in the middle of a densely
populated area with houses on all sides, in Harrington Street, Recreation Road,
Alexandra Terraces and Ancaster Road. Councillor Alistair Prentice (Bourne
West), then a member of the skatepark committee who lived some distance away in
Willoughby Road, was equally enthusiastic. �It will make a real difference by
helping deal with anti-social behaviour and should go some way towards
eliminating problems in the town centre�, he told the Stamford Mercury
(28th September 2007).
This proved to be an optimistic
forecast because experience elsewhere showed quite the opposite. The skateboard
park at Stamford was also built in the recreation ground but attracted an unruly
element and was closed down that year because of serious damage by vandals which
rendered it no longer fit for use and repair work proved to be quite costly
while a similar situation arose at Sutton Bridge where facilities installed
three years before at the park in Prince's Street were shut for repairs because
of vandalism. In the event, South Kesteven District Council which administers
the recreation ground refused to grant a lease on health and safety grounds but
despite these setbacks, the search went on.
The old water cress beds between
Baldock�s Mill and Manor Lane were also suggested as a possible site for
skateboarding together with associated pastimes such as in-line roller blading
and BMX and although 1,000 people signed a petition supporting the idea, this
was later considered to be an unsuitable location.
The entire scheme was eventually
abandoned in October 2010 after three years because the organisers had been
unable to find a suitable site yet managed to attract almost �16,000 in grants
and fund raising, the bulk of which was returned or distributed to good causes
in the town and only �2,500 remains in the kitty. Now, there has been an attempt
to revive it although there seems little possibility of it succeeding.
The new initiative reported by
The Local newspaper (November 18th) says that there has been an offer of
some land for the project but only if there is sufficient interest to proceed.
Mrs Nelly Jacobs, clerk to the town council and one of the three remaining
members of the Dimension Park committee, told the newspaper: "We need to find
out if there is still an interest in having a skateboard park and helping
establish one, otherwise there is no point. This could be a realistic
opportunity to finally get one built."
A questionnaire is being
distributed in an attempt to gauge support and recruit members to the committee
who will be prepared to assist with the planning application and fund raising
and copies are available from the newspaper offices in West Street.
Skateboard parks have not been an
overall success and we should remember this before proceeding with a similar
venture here in Bourne. Youngsters can still be seen occasionally practising
their sport in the late evenings and at weekends wherever they find an area of
concrete or hard standing, usually at unauthorised locations such as the bus
station in North Street and the car parks at the Burghley Centre and the
Hereward Health Centre in Exeter Street and they were once even spotted around
the paved area around the War Memorial in South Street.
But these are isolated
occurrences and participants are now distinctly in the minority, the activity
having become largely pass� among the younger generation and is now almost a
thing of the past along with skipping and hop scotch.
Thought for the Week: If this council has
money to spare, it should be spent on encouraging industry in the town. It is
lamentable that money should be wasted. Our children should be trained first to
take jobs. There is plenty of time for leisure later on. I want this council to
spend its money wisely and well. We should not waste it on these silly things.
- Councillor Lorenzo Warner (1901-95), speaking at a meeting of Bourne Town
Council on Tuesday 20th June 1978 when it was decided to call a public meeting
to ascertain whether there was sufficient interest in skateboarding to warrant
the provision of suitable facilities. No skateboard park was built as a result.