Bourne facts illustration

Facts about


that you may not

have known



THE PARISH CHURCH of St Peter and St Paul is also known as Bourne Abbey, founded in 1138 by Baldwin Fitzgilbert, Lord of the Manor, and it was here that two distinguished scholars lived and worked. Orm, an Augustinian monk and preacher, wrote his homily collection known as The Ormulum in the early 12th century and he was followed a hundred years later by Robert Manning, poet and chronicler, thus giving Bourne two mediaeval scribes of historic importance who contributed to the beginnings of the English language that we know today.


THE TOWN HALL once had a clock tower that was destroyed by fire which broke out on Saturday market day, 31st October 1933, while council workmen were dismantling the stalls. The market was then held in what is now the town centre where a large crowd gathered to watch firemen as they brought the flames under control and stopped the blaze from spreading to the rest of the building. The tower was never replaced and the clock was later reinstalled in the pediment below where it can be seen today.


THE BIGGEST LANDOWNER in the history of Bourne was undoubtedly Oger the Breton. He was a Frenchman, also known as Ogerus Briton, who came to Britain with the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066 and was rewarded for his loyalty with holdings dispossessed from the English. When the Domesday Book was published in 1086, giving the results of the new king's great land survey, he had a total of 19 entries, all in the Bourne area and so the indications are that he was a very important Norman knight.


THE VESTRY HALL in North Street was built as a Calvinist Chapel in 1867 but closed through lack of support and in 1899 was sold to H Company, the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment, who converted it for use as a drill hall, gymnasium and social club. This became the focal point of military activity in Bourne for the next 25 years, providing volunteers for the Boer War of 1899-1902 and the Great War of 1914-18. In 1914, it again took on a different role, this time as a military hospital, receiving almost 950 convalescent British soldiers from the front who were cared for by the Red Cross between then and the war's end.


THE FATHER of the BRM, Raymond Mays, which was developed in Bourne, appeared before magistrates at Peterborough on Wednesday 10th October 1923 accused of dangerous driving. He pleaded not guilty. Police said that Mays had been seen driving his car in Lincoln Road "at a speed of fully 30 miles an hour" but his solicitor, Mr Arthur Mellows, told the court that Mays was a well-known racing motorist and was not in the habit of using the main roads for racing. During the previous eight years, he had driven about 20,000 miles without scratching a mudguard or knocking anyone down. No complaints had been made against him. "His car is a remarkable one", said Mr Mellows, "because it is so built that it looks to be travelling faster than it really is." This failed to convince the bench and Mays was found guilty and fined 3 [110 in today's money] and ordered to pay costs.


THERE WAS a corn riot in Bourne in 1740 when a gang of angry townspeople, mostly women, tried to prevent a consignment of grain from being sent by barge to Spalding along the Bourne Eau. This was a year of rising prices and a scarcity of food and they resented corn grown locally being sent to feed people in other parts of the country when they themselves were hungry. The mob stole wheat from the boat and held it up until peace officers arrived when five women were arrested and subsequently committed to the House of Correction at Folkingham.


THE RED HALL is one of the oldest surviving domestic properties in Bourne and was built in 1605 by Gilbert Fisher, a London grocer, who spared no expense in its construction, creating a new style of house for the prosperous country gentleman of the day. He spent lavishly on the materials using hand-made bricks manufactured locally in a distinctive deep red, with ashlar quoins and a fine Tuscan porch, while inside there was an intricately carved oak staircase. No expense was spared on the interior fittings either but there is evidence that Fisher was too ambitious because he died in debt in 1633 and the cost of constructing the Red Hall has been blamed for his insolvency.


THE TOWN OF Bourne was practically destroyed by two serious fires during the early part of the 17th century. On 25th March 1637, an outbreak began at the potteries in the eastern area of the town and the greater part of Potter Street, Eastgate and Eaugate, were burned down. But the more serious blaze which had attracted concern throughout the country, broke out on St Bartholomew's Eve, 23rd August 1605, and raged for three days. Not a house in Manor Street was left standing and the distress of the homeless and ruined people was so great that King James I ordered special sermons to be preached in St Paul's Cathedral and other churches with an appeal for help to relieve them.


ONE OF THE MOST dreadful afflictions of past times was smallpox, an acute and highly contagious infection that was usually fatal and which broke out in February 1893 among Irish navvies working for the Midland and Great Northern Railway Company who were building a new track to the west of Bourne. Some of the men were living at a common lodging house in South Street but the infection soon spread, notably to several inmates of the workhouse in St Peter's Road. Patients were sent to the fever hospital in Manor Lane and a full time nurse recruited from Hull to look after them. The outbreak had subsided by June but there appears to have been a cover-up, official or otherwise, to hide the incompetence of local medical officers in charge and to abate public alarm over the disease and no records survive about the number of patients either taken ill or who died. 


THERE HAVE BEEN at least two serious earthquakes in Bourne in past years. The first occurred soon after midday on Sunday 30th September 1750 and the shock was so severe that it was felt not only in Bourne and the surrounding area, but also across the county borders in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. John Moore, the historian, wrote in his Collections of the Hundred of Aveland in 1809: "The houses tottered, plates and glasses fell from the shelves, and slates, tiles and some chimneys fell from the houses; but happily, no great mischief was done. In some churches where services were not over, the people ran from their devotions in the utmost consternation. The shock was attended with a rumbling noise." The second tremor occurred on 24th February 1792 and was felt in Bourne and neighbouring villages but again there was no serious damage. 


THE RECREATION GROUND in Bourne was opened in 19ll to mark the Coronation of King George V but for twenty years before that boys used the Hereward Field west of St Peter's Pool, now known as the Wellhead Field. The facility was provided after the boys of Bourne petitioned their newly elected M P, Mr Henry Cust, in 1890 complaining that they had nowhere to play cricket and football and within weeks, he had arranged for them to use the 10-acre field, then owned by local farmer Mr Henry Goodyear. When Mr Cust arrived from London for the official opening on Whit Monday, May 24th,he was met at the railway station by Bourne Town Brass Band and a mass of cheering schoolboys who paraded him through the streets to their new recreation ground where he joined them in a game of cricket.


TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE have been buried in the town cemetery at Bourne since it was opened in 1855. The first person to be interred was Mary Farrow, aged 59, a farmer's wife, from Eastgate, on June 3rd that year. The first cremated remains were those of Geoffrey North, aged 62, on 9th September 1959. Nine people aged 100 or over are buried there, seven women and two men, the oldest being Angelina Blood, aged 104, on 18th March 1975. The highest number of burials in any one month was 17 and this occurred three times, in March 1867, March 1872 and April 1873. The most frequent name among those buried between 1855 and 1995 is Smith which is mentioned 221 times, followed by Lunn (123 times), Parker (109 times) and Pick (also 109 times).


THE ABILITY to handle a rifle was thought to be a necessary accomplishment for young men a hundred years ago because they would then be suitably qualified if they were needed to serve Queen and country. Facilities for shooting practice were therefore seen as an inducement to recruiting both for the volunteers and the regular army and an indoor range was opened in May 1902 in an old granary adjoining the Bourne Institute in West Street, now the Pyramid Club. The rifle range was the idea of the Countess of Ancaster who attended the official opening and fired the first shot, scoring a bull's eye. The range was subsequently used by soldiers training for military service in the Great War of 1914-18.


MANY RARE BIRDS were to be found in the Bourne area during the 19th century but they were usually shot and sent to Mr John Evans, a taxidermist, who had a shop in West Street, where they were stuffed for display in glass cases in the home. His window was frequently filled with his latest work that attracted large crowds of sightseers. A list of the birds which passed through his hands is an indication of the varied wildlife that was once found in this area where even the more common species are now under threat from intensive farming activities. They included curlews and a nightjar (1850), peregrine falcons, a hen harrier, honey buzzard, hobbys, merlin, red-backed shrike and bittern (1867), chough, Manx sheerwater, puffin and stormy petrels (1870), hoopoe, a white sparrow and great snipe (1875), gannets, a goshawk and rough-legged buzzards (1889).


THERE WERE originally 75 listed buildings in the parish of Bourne when the last survey was made in July 1977 but the number was reduced to 69 although is now back at 71, following two recent additions. Fifty-one of them were within the Conservation Area but two have been demolished. The other 24 were outside the designated area, in Eastgate, Cawthorpe and Dyke, but four of these have also been pulled down. The listing system has three sections, Grade I, being of "exceptional interest", Grade II* and Grade II, and incorporate all pre-1700 buildings that have not been substantially altered and almost all those built between 1700 and 1840. Bourne has only one Grade I listed building, the Abbey Church, founded in the 12th century, and those listed Grade II include the old New Inn (probably 1550), the Red Hall (1605), Monkstone House (1620) and Baldock's Mill (1800).
The latest listings are the cemetery chapel (1855) and the Ostler memorial (1860) which were both added in 2007.


THERE IS A PEAL of six bells in the Abbey Church at Bourne, cast in 1729 and installed during the incumbency of the Rev William Dodd, vicar from 1727-56, and whose name is inscribed on the treble or first bell. They weigh a total of 61 cwt and have been re-hung three times, in 1805, 1865 and 1926. The oldest known person to ring the bells at the Abbey Church was Mr Thomas Taylor, the senior ringer during the 19th century, who died on Saturday 16th February 1889 at the age of 83. He had been a ringer at the church for more than 60 years and could describe graphically events that had taken place there and in the town for the previous 75 years. As a young man in 1836, he was one of the pall bearers at the funeral of Lady Catherine Digby, resident of the Red Hall and self-styled Lady of the Manor. When Mr Taylor died, a dumb peal was rung on the bells on the evening of his funeral.

The above entries are edited extracts from the CD-ROM A Portrait of Bourne which is the
definitive history of this town but a briefer version in print form, giving dates and events,
people and places, can be found in a new book The Bourne Chronicle that is now available.