Bourne Diary - August 2011

by Rex Needle

Saturday 6th August 2011

Housing continues to be a controversial topic, mainly because most people do not want to see their historic town swamped with ever more new estates. The opposition to Elsea Park is a case in point, a massive 300-acre development off South Road designed to double the size of Bourne within a decade, and although this was a major talking point during the planning process in 1999-2000 when public opinion was largely against it, most people have learned to live with it as well as the broken promises over planning gain.

But progress is inevitable and that means new houses, not for the home seekers among the indigenous population, most of whom cannot afford them, but incomers arriving to swell the population that has risen dramatically in the past 100 years, from 4,361 in 1901 to an estimated 15,000 today, a figure that may be much higher when this year's census results are published.

The promise made by South Kesteven District Council at that time has probably been forgotten and so it is worth repeating here that this would be the last new housing development to be imposed on Bourne.

The pledge came in an unequivocal statement to The Local newspaper which said that no more houses would be built after currently identified projects were completed (9th December 2005). In a letter to the editor, Rachel Armstrong, Senior Planning Officer, said that three sites around the town had been identified in their consultation document Issues and Options for the development of the South Kesteven district as being suitable for employment development but not residential. “No consideration has been given to their suitability for housing”, she wrote. “Indeed the document makes it clear that the council thinks that Elsea Park is sufficient to meet the town’s needs.”

This was confirmed by former town councillor Don Fisher, then also a member of SKDC, who said: “I was so impressed that I sought confirmation from the council’s chief planning officer and he assured me that there would be no more housing in Bourne after Elsea Park.”

It was inevitable that these words would come back to haunt us and indeed they have because since then, the building of new houses around Bourne has continued apace. Major developments approved since that promise in 2005 include the Red Hall Gardens (60 homes), Willoughby Road (42 new homes) the Old Laundry in Manning Road (47 homes) and The Croft in North Road (68 homes) while several other projects are in the pipeline notably a farmland site in Manning Road (65 new homes) which has already been turned down once but is likely to resurface now that the adjoining land is to be developed.

The latest proposal to envelop the old Raymond Mays garage on Spalding Road and the adjoining Rainbow supermarket in Manning Road will create a 5.2 acre site for 108 new homes once agreement with a developer is reached subject to planning approval which is sure to be granted because outline permission has already been given for the land. In addition, an application is also in the pipeline from the developers of the Red Hall Gardens site who are also pressing to build a further 46 houses nearby. In all of these applications, the developers present a formidable case for the acceptance of their proposals which will be difficult to oppose.

Now we have a new round of promises that have appeared in The Local under the headline "No new housing sites until 2026" which again reiterates the promise that Elsea Park will fulfil Bourne's needs for new housing for the next fifteen years (July 29th).

The report deals with the council's local development framework which decrees where building should take place in the coming years. It says that 2,310 new homes should be built here between 2006 and 2026 and on March 31st this year, 850 homes had been built since 2006 with 1,496 more having planning permission. It goes on: "The majority are the homes yet to be built in Elsea Park which will eventually total 2,000. The core strategy states explicitly that no additional housing land is required in the town and therefore no sites will be allocated for housing."

New houses are favoured by the district council because they bring in much needed income through the council tax which helps keep pace with ever increasing staff salary and pension entitlements but the steady influx of new families moving in is also putting a strain on our health, education and transport facilities yet there appears to be little effort from our local authorities to improve them. While housing continues to be the catalyst for change, improvements to our public services and community amenities must follow and if the two kept pace at a reasonable rate, then there would be far less public disquiet while such a commitment at district and county level would also ensure that this market town continues to be an attractive and convenient place to live.

One of the town’s largest and often busiest public houses, the Marquess of Granby in Abbey Road has closed and is up for sale. The freehold property, which is owned by Enterprise Inns of Solihull, is on the market for £185,000 and although it is being sold as a business, there is no guarantee that it will continue as licensed premises and alternative uses cannot be ruled out.

The pub has an imposing Victorian red brick corner frontage dating from the late 19th century although it replaced an older building on the same site. It is named after a 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 largely accounts for the large number of inns throughout the country that bear his name.

It has been extremely popular in recent years but the last landlord lost his licence in April when it was found that alcohol was being served after hours and the owners are now reviewing its future after concerns were expressed by both Lincolnshire Police and South Kesteven District Council, the licensing authority.

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 clock.

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 in town centre areas and cut price pensioners’ meals in the villages.

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 recent closures include the Royal Oak in North Street, one of our oldest hostelries that had been trading since 1826, but was shut in 2009, and work is underway to convert the building into flats.

Now, with the closure 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.

A contributor to the Bourne Forum has invited anyone who is interested to go along and collect the blackberries growing in his back garden, a generous offer but one that is likely to fall on deaf ears. Harvesting nature's seasonal bounty may well be a thing of the past when it is so much easier to pop down to Sainsburys and buy them in a tin without all the hassle involved in picking them from the wild.

August is usually too early in the year for blackberries but all soft fruit has ripened much earlier this year because of the weather. Normally, it is September when they can be found all around Bourne, in the woods and hedgerows, along the roadside verges, on waste ground, around the edges of the playing fields and even on housing estates. Year after year we have found huge bushes of brambles alongside many of the paths and alleyways around the town, all full of luscious large berries just waiting to be picked but they usually remain untouched for several days.

Yet this seasonal bounty from our countryside no longer attracts the pickers of yesteryear. In my boyhood, we would be off most days with the family shopping basket and assorted containers and a walking stick if possible to reach those high branches, seeking out the secluded places that had the best berries and keeping the location a secret from our friends lest they should go there too and take our fruit. After a few hours, we would return home laden, often a stone or more, our hands black with juice and our mouths stained from repeated tastings.

Blackberries were not only a succulent, delicious fruit but they were also free and a boon to a working class family. We ate blackberry pie, blackberry crumble and plain blackberries with milk, cream being far too expensive, but the bulk of them were turned into jam by my mother, jars and jars of them which were stored in the pantry to keep us fed at breakfast and tea during the winter months.

Blackberrying appears to be a minority interest these days. What was once a common source of food now seems to be a dying tradition. We rarely see anyone out picking and while the fruit rots on the stem, supermarkets sell them for high prices. Perhaps people are too lazy to venture out and pick their own or maybe they are unaware that blackberries are edible. Whatever the reason, they are losing out on an autumnal treat and once tried, will never again be missed.

Thought for the week: O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the wideness of that rich moment. - Richard Llewellyn (1907-83), Welsh coal miner turned journalist and novelist, actually born in Hendon, London, who won fame with his book, later a film, How Green Was My Valley.

Saturday 13th August 2011

The outdoor swimming pool in Bourne has achieved an enviable reputation since it was saved from closure twenty years ago and is now regarded as one of the finest lidos in the country.

This was first acknowledged in 2004 when it was voted one of the top 50 pools in Britain by The Independent newspaper. Their survey ranked it 22nd among the best swimming pools in the United Kingdom and the fifth best lido, a list compiled by a panel of experts which included Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew MBE, who praised the setting and excellent facilities. “Swimmers at this heated, almost Olympic-sized lido float in historic surroundings”, said the citation. “It is a pretty location surrounded by lawns and trees with a great view of the Abbey Church.”

There was more praise in 2006 when it was named by The Observer as being among the best places to swim outdoors and early in 2011, the pool was also named as one of the top ten lidos by Woman magazine. Now another top ranking has been announced by the BT Yahoo Travel Internet web site which has listed the top ten outdoor pools and lidos to visit in the United Kingdom in the hope of persuading more people to take a dip in the fresh air and Bourne is among them.

The citation says: "If all this talk of bracing outdoor pools has you shivering, then head for the Bourne outdoor pool which is heated. Open between May and September, the pool is almost Olympic length at 50 yards. Great for laps."

It is difficult to believe that despite such praise, this valuable amenity had humble beginnings and was originally a carp pond for the monks of Bourne Abbey but by the late 19th century was being used by local lads for a dip in hot weather. Then, soon after the Great War ended in 1918, it was converted into a public swimming baths by keen local swimmers. Bourne United Charities took over in 1922 and, as they say, the rest is history.

But Bourne has come close to losing the pool because in 1989, South Kesteven District Council caused widespread public indignation by announcing that it was about to close. The authority had just opened the leisure centre with its own indoor heated swimming pool alongside the Robert Manning School (now College) in Queen's Road and it was decided that the outdoor pool was redundant and should close because it would create too much competition for the new facility.

It was at this point that a local woman, Mrs Lesley Patrick, whose children used the pool regularly, took up the cudgel on behalf of the people of Bourne who were reluctant to lose their outdoor amenity and a public meeting at the Corn Exchange attracted over 200 people. This was followed by a protest march through the town and a petition with 4,000 signatures of support and as a result a trust was formed with the objective of keeping and maintaining the pool for the benefit of the townspeople.

Mrs Patrick went on to become a town councillor and then Mayor of Bourne (1994-95) while the pool was taken over by a preservation trust, a team of volunteers who have run it since 1990 to ensure that the pool has not only survived but its facilities enhanced with a progressive programme of improvement that has turned it into one of the finest remaining lidos in the country of which Bourne can be justly proud.

Trust official Hilary Addison was delighted to hear that the pool had received yet another commendation. "It is an honour for the town as well as for us", she told The Local newspaper (August 5th). "It is a hidden gem but hopefully it will not be quite so hidden any more because more people are getting to know where we are."

Amid all of this praise, it should not be forgotten that such an amenity does not come without money and effort. Operating costs last year totalled more than £37,000 which is equivalent to £390 a day, and the trust is always open to donations and a gift aid scheme is in operation but ongoing maintenance means that another £30,000 is currently needed for essential repairs to ensure that the pool stays open. It will be no mean task to raise this money but past experience has proved that it will be possible because so many are prepared to help, such as Sainsburys, which has a supermarket in Exeter Street, and has chosen the pool as its charity of the year and will be holding a number of fund-raising events during the coming months.

My recent article on the health service in Bourne in past times (June 18th) has brought a response from a lady with first hand knowledge of the situation. Last month, a bundle of old documents handed in to the Civic Society for safe keeping revealed the stark conditions at the old St Peter's Hospital seventy years ago when it was used as a home for mentally defective patients, many of them young girls who had been locked away for becoming pregnant and their babies subsequently adopted while others were admitted because they were unable to care for themselves or had been rejected by their families.

Some stayed there for the rest of their lives, their only employment being in the hospital laundry. Although the routine was harsh, they do appear to have been well treated within the confines of the system which continued until the hospital was slowly run down during the late 20th century and patients moved out under a policy of care in the community.

The laundry also employed several women from the area, among them Dorothy Hodgkin who remembers her days there with some fondness. She went to work there in 1950, having just got married and needing some extra money because she planned to start a family and so she got a job in the laundry. Her husband, Reginald, was employed as a farm worker, and they lived in a tied cottage at Toft which meant a six-mile cycle ride to and from the hospital every day, whatever the weather. Her hours were 8 am until 5 pm Monday to Friday for a wage of £2 10s. a week and the work was hard and monotonous.

The laundry had recently been modernised and was full of giant washing machines and tumble driers although all of the ironing was still done by hand. The items which came in consisted of bed linen and clothing from the staff and inmates at St Peter's which then had about fifty patients.

These were all women, aged from twenty upwards, the older patients having been there for many years but not all of them were employed in the laundry and those who were regarded it as a special privilege. Before Dorothy started, the manageress took her on one side and gave her some advice. Firstly, she must not show special care for anyone in particular because those who thought they were out of favour might take it badly and secondly she was warned to be on her guard at all times because some of them could be dangerous. But despite her vigilance she was soon involved in an incident when one of the women slammed the lid down on her head as she was unloading a tumble drier.

"Fortunately, I was not seriously hurt", said Dorothy, "but it created quite a commotion. The manageress explained afterwards that there were a lot of jealousies and rivalries among the women and they took it personally if you favoured one rather than another. 'Don't let them see that you are afraid of them because they will see this as a weakness and take advantage of it', she told me. It was all sorted out without too much upset but it did teach me to be a little more careful from then on."

A few of the women were allowed home for short spells provided the family agreed to take over responsibility for them and on return, they would relate their experiences, some of the unmarried mothers telling lurid tales of what they had been up to. "But on the whole, they were always pleasant and friendly, always ready to have a chat", said Dorothy, "and most of them thought it was a privilege to be working in the laundry and so most of the time we had a home from home atmosphere."

Dorothy eventually had to give up the job because she was expecting her first child and it became too much to pedal up and down Toft Hill every day. "I had only been there a few months but it was a great experience to be with and get to know these people", she said. "I remember a lot of them with fondness and often wonder where they all are now and how their lives turned out in the end."

I should point out that Dorothy went on to have four children, a daughter and three sons, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, but was widowed in 1990. She now lives in the Meadowgate retirement complex but is still more active than most and can often be seen out and about in Bourne with her shopping trolley and still enjoying life at the age of 90.

Our Family History section has now been running for twelve years and includes almost 400 names that are being researched by descendants compiling a family tree, a facility that has enabled many to find out more about their ancestors who lived in and around Bourne in past times.

But not everyone gets a satisfactory result, particularly those whose name is Bourne and who firmly believe that their roots lie in this South Lincolnshire market town. The latest inquiry comes from Ken Hitchcock, a landscaping engineer, who lives at Malvern in Victoria, Australia, who is planning a visit to the old country in the autumn and is hoping to find out more about his Bourne family who originated in the Romney, Dover and Hythe areas of Kent circa 1800. "I have a direct link to them and any further help would be appreciated", he says.

From time to time we do hear from people named Bourne and have received similar inquiries from the United States, Canada and New Zealand, but invariably they have nothing to do with this town. In our case, the word is geographical rather than personal and comes from the Old English burna which was common in the early Anglo-Saxon period and found in modern form as burn, especially in Scotland, which means stream and also spring. Over the years, this became Bourn and then in the late 19th century it was changed to Bourne to avoid confusion with other places of similar name, particularly Bourn in Cambridgeshire that had already caused difficulties with the postal and railway services.

We are sorry to disappoint those who do inquire on this basis and try to point them in a direction which might produce more happy hunting. Fortunately, the stories of those who do find lost ancestors are far more numerous because the Family History section has been a major success story for the web site since it began in 1999, putting people in touch with relatives they never knew existed and enabling them expand their family trees considerably. Requests for information arrive almost daily and although we cannot always help directly, every inquiry is answered and we try to put them in touch with someone who may be able to help.

Family research is now one of the most popular pursuits of Internet users, a facility that allows you check official records that were once inaccessible and enables you contact people researching the same name with the likelihood that you may come from that family while Bourne Links contains more than fifty useful sources of genealogical information.

If you wish to join our list, go to the Family History section and take a look at the current entries then email us with your own inquiry and it will be added within 24 hours. It is a thrilling adventure and one that may also produce some unexpected, even unwanted, information because you are just as likely to discover a criminal as a count among your antecedents, but then that is all part of the excitement.

Thought for the week: How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from. - Author unknown.

Saturday 20th August 2011

Our town halls have now joined the list of buildings and services under threat as a result of public spending economies and there are signs that some may not continue in the traditional role as the centre of their community as they were in past times.

The historic town hall in Bourne has been under review for some years without any definite decision being made but the signs are that it will soon be fulfilling a very different role indeed.

At Louth, in the north of Lincolnshire, for instance, the town hall is up for sale after East Lindsay District Council claimed that because of enforced budget cuts it can no longer afford to run the Grade II listed building. It is hoped that local community groups will take it over and the authority is offering advice and information to anyone who is interested but if no offers are received by the end of September then it is likely to be sold on the open market. There is no suggestion at this stage that our own town hall will suffer a similar fate but as the people are always the last to be told about such matters, we have no way of knowing that it will not. What we do know is that changes are afoot and they will be far reaching.

The magistrates court which has been in use since the building opened in the early 19th century closed in 2008 when a major review of the available space began. The town hall is actually owned by Lincolnshire County Council who proposed to turn it into a community access point or one-stop centre for local government, thus centralising the services provided by our three councils under the same roof. A working party involving South Kesteven District Council and Bourne Town Council was appointed, proposing that the public library should be moved there from South Street together with the registrar of births, marriages and deaths, currently based in West Street, which would further increase the pressure on available space.

This was an ambitious and costly plan because a lift would have to be installed to make the best use of the available space, a project that has been postponed time and again even before the latest round of cuts was announced. The bill for converting the town hall into a one-stop centre now that financial economies are a priority would therefore be a hefty one and so the prospect of us losing it altogether seems more likely because in May 2009, the entire scheme was put on hold and little has been heard of it since.

Other facilities in the town are also under threat, notably Bourne Youth Centre which either faces closure or a reduction in opening hours to one night a week. It is fortunate that our only museum, the Heritage Centre in South Street, is owned and run by volunteers from the Civic Society otherwise that too would most likely suffer the same fate as Stamford Museum which has been closed and thousands of valuable artefacts soon likely to be scattered to the winds.

Then we have the register office, one of those facilities vital to a small market town because it is the place where we register our births, marriages and deaths, an essential requirement in law. Although only open for two days a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a total of 162 marriages were registered there last year together with 137 deaths and 23 births while 48 wedding ceremonies were also held.

The public library may also be under threat and is likely to be either shut or banished to some obscure location yet it is these very places that have provided a beacon of learning for so many. The current location is perfectly adequate and so tampering with this arrangement will be dictated purely by financial constraints rather than local needs which is indeed a sorry state of affairs.

The current thinking behind the administration of our public services is highlighted by Councillor Martin Hill (Folkingham Rural), Conservative leader of Lincolnshire County Council, when explaining the possible closure of the register office in Bourne. He told the Stamford Mercury (August 12th) that all registration offices in the county were being reviewed to ensure that they were efficient and provided a value-for-money quality service and as far as Bourne is concerned the figures speak for themselves. Then he gives the game away because he told the newspaper: "Recommendations have been put forward to consider changes at registration offices that are currently open a few hours a week where the cost to run them is more than the income they generate."

In other words, the county council is running a business rather than providing a public service which is not the role for which it was intended. We pay our council tax to ensure that these facilities are provided and maintained and to axe them on the grounds that they are not making a profit contravenes the very ethos on which our local government is founded.

The loss of these much loved amenities is symptomatic of the government trend to phase out services because of enforced cuts in spending. If there is less to administer, then it should follow that fewer people will be needed but this is not the case and some of our local authorities have been distinctly reluctant to announce any major reductions in staffing levels. As with so many public bodies, they have over the years become fiefdoms whose primary aim is to protect themselves, their salaries and pensions, in preference to their intended role in the community.

The story is much the same throughout Lincolnshire and only organised opposition can save them but it would need a strong dose of people power similar to that we are witnessing in Somerset and Gloucestershire where protesters and lawyers have sought an injunction over the county councils' closure plans for the public libraries and are now forcing a full judicial review which questions the ability of the much vaunted Big Society to deliver statutory services to the community.

The county council, like the government, is floundering in its attempts to solve a major financial crisis, seizing on only one possible course of action, but it is slowly beginning to dawn on those who run our affairs that savage cuts in traditional services are a primitive reaction and in the long run will prove to be counter-productive but it is not too late to pull back from the brink of what will undoubtedly cause serious damage to the social fabric of this county and indeed, the country.

Each week brings a fresh revelation as government at all levels pursues a policy of cuts and closures, grappling with a financial problem that is not of our making yet it is we, the people, who have become the scapegoats and there will be no let-up in the demands for more money from us to fuel this insanity. We will wake up one morning at some time in the future to find that the current economic difficulties have been solved but the public services that have been paid for and enjoyed over many decades will have gone for good.

Doctors of past times would have a quiet chuckle over recent suggestions that more women should give birth at home. For many years now, the favoured place for delivery has been the hospital or a maternity home but a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests that up to a third of women should give birth "without a doctor going anywhere near them".

The college has called for a radical shake up in NHS maternity services and for more midwifery-led units to be created for women with low risk pregnancies so they could give birth outside the hospital, presumably at home. The latest figures show that only three per cent of women currently give birth at home which is a dramatic contrast to the situation that existed a hundred years ago when hospital was not an option for the majority.

Most women did not call the doctor because it involved an expense which many could not afford and so they gave birth with the assistance of a relative or a neighbour with a reputation for having some skill in delivery, often known as a gamp, after Mrs Sarah Gamp, a nurse in the novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) by Charles Dickens, who carried a faded cotton umbrella. The founding of the Bourne Nursing Association to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 changed the situation and soon help was available in the home while confinements in the Butterfield Hospital began when it was subsequently opened in 1910.

But even then many births still took place in the home, often in primitive conditions, and we have accounts of many such cases from the late Dr John Galletly (1899-1993) who worked in Bourne as a general practitioner for more than 40 years. He left a memoir of his experiences which I have edited and published, a revealing document of how illness and injury were treated in those days before the health service we now know was even dreamed of and his recollections of many confinements in difficult and unhygienic circumstances demonstrate a caring attitude that is not always found in our family doctors today when the bedside manner appears to be a relic of the past.

His father, also John, had been a doctor before him, moving to Rippingale, near Bourne, to start the practice in 1889. "When he first arrived", recalled Dr Galletly, "a woman who had previously lost her baby during her confinement was expecting another and he called upon her. He went upstairs to the bedroom and found half a dozen village women sitting around, critically waiting to give the new doctor the once over and he told me later that he felt as if he was on trial. He looked round at the waiting women, chose one and told the rest to go and to his intense relief, he successively delivered the mother of a live child. His authority was established and he had no trouble afterwards with the village gamps."

After that, calls to attend confinements were numerous and whenever John, junior, awoke in the morning and realised that his father was not there and asked where he was, he always got the same reply from his mother: "He is out at a confinement." There were general hospitals, or infirmaries as they were then known, at Stamford, Grantham and Peterborough, but no maternity units. In the case of a difficult confinement, help would be summoned from a neighbouring practitioner or the mother might even be admitted to the labour ward at Bourne workhouse because the bedding was usually clean and utensils available.

He usually travelled by pony and trap to appointments but often, if the confinement occurred in one of the nearby villages such as Dyke or Morton, he would simply cycle there and if it looked like being a long wait, he would take a book to read. "His worry on a cold night would not be so much for the patient but whether the horse would get cold waiting outside", said Dr Galletly.

When his father retired in 1927, Dr Galletly took over the practice and childbirths still kept him busy. "The trouble was in those days that there were no proper nurses", he said. "You just had your village gamps and using them was hit or miss. If you were called out to the fen at two o'clock in the morning to tend an expectant mother and you arrived to hear a baby yelling then you knew that all was well and you just said 'How do you do', had a cup of tea and made sure that everything was fine before going home again."

There were many such night trips to expectant mothers in the locality, particularly to the cottages in Tongue End where there were fourteen confinements in one year. He either cycled or, in later years, took the car as far as the road would take him then walked the rest of the way, even on pitch dark nights, looking out for the welcome light of an oil lamp in the window to guide his path.

But despite the hardships, Dr Galletly regarded the work as a privilege and one that brought its rewards. "There was always  the kindness of one's patients", he said, "for despite their hard living conditions, with no water laid on and no indoor toilets, you always got a cup of tea after attending a confinement and it was always served on a clean tablecloth with a slice of cake or a piece of pie."

Thought for the week: Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last. - Charles Dickens (1812-70), the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era.

Saturday 27th August 2011

The owners of the Raymond Mays garage site in Spalding Road are seeking an extension to their planning permission to build new homes which means that this unsightly mess is likely to continue for some time.

The Stamford Mercury, which carries to story of the planning renewal by Anglia Regional Co-operative Society on its front page (August 19th), suggests in the headline that this will be an end to the eyesore but that is not the case because it merely gives the developers breathing space for another three years during which time nothing may happen and when that time runs out they can apply again.

This is one of the drawbacks of current council planning procedures that should have been addressed years ago to empower local authorities impose a condition on any planning consent involving a prominent location such as this that until work starts the appearance of the site should be kept in an acceptable state and not allow it to deteriorate to the detriment of the neighbourhood and indeed the town. In this case, the derelict garage is situated on the main A151 at the eastern approaches to Bourne and is therefore seen by every passing motorist and coach party which is not a good advertisement for anyone intending to settle here or open a business.

The garage is a particularly extreme case because it closed in the autumn of 2005 and attempts to find a developer have been unsuccessful with the result that the premises have slowly deteriorated. Earlier this year, vandals broke in and set fire to the premises, an incident which occupied appliances from four local fire stations and closed the main road for three hours.

The land is part of a massive projected housing development coupled with the former Rainbow supermarket site in nearby Manning Road and covering a total of 5.2 acres. Outline planning permission has already been given for 105 dwellings although there are fears locally that this will be too high a density for the area involved. Unfortunately, progress on the scheme has been held up by the economic climate created by the banking crisis in 2009 with the result that although the supermarket has also been vacated, negotiations to find a developer continue.

The unsightly state of the premises is now causing real concern and with the possibility of another delay before work begins, councillors are beginning to express fears that the appearance of the town in that locality is being marred. The Mayor of Bourne, Councillor Brenda Johnson, told the newspaper: "The site is an eyesore. If it is not going to be developed for another three years then I would like to see the owners made to keep it tidy."

Compulsion should not be necessary. The owners have a big investment in Bourne and are part of its business and commercial life, currently making money through the Co-operative Food supermarket in the Burghley Arcade. It is therefore expected that they would have sufficient respect for the town to ensure that their other properties do not deface the street scene. The appearance of the garage site has been allowed to decline into such a disgraceful state that they now have a moral duty to clean it up without us having to wait until the project gets underway which may not be for another three years.

Work is expected to begin soon on the long awaited task of refurbishing Wherry's Lane, a £5 million project substituted for the ambitious town centre redevelopment scheme which was abandoned by South Kesteven District Council after ten years of planning. A developer has been chosen from among six applicants and once the legalities have been ironed out, we may expect to see some activity on the site.

The contract has gone to the Lincoln-based Trent Valley Construction whose first job will be to convert the old Burghley Street warehouse into flats, adding an adjoining block of ground floor commercial and retail units. The formalities still have to be agreed and planning permission will be required and so it may be autumn before we actually see workmen on site. The scheme is costing £2.2 million although a further phase involving other land and properties, including two houses, a workshop and the old masonic hall, will complete the development.

The original idea was to inject new life into the town centre by redesigning that triangle of land between West Street, North Street and Burghley Street, and was first mooted in August 2001, but that was doomed from the start and the chapter of misfortune that followed is too dismal to repeat here. Suffice it to say that ten years on with the grand idea estimated at £27 million, not a brick was laid before the whole project was dropped at a cost to the taxpayer that has not yet been revealed. When that project finally collapsed, a more modest scheme involving the rejuvenation of Wherry’s Lane was suggested by way of compensation.

This is one of the most frequented byways in Bourne, a narrow passageway connecting North Street with Burghley Street 100 yards away, and although it is little more than a space between the buildings, it is well used because motorists who leave their vehicles in the car park behind the Post Office find it a convenient shortcut to the town centre.

The lane is named after William Wherry, a member of the well-known business family whose former home and shop still stands on the corner with North Street. He had been connected with Bourne since 1806 and brought work and prosperity to the town for two centuries through the grocery and drapery trade, agriculture and other associated commercial enterprises. It is mentioned on maps of a hundred years ago and so has been with us long enough to deserve the attention of those who are in charge of our affairs and yet it was allowed to become seriously run down. 

The southern section nearest North Street contains a number of red brick business premises, new and old, including a funeral parlour, a launderette, carpet shop and upholsterer's workshop, all of which are well maintained and blend naturally into the aspect of this traditional market town.

But further down the lane, towards the very western end as it joins Burghley Street, it was a very different story and until two years ago resembled one of our neglected inner city areas with smashed windows, walls daubed with graffiti, broken fences, rusting ironwork, weeds, overgrown vegetation and dilapidated buildings. The surface of the lane was frequently strewn with litter and dog dirt and was dangerous underfoot in wet weather because of mud, slime and large puddles and all of this within a stone's throw of our busy town centre.

The worst affected section was alongside the old workshops in Burghley Street that were eventually purchased by South Kesteven District Council in readiness for the redevelopment of the town centre and although that scheme fell through, it did give the authority the opportunity to clean up. The council leader, Linda Neal (Bourne West) acknowledged the problem because she told the Stamford Mercury (3rd April 2009): “Until now, the council has been limited in its powers but we can now go ahead with the process and clear up this terrible mess.”

The task of cleaning the area began in June 2009 when workmen removed the detritus of a decade that had piled up alongside the western end of the pathway and created a major eyesore. A sample of the discarded rubbish that had accumulated included a television set, piping, self-setting shrubs and trees, beer and soft drink cans, takeaway cartons, rotting fast food, plastic bags and an assortment of unmentionable items that should have been removed long before.

Now after another two years, major construction work will revitalise Wherry's Lane and the surrounding buildings and so remove a long standing blot on our urban landscape. Although the actual town centre redevelopment is now a thing of the past, this replacement project will be welcomed as an enhancement for this neglected area of our town.

An old enamelled matchbox holder is to join the permanent display at the Heritage Centre. It is one of the many artefacts handed in by members of the public which has become a valuable source of material for the museum devoted to Bourne and its past history.

The holder is over 100 years old and was either sold or given away as a gift by J J W Nicholls, tobacconist and hairdresser, of No 6 South Street, most probably in 1902 to celebrate the career of the distinguished soldier Lord Kitchener and his recent victory in the Boer War, an event that sparked off wild celebrations in Bourne which turned into a near riot when 29 people were arrested.

A coloured picture of him in uniform with his medals and regalia is on one side and there is a black and white photograph on the other showing the hairdressing shop at the end of the three-storey corner block in South Street with the owner, John Nichols, and one of his staff standing in the doorway. The business was later taken over by A C Barnatt and is now occupied by Neal's the hairdressers.

Matchbox holders are eagerly sought by collectors and so this one will have some monetary value although the condition is not perfect because rust has started to appear through the enamel. Nevertheless, historic items such as this are an invaluable addition to the display at the Heritage Centre and many more must be lying around in homes and shops in Bourne and perhaps destined for the rubbish skip unless rescued for posterity. If anyone out there comes across something that has an association with past times, then please hand it in because it will be of immense interest to future generations.

A major transformation is taking place in the Wellhead Gardens and around St Peter’s Pool in particular where volunteers are creating access to an unsightly area of small ponds along the river and around the lake. The work is part of a £10,000 environmental project by Bourne United Charities which administers the park and carried out by Bourne Green Gardeners (formerly Bourne Green Gym) to turn this neglected area into a wildlife habitat surrounded by water.

A major feature of the project is the installation of two wooden bridges over the ponds and the Bourne Eau where it runs along the edge of the old cress beds and is now being completed with the help of Groundwork Lincolnshire together with a connecting boardwalk pathway through the area which is rich in flora and fauna, the island being home to ducks and coots as well as an army of amphibians and small mammals, but has always been inaccessible to the public.

Groundwork Lincolnshire is an independent local charity, a county environmental and economic development trust designed to help people and organisations make changes in order to create better neighbourhoods, to build skills and job prospects, and to live and work in a greener way. The money to fund this project was awarded by NHS Lincolnshire to encourage people take exercise outdoors. As a result, some of it was spent on stepping logs which may be used for balancing exercises, a pursuit that is unlikely to disturb the neighbouring wildlife.

The Wellhead Gardens were established in 1956 where once there were green meadows and regular maintenance has brought order for the benefit of the public although the mass of wildlife remains for us all to enjoy. This is a small project in the fifty-year history of the park but one that not only embraces the growing awareness of protecting and improving our environment but also adds yet another feature to this popular and valuable open space just a short step from the town centre in Bourne.

Thought for the week: Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. - Hans Christian Anderson (1805-75), Danish author, poet and writer of fairy tales, noted for his children's stories.