Bourne Diary - December 2011

by Rex Needle

Saturday 3rd December 2011

Charles Worth is to feature in a new musical due to be staged in the United States next year. The subject of the production is one of his models, Cora Pearl, the Parisian courtesan who became the talk of the town.

The story of Charles Frederick Worth is well known, son of a Bourne solicitor who left home as a boy during the early 19th century to seek his fortune and after working in London for a spell, left for France and later established his fashion house in Paris where he also founded haute couture.

It was here that he met Emma, daughter of Frederick Crouch, an English musician who emigrated to the New World and later served as a trumpeter with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War before settling down as a singing teacher in Baltimore where he also worked in a furniture factory. Crouch died in 1896 at the age of 88 having been married four times and fathered 17 children, although various accounts have claimed that the total was nearer 27. A talented musician, he is best remembered for writing the Irish ballad Kathleen Mavourneen which became a particular favourite during the  conflict when it was sung around camp fires, a reminder of the girl waiting for the returning soldier and the welcoming hearth of home and family.

Emma preferred to use the name of Cora Pearl and she soon became one of Worth's greatest advertisements, wearing the underwear that he designed. Numerous photographs exist of her dressed in the fullest, widest and most fussy of his crinolines imaginable and when he launched the bustle, his classic innovation that was to dominate ladies fashion into the next century, Cora was the obvious choice as the first to wear it at important functions and to show it off to the wealthy clientele that frequented his salon.

Cora had a magnificent figure and the capacity to charm wealthy and titled men to the extent that they fell at her feet and spent vast sums on her that she squandered shamelessly. But it was not to last. The years were not kind to her and after a shooting incident involving a rejected lover, she was deported to England, looking old, painted, wrinkled and worn out. She returned to France using clumsily forged documents but the glamorous life she knew had gone forever and she died of cancer while living in distressed circumstances in Paris in 1886 at the age of 51 and is buried in the Batignolles cemetery.

The fact that she and Worth were friends is not surprising because both came from more austere circumstances in England and made their mark in Parisian high society. He dressed her in the height of fashion and she gave his creations tremendous publicity by her outrageous behaviour. Cora is also probably the only person in the world to have a biography named after her toilet, The Lady with the Swan's Down Seat. She was also the originator of the popular party piece of a naked lady bursting out of a cake and an Australian brothel even had a suite named after her.

Her colourful career is to be celebrated in words and music by Jill Craddock, a teacher in the arts, of Orlando, Florida, who has been studying Cora's life for some years. "She was a really fascinating woman and trend setter", she said, "and the musical will reflect her character and spirit."

Charles Worth is featured prominently. "He is referred to throughout", she said, "and when Cora arrives in Paris she says that the Worth gowns are her particular favourites. Other references to him include her wardrobe budget, her philosophy of fashion, word play with his surname and the jealousy of other women over her clothes which he made."

She added: "Right now, the musical is limited in scope due to budget so I have not written a character for Charles Worth although he would make a perfect addition to the show. I have been studying the gowns and a family member has volunteered to sew. It is a very exciting process to bring this time period to life on the stage."

The production has been entered in the 21st Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival in May 2012 and will run for seven performances. "Because of our limited budget, resources are being directed mainly towards costumes and jewellery", said Jill. "Nevertheless, we are all very excited about the production which has already been well received by the music and theatre community. Cora, the characters in her life and the time period itself, all make for a very good story and we feel confident for the future of the show and that it will be seen on as many stages as possible."

A magazine recently reported that a couple had christened their new baby Clynton and the husband suggested that it would raise a few guffaws among their friends. But perhaps not these days when Chelsea and Paris are among the favoured names for the newly born along with Cosmo, Jayden and Madison not to mention Mia, Angel, Brayden, Caleb and Payton.

There are many others that are a far cry from the good old standards of my boyhood when everyone was a Frederick, Reginald, William, Thomas or George while the girls answered to Margaret, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Daphne and Gladys.

First names were once traditional with the bible and family as the most likely sources but when the cinema came into our lives the influence of film stars became evident and as the years passed television provided rich pickings for parents anxious to find something suitable for their new offspring while the worlds of celebrity and soccer are now the inspiration for many. But Kevin and Jason now appear to have become pass� and parents without an obvious choice are looking around for something special with the result that inventive ideas have never been so prevalent at the font and the register office although no one appears to give a thought to the unhappy child in the playground when saddled with a name like Peaches, Pixie or Frou-Frou.

Names are as old as human speech itself and, like school or pub nicknames today, began as purely descriptive terms to prevent one person from being confused with another. But as the years passed they began to take on a greater significance and naming a child became a serious undertaking. At one time, they were chosen for their meaning, often religious or charitable, sometimes even magical or echoing a venerated person from the past, while each period of our history threw up its own contributions, and although this habit continues with some families, the majority of names today are chosen from the fashionable trend while some parents even make up their own after being influenced by its pretty sound.

Each year therefore produces a new crop and variants proliferate at all levels of society with the result that there has never been such an assorted collection available to confer on the new arrival but whether old or new, they are chosen with love and care, so epitomising the hopes of parents for the future of their child and if they do pick something quite awful, then they do it blindly and in good faith.

First names are very much a reflection of their times and as they are changing with each decade, we cannot imagine what will be popular a hundred years from now but there will be many that would seem to be incongruous today. It is also evident that the inventive nature of names that we have now is relatively new and that in past centuries parents relied heavily on those that had been popular for a thousand years.

We know this by checking the parish registers for Bourne in which all of the births, marriages and deaths which took place over the past 500 years were recorded and these show that the majority of first names listed have a long and illustrious history, many dating back to Norman times and beyond. There was little intellectual stimulus in those days and so the people had far less imagination and whenever a new baby arrived the parents simply latched on to something that was readily available, usually within the family. The majority of the entries are therefore repetitive with well used examples such as John, William, Robert, Richard and Thomas as well as Margaret, Anne, Katherine, Elizabeth and Sarah, all of which survive today.

There are oddities but these are often because names were wrongly entered in the registers. In past centuries, few people could read and write and parish clerks were not always the most literate of people and although some of the names are quite ordinary, they were often misheard and therefore wrongly interpreted at the time of writing, entered phonetically or simply misspelled. One such instance occurred with the baptisms at the Abbey Church during the 16th century because a baby boy was registered on 22nd March 1575 as Ewstis Carter although this most probably should have been Eustace Carter.

There are many such anomalies and William frequently appears as Willyam or Wyllyame, Henry as Henrye, Philip as Philippe, Judith as Judythe and Eleanor as Elliner. But despite these misspellings, there are a few rarities although they appear infrequently. In July 1562, for instance, the christenings included a Betteris, Robarde, Alse and Gerrat while in 1566 we find a Sycilye and a Tomasen in 1574. Other unusual names abound such as Saintes (1577), Effam, Elyn and Elyas (1579), Luce and Octavian (1581) and Edye (1586). More examples from the 17th century include Yorke and Theophilus (1600), Adlarde (1603), Cassander (1604), Friddes (1615), Frideyswed (1622) Armesbye (1622), Audryan (1637), Zacre (1642) and Barbarye (1646), while the misspellings include Anthonye, Issabell and Margerit (1600), Ralfe (1603), Frauncis and Winefryde (1606), Humfrye (1607), Sarai (1620) and Danyell (1626).

Throughout these years, there are barely two dozen names from which they have all been chosen, although with variations because of the clerical errors I have described, and all are still in use today. The old standards remained well into the 19th century although because the Victorian era was a period of intense religious belief and frequent churchgoing, many more biblical names appeared and so we have Ebenezer, Rebecca, Joshua and even Ezekiel among them.

A major breakaway came during the late 20th century when some babies began to be called by the most unfortunate names and I well remember one being christened Marlon Brando while another was saddled with all eleven names of the Chelsea football squad, much to the chagrin of the vicar who had to be persuaded to officiate at the baptism. Since then, parents have been given free rein and a glance through the births columns in any local or national newspaper will produce a few gasps of surprise at the ingenuity, some may think stupidity, of those listed.

Today, parents are stuck with their surname but first names remain a matter of personal expression although never before in our history has the range been quite so comprehensive, even exotic, and it is because the field is so wide open that they should pause before making their choice for although it may sound eminently suitable now, they should ponder for a moment over whether their child will be happy with it twenty years hence.

Thought for the week: I shall write a book some day about the appropriateness of names. Geoffrey Chaucer has a ribald ring, as is proper and correct, and Alexander Pope was inevitably Alexander Pope. Colley Cibber was a silly little man without much elegance and Shelley was very Percy and very Bysshe. - James Joyce (1882-1941), Irish novelist and poet considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant garde of the early 20th century.

Saturday 10th December 2011

There are still no signs of activity in Wherry's Lane, one of the town's run down areas where construction was expected to begin this autumn. Instead, two major properties bought by South Kesteven District Council at great expense remain empty and work on the much vaunted scheme to include them in a �5 million flats and shops rejuvenation of the area is now unlikely to start before next year.

It has been suggested around town that the authority has finally realised that the last thing Bourne needs is new shops at a time when it is unable to sustain those it has. But The Local newspaper reports that the project is going ahead because the required planning permission is now in the pipeline although the delayed start date is not given (December 8th).

New shops are an integral part of the project despite the fact that several commercial properties are currently awaiting new tenants in all of the main streets while those that remain in business are finding it difficult to make ends meet, a situation brought on by a combination of factors, not least the economic crisis and the burgeoning appeal of the Internet.

There is little point of trekking from shop to shop in a fruitless hunt for what you need only to return home and find it through a few clicks on Google and then have it delivered to your door next day at a much lower price. The Christmas shopping event staged in Bourne on Saturday was a worthy effort and although the stalls and festive atmosphere may have been one of public enjoyment and a bonus for traders, this was a purely seasonal event which does not reflect the level of business at other times during the year. In fact, the writing appears to be on the wall for the traditional High Street which is slowly becoming a thing of the past, an idealised, postcard view of a vanishing England.

Many of the country's major names in the retail trade have already departed and others are likely to follow. No matter how much we wish to keep things the way things were, there is no room for sentiment because the march of progress is inevitable and those who do not keep in step will fall by the wayside.

This country has already become Europe's leading e-retail economy with 37 million people shopping online. Internet retailing is increasing six times faster than High Street sales and is expected to reach �69 billion by the end of this year and despite the recession, this is growing at the rate of 16% per annum while providing employment for over 730,000 people.

All of this comes at the expense of the High Street shops which are already facing stiff competition from the American style malls, those huge stone and glass palaces based in the larger towns and cities, lined with glittering emporiums crammed with the very goods customers want to buy, all in one place with easy access and effortless car parking. The main streets with their crowded pavements and choking traffic fumes have lost their appeal.

Soon, the High Street as we have known it will have disappeared altogether. The cafes and bars, estate agents and building societies that have for many years been taking over traditional retail properties will survive but the shops will have been replaced by display windows where you can check out what you want to buy then go home and place an order online. It will no longer be a place to shop but a business and service centre and those towns that have already embraced the shape of things to come will have introduced landscaped pedestrianised precincts with the accent on leisure and pleasure rather than the arduous round of weekly shopping while those properties, and certainly the floors above the existing units, can return to their original role of living accommodation.

Neil Saunders, of Verdict Research, experts on the UK and European retail markets, says in their Christmas forecast for 2011 that shoppers need to prepare for a radical change on their local High Street. "By 2014", he said, "we predict that it will become less about shopping and more about the experience, where the stores have become a destination rather than just a shop. You can look, touch and test the products, speak to experts and make your decision then buy online."

Shoppers are beginning to find it increasingly difficult to find their favourite CD, film or book on the High Street, he said, with the result that many such shops have closed during the year, having become �nothing more than costly overheads.� More of those who keep their stores will move out of town where rents are cheaper, forcing shoppers to follow them to retail parks or shop online but the retail space that does remain will become more efficient.

It is no coincidence that all new supermarkets are now built out of town. One stop shopping has its appeal, the opportunity to fill a trolley and then the car boot rather than face the drudgery of calling in at the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker which are slowly being consigned to history.

Local authorities should know this. They employ town planners or consultants who are supposed to keep up with the national trend. For this reason, the dozen or so new shops likely to be built in Wherry's Lane will almost certainly become a white elephant along with the town centre redevelopment scheme for Bourne which failed so abysmally in June 2010 after ten years of planning and an exorbitant amount of public money.

A north-south by pass for the main A 15 trunk road would have been a cheaper proposition for Bourne, a scheme that would not only have been beneficial for the health of the community and the well being of the businesses we already have but also an acknowledgment of what the future holds when the High Street will no longer be the centre of our commercial life. Instead, in the years to come, this will be seen as an opportunity lost by our local authorities.

The skateboard project for Bourne has been revived, as this column reported last month (November 26th), and a contributor to the Bourne Forum has suggested that the Abbey Lawn is being considered as a possible venue. This must be a wild rumour because nothing could be more ludicrous than siting such a facility in these austere surroundings that have been used for sporting and social activities for decades and venerated by this and past generations.

Fortunately, this open space is administered by Bourne United Charities and the trustees will no doubt provide wiser counsel. Their decision to fence off the Abbey Lawn in 2009 to put an end to the habitual vandalism that had plagued the various sports organisations that use the grounds appears to have paid off and so it is doubtful that they would approve a project that has attracted an unruly element elsewhere in the county where skateboard parks have been forced to close because of rowdyism and criminal damage.

There is also the question of upsetting the neighbours. The Forum contributor quite rightly suggests that the noise will infuriate residents of Victoria Place and Coggles Causeway which are close to the only vacant area suitable for such a venture and suggests that if somewhere needs to be found then the land adjacent to the play area in the Wellhead field would be far more suitable and well out of the way of anyone who may be inconvenienced. Yet serious consideration must be given before even that is allocated for such a purpose.

In the meantime, the rumour that the Abbey Lawn might be used as the venue for a skateboard park persists and so perhaps the time has come for the trustees of Bourne United Charities to issue a statement on their web site that they would never countenance such a project, a denial that would provide a reassurance for those who see this as being detrimental to our traditional sporting and recreational amenities.

A rare photograph of North Street taken during a royal celebration 100 years ago has been handed over to Bourne Civic Society for display at the Heritage Centre. The picture measuring 5 ft. x 3 ft 2 in. is an enlargement from the original taken by William Redshaw (1856-1943), one of the early pioneers of photography who took countless views of the town although compared with his massive output, comparatively few have survived the years.

It was taken on Friday 30th June 1911 when Bourne was decorated to celebrate the coronation of King George V and shows the street bedecked with flags and bunting and thronging with people in their Sunday best.

Until recently, the picture hung in the counter area of the Nationwide Building Society at No 17 North Street but when the premises were redecorated during a refurbishment earlier this year, it was decided that the photograph no longer fitted in with the surroundings and it was consigned to the attic. Staff member Mrs Maria Sears mentioned it one day when I was at the counter and when I suggested that the picture should be preserved, the manager, John Borrill, agreed that it should go to the Heritage Centre and it has now been handed over and given pride of place for visitors to enjoy in the future.

The photograph was one of a series taken by William Redshaw on that day, all showing the town gaily decorated with flags, streamers and floral displays. It was one of the biggest celebrations ever held in the town with a parade and public tea, sports, a torchlight procession, fireworks and bonfire, and at night, most of the business premises and private houses were illuminated. Only one or two other pictures of the event are known to exist and so this one is extremely important, especially in view of its size, and therefore makes a most valuable addition to the Heritage Centre's collection.

From the archives: A farewell service was held at the Abbey Church in Bourne for the closure of the town's hospital which was shut at the end of September despite a campaign to keep it open for community use. Lincolnshire Health Authority took the closure decision in conjunction with North West Anglia Healthcare Trust and South Lincolnshire Community and Mental Health Trust, following trials in the Stamford area which indicated that patients preferred to be treated in their own homes rather than in hospital where they are separated from family and friends.

The church was packed for a poignant service which observed the closure of the hospital that started life in 1914 as an isolation unit for patients with infectious diseases and was later converted for use as a chest hospital and in recent years has been used for general medical care. The congregation sang hymns and said prayers for the remembrance of the hospital.

The Save Bourne Hospital Action Group has been fighting for the past two years to keep the hospital open. Their campaign included a twelve-hour vigil at the hospital and 8,000 people signed a petition to Westminster. Local residents and civic leaders are angry at the closure and claim that it has been taken purely on financial grounds. "They need to cut costs but many people will be very distressed by the loss of this valuable community medical facility", said a spokesman. - news item from the Bourne web site, Sunday 18th October 1998.

Thought for the week: The new 612-bed four-storey Peterborough City Hospital which opened a year ago at a cost of �289 million is too large for the city, according to Derek Harris who resigned as chairman of NHS Peterborough in October. He said that the government�s aim to provide more health care in the community rather than in hospitals spelled trouble for the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (which also covers Bourne). �At some point or other, the government is going to have to face up to the fact we have too many hospital beds�, he added. � news report from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Thursday 8th December 2011.

Saturday 17th December 2011

The Abbey Church is our only Grade I listed building, a marvel of mediaeval construction before the days of modern technology, tools and equipment, and so relied on manpower alone. It was built over a period spanning several centuries yet still stands as a monument to those early artisans who worked not for the glory of God but to sustain their families and stay alive.

The building of our church is therefore a parable that has a resonance today that is reflected in a myriad familiar expressions that we use without thought such as "the labourer is worthy of his hire" or "labour brings its own reward". Each stone was fashioned and laid with perfection through hardship and sweat, a task that took some workmen a lifetime yet they never saw the completion of their toil.

The abbey was conceived by the Lord of the Manor, Baldwin Fitzgilbert (1095-1154), who began work in the early 12th century during the great revival in religious thought and action in England. Anxious to demonstrate his devotion to the faith, he decided to erect a new church on the site of the old Saxon building which was then showing signs of decay and began the task in 1138 but owing to many setbacks and adversities, he never completed the work as he intended.

Baldwin had imagined a building of cathedral like proportions with twin towers but this did not come to fruition and it has been suggested that the ambitious plans were thwarted by the Black Death which resulted in a shortage of stonemasons. He was also wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 and, according to the custom of the time, had to pay a large ransom for his release and this seriously depleted his financial resources.

It was inevitable that a building of such proportions would take a considerable time to complete and apart from the expense, a significant labour force was required, but there was also the problem of finding the materials. Timber was no doubt provided by Bourne Wood, then part of the ancient Brunswald Forest which was full of oaks, but the stone itself had to be hauled from some distance away, there being no local source available in the immediate area, and this must have been transported block by block by ox-cart from somewhere such as the quarry at Barnack, near Stamford, where the limestone known as Barnack rag was first exploited by the Romans, on roads that were little more than footpaths and rough tracks.

Stone may also have been transported on sleds from the quarry to the River Glen and loaded on to barges or rafts on which it travelled down the waterway and thence to the Bourne Eau which ran past the church. Once here, it was fashioned on site by a team of stonemasons, usually travelling craftsmen from all parts of the country who moved to where the work was available and stayed until the job was finished.

The role of these mediaeval masons has been studied by Carol Davidson Cragoe, Assistant Architectural Editor of the Victoria County History, who tells us that most of the actual construction work on our churches and cathedrals was done during the spring and summer months, allowing the mortar to set and the laid stones to settle over the winter, also giving the masons a chance to carve more stones for the following year (BBC Online, British History Series).

The masons had no magical formula, she writes, merely an understanding of basic geometry and a few tools such as a set of compasses, a set square and a staff or rope marked off in halves, thirds and fifths, while designs were worked out at full scale on tracing floors covered with soft plaster or sometimes on parchment. Yet they were able to construct these most amazing buildings. Scaffolding was used to reach the loftier parts and cranes and pulleys helped lift materials but it was a hard and often dangerous occupation and many lost their balance while working at extreme heights and plunged to their death.

Work on the Abbey Church took several centuries. The original building programme was cut back by Baldwin because of the various problems he encountered and the church was not finished as originally intended, only the nave, with a low roof, and the bottom portion of the tower being completed. The west front, the upper part of the tower and the clerestory were not added until the 14th century and it would be another 200 years before the building that we see today was finally completed.

It was therefore a monumental task at an inestimable cost and despite the progress that has been made in almost 900 years that have since passed, it is one that would face insurmountable problems if tackled today. Imagine the bureaucracy that would pursue such a scheme, from the original idea to the final conception, not to mention finance because the money for such an ambitious project would be hard to find when even in these affluent times, the church is having difficulties in raising the �100,000 required for the latest essential maintenance and repairs.

First a site would have to be purchased and approved and no matter which was chosen, there would be some developer around complaining that it was eating up land that would be far better used for new houses while the planning process would produce a welter of bureaucratic pitfalls, enough to delay the process for several years. Then there would have to be agreement on the final appearance of the building and the proposed materials which would provide sufficient scope for the church itself to object on principal if merely to assert its authority, as it would undoubtedly do, and so there would be enough interference to throw the entire project into a state of confusion.

If after all of the official procedures had been ironed out, permissions sought and given and work was about to start, there would then have to be the securing of materials and the recruiting of a workforce and their trade unions to contend with whose officials would undoubtedly regulate working to an eight hour day, five days a week with suitable holiday entitlements, not to mention the Health and Safety Executive who would create a nightmare of rules and regulations, not least for working at the heights required to complete the tower.

It is unlikely, therefore, that such a building could be repeated in Bourne in the present climate, a thought worth pondering on when we are asked to dig into our pockets and support the upkeep of the present one.

There is nothing quite so evocative as memories of Christmas past for this is a time of remembering old friends and happy occasions. It was of particular enjoyment during the Victorian era and few have not read the vivid descriptions of Charles Dickens whose scenes of conviviality and goodwill to all men seem to epitomise the festive season.

Here is Bourne, the celebrations were equally enthusiastic although the anticipation did not start quite so early and lasted no more than a few days and as this was the age of temperance and the tendency to sign the pledge promising to abstain from alcohol, there was always someone ready to warn against the perils of drink. Here is a sample of the way it was from the pages of the Stamford Mercury more than 100 years ago. The newspaper reported on Friday 23rd December 1887:

There is abundant energy being manifested in the seasonable decorations of the various business establishments at Bourne. The grocers' windows are tastefully adorned with appetising wares; and the milliners' and drapers' establishments also present an artistic appearance.

At the National Schoolroom in North Street, the vicar and churchwardens and members of various local charities made their annual distribution among the deserving poor, the gifts including 700 yards of flannel, 50 blankets, 700 yards of calico and 170 tons of coal.

On Monday and Tuesday, Mr Thomas Rosbottom, the celebrated Lancashire lecturer, addressed crowded meetings in the Victoria Hall, Bourne, in advocacy of temperance. The lectures were a great success, the audience being apparently entirely in sympathy with the lecturer, who interspersed anecdotes, humorous and pathetic, with his moving exhortations, in a manner quite irresistible. He claims that during his career as a lecturer he has induced thousands to sign the pledge.

Bourne Abbey was throughout adorned with seasonable decorations for Christmas. Though not so elaborately ornamental as in some previous years, the general effect was exceedingly pleasing. Over the communion table in white letters on a scarlet ground was the text "Emmanuel, God with us". The centre was occupied with a beautiful white cross. The miniature arches were filled with a pretty arrangement of evergreens interspersed with flowers. The reading desk was decorated with ivy and holly, the panels in front being ornamented with chrysanthemum crosses, the centre one of the St Cuthbert type. The pedestal of the lectern was gay with a choice selection of flowers and evergreens, a fine bunch of pampas grass being especially noticeable.

Holly berries and ivy embellished the handsome pulpit. The sills of the windows in the north and south aisles were beatified with texts worked in white on a scarlet ground, and encircled with wreaths and evergreens. The font was decorated with exquisite taste; the cover was surmounted with a fine cross and chrysanthemums; the pedestal was encircled with ivy and a variety of evergreens prettily frosted. Great praise is due to the ladies who so admirably executed the decorations.

Christmas was ushered in at Bourne with merry peals of the bells of the old abbey church and the musical strains of the Bourne brass band who played carols and other appropriate pieces in an exceedingly creditable manner.

A grand fancy fair [similar to our modern pantomimes] was held in the Corn Exchange on December 27th and 28th in aid of the funds of the Congregational Church. The room was fitted up as a street of nations or grand international bazaar. The scene was laid in Canton. The peculiar conglomeration of Oriental and European architecture was depicted with realistic effect. Proceeding down the left side of the street, the enterprising traveller passed in succession a Persian residence, an Indian cottage, a Chinese house, a delightful Japanese village, a Tyrolese chalet, a snug mountain home covered with snow and having icicles pendent from the roof, a magnificent Buddhist temple having its elaborate exterior embellished with representatives of the Oriental deity and dragons; the Japanese villa, "the Golden Lily"; a pretty view on the Yang-tse-Kiang. The last abode in the curious street was an Australian log hut.

The entire series of buildings presented a charming appearance, and attested the well-known skill of Mr Alfred Stubley [painter, paperhanger, sign-writer and art decorator of 28 West Street]. The articles exhibited on the various stalls were both useful and ornamental. Various entertainments were given in the evenings. Vocal and instrumental music was performed at intervals. Amongst the amusements were The House that Jack Built and �sop's fables personified, which were very popular. The promoters of the enterprise are to be congratulated on the success which has deservedly crowned their efforts.

Thought for the week:  I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. - Charles Dickens, foremost novelist of the Victorian era and vigorous social campaigner, considered to be one of the greatest writers in the English language (1812-1870).

We are taking a break although the web site will continue to appear over the holiday and if you have something to say, the Bourne Forum remains open for contributions. The Diary will be back on December 31st and in the meantime we wish you all a happy Christmas and good health and prosperity in the coming year when we hope you find it worthwhile to keep logging on.

Saturday 31st December 2011

The wisdom of building flats and shops in Wherry's Lane which has been an eyesore for well over a decade is now being closely questioned. They are part of a scheme by South Kesteven District Council to clean up the alleyway and refurbish the Burghley Street warehouse and the old masonic lodge building but it is not meeting with the universal approval that the authority expected.

This column has already pointed out that it would be rash, even foolhardy, to build more shops when the town cannot sustain those it already has and now The Local newspaper reports that the scheme has been rejected by Bourne Town Council on the grounds that new flats would not be in keeping with the conservation area or the town centre (December 16th).

The criticism came from the council's highways and planning committee which met on Tuesday 13th December to consider plans for the �2.2 million revamp of the area and the creation of seven shops and fourteen apartments. But the chairman, Councillor Trevor Holmes (Bourne West), said that the scheme would simply provide more residential properties without adding to the local infrastructure which is what Bourne needs at the present time. "This plan does not serve the town", he said, and he called on the district council and the nominated developers, Trent Valley Construction, to meet them for further discussion. "We want some genuine local input", he went on. "We want them to go back to the drawing board and prepare something that better serves the needs of Bourne."

This is criticism at first hand, from the very heart of our community, because the town council has a much greater grasp of the needs of this town than any other authority and it is hoped that SKDC will take notice. We are always being told that projects such as this are subjected to a detailed public consultation and the views of our town council must not therefore be ignored.

But the prospect does not look good because Councillor Linda Neal, leader of SKDC, told the newspaper that the developers were ready to begin as soon as the plans are approved and that she was �surprised� at hearing the views of the town council. Advice had been taken from English Heritage and the housing element incorporated into the scheme to avoid Bourne from becoming �a ghost town� in the evenings when the shops were shut. She added: �It is exciting that at long last, after all the hard work over the years, we are getting to the final hurdle.�

Unfortunately, the town council has limited powers and only a token input on planning matters but it would be a travesty of democracy if we suddenly woke up one morning to find work underway without the discussions that have been requested.

There is one other point worth mentioning and that is the continued insistence of the local newspapers in describing this scheme as the town centre redevelopment which it most certainly is not. That would have cost �27 million or more and involved the entire rebuilding of a much larger area, that triangle of land between North Street, West Street and Burghley Street, but that scheme died a death in June 2010 after ten years of planning and the expenditure of an exorbitant amount of public money.

This was a grand idea as outlined in December 2004 by the original chosen developer who planned to complete work within 12-18 months: "It will extend and diversify the town centre with retail-led development, emphasising existing routes across the site; promoting links to existing retail areas and linking to public transport; providing public spaces; enhancing pedestrian and cyclist access; retaining existing buildings of architectural quality; enhancing community safety; new buildings will reflect qualities and features of existing buildings; materials used will complement those found in the Bourne town centre locality and the scale of buildings to be in keeping with Bourne town centre and progressive town centre development."

Such a major change would have transformed the town centre but this scheme is little more than the refurbishment of Wherry's Lane, a narrow thoroughfare between North Street and the Burghley Street car park which has been in need of a clean-up for many years. But SKDC just happens to have a few old buildings standing empty which were originally purchased at exorbitant prices for inclusion in the original scheme and this seems to be a convenient way of disposing of them. Town councillors are right to raise issues over the consequences and it is to be hoped that their concerns will be taken into account but we will have to wait and see whether we still have a voice in our own affairs.

The inadequate service for the supply of petrol to local motorists in Bourne was highlighted shortly before the Christmas holiday when the Tesco/Esso Express service station in North Street, the town's only outlet, was shut while a tanker replenished the underground tanks. The entire forecourt was closed for almost an hour while this operation was underway with many cars being turned away and I am reliably informed that this happens at least once a week, more often during periods of higher demand.

The nearest alternative filling stations are some distance away, at Kate's Bridge, Market Deeping and even Stamford, which merely piles on the miles for someone wanting to fill up. The quality of this service in an age when the entire population depends on the motor car is a bad reflection on those who run our affairs and as the buck stops with the local authorities, many will blame them for the inadequacy of their planning.

There has been talk for many years about Bourne getting another petrol filling station but despite the optimism, it has failed to materialise. Instead, we have to be content with Tesco/Express which was given planning permission in 2002 at a badly sited and inconvenient location and whose cut-throat pricing policy put our other outlets out of business, notably the Raymond Mays garage in Spalding Road which was forced to close in 2005 after half a century in business. Now help may finally be at hand because there are indications that we might get another petrol filling station on the east side of South Road, not far from the new Tesco supermarket, a site that has been the subject of speculation for the past seven years.

The land was originally part of the 10-acre Southfields Business Park originally announced in December 1998 amid much euphoria about the expectation that it would create hundreds of new jobs, but the proposed developers pulled out in May 2001 and since then there have been reports and rumours about various uses while much of the original land in the vicinity has been chipped away for housing.

The remaining 4.2 acre site just south of Elsea Park was subsequently offered for sale for commercial development and in August 2008 it was announced by South Kesteven District Council that they were in negotiation with the Wolverhampton-based Marston�s plc, one of the country�s leading companies which owns four breweries and controls some 2,272 pubs, to build a petrol filling station for the town together with a family pub and restaurant on the land. The council said that there had not yet been a formal agreement with the company and in October the following year, it was announced that Marston's plc had withdrawn from the scheme.

Now, according to The Local newspaper (December 23rd), the site has been bought for �500,000 by the Lindum Group and Castle Square Developments of Lincoln who hope to submit a planning application for a new petrol station in the coming year. The newspaper also reports that a public house and restaurant is likely to be built next door by Marston's plc who are back in the reckoning but in view of the on-off saga relating to this site in recent years, we will have to wait and see whether these proposed projects do materialise.

The present situation with just one petrol outlet, leaving motorists nowhere else to go locally, is an absurd situation for a town with a population of 15,000 but, hopefully, this monopoly may now soon be coming to an end. Certainly, the Lindum Group recognises the need because their development surveyor, Peter Harvey, told the newspaper: "We want to show our commitment to delivering that facility. We have already had a meeting with the town council and a second petrol station is something that everyone in Bourne is keen to see."

Another project likely to come to fruition in the coming months is the creation of a one-stop community access point for council services due to be located at the Corn Exchange while the Town Hall which has been their traditional home for almost two centuries will become redundant. No valid reason has been given for the move and there has already been a complaint about the inadequate public consultation yet South Kesteven District Council has told The Local newspaper (December 30th) that it will become operational by March 2013 although the council had told the newspaper two weeks earlier that it would be December 2012.

We may therefore assume that from that date Bourne will lose its public library in South Street as well as the Town Hall while other amenities such as the police station are likely to follow suit. What next?

The Corn Exchange will be unable to contain all of these services despite the proposed alterations yet it is already being suggested that the register office, the public toilets and the ambulance station may also move there and it may not be long before we may also need somewhere for the fire brigade. There is nothing wrong with centralisation. Indeed, it can be a good thing and in an ideal world we would have somewhere purpose built at a more convenient location and with adequate car parking but to cram everything into a small town centre space such as this does seem a trifle ill advised.

New logo designs for the Bourne in Bloom campaign have been added to the many planters containing flowers and shrubs that can be seen around the town centre. They are part of the campaign to promote awareness for the scheme to keep the town clean and smart which has been an annual event since 2006 although the actual competition organised by the East Midlands in Bloom organisation has been running for well over 40 years. In recent years, Bourne has won silver and silver gilt awards for six successive years and is always striving for the coveted gold.

The idea for a distinctive logo for letters, postage and public signage came from the Bourne committee and was launched in April 2011when members of the public were asked to submit designs. Mrs Nelly Jacobs, clerk to the town council and an active committee member, said that it was not a formal competition but more an invitation for people to send in their ideas although the chosen logo and its designer would receive public recognition.

Community groups, businesses and individuals, were also invited to join the scheme by adopting planters as well as submitting a suitable design to go on the fifteen that are placed at prominent positions around the town centre. "It will not cost anything but we would expect the planters to be properly planted and maintained each year", she said.

In the event, the winning design came from a teenage schoolgirl, Annabel Snape, then in Year 8 at Bourne Academy and has been reproduced on the planters together with an acknowledgment of those who sponsored them. The judges for the competition were Councillor Judy Smith, local artist Chris Moxley and Lorraine Cunningham from a local company, Set in Stone Memorials., who were all impressed by the high standard of entries.

Thought for the week: People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. - Dame Iris Murdoch (1919-99), British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about political and social questions of good and evil, morality and the power of the unconscious.