Bourne is a town in the south of Lincolnshire, near to Peterborough (around 15 or 16 miles to the north) and Stamford (around 12 miles to the north). According to the 2001 census, Bourne has a population of 11,933.
Bourne's origins as a settlement date back to Roman times and the Roman road known as King Street runs through it.
One of the greatest feats of engineering carried out by the Romans in Britain was the construction of Car Dyke, a waterway built to carry food and supplies from East Anglia to the Roman armies in the north. The principal cargoes were corn, wool for uniforms, leather for tents and shields, and salted meat. Car Dyke subsequently provided a continuous inland water transport system running from Cambridge to York and many communities sprang up along its banks, a number of these becoming established towns and villages.
St Peter's Pool
St Peter's Pool, or Wellhead, is regarded as the historic centre of Bourne, as the feature around which the earliest settlement sprang up.
The embanked pool, filled by seven springs, provided an abundant supply of water to settlers and may have been what first attracted the Romans to the area. Now the site of an electricity sub-station, it is possibly one of the most ancient sites of artesian water supply in the country and has figured prominently in the town's development.
The pool now forms part of the memorial gardens and it is this spring, or the stream that flows from it, that gives Bourne its name, deriving from the Old English word burna1.
Nowadays, the pool is a valuable commodity and supplies from here are piped to other districts, even when there's a water shortage. The pool dries up for weeks at a time and becomes a morass of mud and weeds.
A Possible Castle
The existence of a castle somewhere in Bourne's past is part of local folklore, although evidence that any such structure existed is rather hard to find. In much of the written evidence, it's hard to see a distinction between the possible castle and the settlement of Bourne itself.
Nevertheless, some people remain convinced that a castle once stood in Bourne, dating back to Saxon times. During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell may have placed the artillery of his army on the site of the castle, or he may have fired it from the rising ground to the west. Other people remain sceptical about the existence of a castle in Bourne at any point in the history of the town, and nothing in the area points to the existence of remains, apart from a few grassy mounds.
During the 1960s, engineers from the electricity board dug a trench and found some medieval pottery which archaeologists and historians later dated to around the 13th Century. However, this neither proved nor disproved the existence of a castle. Plans to turn whatever was found into a tourist attraction and educational resource never came to pass, due to the refusal of the town council to allow further excavation on the site.
The existence of a castle is deeply embedded in the perceptions of those residents of Bourne who love heroes and legends, even if the origins of these are in doubt. In his A History of Bourne (1970), JD Birkbeck wrote: 'Until fresh information about the origins of Bourne Castle is forthcoming, many questions will have to remain unanswered.'
Not far from Bourne is a very old oak tree known as the Bowthorpe Oak, which dates from approximately 1000AD. It has a large girth of 40ft, and, as the centre was hollowed out over the course of time, in 1768 it was fitted with a door and seats, creating a room where 20 people could eat. During the course of its life, the crown was used as a pigeon house. Now this remarkable tree is a home for sheep and chickens.
Hereward the Wake
Hereward the Wake, the 11th-Century leader of a Saxon rebellion against the Normans, may have been born and may have grown up in the fenland area to the east of Bourne. The circumstances of his birth are shrouded in mystery and more precise details are not known. Stories of Hereward are similar to those told about Robin Hood.
Raymond Mays (1899 - 1980)
Raymond Mays, who lived in Bourne, was a well known motor racer in the last century. Achieving his status on and off road, he developed the first all-British motor car model, BRM (British Racing Motors), which won the international championships in 1962. In 1978, Mays was awarded the CBE for services to motor racing.
The Abbey Lawn
Bourne is blessed with green spaces for relaxation and sport. The Abbey Lawn was once the grounds of Bourne Abbey - established in 1138 - although anyone was allowed to use it at the discretion of the vicar. No record of anyone being banned exists and the Abbey Lawn has been the town's unofficial recreation ground for at least 200 years. It was officially opened in 1911 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King George V and ever since then has provided ample space for generations of townspeople, both young and old, to enjoy their leisure time. While the Wellhead Gardens are the perfect place for anyone who wants a daily stroll in pleasurable surroundings, for the more energetic the Abbey Lawn provides facilities for a wide range of sports for both the beginnner and the veteran.
The Abbey Lawn has one of the most attractive cricket grounds in the county: activities date back to 1803 though the records only stretch as far back as 1920.
Tennis used to be played on courts elsewhere in Bourne, but the tennis club now uses the courts on the Abbey Lawn. The Bourne Town Bowls Club occupies an area on the far side of the site. The club's origins go back to 1953 when it was known as the Bourne Abbey Lawn Bowling Club. It has expanded over the years and a pavilion was added in 1969, after having been purchased for £30 from a local cricket club. A brick pavilion was completed in 1977: two years after that the name was changed to Bourne Town Bowls Club. A total of 130 members play on a regular basis.
The most popular sport to be played on the Abbey Lawn is football, and over the years Bourne has kept up a good reputation. The Bourne Town Football Club - nicknamed 'The Wakes' - was founded in 1883. Their colours are claret and sky blue, and the ground has a capacity of 5,000. The team is backed by a supporters club and has drawn Saturday afternoon crowds to the ground for many years, with a record attendance of over 3,000 for the FA Trophy match against Chelmsford in 1970. The team has achieved many successes, including the championship of the United Counties league on four occasions: in 1968-69, 1969 - 70, 1971 - 72 and 1990 - 91. The club has also led several players on into the Football League, such as Peter Grummit (Nottingham Forest), Shaun Cunnington (Wrexham, Grimsby and Sunderland) and David Palmer (Wrexham).
Although the date of the club's inception is 1883, there is evidence that a town team was in existence for some years before that and was even playing games on Tuesdays as well as on Saturdays. A fixture list exists from the 1877 - 78 season showing away matches with Stamford, Sleaford, Boston, Grantham and Spalding.
In the winter, the Abbey Lawn is also home to the Bourne Hockey Club - formed after the first World War - which frequently provides players for the county team. In the far corner near the entrance on Abbey Road, an enclosed court has been established for pétanque, a form of boules played in France which has gained in popularity since the town became twinned with Doudeville, Normandy, in 1989.
Other Things to Do and See in Bourne
Bourne has a shopping centre, with several well-known high street shops. It also has an odd proliferation of hairdressers.
The Well Head park is a pleasant area to take a stroll and also contains a memorial dedicated to people who fought in the two World Wars. Additonally, there is a stream that passes through it with benches alongside.
Bourne Woods, a nearby woodland area, is a nice place to take walks, go bike riding or indulge in other outdoor activities. There is an outdoor swimming pool beyond the cricket green. This pool has been around for over 80 years and is open from May to September.
Named after the 14th-Century Bourne Abbey monk often credited with standardising English text and wording and formerly known as Robert Manning School, Robert Manning Technology College is perhaps one of the best places for education in the local area, with over 1,000 students - including a sixth form - and has kept up a decent pass rate for exams over the years. Other centres of education in Bourne are Bourne Abbey Primary School, Westfield Primary School and Bourne Grammar School.
Bourne Leisure Centre, which is joined onto the college, offers a range of facilities including swimming (swim-school, private sessions, family swimming), a gym (exercise bikes, treadmills, rowing, cross-trainers, weights), and a basketball/tennis court, as well as a youth centre.
Unfortunately, Bourne lacks a cinema, the nearest one being in Peterborough. There is, however, a nightclub called Lesters, near The Nag's Head pub. The town is due to be redeveloped and a relief road is soon to be built on the southwest side of town, to reduce the heavy amount of traffic that currently goes through the town centre.
There are many pubs in and around Bourne:
- The Nags Head
- Angel Hotel
- Burghley Arms
- The Golden Lion
- The Red Lion
- The Royal Oak
- The Masons Arms
- The Anchor Inn
- The Marquis of Granby
Places to Eat
Bourne has plenty of places to eat, whether you're having a take-away or eating inside. There are plenty of fish and chip shops, as well as Chinese, Cantonese and Italian restaurants:
- Dee's Fish Bar
- George's Fish Bar
- Super Carlo's Pizza and Kebab (Italian)
- Zorba 2
- Ciro Restaurant (Italian)
- Golden Palace (Far Eastern)
- Jade Garden (Far Eastern)
- Yang Xian (Chinese)
- Montaz (Indian)
- The Caper
- Kalispera (Greek)
As far as public transport within Bourne is concerned, buses are the only way to get around. The Delaine Bus Service takes people to the surrounding towns and villages (including Peterborough).
During the rapid expansion of the railways in the 19th Century, the railway line at Bourne was joined with the Great Northern line at Essendine. Completed in 1860, this was a relatively simple piece of engineering as it only required six-and-a-half miles of line to be laid, with no demanding gradients and no tunnels needed.
The line to Spalding opened in 1866, providing a connection to Melton Mowbray and onwards as far as King's Lynn and Cromer on the east coast.
Six years later, in 1872, a line to Sleaford was opened, giving access to northern parts of the county, and, from 1894, between Bourne and the nearby village of Little Bytham. The route became an important line serving Bourne, carrying passengers and freight.
In the space of a little over 30 years, Bourne had become a railway centre of importance. In the 20th Century, the boom was not to continue. The final passenger train left Bourne on 28 February, 1959 and freight facilities for sugar beet ended six years later.
How to Get to Bourne by Road
- From the South: head for the A15 from Market Deeping, then head through Langtoft, Baston then through Thurlby.
- From the North: head for the A15 from Lincoln.
- From the East: head for Spalding, then go on the A151, which should take you down a long straight-looking road, then go from Pode Hole, then through a small village called Twenty.
- From the West: turn off at the at the Colsterworth roundabout (A151) and head directly for Bourne. This takes you through Birkholme, Corby Glen, Grimsthorpe (going past Grimsthorpe Castle on the way through) and then Edenham. From Stamford, head for the A6121: this road takes you through Ryhall, Essendine, Carlby and Toft.