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The Bourne Identity

By Anthony Jennings

Unlike neighbouring towns such as Stamford, Grantham and Spalding few books have been published about Bourne. Mr Birkbeck’s history of the town, Dr McGregor’s book of historic photographs and another book of old photographs published by Lane’s newsagents are all that I can recall in recent years, though Rex Needle’s admirable website did a good job of making up for the shortage of printed material. Anthony Jennings has gone some way to make up for this paucity of print with a book that’s not quite a history book, not quite an architectural book and not quite a guidebook but a very interesting and readable mixture of all three.

The book is based on a series of fifty articles which Anthony had written for the Bourne Local between 2013 and 2018. The central theme is the importance and desirability of caring for the town’s built environment. As Mr Jennings says in his introduction “It is not always understood how much a market town benefits from a well presented town centre. A place will not prosper unless it becomes and remains an attractive environment for residents and visitors alike, particularly at a time when our towns and cities face significant threats”.  

Starting with a history of the building conservation movement and a brief outline of the legislation Mr Jennings goes on to discuss some of Bourne’s more significant individual buildings. Some such as the old Grammar School in the churchyard and the Cemetery chapel are still in danger due to neglect and lack of maintenance.  Even the Red Hall, Bourne’s finest old house, was threatened with demolition right up until the 1960s and was saved largely by the efforts of Jack Burchnall and funding from Bourne United Charities.  It seems tucked away now, but Anthony describes how it was once highly visible from South Street with a castellated entrance where the car wash is now. He suggests the Hall deserves a finer approach and describes a way this could be achieved.

For many the most interesting and informative chapters will be those on Bourne’s listed buildings. There are six of these each covering a different street or area. The reader can follow a walk with a description of listed and significant buildings along with other features of note in each area. Anthony has a good eye for detail as he picked out one or two things I’ve never noticed before despite living in and around Bourne for sixty odd years. So no matter how long you’ve lived here the book will highlight features of the town you’ve not previously been aware of.

There’s a chapter on mud and stud building, Lincolnshire’s very own vernacular style. It consists of a framework of wooden laths covered with a mixture of mud and chopped straw and painted with lime wash containing linseed oil or animal fat. Doesn’t sound very permanent does it – but Lincolnshire has many surviving examples, some over seven hundred years old. Unfortunately, those in Bourne haven’t survived. There were several down Bedehouse Bank which were still inhabited until the 1970s but now all gone. The unsuccessful campaign to stop the demolition of one of these, Miss Adam’s cottage, was the catalyst for the formation of the Bourne Civic Society in 1978.

Anthony discusses the spread of nondescript housing and retail development on the outskirts of the town and the way in which this can alter the character of a small market town such as Bourne, perhaps turning it from a somewhere into an anywhere.  For example, one fairly unusual but very pleasant feature of Bourne was that via the Wellhead, open countryside came almost to the town centre. Now the Elsea Park development has cut the Wellhead off from the countryside. This certainly is detrimental to the character of the town. Imagine the reaction in Stamford if a similar development surrounding the Meadows was proposed.

Price £14.95

Book review by Peter Neumann