This charming Fenland market town is famous for its early British automobile racing heritage, the history of which is told in the Bourne Heritage Centre. The town centre has an elegant high street with an impressive stone built Town Hall (circa 1820), several old coaching inns and a variety of small independent shops, restaurants and antique stores. A traditional street market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Bourne High Street © TAB
One of the most prominent of the old coaching inns is The Burghley Arms Hotel (above right), where William Cecil (Lord Burghley), Lord High Treasurer to Elizabeth 1st was born. His opulent mansion, Burghley House, can also be visited on the outskirts of Stamford. There are many good Georgian properties in the area, including the Maltings and the Manor House. A number of single-storey, brick built, Tudor cottages in South Street, date to 1636.
The town derives its name from the Anglo Saxon word for water or stream. There has been a settlement here since the Roman era, when its local springs were exploited. Today they flow into St Peter’s Pool, and on into the local stream, the Bourne Eau. The waters are believed to have curative properties. Blind Well for example, located on the edge of Bourne woods, is regarded to cure eye complaints. Car Dyke (an early Roman canal) also flows to the east of the town.
Bourne Old Town Hall © TAB
Bourne boasts over 70 listed buildings. Of particular interest is the The Red Hall (circa 1620). A fine Elizabethan gentleman's residence, with three-gabled bays, a two-storey porch with Tuscan columns and mullioned windows. In its time it has been a residence, a school and a railway ticket office. It is currently the offices of Bourne United Charities. The hall's most infamous tenants were the Digby family - executed for their involvement in the Gun Powder Plot in 1605.
Bourne also claims to be the birthplace of the famous Saxon warlord, Hereward the Wake, who fought off the invading Normans for many years. However, his tenuous connections with the De Wake family, who built the Norman castle and also founded an abbey here in 1138, have not yet been fully proven. The only remains left of the great abbey (dissolved by Henry VIII) is Bourne parish church.
Bourne park, through which the Bourne Eau flows, is beautifully laid-out with mature trees, a pond, fountains and attractive rose gardens.
Bourne Park © TAB
The earthworks and partial moat of an 11th-c castle can also be found in the park. Believed to be the birthplace of Hereward the Wake, the saxon hero who held out against the Norman invaders.
Baldocks Mill, the remainder of three mills that operated between 1863 and 1920, currently hosts the Bourne Heritage Centre.
The museum has exhibits relating to the heritage of Bourne and Charles F. Worth, who founded the House of Worth, one of the foremost fashion houses of the 19th and 20th-c.
One floor is dedicated to Raymond Mays, Bourne’s most famous racing driver, who founded the British Racing Motors (BRM) company in 1949. Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart have both taken the wheel of a Bourne-manufactured Formula 1 car. Graham Hill won the world championship in 1962, driving a BRM.
Location: Baldock's Mill, 21 South Street, PE10 9LY
Bourne Woods in Spring © TAB
Just west of the town stands 400 acres of long-established woodland, with a variety of native species and wildlife. Originally part of the great Forest of Brunswald, it is an ideal place for walking or cycling.
Just south of Bourne grows the Bowthorpe Oak, said to have the thickest trunk in Britain, boasting some 39 ft in circumference. The tree is very old and featured in the Guinness Book of Records and also mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Location: Bowthorpe Farm Park, Manthorpe.