Anthony Jennings: More of town’s listed buildings

Bourne Preservation Society UGC
Bourne Preservation Society UGC

My last three columns were about the listed buildings in West Street, South Street and North Street.

This month I need to tackle Abbey Road, the fourth main street, and also to cover the rest of central Bourne. In the case of Abbey Road I can’t focus on listed buildings as before, because it has only one that merits that status. Even so, the road is not without some interest.

Starting from the Market Place, on the north side, you will see one or two nice little buildings. Some are quite well presented, others are frankly not, with garish fascias that spoil the architecture. Right on the corner is what remains of the Corn Exchange, a High Victorian Gothic creation. I don’t know the architect - Edward Browning perhaps? – anyway, it is much indebted to Scott and Butterfield.

As you carry on eastwards on this north side, there is quite a diversity of plot size. Most of the existing buildings are fairly recent, Victorian, Edwardian and later, the only outstanding one being the only listed one, the Methodist Chapel, set back, elegantly proportioned, classical, with its strong pediment and giant pilasters - ‘giant’ is a technical term by the way, meaning spanning more than one storey.

The former Marquis of Granby pub is, or was, good solid High Victoriana but has recently suffered ‘renovation’ that has degraded its fenestration.

The open space of Abbey Lawn is opposite, on the south side. This is an important green space in the town centre, purchased by Bourne United Charities between 1931 and 1934 to preserve the old abbey lands for the community. The Lawn is bounded by a brick dwarf wall, its piers having stepped details typical of the 1930s, with attractive gates and gate posts. Go on until you get to the end of the part that is open to the road. From just inside the gates you get views westwards towards the church tower and The Cedars retirement home, the formal Italianate building that was once the vicarage, though you can only glimpse these through mature trees. Leaving Abbey Lawn, the road is at first unattractive on this south side as you walk back to the Market Place, but towards the end the buildings are set right up to the pavement again with a continuous street frontage like those opposite, giving attractive glimpses both of the Market Place ahead and of Church Walk on its way south. Go down Church Walk now, as you have exhausted Abbey Road’s slim delights.

Church Walk is a link between Abbey Road and South Street, with a broader mid-section giving access from South Street. This first part at the northern end has lost some of its integrity due to modern redevelopment, like the undistinguished neo-vernacular residential block Church View (for which, as I write, there is an application for plastic windows, which should never be allowed in a conservation area), but the walk still has a relatively sheltered and peaceful quality helped by the stone coursed boundary wall which leads you towards the modern vicarage on the left, and the site of the former warehouse on the right (now to be redeveloped). It becomes increasingly attractive and intimate as you get closer to the Abbey Church and Bourne Eau House, with the churchyard ahead.

The Abbey Church, founded in around 1138, is on the left, and the course of the Eau is on the right, where you get attractive views of the rear elevation of Bourne Eau House and the Regency Bridge, which is itself listed.

Ahead of you lies the back of Brook Lodge, the former vicarage we discussed in our South Street walk, and here Church Walk narrows as you reach the tranquil churchyard, with its mix of mature trees, bounded by iron railings. You get open views here towards the Old Grammar School, which stands in its present rather forlorn state in the south east corner, and also of the south side of the church. Church Walk then emerges into South Street by Tudor Cottages, which we discussed in our South Street walk. This whole area is also of archaeological interest, underground remains giving evidence of Roman occupation.

We need to cover all Bourne’s listed buildings in these articles, so there is one house further south that you must see - sorry to keep you walking, but at least the exercise will do you good. As South Street turns into South Road, beyond the boundary of the conservation area, you come to the Austerby to the left. Here lies one of the gems of Bourne, the old manor house, reputedly once the residence of the abbot of Bourne Abbey. You have to walk quite a way down this otherwise plain road, but you will suddenly come across it modestly tucked away on the south side, surrounded by infill that is far too dense and deprives it of the dignity of space it deserves, a very bad bit of ‘planning’ that is sadly all too common.

The house is said to be 16th or early 17th century, and I would happily plump for the former. It is a remarkably good Tudor vernacular hall house, not at all grand, but dignified, even now, despite the number of accretions, extensions, external renders and inappropriate roof tiles it has suffered from over the centuries. These are all vying to degrade it. Yet its true quality shines through. Look at the charm of the coursed rubble stone, and the way the varied mullioned windows are articulated, and try to forget the bad alterations.

On the way back, you should take this opportunity to explore the area just behind the Memorial Gardens on the west side of South Street. There are two more very old listed gems here. Wellhead Cottage, on the western bank of the Eau, is said to incorporate stone from Bourne Castle. The Conservation Area Appraisal describes it as 18th century but it looks 17th century to me. It is a good and well preserved example of a farmhouse of that time. The Shippon Barn is the other good building here and it may incorporate parts of the original castle buildings as there are stone arrow slits on the south wall. John Leland says the castle was ruinous when he visited in the mid-16th century; someone, I think Camden, says the same in 1598, the date of William Cecil’s death. The parish registers say it was garrisoned by Civil War troops in 1645, so that must just have been its ruins. That being so, even an early to mid-16th century date for the original construction of Shippon Barn could make sense, and a 17th century or perhaps even earlier date for Well Head Cottage.

Well done! Over the last four articles you have walked more or less the entire original Bourne Conservation Area, and a few peripheral bits besides, and covered almost all Bourne’s listed buildings. I say almost all because I have still not tackled those in Eastgate and Bedehouse Bank. Nor have I yet discussed the recent conservation area extensions along North Road and West Road, but these have no more listed buildings, so that won’t take long. I will get onto all these areas in future articles.

l On Monday June 15th I shall be leading a Bourne Preservation Society walk looking at the architecture and listed buildings of West Street, and do hope you will join us. It will be at 7pm, and we are meeting in the South Street car park.