Your news: Market was a central part of town’s life

Anthony Jennings article 21-08-15
Anthony Jennings article 21-08-15

Exhausted after all those listed buildings in the last few months, I just have a few bits and pieces to offer this time.

First, has nobody spotted the ‘deliberate’ mistake in my article on the listed buildings of West Street back in March? I left out No. 13. Well, no-one has complained! It is a late 18th century building, classical but vernacular Georgian. Nothing great about it, but a lot more interesting than its rendered façade at first suggests.

l Going even further back to my article in February last year, I wonder if anyone has any more information about the date of the Old Grammar School?

I have always been puzzled that it is firmly stated in The Buildings of England, Lincolnshire, to be 1678, without any evidence given for that date.

I see Rex Needle has put the same date on it. Do we know where it comes from? There may be a good source, but I don’t know what it is.

Of course, putting a date on buildings like this as they exist today is a very difficult matter because they have undergone so many changes. Indeed, what date do you choose? Do you go for the date construction was started, or completed in its original form, or the date of most of the fabric as it exists today?

And that doesn’t account for re-used materials. Some materials re-used in the Old Grammar School are probably much earlier than 17th century, like the probably medieval stone plinth.

I suppose I am trying to get at the date the building, as conceived as a new school, was started.

In my 2014 article I mentioned that I had read one internet source that put 1626 forward as a suggestion (again without giving a reason), but that I personally thought around 1636 was more likely, since that was the date of the death of William Trollope, and his will provided for an endowment for the maintenance of a schoolmaster in a school built by himself, which on the face of it suggests it had just been built, or was perhaps built shortly after that.

But of course it could have been several years earlier. I have no evidence for this date of 1678 conventionally put on it. I now see that a History of the County of Lincoln, by an anonymous author, published by John Saunders Jr., in 1834, says it was founded, with an endowment of £30 per annum for the master, ‘in the second year of Charles I’. That would of course make it 1626, the date my source above gave it. But I wonder where the authority for that date came from.

l On a television programme about Milton Keynes the other day it was said that MK has expanded by 16 per cent in ten years, and that this makes it the fastest growing town in the UK.

I wonder if that is true and indeed whether Bourne might instead have that dubious honour? I believe Elsea Park is a development of about 2,000 houses.

Bourne’s population was 11,933 in 2001 and now stands at around 16,000, or is it even more? Anyway, in that tiny period of little more than ten years, it has grown by at least 4,000. (Which figure alone is in itself, by the way, more than twice as much as Bourne’s total population of 1,664 in 1801!) That is an increase of not far off 50% since 2001, and would be much higher if you go back to the 1990s. And still it grows.

Surely that easily beats Milton Keynes. Bourne now consists of a pleasant old town centre, a less pleasant mostly post-war infill round the old centre, and a positively unpleasant ‘outfill’ spreading in a great sprawl ever outwards, sucking in green fields.

It is happening all over the country of course, Bourne being just a very bad example, but it is a disaster for the English countryside, environment, and wildlife.

For many thousands of years, right up until the early 19th century, England’s total population was (broadly) stable at mostly much less than, and rarely any more than, around five million.

Then it took off in the early 19th century, and grew rapidly to the 20 million the Victorians already understood was a big problem. The word ‘suburbs’ was then a new one and a new phenomenon.

Population growth over the last few years alone has been higher than the entire population for thousands of years.

Yet successive governments love to repeat the mantra that ‘only’ 10 per cent of the country is built on. Notice that word ‘only’! What ignorance!

For thousands of years it was just a tiny fraction of England’s land, too small to be measured as a percentage. Politicians don’t know any history and are not in the slightest bit interested in the long term of course.

l There has been a lot of talk recently, but no action, about the possibility of bringing the market back to Bourne’s Market Place, where after all it belongs, only recently banished by the evil of the motor car.

Francis Frith’s Lincolnshire has a couple of photos of Bourne in 1952 and 1955, the first showing the market in Market Place, with stalls going right up North Street and awnings projecting from the shopfronts opposite, the second showing the Ostler Memorial in situ, with the building formerly occupied by Harrison and Dunn behind it.

In Birkbeck’s History of Bourne there are another two photos of market day, one in the late 19th century and the other showing North Street probably in the mid-1960s, again giving a good impression of what it was like then.

These photos show how central the market and the memorial fountain were to the life of Bourne for such a long time.

The loss of these two great symbols of English culture from the centre of town is a sad reminder of the overcrowding and the scourge of the car and lorry that have been their downfall, and a testament to the complete failure of so-called ‘progress’ to improve our quality of life.