Rex Needle: Community spirit alive in Bourne
Rex Needle reviews the past year in Bourne.
This has been an eventful year for Bourne as the effects of austerity continue to bite deep with business and industry struggling against the effects of unfavourable economic conditions, continual price increases in the shops and supermarkets that have a marked effect on household budgets, the cost of gas and electricity soaring and young couples grappling with the problem of finding a home either buying or rented.
But despite the grey clouds of depressing monetary policies there have been one or two silver linings during 2014 demonstrating the benefits of living in this small south Lincolnshire market town where the community spirit is alive and well.
Observances for the centenary of the Great War which began 100 years ago dominated the year with activities in schools and by local organisations devoted to remembering this dark period in our history from 1914-18. When the War Memorial in South Street was erected in 1956, an appeal produced the names of 97 men who died in action but it is now known that a further 37 names were missed and so the total number of those who never came back was 134 and Bourne United Charities hope to add those names on an additional plaque at some time in the future.
In the meantime, the trustees under the guidance of John Kirkman made a remarkable improvement to the stone cenotaph during the year by adding a veteran’s way lined with memorial stones bearing the regimental and service crests of those who died which were dedicated on Sunday 21st September. Twenty-two pupils were selected from local schools, eleven each from Bourne Abbey Primary Academy and Bourne Westfield Primary Academy, to lay the wreaths bearing identical military crests on the appropriate stones and in doing so provided a reminder to the younger generation of the sacrifice made by servicemen from this town in past wars.
A new school opened in Bourne during the late summer, the first for almost 40 years. This is a landmark development in the history of this town and despite past promises by developers and local authorities it has only come to fruition through the pressure of parents who have repeatedly pointed out that the two existing primaries have been unable to cope with increasing numbers of children moving into an expanding community. Now the Elsea Park Primary Academy has actually been built and the first classes opened for the autumn term in September with an eventual pupil roll of 210.
The good thing about any new school is that the lessons of the past have been learned and so it starts with a clean slate and every chance of success, particularly so in this case because it will be run by the Bourne Abbey Primary Academy which has already established a formidable record for performance under the guidance of headteacher Mrs Cherry Edwards who in June collected an OBE for her services to education.
Children from the Abbey Primary Academy have already made their mark on the new school by signing their names on the steel frame during construction work and then in the summer, during a visit by the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev Christopher Lowson, they buried a time capsule in the grounds containing photographs of what life is like in Bourne in 2014 with letters written by pupils to children of the future and I was delighted to learn that a copy of my book A Children’s History of Bourne was also included.
Bourne Town Council made history during the year by naming the first person ever to receive the freedom of the town, the highest honour the authority can bestow but one that has only been available to parish or town councils since 2009. The award went to Jade Etherington following her magnificent victory in the 2014 Winter Paralympics at Sochi and in March, a certificate honouring her new status was handed over during a ceremony at the Corn Exchange by the mayor David Higgs.
Jade, aged 23, formerly of Mountbatten Way, Bourne, and a trainee teacher, is a visually impaired skier who won three silver medals and one bronze at Sochi, making her the most decorated British athlete in a single winter Paralympic games. As a result of her achievement she subsequently became a familiar face at gatherings in Bourne where her presence was eagerly sought, not least at our schools where she has been an inspiration to many pupils, ending the year by being chosen to switch on the Christmas lights during the traditional ceremony outside the Town Hall at the end of November.
During the year, pupils at Bourne Academy began work on a project that will recognise the link between motor racing and this town by laying a BRM trail through the streets directing visitors to the various places associated with the development of the car which won the world championship in 1962. The project, financed with various grants, will involve pupils interviewing former BRM staff for a film to be shown at the Heritage Centre in South Street where the Civic Society maintains a museum devoted to BRM and its creator Raymond Mays. The trail is expected to be ready by the summer of 2015 and will no doubt take in the motor racing memorial erected alongside the river in South Street in 2003.
The sale of Bourne Textile Services in March for £22 million dominated our business news and few people in the town have not availed themselves of its services, whether it was washing and ironing, garment alterations or dry cleaning, because no matter what progress was being made in the industrial sector the company kept a foot in the domestic market and was always known locally as Bourne Clean.
The company had humble origins, having begun life in 1932 as a family firm, expanding as the years progressed and changing its name several times to reflect the evolutionary nature of the service sectors in which it operated but still concentrating on what it knows best, namely washing and cleaning. Bourne Textile Services re-located in 2008 to a new and much larger site on the Cherryholt Road industrial estate which included major investment in new equipment and current operations entail the hotel linen rental market, supplying some 350 hotels with around 28,000 bedrooms.
The Stroud family retained control over the years, making the firm one of our biggest employers with 300 workers. Hedley Stroud, grandson of the founder, resigned as chairman and managing director after 33 years with the company and handed over to the new owners, the Johnson Service Group, a British company which rents and dry cleans uniforms and other textiles, but no matter what changes they decide to implement, the company will always be known locally as Bourne Clean.
South Kesteven District Council finally accepted that the new Community Access Point which opened at the Corn Exchange in March 2013 was cramped and inconvenient following complaints from library staff and borrowers and redesigned the entire main floor in an attempt to make better use of the available space and make it more user friendly. On the plus side, the new CAP remains a very convenient one-stop call, offering 31 council services under one roof including benefits advice, enquiries about waste disposal, council housing, planning, repairs and licensing information while story time sessions for children are held on Tuesday afternoons and you can also pay your council tax, rent the latest DVD and audio CD and even register to vote.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Town Hall remains uncertain. After serving this town for almost two centuries, the Grade II listed building that has been the centre of public life in Bourne for almost 200 years now stands empty and unused, a forlorn relic of our past civic pride and as Lincolnshire County Council claims ownership, there were fears that it would be sold on the commercial market, perhaps ending up as a night club or even a carpet warehouse. An attempt by a private businessman to turn it into a luxury cinema failed in September because the building was deemed to be too small and this prompted conservationists to challenge the council’s right to sell because the Town Hall was originally financed through public subscription and a search of the archives at county hall produced a trust deed dated around 1821 restricting the use of the building to its intended purpose as a town hall and courthouse with ancillary market stalls or shambles nearby. There the matter rests for the time being although Bourne awaits expectantly for its fate to be decided.
The future of our beloved black swans which have inhabited St Peter’s Pool in the Wellhead Gardens since 1999 is also uncertain after a petition was sent to Bourne United Charities opposing the purchase of any more. The birds have been repeatedly killed by predators such as foxes and replacements have always been found but in all cases their wings have been pinioned to prevent flying with the result that they cannot flee when attacked.
There were further deaths this year and as a result trustees of Bourne United Charities ,which administers the Wellhead Gardens were petitioned to stop buying more black swans, only to be killed again. This presented a difficult decision for the trustees because the black swans are not only a favourite with visitors to the Wellhead, especially children who feed them, but they have become an icon for Bourne and have been featured on the front page of the town guide and it is unthinkable that we should visit St Peter’s Pool and find them no longer there.