Saturday 18th May 2013
There are few reminders left around Bourne that the name of this town was once spelled without a final “e” but among them is an ancient milestone on the A151 West Road on the way out of town to the Great North Road and can be seen on the right hand side just before reaching the Stamford turn.
For years it has been in a dilapidated condition, chipped, weather worn and leaning to one side, yet still a part of our heritage. It has recently been restored, set straight and painted in white with black lettering, but apart from the cosmetic work which has been reasonably well done, someone has clumsily added a final “e” to the two embossed inscriptions of the name BOURN, thus destroying its historic value completely. This appears to be the work of Lincolnshire County Council, the highways authority, and is most certainly a case of official vandalism that is now attracting the attention of our conservation organisations.
The name Bourn was changed in the late 19th century when the final "e" was added to distinguish it from Bourn in Cambridgeshire because there had been some confusion between the two places as a result of the growing popularity of the postal services and the railway age that brought the widespread movement of goods and passengers around the country. It was approved by a public meeting at the Town Hall in June 1893 when the GPO, the railway authorities and the local newspapers were notified immediately and it has been in use ever since.
The West Road milestone is one of the last reminders of the old name and to deface it in this way is to cock a snook at our history and is tantamount to scrawling graffiti over the Town Hall or the Red Hall. Lincolnshire County Council now has a duty to remove the incongruous addition and restore the original spelling on this small but significant relic of our heritage. After all, we do not have many of these wayside markers left and those we do have should be preserved in their original condition wherever possible.
People in public life today make many unpopular statements but if they are offensive they can apologise to the person concerned. In past times, however, they were likely to be challenged to a duel, a confrontation with chosen weapons based on a code of honour.
Duels were fought not so much to kill the opponent as to gain satisfaction, that is to restore one's honour by demonstrating a willingness to risk one's life for it. The tradition of duelling was therefore reserved for the male members of the nobility although in later times it also extended to those of the upper classes, often with a sword as the chosen weapon and later pistols.
Although duelling in most countries was illegal from the early 17th century, the authorities frequently turned a blind eye although it was not until 1852 that the last fatal duel took place in England. Many famous people from history fought duels including two prime ministers, William Pitt the Younger (1798) and the Duke of Wellington (1829), and in 1831, Charles Tennyson, the M P who represented Bourne, found himself in such a situation.
Tennyson was a landowner and uncle of the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson. In 1831, he had been elected as M P for Stamford, a constituency that included Bourne, and it was a speech he made in June that year that was widely reported in the newspapers, in which he mentioned the Cecil family in what was construed to be disparaging terms.
Lord Thomas Cecil, son of the second Marquess of Exeter, of Burghley House, Stamford, took offence claiming that Mr Tennyson had accused his family of “invading the rights of the people” and he refuted these allegations during a speech at a public dinner in Stamford on June 14th that year but Tennyson refused to withdraw them, resulting first in an exchange of letters and ultimately a duel with pistols.
The confrontation was subsequently held at Wormwood Scrubs at six o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday 17th June where the two men gathered with their seconds, Lord Thomas Cecil being attended by Lord James Fitzroy and Tennyson by Sir William Ingilby, the M P for Lincolnshire. Reporting the events that followed, the Grantham Journal said: “After exchanging shots, Sir William expressed himself satisfied on the part of Mr Tennyson and Lord James Fitzroy said that Lord Thomas Cecil was satisfied; and the affair being thus terminated to the honour of all parties, a conversation ensued in which Mr Tennyson having expressed his regret that any expressions of his should have been painful to Lord Thomas Cecil’s feelings, and expressed his hope that they would have no further cause of difference, he and Lord Thomas Cecil shook hands and the parties left the ground with the full understanding that all points of dispute were finally disposed of.”
Because of the illegality of the confrontation, the two duellists and their seconds were arrested by the police immediately after leaving the shooting ground and taken into custody, first to Paddington police station and then before a magistrate at Marylebone. Here, the court was told that the duel had already taken place and that the two parties were now reconciled and instead of being bound over to keep the peace, which would have been the usual procedure, the case was dismissed.
Tennyson continued as M P for Stamford for another year and in 1832 he was elected as member for Lambeth where he remained until 1852. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society (1829), a Privy Counsellor (1832) and a published poet (1850). He died in 1861, aged 77.
The recent work on converting the Corn Exchange into a new Community Access Point for the town has highlighted the neglected state of the remaining frontage in Abbey Road, a fine example of Victorian architecture designed by the London architect Charles Bell that should be preserved. This was the building the public saw when it was completed in 1870 and the imposing façade of red brick with ashlar dressings remained the entrance until successive local authorities began making extensions to cope with an expanding population.
The rebuilding scheme in 1990 gave us the modernised Corn Exchange we know today when the entrance moved to the back overlooking a new paved market area and car park and now the latest project has altered the interior beyond all recognition for its new role. But through all this, the original frontage with its pyramid-style blue slate roof has been forgotten and is now wedged into the street scene between two other properties yet refusing to be hidden and so remaining a distinctive landmark by virtue of its period appeal.
The Corn Exchange, now administered by South Kesteven District Council, deserves a place with our other 71 listed buildings to ensure that it will be protected in the future. To secure this, English Heritage would need to recommend a Grade II listing for the building, thus ensuring that it would be preserved for the future. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen at the moment because successful applications are being restricted to those buildings which are under immediate threat through drastic alteration or demolition and as this is not so in this case, a listing will have to wait for the time being.
Nevertheless, the new role of the Corn Exchange has highlighted its importance to the town and although the Abbey Road frontage has been largely ignored during the recent conversion work on the main building, perhaps there will be an opportunity in the future to give it some tender loving care when the opportunity arises and the money is available.
From the archives - 124 years ago: On Sunday evening, a thunderstorm of unusual severity passed directly over the town while divine service was being held at the church. About 7 o'clock, it grew very dark and the storm broke with terrible violence. The flashes of lightning were extremely vivid and the peals of thunder following each other in rapid succession, were deafening. The vane on the Corn Exchange, to which the point of the lightning conductor is attached, was bent, falling about five inches, and the wire was twisted throughout its length. A passerby noticed a flash of light run from the point to the earth. No further damage occurred to the property as far as we have been able to ascertain and no person was injured. - news report from the Stamford Mercury, Friday 26th July 1889.
Better late than never appears to be an appropriate proverb when dealing with planning promises made to our local authorities and we now see signs that the new primary school originally guaranteed as part of the massive Elsea Park estate fourteen years ago is finally being delivered.
This is part of the S104 agreement with the developers, the planning gain from the profit made from 2,000 new houses they are building, although along with other items on the list it has been slow in coming. Everyone, in fact, has been dragging their heels over this despite the obvious conclusion that an estate of this size will attract a tremendous influx of people who will put a heavy strain on existing services, whether they be schools, roads, health clinics, or any of the other amenities that are an essential part of our local communities.
For those who can remember the public exhibition mounted by the developers at the Red Hall in October 1999 to persuade the people of Bourne that this residential expansion was necessary, it is a timely reminder that many who attended came away totally dispirited by the experience because there was insufficient information over when the school and other promised facilities would actually be delivered to cope with this massive influx of people and so it has proved.
Now, with pupils being turned away from the primary school of their choice and diverted to the surrounding villages, it has finally been decided to proceed with that which was promised well over a decade ago. The proposed new school will provide 210 places, that is thirty in each year group, which Lincolnshire County Council, the education authority, claims will be needed in Bourne by 2015.
The construction costs of £2.5 million will be met by the county council and the developers and the single storey school will have six classrooms with a main hall, library, ICT suite and facilities for design technology, food technology and science, together with the usual offices and storage space, all based on either side of a central space lit through clerestory windows and can be used for both curricula and non-curricula activities. All of the classrooms will face and have direct access to a playground area and a feature of the design has been to allow the maximum of natural light. There will also be a car park for 18 staff vehicles.
The school is due to open for the autumn term in September 2014 but who is going to run it? Well, no one yet knows because the days when the old county education authority was in charge have gone for good and we are now into a world of academies and a complicated process of partnerships and trusts who are seeking control that will dilute the individuality of this particular primary. Why, for instance, should the new school be controlled by one of the bidders, Bourne Westfield Primary Academy, when its own track record is questionable with a warning from Ofsted, the government’s Office for Standards in Education, following a visit by their inspectors last November that the level of pupil achievement needs to be raised and the quality of teaching, leadership and management improved (The Local, 11th January 2013)?
The simplest way would be to appoint a headteacher, staff and governors as in the past and allow the school to become established in the traditional fashion with the involvement of parents and under the aegis of the county education authority before floating it into the academy pond which has so far an unproven track record. Time for that change of status will be at least ten years hence.
Thought for the week: The school is the last expenditure upon which a country should be willing to economise. - Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during a time of worldwide economic depression and total war.
If you have a comment to
make on any issue discussed
Recent diary entries during 2013
NOTE: All previous entries of the Bourne Diary
from November 1998 to December 2012
Return to HOME PAGE MAIN INDEX