Carrying a flame for Bourne

Words by:
Glynis Fox and Sharron Banham
Featured in:
January 2012

There are high hopes that 2012 will see new life breathed into an historic Lincolnshire market town, where fingers are crossed that a £2.35 million regeneration scheme will soon be underway.
Today plans to revitalise the heart of Bourne, through a project centred on Wherry’s Mill, are one step closer to reality.

Trent Valley Construction has been awarded a contract for the work and a South Kesteven District Council spokesman anticipates the full planning application will be ‘reported for a decision’ in February.

The project will involve refurbishing the disused seed mill on site to create new living space, which will be complemented by further new homes and shop units.

News comes as this popular destination continues to thrive despite the challenges posed by the current economic climate. And it is many of the longer-established, homegrown businesses which are showing the way.

It is great to see that, despite the gloomy tales emerging from today’s high streets, there are shoppers who continue to vote with their feet and shop locally with stores which they have long trusted to provide them with quality goods and services.

Bourne has a great catchment area, which can only help, but it also has a frustrating problem too: many people drive straight through the town on their way to other towns and cities, instead of stopping and making the most of its free parking offer. If they did, they would certainly discover some interesting businesses and historic attractions.

Bourne town clerk, Nelly Jacobs said the town continues to develop and keeps an eye to the future, while also being a place to find well-respected, long-standing family names.

The Wherry’s Lane complex – which has been on the drawing board for a long time – promises to remind shoppers and visitors alike that Bourne has hidden ‘lanes’ which are worth exploring.

The development aims to refurbish the original Wherry’s Mill to create four apartments, and add an adjoining block, which would feature seven ground-floor shop units with ten more apartments above.

Trent Valley Construction pre-contract manager, Chris Lawson said Trent Valley and William Saunders architects, of Newark, are delighted to have secured the £2.14m contract for this project.

Town clerk, Mrs Jacobs said: “I hope this (Wherry’s Mill) is a positive move for Bourne and that the project will tidy up an area that has not been very nice for a long time. The economic impact still has to be seen of course.

“Bourne is not doing too badly at the moment, compared to other places, when it comes to empty shops.”

Long-standing businesses include the electrical store J H Wand, Delaine Buses Ltd, Jessie Bellamy, Hoppers and Harrison and Dunn.

The town also has a relatively new Tesco store – on the Peterborough side of the town – an expanded Sainsbury’s and Anglia Co-operative (based in the Budgen store at the foot of The Burghley Centre), so it is certainly not all about charity shops, as some people tend to think.

In addition there are important employers based in its industrial areas, including Bakkavör, Bourne Textile Services – which supplies a linen service to hundreds of hotels – and Pilbeam Racing Designs, which continues to fly the flag for Bourne’s motorsport expertise.

Kevin Hicks is chairman of Bourne Business Chamber and also funeral director at R J Scholes, which is part of the Anglia Co-operative Society.

He said: “Our membership is thriving and we currently have fifty-three members. There is a great diversity and it ranges from solicitors to accountants, health professionals, website designers, printers and life coaches, to name but a few.

“We have monthly meetings, which alternate between a morning and an evening meeting, which enables us to facilitate the needs of all the members in the diversity of their professions.”

Mr Hicks is upbeat about the Wherry’s Lane project.

“Hopefully it will add to the character of the town whilst enabling further small businesses, and/or those wishing to enter for the first time, well-developed facilities for the future,” he said.

“This can only be seen as a further positive step towards offering a nucleus of alternative businesses to support keeping trade local.”

The Business Chamber is also working with the local council to promote local traders and hopes to have a prominent Bourne Business Chamber notice board displayed in the town.

Carol Schofield heads the team at The Bean Bag Coffee Shop in Crown Walk and she is also a partner in nearby Sweet Sensations, which she runs with former coffee shop employee, Alison Atkins.

“We are well known in Bourne itself and we also attract customers from within a radius of five to seven miles of the town,” she said.

“Once people find that we are here we get repeat business, which is good. Our outside catering work also seems to be increasing.

“We launched Sweet Sensations three years ago now, so people have also become familiar with that.

“I think that further regeneration will be very beneficial to the town. We obviously don’t know what choice of shops there will be, but the fact that regeneration is planned is good news.”

Hoppers Jewellers has had a presence in Bourne for more than twenty-five years and owner Fiona Hopper is passionate about the sheer variety that the town offers visitors and shoppers.

“We have stood the test of time in Bourne, I am a fourth generation member of the family. We feel that shoppers trust us and it is wonderful that people are now bringing their children’s children to see us,” said Mrs Hopper.

“We are attracting people from as far afield as Cambridge and I think that’s because we believe that customers matter. Our manager, Paula Paris is incredible and even visits people at home in the evenings and at weekends.

“Bourne still has a lot of beautiful shops and it is quite interesting to see how pleasantly surprised people are by both the variety and quality,” added Fiona.

Jessie Bellamy is another business which enjoys a prominent position in the town’s North Street, from where it offers quality menswear, ladieswear and school uniforms.

Partner Caroline Penny said: “We have been going for seventy-three years. We mainly cater for the thirty-plus age group, although of course we do school uniforms which brings in a wider clientele.

“Bourne has such a lot to offer people and we attract business from places such as Spalding, Sleaford and Grantham, but so often cars just whizz through the town and people don’t stop to see how much its shops offer.

“I really hope what has been proposed for Wherry’s Mill will advance the town and make it look better,” added Caroline.

Harrison and Dunn is another established business, which has seen many comings and goings in the town, but which believes that good old-fashioned service is the key to success.

Manager John Dunn said: “We are a traditional ironmonger’s and we sell everything from kitchen cutlery right through to power tools and storage boxes.

“We have actually been around as a company for eighty-one years, having started out in Stamford. Our Bourne business has been going for sixty-one of those.

“It is a tough climate at the moment, but we are holding our own. We sell goods out of packets, keep prices down and do promotions and we like to offer a personal service, which has to be a strength of the independent trader,” he added.

Hopefully 2012 will see Bourne’s long-established businesses continuing to survive and more new names joining them.

And, with the Olympic Torch visiting on 4th July, hopefully more people will be tempted to discover all the delights of this quaint market town.

Bourne Corn Exchange is to be redeveloped to create a ‘one stop shop’ or community access point. Work is expected to start in March to create a facility which will provide customers with the opportunity to tap into a wide range of services from the town, district and county councils, all under one roof.

The changes will also see the library facility, from South Street, move into the ground floor of the building.

In phase two, the first floor of the building will be turned into office accommodation, but the downstairs Main Hall and changing rooms will remain unchanged, while the kitchen will undergo alterations.

Delaine Buses’ fleet of vehicles has been a familiar sight for passengers around the Bourne area for more than a century.

Family companies which continue to provide a personal and up-to-date service in today’s tough world might not be as abundant as they once were but Delaine recently welcomed a sixth generation family member to its team.

Teenager Jennifer Delaine-Smith is currently working as a secretary within the business – but she has aspirations to try her hand at bus driving one day and ultimately to work her way up in the firm.

Jennifer, who is the daughter of managing director Anthony Delaine-Smith (who joined the company in 1982), became part of the Delaine team last year, after leaving Bourne Grammar School.

Father Anthony said: “I am very proud that Jennifer decided to join the family business. Being such an old-established family business, it is reassuring to see the next generation taking an interest and enabling the family to continue to provide a quality and reliable service for many years to come.”

It was in 1890 when the company’s founding father, William Smith introduced the passenger carrying service as a branch of the family’s established General Contractors firm.

In 1902 the company moved from Austerby to its current site on Spalding Road.

Then in 1915 the name Delaine became incorporated into the business when Thomas Arthur Smith (son of William) married Emma Jane West, from whose family the name Delaine emanated.

New services were introduced in the 1920s and the company forged ahead undeterred, even by two World Wars.

In the 1980s, which was a period of growth for many firms the bus company, which had been a limited company since 1941, took over various routes which had previously been covered by other transport businesses.

The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the business splash out on new vehicles and in 2006 Delaine was the first UK operator to order the new Volvo B9TL chassis.

In 1995, the then managing director, Hugh Delaine-Smith was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for his services to public transport. Sadly, he died before the Buckingham Palace Awards ceremony.

Baldock’s Mill Heritage Centre in Bourne is a skilfully and sympathetically converted mill, which is over 200 years old.

The building is run by the local Civic Society, a band of dedicated volunteers, including Jim Jones MBE. Jim and his wife Brenda have worked tirelessly for the Mill for the past thirty years.

Jim is proud to say that, “The three floors hold a wealth of local historical information and two of Bourne’s famous sons are splendidly represented.”

He is, of course, referring to Raymond Mays CBE, born in 1899 and known as Britain’s ‘Mr Motor Racing’ and also to Charles Frederick Worth, synonymous with the House of Worth.

The Raymond Mays Room celebrates the life of the motor racing pioneer, displaying a magnificent photographic record of Mays’ racing achievements together with a stunning BRM trophy collection showing names such as Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart and personal memorabilia such as Mays’ goggles and overalls.

Mays was the driving force behind the ERA (English Racing Automobiles) which was established at Mays’ Bourne home, Eastgate House. The first ERA vehicle ran at Brooklands in 1934 and went on to achieve many important successes with leading drivers of the time.

By the end of World War Two Mays achieved his ambition of wanting to see Britain at the top in the world of international motor racing, when he launched the BRM project (British Racing Motors).

However it wasn’t until 1962 that BRM became World Champions and the name BRM became legendary in the world of motor racing.

“Raymond Mays’ efforts, together with his team, was the kickstart for Britain’s interest in motor racing,” said Mr Jones.

The first floor of Baldock’s Mill houses the 2007 Renaissance Heritage Award display of Charles Frederick Worth, the famous Parisian milliner and founder of ‘haute couture’, who was born in Bourne in 1826.

Worth dominated Parisian fashion in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Initially he worked as an apprentice for two London textile merchants gaining a thorough knowledge of fabrics and during this time he visited the National Gallery to study historic portraits which would later provide inspiration for his own designs.

Worth’s designs are notable for his use of lavish fabrics and trimmings, his incorporation of elements of historic dress, and his attention to fit.

He is particularly known for preparing a variety of designs that were shown on live models at the House of Worth. Clients made their selections and had garments tailor-made in Worth’s workshop.

Some of these designs have been re-created by the ladies of Bourne Civic Society and displayed in such a striking manner that they were instrumental in it gaining the Renaissance Award.

“Bourne is a treasure trove of history for Lincolnshire,” said Mr Jones.

The Heritage Centre is a ‘must-see’ venue in the town and opening times can be viewed on its website.

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