Families at the heart of the town

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
August 2018

Ambitious growth strategies are transforming Bourne, but its unique heritage remains key, writes Melanie Burton.

Look beyond the busy crossroads in the middle of the town centre and you will find an abundance of green open spaces, woodland and waterways and a plethora of places to escape the hustle and bustle of modern living as well as a sense of an exciting, prosperous past.

Bourne has changed beyond recognition over the past twenty years, but you’d be hard pushed to find a change that’s had a bigger impact on the town than Elsea Park, Bourne’s largest housing development.

With the first homes being constructed back in 2001, on what had been a vast swathe of farmland between the southern edge of the town and Math and Elsea Woods, the development has continued to change the residential make-up of the area. It now has approximately 1,500 dwellings (with another 1,000 still to be built) and it has been estimated that at least 18 per cent of the population of Bourne already live within its boundaries.

When the development was still in its early stages the planners decreed that it must include multiple play areas, a significant amount of public open space, and amenity land distributed evenly across the area that it would eventually occupy.

However, the local authority did not want to face the expense of managing or maintaining these areas, or the other communal facilities that would eventually be provided by the developer(s), so it was decided that this task would fall to a Management Company which would be fully funded by homeowners on Elsea Park, who would pay an annual charge for the services it would provide.

Whilst this is now very common on modern housing estates, Elsea Park is somewhat unique in that the planners decided that the Management Company was to be not-for-profit and would be owned and run by the homeowners themselves; thus was born Elsea Park Community Trust.

The Trust is run by a Board of Directors with the majority being drawn from residents of Elsea Park, with the chair and vice chair always being owner-members. The Board presently comprises nine directors, but this figure fluctuates from time to time, particularly as residents serving on the Board are all unpaid volunteers. The remaining directors are representatives appointed by the district and town councils, the developer, landowners, and a co-opted member of the Board of Governors of Elsea Park’s own school.

Day to day, several full- and part-time staff are responsible for administration, finance and running the community centre.

The general upkeep of the numerous open spaces owned by The Trust falls to a groundsman and an estate warden who look after two large conservation areas and eight fully-equipped play areas. They also oversee an external contractor who carries out the majority of the grass cutting and general grounds maintenance on amenity land owned by The Trust.

“The biggest project that The Trust is managing is the delivery of a new artificial grass football pitch and associated buildings and infrastructure on the western side of the development,” explained Barry Cook, community trust manager at Elsea Park.

“It is expected to cost in the order of £1.4 million and will be largely funded by the Football Foundation and Kier Living (the lead developer on Elsea Park), though The Trust will be contributing a significant amount of members’ money.

“The project is still in its early stages, but if everything runs according to plan it is expected to open in January 2020.

“On a much smaller scale, and within the next couple of months, The Trust will be installing two new semi-automatic weirs in the Elsea Meadows conservation area. These will allow the water levels in the habitat and wildlife ponds to be much better controlled, and from a wildlife perspective nothing could be more important in the very hot and dry weather that we are experiencing this summer.”

The town has a number of top named High Street brands and main chain supermarkets as well as a variety of traditional independent retailers, which are at the heart of the local community.

It has two delightful shopping arcades. The Burghley Centre – opened in 1989 near the site of the disused and derelict cattle market – and The Angel located in the courtyard of the Angel Hotel, which is thought to be the oldest surviving hotel in the town dating from the eighteenth century and was originally known as the Nag’s Head.

Plans are now in the pipeline for a programme of improvements with Bourne set to benefit from a huge £40 million investment package announced by South Kesteven District Council in October last year, aimed at encouraging growth and economic development in the area’s towns and villages.

SKDC Leader, Councillor Matthew Lee, outlined the plans which included a series of investments for each of the district’s four market towns, as well as its eighty-plus rural villages, all of which will either be completed or underway by 2020.

Initiatives include new serviced offices for micro businesses in Bourne town centre and new housing opportunities just off the High Street for families to promote ‘town centre living’ and help maintain footfall.

Councillor Lee also promised a festival for Bourne and a new strategy to help revive the district’s markets.

He said: “Fundamentally, we want businesses to start up in our district, grow in our district and recruit from our district.

“In Bourne we will be bringing forward plans to promote ‘town centre living’, bringing families back into the heart of the town by building new housing accommodation in Bourne, just off the High Street.

“In addition, we will be improving the quality of public spaces in and around our towns, where we have identified the need to improve the High Street in order to support our retailers.

“We very much had Bourne in mind when looking at this policy – but other towns will also benefit.”

Leading the ambitious growth plans is the council’s InvestSK team which introduced a series of information forums to help businesses wanting to attract more visitors through the doors.

The forums were held across South Kesteven from the end of June, and unveiled plans including a new district website, an expanded Visitor Guide for 2019, special interest trails and partnership projects to increase visitor activity.

Councillor Nick Robins, SKDC cabinet member for retail and visitor economy, said: “We have a very exciting programme planned as part of our commitment to growing the visitor economy, all of which will benefit any business wanting to increase its footfall.”

At its inaugural breakfast, InvestSK provided insights into the area’s economic strengths and opportunities, as well as practical guidance for companies on key issues around cyber security and access to finance. It also marked the publication of a new Business Showcase book – created by InvestSK to celebrate the area’s business capabilities and promote South Kesteven to new inward investors as a great place to do business.

Companies included in the book are Sophie Allport, Boss Cabins and the Larkfleet Group, all of which are based in Bourne.

Sophie Allport is a thriving global business in the home and gift sector with 1,300 stockists internationally working in more than twenty markets stretching from the USA to Japan, Korea and Singapore.

Started in 2007 in a bedroom in Battersea, the business is renowned for its fine bone china and kitchen fabrics and it has expanded to stock more than 2,500 product lines.

The business moved out of London to Stamford in 2009 and expanded two years later to the King Street Industrial Estate at Langtoft before finally taking over the old Carlsberg Distribution centre in Bourne last September, renaming it The Old Brewery.

Boss Cabins is a family owned business with fifty years’ experience in the construction industry and was the first innovator in the design, build and manufacture of welfare cabins for the construction industry. It employs almost 100 people at its base in Bourne and has established itself as a market leader with an annual turnover of £25 million.

The Larkfleet Group is an award-winning house building and development company which started out in 1998 in Stamford but currently operates from its purpose-built headquarters Larkfleet House, in what is now Southfield Park, Bourne.

It has twelve companies in the group and is celebrating twenty years in business this year but has already won more than fifty housing and sustainability awards.

Councillor Lee said: “A key part of InvestSK’s role is to champion South Kesteven as a great place to live, work and invest. And what better way to do this than to celebrate some of the excellent companies that call South Kesteven home?

“These case studies demonstrate what an economic powerhouse South Kesteven is: showcasing businesses of all shapes and sizes, that are reaching out across the globe, or shaping our world closer to home.”

Another Bourne company helping to put the town on the international map is Hay Hampers which is a family run gift hamper company considered to be one of the ten best hamper companies in the UK.

Started in 1984, its collection of gifts and hampers is now a celebration of artisan and independent food and wine production from all over the world. And its brand and photography has just been showcased in Venice as one of the most interesting examples of graphic communication.

In an exhibition at the International School of Graphics in Venice, Hay Hampers’ catalogue, together with other carefully chosen examples of premium brand photography and graphic design created by the Italian communications agency O-Zone, were on display.

The exhibition was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of O-Zone, which offers integrated services of communication, from photography and video making to graphic and digital productions in Italy and abroad.

Elisabeth Och, marketing director of Hay Hampers, said she was delighted: “We are extremely honoured to have been chosen from thousands of projects and to be able to show a typically British tradition such as food hampers in one of the most appreciated countries for food such as Italy. Art has always reflected – and influenced – life in Venice, and it’s great to see so many modern examples of the way that images can express and affect ideas.”

Federico Zattarin, managing director at O-Zone, said: “Hay Hampers has been chosen as a showcase because it has been able to successfully position its brand in the niche market of top-end, gourmet food available to everyone through efficient communication and knowledge of modern topics, such as waste reduction and recycling.”

Developments from Larkfleet Homes under The Croft brand are designed to provide the over-55s (retired or still working) with the independence of owning their own homes combined with the benefits of being part of a community.

The second phase of development at The Croft at Baston is a small number of new homes in this tranquil village just outside Bourne. It sits alongside the highly successful fully-sold first phase, extending the community but keeping it at a modest scale.

The properties at Baston are designed and built to suit the busy lifestyles of today’s home buyers. They are mostly one and two-bedroom bungalows but there are also some three-bedroom chalet bungalows for those who want a little extra space. All have been designed to need minimal ongoing maintenance so that residents benefit from the independence and security of property ownership without the concerns of property upkeep.

The bungalows are located around attractive walkways and gardens, creating a pleasant residential environment, and there is a central community facility. The village itself has two excellent pubs with restaurants, a church, hairdresser, butcher, post office and general store.

Situated close to the A15, The Croft at Baston offers easy access by car or bus to the cities of Peterborough and Lincoln, as well as nearbv Bourne and the historic town of Stamford.

Bourne has a long and distinguished heritage that it can be justly proud of but preserving it has not all been plain sailing.

It is thanks to the Bourne Civic Society that the town can still boast having a number of historic buildings present such as the Red Hall, The Angel Hotel and Baldock’s Mill.

The civic society was started by a group of enthusiastic locals who met at the Red Hall in the town back in 1977 to try and save a mud and stud cottage from disappearing.

Sadly, they were unsuccessful and it was demolished in the end, but the group pledged then to try and safeguard the existing heritage in the town as well as save the many listed buildings from demolition and neglect.

And that is what the Civic Society has been doing for the past four decades. It has just celebrated 40 years of being in existence and it is still going strong, welcoming new members year on year, holding regular meetings as well as lectures and exhibitions.

Granted a lease by the Bourne United Charities on Baldock’s Mill so it could become the society’s headquarters as well as a heritage centre for the town to hold the many artefacts that the society has collected over the years, it now runs Baldock’s Mill/Heritage Centre which is a totally independent museum not funded by the council. Members open it up every weekend and Bank Holidays as well as by special appointment.

Society chairman, Brenda Jones, said: “It is thanks to all the members and friends that the Heritage Centre is still going. It was open in 1999 with the Raymond Mays exhibition and we have added may more exhibitions to the museum/heritage centre since.”

It also hosts the Charles Worth Gallery and a gallery of Bourne’s history and heritage.

The Mill also has a shop selling a range of gifts and publications, pamphlets and maps relating to Bourne and the specialist displays.

Baldock’s Mill is the only remaining mill in the town and is more than 200 years old. The Red Hall is an Elizabethan house dating back to the sixteenth or seventeenth century, built by Gilbert Fisher who died in debt because of the building cost.

Numerous families lived there and then it became a private school before the railway used it as a ticket office. Now it is in the ownership of the Bourne United Charities.

The Angel Hotel was a coaching house where horses were changed when the coach was on its way from London to Lincoln. It is still a thriving hotel.

The town of Bourne has had strong motorsport connections for many decades, dating back to the 1930s, when Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon created the company known as English Racing Automobiles (ERA) at Eastgate House in the town.

Here, a small dedicated team built the single seater racing cars that were to distinguish themselves all over Europe in voiturette racing. The workshops at Eastgate House still exist, and it is a credit to the design and build quality of the ERA, that most of these cars still race today in historic events.

Unfortunately, World War 2 put a stop to the construction of racing cars in Bourne, but postwar, Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon formed British Racing Motors (BRM) at premises in Bourne and set about building a full blown Grand Prix racing car to take on the continental teams like the Italian Ferraris and French Talbot-Lago and Delage teams.

Club committee member, Colin Gibson, said: “The car they built to compete with these teams, has gone down in history as one of the most technically advanced and complicated cars ever built.

“But before the V16 BRM could be fully developed, the regulations for Grand Prix cars changed, and although it won several times in the UK, it never achieved the success it deserved in international races.”

BRM was later bought by the Rubery Owen Company, under the ownership of Sir Alfred Owen and this led to the formation of the Owen Racing Organisation.

“The Owen family effectively ran the BRM team for many years and still follow the BRM story with great interest,” said Colin.

Success came to BRM with later cars, starting in 197 GP races, with 17 victories, 11 pole positions, 15 fastest laps, and this culminated in them winning the Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championship with Graham Hill in 1962.

BRM racing cars were built in Bourne and competed all over the world until 1976. They were the only team, other than Ferrari, to build the entire car themselves. The team attracted the very best of the world drivers to Bourne, from Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina, to Sterling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda of Austria and many more, six of whom went on to become World Champions.

A collection of BRM artefacts, trophies and memorabilia is on display at the Bourne Heritage Centre at Baldock’s Mill.

With such a motorsports heritage in Bourne, it is hardly surprising that some of the ex-BRM employees went on to set up their own businesses.

After the demise of the BRM team, the Bourne Motor Racing Club (BMRC) was set up some years later, with the aim of keeping alive the town’s motor racing heritage, and along with other groups, such as the BRM Association, continues to promote the story of ERA and BRM in Bourne.

Bourne Motor Racing Club meets at the Bourne Corn Exchange on the second Thursday of each month and has a membership of about 180 and regularly attracts 100-120 members to the monthly club nights.

It covers all aspects of motorsport and has hosted speakers from Tiff Needell, to Martin Brundle and with a strong following in the motorcycling fraternity, has had Norton’s CEO, Stuart Garner, speaking about their new V4 motor bike.

“In the last two months there have been presentations given by world renowned motoring historian Karl Ludvigsen on the V16 BRM, and Professor Mac Hulbert, who successfully raced ERA R4D for many years,” said Colin.

Bourne Motor Racing Club has connections with several other clubs locally, and is hoping to support the Grimsthorpe Speed Trial Revival on 26th August, at the nearby Grimsthorpe Castle estate.

The club is happy to support charities such as Cancer Research and Blesma which looks after military personnel who have lost limbs in conflicts. On 13th September, the club will be hosting Mission Motorsports at the club night at the Corn Exchange.

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