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Bourn, High Street 2008 - - 871508.jpg
Grid reference: TL327563
Location: 52°11’24"N, 0°3’40"W
Population: 1,764  (2001)
Post town: Cambridge
Postcode: CB23
Dialling code: 01954
Local Government
Council: South Cambridgeshire

Bourn is a small village in Cambridgeshire. Surrounding villages include Caxton, Eltisley and Cambourne. It is eight miles from the county town, Cambridge.

The population of the parish was 1,764 people at the time of the 2001 census.

The village is named from the bourn, the stream, which runs through it. It is today called the Bourn Brook, which eventually joining the River Cam.

The planned village of Cambourne is just to the north, and named from Bourne and from Cambridge.

Parish church

The parish church is the Church of St Mary & St Helena.[1]

The church dates from the 12th century onwards and is built of field stones and ashlar, with dressings of limestone and clunch, in the Transition Norman, Early English and Later styles. Following the Reformation, the church was given to Christ's College, Cambridge, which is patron and responsible for the chancel repairs. The tower has a twisted spire and houses a belfry with a full peal of eight bells.[2]

Memorials in the church include one to Erasmus Ferrar, brother of Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the Anglican community at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. John Collett, farmer, of Bourn Manor was the husband of Susannah, sister to Erasmus and Nicholas who were frequent visitors to the parish where the family took refuge from the plague.

There were Protestant dissenters in Bourn from 1644 and there was a Methodist Chapel active in the village until 1982.

The village

Bourn has a parish church, a primary school, a doctors' surgery, a golf club. There is a former Royal Air Force bomber airfield (RAF Station Bourn 1940-1945), which today is used for light aircraft. An old windmill stands here.


The name Bourn is derived from the Old English burna meaning 'stream' or from the Old Scandinavian brunnr, meaning 'spring'. It was spelled Brune in the 1086 Domesday Book.[3] [4]

Bourn has existed as a settlement for over a thousand years. Roman remains have been found along the Bourn Brook and near Bourn Hall and there is evidence of Romano-British activity along the top of the valley on the airfield and in the direction of Caxton. Three tumuli on Alms Hill are of Roman and Danish origin and the two which were excavated in 1909 contained Roman coins and pottery, a Celtic button and evidence of Danish feasting commemorating the death of a leader or celebrating a victory around 1010.

The mediæval village was in a wooded valley and developed along both sides of the Bourn Brook. The farming system of common grazing land and six large fields managed in a three-course rotation lasted until the Enclosure Act in 1809. By 1279 there were 183 families and 900 people; the names of fields and families from this time are still known in the area. By the 14th century, Bourn's population dropped to 299 because of factors including the plague, high taxes, poor weather, the emergence of the yeoman farmer and decrease in serfdom.

By the 19th century, settlement in Bourn parish was concentrated along the High Street near the church, though there were also streets and ancient closes in the areas of the village known as Caxton End and Crow End.[5]

The population grew to 945 by 1851. This fell to 587 in 1931, during the Great Depression, but after Second World War a large influx of squatters from London came to live on the disused airfield and the population was 1,053 in 1951.[5] Some later occupied Bourn's first council housing estate, Hall Close.[6]

RAF Bourn

Bourn Airfield viewed from Broadway in October 2013

Bourn Airfield was constructed for RAF Bomber Command in 1940 as a satellite airfield for nearby RAF Oakington.

Now the Rural Flying Corps uses part of the runway for light aircraft; small industrial developments occupy other areas of the site. On Bank Holidays, Bourn Market uses much of the old runways for stalls.[7]

Sights of the village

A war memorial to commemorate Bourn men who died in the First and Second World Wars stands at the junction of the High Street and Short Street.[8]

The Post Mill dates from at least 1636, when it was sold by John Cook. In 1741, Richard Bishop was killed when he was trying to turn the mill in high winds and part of it blew down. The mill was sold in 1926 when it became outmoded by engines fuelled by paraffin. It has been owned by the Cambridge Preservation Society since 1932.

The body of the mill, the 'buck', contains all the machinery and is balanced on a 'post' supported by an oak trestle, which supports the entire weight of the mill, and bolted to four brick piers. Four sails and millstones in front of the post balance the double steps (which act as a thrust support when down) and the tail pole behind (which is used to turn the sails into the wind). It is called a 'Post Mill' because of its supporting post.

The sails have to face squarely into the wind so the buck, with the weight of all its machinery, has to be turned. First the talber (step lever) is pulled down and hooked into place to raise the steps, then the miller pushes the tail pole round and lastly lowers the steps again. The sails will turn without canvas in a strong wind but two 'common sails' (with close slats) can be 'clothed' by threading ringed canvasses on to central steel rods and roping them on to the sails. The other pair were fitted with 'automatic spring shutters' which opened releasing wind pressure when it blew too hard. Only two broken shutters remain of these.[9]

The mill was repaired and restored in 2003 after a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund and the sails can now turn, though it is not used for grinding.[10]

Bourn Hall

Bourn Hall Clinic

The present Bourn Hall is built on the site of a wooden castle that was burnt down during the Peasants' Revolt. A timber-framed house built early in the 16th Century was added to in 1602 by the Hagar family in the form of a three-sided courtyard hall. Rainwater gutters at the front of the Hall still have the initials of John and Francis Hagar.

The Hagar family left Bourn Hall in 1733 and the estate belonged to the De La Warrs until 1883. During this period Bourn was visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert while they were staying at Wimpole Hall. The last family connection with the village was Lady Mary, daughter of the 7th Earl and wife of Major Griffin, who bought the Hall in 1921 and lived there until 1957. The property was then acquired by Peter and Ann King. Bourn Hall was bought by Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards in 1980 and became a world-famous clinic for the treatment of infertility.

Wysing Arts Centre

Just outside the village to the west of Bourn is Wysing Arts Centre, a research and development centre for the visual arts which operates a year-round programme of pulic exhibitions, events, schools and family activities, alongside artistic residencies and retreats.[11]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bourn)