AskDefine | Define bourn

Dictionary Definition



1 an archaic term for a boundary [syn: bourne]
2 an archaic term for a goal or destination [syn: bourne]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A small stream or brook.

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Extensive Definition

Bourn is a small rural village in the East of England and the county Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom. Surrounding villages include Caxton, Eltisley and Cambourne.
Bourn has a Church of England Primary School, a surgery at 25 Alms Hill, the Church of St. Mary & St. Helena, a golf club, a former RAF base (RAF Bourn 1940-1945), which is used for light aircraft and an old windmill. Bourn Hall Clinic, a centre for infertility treatment, is located here.
A small stream called Bourn Brook runs through the village, eventually joining the River Cam. Bourn includes the area of Caxton End.

Village history

Bourn has existed as a settlement for over a thousand years. Roman remains have been found along the Bourn Brook and near to Bourn Hall and there is evidence of Romano-British movement along the top of the valley on the airfield and towards Caxton. Three tumuli on the sides of 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 a fallen leader or celebrating a victory around 1010 AD. The village was named from the brook which runs through what was a densely-wooded valley.
The mediaeval village was in a well-wooded valley and developed as a rectangle along both sides of the brook between Watery Lane and Crow End. The system of farming, with 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 - 900 people; field names and family names from this time are still known in the area. By the fourteenth century the population had fallen to 299 because of the plague, high taxes, poor weather and the emergence of the yeoman farmer and decrease in serfdom. The population rose from 400 in 1728 to 945 in 1851. This fell to 587 during the depression in 1931 but following the Second World War there was a large influx of people from London living on the airfield who later occupied the first housing estate, Hall Close. This brought the number of people to its present level of about 1000.
The present 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 sixteenth 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. 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. Bourn Hall was bought by Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards in 1980 and became a world-famous clinic for the treatment of infertility.
Bourn has a history of education in the village from 1520. From 1819 boys were taught in the church tower and girls received a more limited education in a nearby cottage. The Church and the Hall combined to build a school in 1866, designed for 144 children. Within three years eighty-one children were attending, paying 2d, 3d or 6d for their schooling. This school was closed in 1958 when a new building was opened in The Riddy. The old school became the Village Hall which has recently been extended and improved with grant aid, and is a splendid meeting place for village functions.


Bourn School dates from 1958 and is built on the edge of the village, adjacent to open fields. It is within walking distance from most of the village. The school serves a large rural area of about 24 square miles. It is designated a Church of England controlled school. Bourn School serves the villages of Bourn, Caxton, Longstowe and Kingston and is in the catchment area of Comberton Village College which is one of the best state secondary schools in the country (as of 2005).

RAF Bourn

Bourn Airfield was constructed for Bomber Command in 1940 as a satellite airfield for nearby Oakington. From 23rd July 1941 it was used by 101 Squadron Wellingtons for training purposes and from October of that year both 101 Squadron and 7 Squadron used the airfield when Oakington became unavailable.
On 9th April 1941, the airfield was subjected to its first of four raids when a Junkers Ju88C strafed the airfield buildings and bombed the runway; however, little damage was caused and there were no injuries. Two further raids on the 8th and 23rd May 1944 were made, the latter damaging two parked Mosquitoes.
As the strategic bombing offensive intensified the losses mounted. By 4th April 1945, the last operational sortie, 164 aircraft had been lost, either from the squadrons based at Bourn or from others trying, and failing, to get in on the field. The average age of aircrew was 23 and over a third of these were under 20 years of age. Of the 886 listed names, 648 were killed and many of the 35 injured subsequently died of their wounds. The number killed is probably greater than that for the entire population of the village at the time.
97 Squadron's Lancasters were replaced by the Mosquito IXs of 105 Sqn in March 1944. These Oboe-equipped aircraft were able to identify targets with great precision and then mark them accurately. The bomb-load of this remarkable aircraft was the same as that of an American B-17 four-engined bomber. It was also over 80mph faster.
In December 1944, 162 Squadron was formed at Bourn with Canadian-built Mosquito XXs and XXVs which were equipped with H2S and flew almost nightly to Berlin target-marking for the Light Night Striking Force. For much of the rest of the war the two squadrons operated together from Bourn.
From 1941 to the end of the war damaged Stirlings were repaired, re-constructed and test-flown from Bourn. These were transported to the airfield from the Sebro factory near Madingley which later continued its work with RAF and USAAF, B-24 Liberators. The Bourn and Madingley units together employed up to 4500 personnel.
The airfield remained in RAF hands being passed on to Maintenance Command in 1947. By 1948 the station was closed. The last sections were sold off for agricultural use in 1961.
Now the Rural Flying Corps (RFC) uses part of the runway for light aircraft while small industrial developments occupy other areas of the original site. On Bank Holidays Bourn Market uses much of the old runways for stalls.

Bourn Windmill

The Post Mill is pre-1636 and 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 is 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.
The sails of this mill are due to be repaired by June 2002 with a heritage grant. This will allow the mill to be 'winded' on open days.

Bourn Church of St. Mary & St. Helena

Following the Norman Conquest the church was given to the monks of Barnwell Priory. The church, dedicated to St. Helena & St. Mary, was built from the twelfth century onwards of field stones and ashlar, with dressings of limestone and clunch. Following the Reformation the church was given to Christ's College, who are patrons and responsible for the chancel repairs. The tower has a twisted spire and houses a belfry with a full peal of eight bells. Memorials in the church include one to Erasmus Ferrar, brother of Nicholas, founder of the Protestant monastery at Little Gidding. 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.

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Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adolescent stream, anchorage, arroyo, beck, border line, bound, boundary, boundary condition, boundary line, braided stream, branch, break boundary, breakoff point, brook, brooklet, burn, ceiling, channel, circumscription, compass, confine, creek, crick, cutoff, cutoff point, deadline, delimitation, destination, determinant, division line, end, extremity, finish, floor, flowing stream, fluviation, fresh, freshet, frontier, gill, goal, harbor, haven, hedge, high-water mark, interface, kill, last stop, lazy stream, limen, limit, limitation, limiting factor, line, line of demarcation, low-water mark, lower limit, march, mark, meandering stream, mete, midchannel, midstream, millstream, moving road, navigable river, port, race, racing stream, river, rivulet, run, rundle, runlet, runnel, sike, spill stream, start, starting line, starting point, stop, stopping place, stream, stream action, streamlet, subterranean river, target date, term, terminal, terminal date, terminal point, terminus, threshold, time allotment, upper limit, wadi, watercourse, waterway
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