Centuries of enjoyment for all at the Abbey Lawn

Bourne is blessed with several green spaces for relaxation and sport but the Abbey Lawn has been in public use for longer than any other. In times past, the land formed part of the grounds of Bourne Abbey although the people were allowed to use it at the discretion of the vicar and so it became the town's unofficial recreation ground and has been used for such purposes for at least 200 years.

The land was eventually acquired by a syndicate of local businessmen who rented out the rights for cricket and football but when it came under threat from housing development, Bourne United Charities decided to buy it for the benefit of the town.

The purchase was sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners in 1931 and the transaction was agreed in the sum of £700, to which the cricket club made a token donation of £20. The Trustees, advised by their clerk, Horace Stanton (1897-1977), completed the purchase with the intention of preserving it as an open space and sports ground for the town in perpetuity and since then there has been a continuous programme of improvement.

A plaque on the left hand column at the main gates in Abbey Road says: "These grounds were purchased in the years 1931-34 by the Trustees of Bourne United Charities in order to preserve the same as an open space for ever and the work of levelling and laying out the grounds was carried out by trainees from the Ministry of Labour Instructional Centre, Bourne." There is a second notice on the opposite column that says: "The trees and shrubs in these grounds were planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of HM King George the Fifth, 6th May 1935."

Abbey Lawn Images:

Football has been played here for almost 140 years, one of the first games being recorded in 1871. The present Bourne Town Football Club dates from 1897 while Bourne Town Cricket Club’s activities date from 1803 and the facilities have become greatly enhanced making it one of the most attractive grounds in Lincolnshire.

Bourne Tennis Club formerly played on courts in Burghley Street for almost 100 years until the site was sold in 1958 when the club was saved by Bourne United Charities which was planning a new set of courts on land that had once been used to provide vegetables and herbs for the monks of Bourne Abbey. The ground was subsequently levelled and drained and turf from the old courts in Burghley Street lifted and used for the new ones on the Abbey Lawn which were opened for play in May 1959.

There was once a putting green here and quoits was also popular while Bourne Town Bowls Club occupies land on the far corner of the site. Next door is the Outdoor Swimming Pool, formerly the carp pond for the monks of Bourne Abbey but taken over by BUC in 1922 and now greatly enhanced to become one of the few remaining lidos in England. In the far corner of the Abbey Lawn, near to the eastern entrance, is an enclosed court for petanque, a type of boules played especially in France and a game that has gained popularity since the town became twinned with Doudeville in Normandy in October 1989.

The Abbey Lawn has had many other uses over the years including maypole dancing, athletics, church feasts and treats and has therefore been a focal point for the people and synonymous with the community spirit in Bourne.

The handsome hand forged, wrought iron entrance gates to the Abbey Lawn were made during the 18th century and formerly graced an estate entrance to a stately home in Derbyshire and were installed in 1933. During 2009, they were removed and restored, the supporting pillars rebuilt together with the stone wall on the northern edge of Abbey Lawn while the gardens were freshly landscaped. Metal fencing was also erected around the perimeter to deter vandals after a prolonged spell of criminal damage to the sports facilities, a reluctant but necessary step by the Trustees but one taken to ensure the safety and public use of the grounds in perpetuity, as envisaged when the site was purchased.

Text and photographs © REX NEEDLE 2010.