Bourne Archive: FNQ: Curiosities  Latest edit 12 Aug 2009.   

Interactive version ©2006 R.J.PENHEY

The Bourne Archive


Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.

Part 62. July 1904.

This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’.

Bourne Charities

1049 Auction at Bourne. – The custom described in the extract here given from The Daily Telegraph of 18 Apr., 1904, is well known to all who live in the district, but we think it has not yet been alluded to in Fenland Notes and Queries.


Odd methods of auction still survive. Thus at Bourne, in Lincolnshire, a meadow has lately been let in accordance with a quaint custom annually observed. The auctioneer stood on a bridge in Eastgate, and as each bid was forthcoming a boy started to run to a certain public-house. The bid which was still unchallenged when the last boy returned was accepted as the rent of the field for the ensuing year, and the bidder as the tenant. Then the company adjourned to supper, which was provided out of the funds raised from the field, two trustees being appointed to dispose of the remainder of the rent by distribution of bread.

[This was not quaintness for its own sake. It was a device for ensuring that the fund and its purpose were not forgotten by the intended beneficiaries, the people of Eastgate. Therefore, the new generation was given an active rôle. In 1904 there will still have been people in Eastgate who needed help. Now, social welfare provision has reduced its significance but although this income is thought of as a ‘charity’, it is in fact, a distribution of income from property belonging to the community. In its present form, it dates from 1770, when the land was allotted by the commissioners for the 1766 Enclosure Act. That allotment was in turn, an acknowledgement of earlier arrangements for the payment of parish officers. The bread was not intended for distribution solely to the poor. The dinner is a means of rewarding the auctioneer and organizers for their trouble in being there. (RJP) See Ball’s Charities: last item of the first group and 3rd item of the 2nd group. See also FNQ32.]

FNQ                Archive Contents