There are extensive remains from the prehistoric periods across the survey area; the interface between high ground and a fenland landscape would have provided a great variety of resources. Prehistoric routes which are believed to have crossed Bourne, such as Mareham Lane, would also have brought people from a wider region through the area. Settlements are recorded from the Bronze Age onwards, although activity is recorded as early as the Neolithic period. Iron Age and Romano-British settlements are seen within the north-eastern corner of the survey boundary, and to the north and south of the town. Evidence of agricultural and industrial activity on these sites also demonstrates how the landscape was being managed during this period. During the Roman period a settlement was established in Bourne. The town is also crossed by the Roman road known as King Street, and the Roman constructed Car Dyke; a large artificial water channel stretching between Peterborough and Lincoln. From the early-medieval period the modern settlements of Dyke, Cawthorpe were founded, probably associated with local springs. All three settlements of Dyke, Cawthorpe and Bourne were documented in the Domesday survey of 1086.
Over the medieval period Bourne was largely an agricultural market town although it also had a large pottery production industry, located around East Gate. Bourne castle was founded in the early centuries of the medieval period, located to the south-west of the town centre. It appears to have been occupied until the 16th/17th centuries, after which archaeological evidence indicates that it was demolished. In the 12th century Bourne Abbey was founded, following the bidding of the local castle lord, who supplied land and resources. A church was recorded during the Domesday survey. It was probably a precursor to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, which contains some Saxon and Norman structural elements. It became part of Bourne Abbey between the 12th and 16th centuries and is the largest structure remaining from that organisation, following the closure of the abbey during the religious reformation. Much of Bourne’s layout, including the market place, was established during the medieval period, and the town largely remained within its medieval extent into the post-medieval period. Over this period however, the town became increasingly well connected, primarily through the introduction of turnpike roads, and subsequently though railways. For both transport modes, it became the centre of a number of links. In the modern period, the town has grown on all sides, largely with residential development as Bourne has become a commuter town for the larger centres of Spalding and Peterborough.
Bourne’s character is fairly varied, focussed around a central commercial core which is represented by HUCA 1. This character area comprises a central crossroad, which was formerly the market. Extending from the market, several former burgage plots and historic buildings demonstrate the former uses of the town, as a coaching stop or administrative centre for the wider area. The town centre is predominantly brick built with timber windows, although some stone has also been used, particularly in fenestrations. The extent of the town grew slightly over the 19th century and in the 20th century. Infilling of formerly open spaces or redevelopment also occurred, in the town centre. This episode is represented by HUCA 2 which is notable for its mixture of houses and dates of construction. This area was also part of the industrial centre of Bourne during the medieval and post-medieval periods. Consequently, development probably continued in this area, as opposed to growth in new areas. The town’s 20th century residential expansion is contained in HUCA 3. This HUCA demonstrates a range of housing types from across the 20th century, generally constructed in brick, although styles vary depending on the age of construction. The HUCA is bounded by woodland in the west and arable fields to the north and east, which is part of HUCA 4. This HUCA covers the agricultural area of Bourne, which extends from high-ground woodlands to the west and arable low-lands in the east, which were formally fenlands. These lands were enclosed and brought into arable cultivation in the 18th and 19th centuries, the pattern of this process is preserved in the modern field layout across the character area. Bourne’s industrial area is discussed in HUCA 5, and is characterised by large agricultural or industrial warehouses and commercial premises. This area probably continued with an industrial focus following industry which was present on East Gate during the medieval and post-medieval periods.