Bourn has a Church of England primary school, a doctors' surgery, the Church of St. Mary & St. Helena, a golf club, a former Royal Air Force 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 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 mediaeval 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.
The population grew to 945 by 1851. This fell to 587 in in 1931, during the Great Depression, but after World War II a large influx of squatters from London came to live on the disused airfield and the population was 1,053 in 1951. Some later occupied Bourn's first council housing estate, Hall Close.
On 9 April 1941, the airfield was subjected to the first of four raids when a Junkers Ju88C strafed the airfield buildings and bombed the runway; however, little damage was done and there were no injuries. Two more raids on the 8th and 23 May 1944 were made, the latter damaging two parked De Havilland Mosquitos.
As the strategic bombing offensive intensified, the losses mounted. By the time of the last operational sortie on 4 April 1945, a total of 164 aircraft had been lost, either from the squadrons based at Bourn or from others trying, and failing, to land 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 was probably greater than that of the entire population of the village at the time.
In December 1944, 162 Squadron was formed at Bourn with Canadian-built Mosquito XXs and XXVs which flew almost nightly to Berlin, target-marking for the Light Night Strike Force. The two squadrons operated together from Bourn for much of the rest of the war.
From 1941 to 1945, damaged Stirlings were repaired 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 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), B-24 Liberators. The Bourn and Madingley units together employed up to 4,500 personnel.
The airfield was passed on to Maintenance Command in 1947. By 1948, the station was closed and the last sections were sold off for agricultural use in 1961.
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.
Bourn village is north of the B1046 road, east of Caxton and south of Cambourne. It is 8 miles (12 km) west of Cambridge and 47 miles (76 km) north of London. The South Cambridgeshire (Parishes) Order 2004 created a new parish of Cambourne and changed the boundaries of Bourn parish.
Bourn parish ranges from 32 to 72 metres above sea level and the soil is clay with a gault subsoil. In 2001, the area of the parish was 1,660 hectares.
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.
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.
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. Bourn Hall was bought by Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards in 1980 and became a world-famous clinic for the treatment of infertility.
A new school building was built in 1958 on the edge of the village, adjacent to open fields. It is within walking distance of 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, one of the best state secondary schools in the country (as of 2005).
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. The ecclesiastical parish is in the diocese of Ely.