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The Story of
Wake House

1820 - Present


A Building Through the Ages

Built around 1820 on the site of the old Waggon and Horses Inn, Wake House is believed to have been first owned by local lawyer William Worth. He used the building as both a home and as business premises for his law practice. Few of the original features now remain, including the curved staircase, framing around some of the internal doors, and high skirting boards. The main door would have been where the bay window now sits, with a passageway on the left of the house. 

The Worth family had moved out by 1841, when a new lawyer (Gervase Wilder) is listed as the owner. In addition to the house, he also took on William Worth’s practice. Similarly, when Wilder died in 1853, solicitor Stephen Andrew took on both the building and business.

By 1974 South Kesteven District Council had repurposed Wake House for their local offices. By this point, it was a business building, with no domestic rooms left. After falling into disuse, the current occupiers (Bourne Arts and Community Trust) took over in 1999, running the building for the benefit of the local community.

A succession of different owners, each with different needs, can be seen in the many alterations to the building, including moving the front door, adding the bay window, multiple extensions and the car park which now sits where the garden would once have been.


From top: Wake House before the front entrance was moved and the bay window added.

The house in 1935 decorated for the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

The house after the restoration of the front in 2019

The house in 2023 decorated for the Coronation of King Charles III.

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The Birthplace of
Charles Frederick Worth

1825 - 1895

The House of Worth

Charles Frederick Worth was born in Wake House, the son of Ann Quincy and William Worth, a lawyer. The family’s roots were local – the Worths lived in Claypole and Horbling, whilst the Quincy family came from Stow, near Threekingham. Charles attended Bourne Grammar School with his older brother, until, at the age of 11 Charles’ life was turned upside down.

William Worth struggled with drink and gambling, leading to him deserting his family in 1836. Charles left school and began work as an apprentice of a local printer, William Daniell, who ran a shop on West Street in Bourne. Finding the work distasteful, at the age of 12, Charles contacted an acquaintance in London, who secured him a position a year later at Swan and Edgar, a dry goods firm in Regent Street also dealing with fabrics and textiles.

Taking a chance, in 1845 he then travelled to Paris with £5 to his name. He worked his way up in the fashion industry and created his own brand – the House of Worth. In doing so, he pioneered haute couture which inspired many of the global fashion houses of today.

His creations were sought by royalty and wealthy ladies across Europe, and by the time of his death, his estate was worth millions of pounds. Charles’ mother did not live to see his success. It appears Charles rarely talked about his life in Bourne, yet evidence suggests he still travelled to the area to visit old school friends from Bourne and even donated gowns to raise funds for the Baptist Tabernacle in Billingborough.


Left: Charles Frederick Worth

Bottom: An original Victorian Worth gown

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Gallery of Victorian vintage clothing at Vintage Textile
House of Worth _ Afternoon dress _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles Frederick Worth (1825–1895) and the House of Worth _ Essay _ The Metropolitan Muse
evening dress 1882
House of Worth _ Ball gown _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1)
House of Worth _ Ball gown _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
House of Worth _ Evening dress _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
House of Worth _ Ball gown _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
House of Worth _ Evening dress _ French _ The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1)
House of Worth ball gown 1886_
Oak leaf dress, house of Worth. 1902
Woman's Two-Piece Day Dress_ Bodice and Skirt
WikiVictorian on Twitter

The House of Worth
Haute Couture

Charles was born at and spent his early childhood living in Wake House.  After a change in family circumstances, he entered the working world, finally moving to London and then Paris to head one of the most celebrated Fashion Houses of the day.  Today he is known as the ‘Father of Haute Couture’.

Here you can see some of his gorgeous designs.

The Story of
Bourne in the 19th Century

1820 - 1899

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A Thriving Market Town

Pure water from the natural spring at St Peter’s Pool is thought to have been the main draw for the first settlers of Bourne. By the 19th Century, this was a small, growing town. The Saturday market and annual fairs in April, May, September, and October would have encouraged people to travel to the area, to trade and to settle.

Between 1801 and 1901 the population grew from 1,664 to 4,361, more than doubling in size and showing the attraction of the town. With a growing population, building work would have been commonplace. In 1821 a new Town Hall was built, with the Magistrates Court upstairs and the Market Shambles below.


Some of the older buildings were either demolished or repurposed. For example, the Red Hall, built in 1605, was turned into the local railway station in 1859. Building the station was so important to the town that when the first passenger train arrived, the church bells were rung for the whole day in celebration!

Constant growth would have been supported by the blacksmiths, carpenters and bricklayers who traded in Bourne, while the shoemakers, wheelwrights and saddlers helped keep people moving. Farmers from the surrounding area would bring their produce into Bourne to be sold, via the bakers and grocer shops.


By 1870 the building of the Corn Exchange encouraged further trade between the farmers and local merchants. The numerous tailors, milliners and dressmakers show the importance of the clothing industry as well – perhaps inspiring a young Charles Frederick Worth!


Top Left: Market Place, Historic Bourne

Middle Left: North Street, Historic Bourne

Bottom Left: A view down North Street from the old Bank

Below: The Pearce family, piano specialists, outside the Post Office and store in North Street

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