This ancient waterway formerly provided all of the water for the town of Hastings. The stream used to run through the centre of the , with a series of sluice gates to control the flow. Water pooled in an area known as 'The Slough' and was released once daily to flush through the detritus that clogged the lower channel and provide fresh water. The estuary of the stream was at the Sea Gate in the old Town Wall.
Moss in 1824 gives the route of the Bourne through the Old Town from the sea as being Bourne Street, Bourne Walk, through the Wilderness then under a bridge, beneath which was a sluice. Then up the east side of Old London Road, via Halloway House then into the grounds of The Laurels and into the reservoirs adjacent to Harold Road.
The boundaries of Hastings were extended fairly early on in the life of the town to secure the stream's source up on the towards , through the Pinders towards Fairlight Road near the Tile Kiln Farm. At this point, it was culverted but ran from Fairlight Down to a pond near the top of Harold Road according to an elderly man questioned by Moss.
Cousins mentions that there were three bridges over the stream prior to its culverting and that the gardens of houses in All Saints Street and the High Street originally extended to the banks of the stream.
Control of the sluice mentioned in the description of The Bourne's route fell to the Water Bailiff, or Bailiff of the Bourne who was also empowered to make arrests on the high seas. The Bailiff carried a ceremonial staff known as the 'Oar Mace' which was for a time displayed in the Old Town Museum. Opening of the sluice was signalled by the blowing of a horn. At these times, it is supposed a further sluice gate adjacent to the Court House was closed, thereby permitting residents to fill their containers with fresh water.
Cousins names one Bailiff of the Bourne as Thomas Nicholl, he being appointed on the 11th June 1604
The lower reaches of the stream were culverted around 1835, when the town's Waterworks were constructed in Harold Road. Around this time, the East Well was also constructed and residents were also issued with pumps. By 1850, the stream was referred to as 'being reduced to a creek'
- The History and Antiquities of the Town and Port of Hastings: Illustrated by a Series of Engravings (Moss 1824) Google Books ESCC Library Order via Amazon
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 20 November 1866 Pg. 0002
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 19 March 1898 Pg. 0003
- Hastings of Bygone Days and the Present (Henry Cousins - 1911) pg.134 ISBN: 9789332862449 ESCC Library Google Books " Amazon
- Hastings of Bygone Days and the Present (Henry Cousins - 1911) pg.40 ISBN: 9789332862449 ESCC Library Google Books " Amazon
- Osborne's Visitor's Guide to Hastings and St Leonards c1854 3rd ed. Pg. 65 Google Books