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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the September 2016 issue

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Described as the heart of Fenland Lincolnshire, Spalding has a wealth of independent niche traders, tourist attractions and interesting architecture.

Situated on the River Welland, it is the largest market town in south Lincolnshire and has many events and places of interest to attract tourists from all over the region. Much has also happened behind the scenes in the past year to protect its heritage and open space.

Spalding’s renowned war memorial in Ayscoughfee Hall Gardens has been upgraded from a Grade II listed building to a Grade I. The memorial is one of forty-four First World War memorials designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens – who is famous for the Whitehall Cenotaph.

The proposal for a war memorial in Spalding originated in January 1918 with Barbara McLaren, whose husband, the town’s Member of Parliament Francis McLaren, was killed in the war. It was finally unveiled in 1922.

Seven of Lutyens’ memorials are now Grade I listed – representing half of the total number of all Grade I war memorials in England.

Spalding’s war memorial commemorates 224 lives lost during the First World War. South Holland District Council’s portfolio holder for community, Councillor Gary Taylor, said: “The war memorial provides a lasting legacy for those who sacrificed so much.

“We’re delighted that it has secured Grade I listing meaning that it is better protected and will continue to serve as a poignant reminder for generations to come.”

Another relic from Spalding’s past has also been ensconced back into the town. An eighteenth-century silver dish linked to Spalding’s famous Johnson family has returned home to Ayscoughfee Hall Museum.

The silver Tazza, dated 1712, was made by French-born goldsmith Pierre Platel and accompanies a cup made by the same silversmith which was purchased by the historic venue in 2008.

It was secured with help from the Art Fund, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Museums’ Association Beecroft Bequest, as well as South Holland councillors who contributed from their designated ward budgets.

The Tazza was previously displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before being put up for sale.

It is silver gilt, circular and sits on a pedestal foot. It bears the hallmark for 1712, and was presumably made for the same individual who commissioned the companion cup (now known as ‘The Johnson Cup’) that resides in the permanent collection at the museum.

Councillor Taylor said: “We are delighted to have acquired something with such close links to the district and the Johnson family. The museum’s staff are to be commended for their work on this project.”

It is possible that the cup was a wedding gift to Theophilus Fairfax Johnson, who was born in Ayscoughfee Hall and married Millicent Anne Moore in 1821. Theophilus Johnson grew up at Ayscoughfee Hall before later moving to nearby Holland House. He held the post of High Sheriff in 1847 and captain in the South Holland Yeomanry Cavalry.

The group was established as an antiquarian learned society, and is still in existence today, maintaining an accredited museum and lecture series.

Ayscoughfee Hall Museum is set in a medieval hall dating back to around 1451. It houses exhibitions, displays and educational opportunities for all to enjoy.

Spalding is not all about the past though and it has a lively venue in the shape of South Holland Centre which houses the district’s only cinema and mixes its film diary with an impressive programme of live shows.

Some of the country’s top touring theatre and dance companies, regular comedy club nights and a music programme that encompasses professional jazz, classical, folk and country are all on the centre’s programme of events.

Anyone who prefers to take part themselves, can choose from the workshops and classes that take place at the centre and also find out more about the numerous community arts groups in South Holland – many of whom use the centre as a performance base.

The centre also has a large multi-function room on the second floor with a polished wooden floor, high ceilings and banqueting or conferencing furniture for up to 300 guests making it an ideal venue for banquets, weddings, workshops and performances.

The hall also has lovely views over the River Welland through the huge windows at the back as well as a great view over the historic Spalding Market. Spalding has plenty of historic buildings to view and admire, but there is a distinct lack of green open space in the district.

It is an issue which South Holland District Council has begun to address. That was why back in March, the authority decided to purchase nearby Moulton Park for £302,000.

South Holland District Council’s portfolio holder for facilities management, Councillor Anthony Casson, said: “I’m confident that the park will provide residents with a first class recreational facility for many years to come.”

Back in 2012 the South East Lincolnshire Open Space Assessment found that there will be a shortfall of green open space and parks and gardens up until 2031. Since the findings were published, the council has been actively seeking opportunities to acquire open space and will continue to do so.

On the outskirts of town is a beautifully landscaped area, featuring Chelsea-style celebrity showcase gardens, including designs by Charlie Dimmock, Chris Beardshaw, Kim Wilde and Steven Woodhams, and a spectacular Japanese Garden by Sansui Design.

Springfields Festival Gardens were completely redeveloped in 2004, in conjunction with Springfields Horticultural Society, a charity dedicated to the improvement and growth of horticulture and floral design in the Spalding region.

Open all year round, the gardens were first opened in 1966 as the shop window for the flower bulb industry, introducing members of the public, amateur gardeners and enthusiasts to a wide range of horticultural experiences.

The gardens are also home to the Springfields Display Fountains which are the first of their kind in the UK, combining music, water and lights to produce stunning shows.

There is also an indoor play barn and outdoor adventure play area which feature a giant’s castle, the tallest beanstalk slide in the country and a magic transparent viewing point.

Springfields Outlet Shopping Centre features more than fifty stores including M&S, Gap and Radley and there is also a choice of cafes and restaurants.

Adjacent to the shopping centre is Springfields Events & Conference Centre which consists of three multi-functional exhibition and seminar rooms, a five-acre outdoor showground and free parking on site.

FAT FACE AT SPRINGFIELDS OUTLET
Springfields Outlet Shopping is delighted to announce that Fat Face Outlet will be opening a new store at the centre around the beginning of October. Spalding beat off stiff competition from other top UK outlet centres to secure the prestigious retailer. This news follows on from the recent investment in the 60,000 sq ft Blue Diamond run Home and Garden Centre and the letting to leading fashion retailer Next in February, with more lettings in the pipeline. The Spalding store will be one of Fat Face’s largest Outlet stores in the country. Knight Frank acted as letting agents and GCW for Fat Face. SLR asset manage the centre for the owners, UBS Triton.

Robert Moore, acquisitions manager at Fat Face said: “Springfields is an attractive scheme which we feel will complement our existing Outlet offer. The new unit will incorporate our latest shop fit design and offer a full range of family wear in keeping with the brand’s philosophy. We are looking forward to the opening in early October.”

Ian Sanderson who runs SLR Outlets says: “This represents a significant part of the strategy in repositioning Springfields Outlet as a more affluent and top standard outlet centre for the East of England. The centre has enjoyed eleven years of continued growth and this is now set to accelerate. Our recent additions added to names like Radley, Skechers, Gap and Marks & Spencer are proving to be very successful with our relatively affluent and extensive catchment.”

Fat Face will be going into the unit currently occupied by The Works in 3,300 sq ft near Dutch Square. The Works will relocate to the front of the centre, next to Pavers Shoes. The current Works store will remain open until their fantastic new store is ready midway through this month.

DUNCAN AND TOPLIS IN SPALDING
The current Duncan & Toplis office on Enterprise Way opened its doors in 2008 and is overseen by director David Gratton. David comes from a family run agricultural engineering business based in Boston, a background which drives his ambition to provide clients with sound commercial advice that helps them to survive and succeed through the generations.

David is supported by a team of twenty-three including recently promoted associate director, Alistair Main. Alistair joined the firm as a graduate and has risen through the ranks to attain his current position. Together they look after many local owner managed businesses as well as larger corporate entities.

The team have significant experience in the agri-food sector and its related industries and are active in supporting the LEP and Chamber of Commerce’s work expanding and promoting these industries in South Lincolnshire.

We are expecting challenges for local businesses over the next few years as Britain withdraws from the European Union, but with a strong, experienced team at Spalding, as well as the availability of additional skills from others within the firm, Duncan & Toplis is well placed to be the trusted adviser businesses will need in uncertain times.

SPALDING PUMPKIN FESTIVAL
Horticulture has been part of the fabric of Spalding for centuries and the town’s popular annual Pumpkin Festival is a celebration of local horticulture and harvest.

This year’s event will take place on Friday 7th October and features a market which has a mix of stalls run by local charities and local producers, with various entertainment throughout the day from street entertainment to cooking demonstrations.

In the evening, activities include a fancy dress competition, live music, the Pumpkin Parade and a grand finale firework display.

The Spalding Pumpkin Festival is sponsored by David Bowman Pumpkins Ltd and is supported by the Rotary Club of Spalding and Welland, Spalding Lions, Crescent Traders and Tulip Radio.

Last year’s Pumpkin Festival was a major success for the town, with more than 4,000 people joining in the fun. Many came in fancy dress bringing their own pumpkin lanterns.

The celebrations began with stalls selling pumpkin-based food. Shops in the town joined in the fun by putting together window-dressing displays and sculptures involving pumpkins.

The Spalding Pumpkin Festival began in October 2002, and has taken place every year since. It was conceived as a way of increasing awareness of the town and the pumpkin industry in general.

David Bowman Ltd provides thousands of pumpkins for the festival, many of which are carved by pupils at local schools.

The event has been featured on television and radio and has also led to Spalding winning a market town award.

FLOWERS ‘N’ THINGS
Born out of a love of all things vintage and the joy of up-cycling the unloved, Pearl and Ruby is a welcome extension to the long established flower and gift emporium Flowers ‘n’ Things in the heart of Spalding.

Step inside and you will be greeted by an eclectic mix of vintage, shabby chic, pre-loved and new. Carefully selected products from suppliers such as Gisela Graham and Parlane sit comfortably alongside a gorgeous Victorian sideboard which has been given a new look with chalk paint and a child’s school desk and chair straight out of the ’70s.

“We have used our favourite brand of chalk paint from Grand Illusions, which we stock, to transform many pieces of furniture. We run workshops from our studio above the shop where we teach vintage paint techniques, giving you the skills to tackle your own makeover. Our knowledgeable staff are always on hand to answer any paint dilemma you may have. Other workshops offered include flower arranging, crochet, folk art, sugar craft and card making.

“The ‘flower’ part of the shop was established in 1980 and you must see it to believe the unrivalled selection of fresh flowers daily. Thirty-six years on, Flowers ‘n’ Things has evolved into the destination shop you will find today, with a super selection of gifts and cards. Amidst it all, our coffee shop Penningtons is the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee or a lovely relaxed lunch with friends. And nothing could beat a delicious afternoon tea in our sheltered courtyard – a true gem you must seek out when you visit Spalding.”

SIMPSONS BUTCHERS
Having expertise and passion for your chosen profession is a winning formula that is hard to beat.

Such is the case for Gary Simpson, who started his butchery business single-handedly in Heckington in 2000 and developed it into a thriving enterprise, adding shops in Sleaford, Stamford, Spalding, Lincoln and South Hykeham.

Simpsons Butchers has won a string of awards along the way with the most recent title of Britain’s Best Butcher’s Shop for 2015-16 capping off an impressive rise to the very elite of the butchery profession for Gary and his dedicated team.

Many more awards have been won by Simpsons over the years, including all six stores being accepted into the prestigious Q-Guild of Butchers – an exclusive group of only 110 businesses in England, Scotland and Wales.

Gary has recently been chosen to represent Team GB in The World Butchers’ Challenge in Queensland this September, as part of the six-strong home team, and is delighted and honoured to represent GB on a world stage.

This is quite a remarkable achievement for a first generation butcher, with no family history in the industry although it’s no surprise to anyone who knows Gary or works with him.

SPALDING WATER TAXI
With its treasure trove of independent award-winning retailers in the town centre and Springfields shopping outlet on the outskirts, Spalding is a must-visit destination for the discerning shopper.

It also has a unique transport system between the two which offers visitors the chance of some rest and relaxation.

Spalding Water Taxi offers a thirty-five-minute mini cruise from the heart of the town, meandering along the Fenland waterways and wildlife corridors to the busy Springfields complex and Festival Gardens.

The service has been running for twelve years and has four water taxis and a narrowboat.

Operations manager Anthony Grunwell was brought in in January this year to help with its marketing.

“Rather than us telling the customer what they can have, we ask what they want,” he said.

“We run the regular taxi service from the centre of Spalding to Springfields every twenty-five minutes. But we also offer self-drive hire on two of the water taxis and the narrowboat.

“There is a midweek before-dinner cruise with complimentary Prosecco and an ‘early risers’ cruise as well. People can go out on the narrowboat, which is popular with groups.”

The taxi service season finishes in October, but Anthony is hoping to be able to extend the season for the narrowboat and self-drive service.

“We are struggling to find a spare date in August especially on the narrowboat. In the winter months, because of the light, we are limited to how much evening work we can do and our season finishes in October for the taxi service. However I want to go beyond that date with the others.”

The water taxi is like a little mini cruise, staffed by people who are well versed in the history of Spalding. The journey includes a commentary right the way round to Springfield, up the Welland and Coronation channel where there is a nature reserve.

“It is not just a ‘get on and get off’ trip but a snapshot of the history of Spalding and its surroundings,” said Anthony.

Originally from Yorkshire, he arrived in Spalding in 1990, initially for two years.

“I loved it so much I stopped here. I retired two years ago as a deputy head of a secondary school and got involved with the water taxi through a friend.”

GALLERY TILES
Gallery Tiles from Holbeach has gone from strength to strength in the two years the business has been trading. The latest development is Gallery Home. Wander through the rooms adorned with delights to give your home that precious look. There are pictures, photo frames, lamps, cushions, door stops and furniture. The style borders on the shabby chic and vintage but there is something for everyone with many items making great gifts. Look out for the ‘Love’ sign and the wedding chair, which are showing off wedding gifts and fancies.

Let’s not forget the tile showroom where there are hundreds of quality wall, floor and mosaic tiles on display and on hand boards. The owner Lesley Barnard will help you with your choices and is experienced in putting together items that will enhance any bathroom or kitchen. Your budget can be met without reducing quality. There are two full-time tilers who will assess your requirements and give no obligation quotations. Tiles are available to borrow with no charge and there is ample free parking. The Showroom is easy to find with access just off the A17.

GORDON BOSWELL ROMANY MUSEUM
If you have ever wondered what life would be like on the open road as a Romany gypsy, then a trip to Spalding could be well worth your while.

The town is home to the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum which has the largest display of Romany Vardos and Romany history in the world, as well as the largest collection of Romany photographs and sketches covering the last 150 years.

You can even experience a Romany day out in a horse-drawn Romany Vardo, complete with a meal cooked over a traditional Romany stick fire in the Lincolnshire countryside or a carriage drive for an hour or two to step back into a slower way of life.

The privately-owned museum has been open for twenty-two years and is still going strong.

It will open any day of the week if groups or organisations want to visit, otherwise it is only available to the public at weekends and on Bank Holiday Mondays.

Owner Gordon Boswell and his wife Margaret have been running it together since it opened.

“I come from a Romany background and I love that way of life. I still drive from Spalding to the Appleby Horse Fairs to keep my hand in,” said Gordon.

Recently it was the setting for a Songs of Praise programme filmed by the BBC, which featured an interview with Mr Boswell.

“We have fifteen gypsy caravans and horse-drawn wagons here as well as harnesses, cooking utensils and other gypsy items. The oldest Vardo on display dates back to 1874. Now they are more valuable and more popular than ever,” he said.

Gordon has just turned seventy-six and has a lot of experience behind him, having travelled all over the country especially as a boy with his parents.

“My father used to find a place to stay during the winter months and we used to come back to Spalding most winters. So when we decided to settle, we came to Spalding, bought a place and opened the museum.”

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