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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the April 2017 issue

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The small bustling market town of Market Rasen, standing on the River Rase, is one of the western gateways to the Lincolnshire Wolds but has plenty to offer visitors itself.

Famous for being home to the only racecourse in Lincolnshire, Market Rasen is very much living in the modern world.

With everything you need from fresh local produce, clothes and gifts to electrical goods, takeaways and supermarkets in the town, you don’t need to leave.

And as entertainment and leisure is also a big focus for the town with its many walks, cycle paths and country lanes to explore, there is plenty to keep you occupied.

That said, the town doesn’t lose sight of its heritage. The town centre is made up of nineteenth-century red brick buildings of mainly Georgian and Victorian architecture, centred on a market place, and it has a medieval church, restored in the nineteenth century.

It has had a market since the 1300s, its position on the river proving a commercial success, and unlike in other towns, the market still thrives.

Market Rasen’s community fire and police station opened in December 2005 was one of the first purpose-built combined fire and police stations in the UK.

The town’s secondary school is De Aston School, a co-educational 11-18 comprehensive with approximately 1,300 pupils, which was founded in 1863 as a small grammar school – part of a legal settlement following a court case involving funds from the medieval charity of Thomas de Aston, a thirteenth-century monk.

As well as being renowned for its racecourse, the town also became famous on 27th February, for being the epicentre of the largest recorded example of earthquake in the United Kingdom for nearly twenty-five years.

The earthquake, which according to the British Geological Survey measured 5.2 on the Richter Scale, struck at a depth of 11.6 miles (18.7 km) and was felt across much of the UK from Edinburgh to Plymouth, and as far away as Bangor in Northern Ireland and Haarlem in the Netherlands.

The ten-second quake was the largest recorded example in the UK since the 1984 Lly^n Peninsula earthquake struck North Wales, measuring 5.4.

It has been an exciting two years for the town, with a major regeneration project for one of its more inconic buildings, the Festival Hall.

The 400-seater hall, which was built in 1972 from subscriptions raised by the town, was in need of extensive repair work including a new weather-proof roof. Nicola Marshall, consultant to Market Rasen Town Council on the Festival Hall Project, said 2016 had been a positive year with increased bookings, new activities and a higher public profile in the town and beyond.

“The future horizon for the venue is optimistic and exciting. Year 1 has built up a good evidence base for funding bids by showing ‘need’ for the venue with new activities, increased bookings and promotion.

“This year my work will focus on getting the funding needed to renovate the venue and make it a go-to place for the town as well as make it one of the top community venues in the county for live music, performances, private functions and business conferences.

“We are really looking forward to this year and have bags of things going on. We even have two live music nights booked already for 2018.

“2016 brought in new activities and fresh audiences to the Festival Hall alongside the existing regular and long-term hirers. Improvements to the day-to-day running of the Hall have been made and bookings have increased. Systems and processes have been improved with monthly cleaning and maintenance checks now in place and closer monitoring of hirers’ use of the venue.

“Improved communications with our regular hirers has helped the operation of the venue run more smoothly.”

Nicola said the stage is now a functioning performance space with new lighting and electrics, ready to welcome touring theatre groups and music artists. A good start has been made on building up healthy partnerships and relations with stakeholders in the town and wider area.

“The project started 2017 in a good place, with bookings already confirmed for three music events, a theatre production (and hopefully a panto in January!), return dates for the wrestling academy, sequence dance classes in partnership with learning provider CLIP, six tea dances confirmed and a wedding fair in February,” said Nicola.

“Things are going very well at the Festival Hall and we have been busy lining up some great events and activities for the coming year, including the national tour of three singer-songwriters, a double helping of female folk singing as well as a special seasonal concert.”

The hall also now has a sprung ballroom dance floor and has it on good authority from visiting dancers that it is the best in the county and equal to, if not better than, the Blackpool Tower.

The focus on 2017 is to obtain the necessary funding to renovate the venue.

“We need to replace the roof as a matter of some urgency and this is going to cost in the region of £100K,” said Nicola.

The project has been well supported not only by the community but by businesses and retailers in the town.

“The shops and businesses in Market Rasen have supported this project by promoting our ‘What’s On’ every month in their windows and premises and by getting behind us generally,” she explained.

“We can’t do this without the help of the town and its people. We have some wonderful volunteers who are helping us too in all sorts of ways. We are always looking out for more help and will be setting up a committee to move us on to the next stage and work with us on our funding applications.”

Up-to-date information on the project and what is on can be obtained by visiting the hall’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Festival-Hall-Market-Rasen-129551660430834/?ref=bookmarks

Market Rasen racecourse also plays its part in putting the town on the national map, not only through its popular race days but also through its open-air shows, Rasen Rocks. Chart-topping sensation Jess Glynne made her debut visit to the venue last summer and the 2015 event attracted around 14,000 people when legendary crooner Tom Jones appeared.

This year also promises an exciting line-up. The Brit Award-winning, multi-million selling band Kaiser Chiefs take centre stage on Saturday 19th August while heartthrob Olly Murs will perform at the racecourse on Ladies Day on 2nd June.

The Kaiser Chiefs are widely regarded as one of the best live bands the UK has produced in the past decade. The band first shot to fame with their breakout hit ‘I Predict A Riot’ followed by favourites including ‘Oh My God’, ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less’, ‘Modern Way’, and the number one single ‘Ruby’.

Each of the concerts will follow action on the racecourse earlier in the day, with a six-race card lined up for spectators to enjoy the thrilling drama and spectacle of powerful equine athletes.

MARKET RASEN CHURCH
Market Rasen may well be a through road to the East Coast now but a stop-off in the town will prove its links to the past.

Its parish church dates back to Norman times and the town was on the Turnpike from Gainsborough to Louth (the present A631) from 1756. It received piped water supplies in 1857, a railway linking it to both Grimsby and Lincoln in 1848, its own fire brigade prior to 1850, a Mechanics Institute in 1836, and its own newspaper in 1856.

The nineteenth-century population of some 2,300 to 2,900 inhabitants had quite a bit to occupy them, or so it seems, and several churches, chapels and schools.

Its old Police Station was built between 1848-49 at a cost of £2,000 in response to a petition to the Lord Chancellor showing the need for places to lock up the growing number of vagrants. It was used as a Magistrates’ Court and police station.

Records show that the key offences dealt with at that time were civil administration, vagrancy, bastardy and assault. It continued to be used right up to 2005 when the police moved to their new premises.

The building was purchased by the Town Council in 2005 with a grant from the Regional Development Fund and has been refurbished to comply with its Grade II Listed Building status.

Market Rasen’s parish church of St Thomas is a forward-thinking church with a long-term presence in the community. Priest in charge, the Reverend Steve Johnson, has just been commissioned as the new Rural Dean of West Wold and he has launched a campaign to get parishioners to think about the role of St Thomas’ in the community and individual contributions to that role.

The ‘Living Generously’ campaign is aimed at encouraging people to look at how the mission and ministry of St Thomas’ is maintained and extended.

Market Rasen has always been a quiet town but at one time in the nineteenth century it boasted nearly a dozen breweries or beerhouses, dealers in coal, lime, sand and agricultural requisites, and manufacturers of items as diverse as tiles and washing machines/mangles.

There were many inns and coaching houses, and the town was a centre for the carters from surrounding villages, who converged on the town for market days. There has been a church building on the site for more than 800 years. The earliest written evidence dates from the mid-twelfth century when Thomas of Saleby gave the church to the priory at Sixhills.

There is architectural evidence from the same time in the late Norman south doorway. From that time until the Reformation of the sixteenth century the prior at Sixhills appointed a priest to look after the spiritual life of the people of Market Rasen. Since the Reformation the living has been in the patronage of the Crown.

The fourteenth-century columns in the north aisle point to a major rebuilding at that time. The tower which dates from the late fourteenth/early fifteenth century may have been part of that. Documentary evidence from other parishes indicates financial help given to the church at Market Rasen for rebuilding in the early eighteenth century indicating that some major disaster had befallen the church here, perhaps a fire.

In the mid-nineteenth century, as with many parish churches throughout the country, this church underwent ‘restoration’ which meant a major rebuilding which, apart from the tower, gave the church most of its present aspect.

MARKET RASEN HERITAGE
Market Rasen may be keeping up with the times through the Rasen Rocks events but it still takes a pride in its heritage, whether buildings or people.

Most people have heard of Alfred, Lord Tennyson who wrote ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and who was Poet Laureate from 1850 until he died in 1892. But not many people realise that his grandfather George Tennyson was a prominent member of Market Rasen society and had a law practice in the town from 1774.

George Tennyson was born in 1750 and came from a wealthy family. Soon after setting up his law practice he married Mary Turner, who also came from a rich landed family. In 1779 George and Mary lived in King Street and had four children. Their third child George Clayton, born in 1778, was sent away to live with relatives in Holderness, probably because he was epileptic, which at the time was seen to be a form of mental illness.

He married Elizabeth Fytche and they had twelve children, one of whom was Alfred and became Lord Tennyson.

Market Rasen by nature of its name obviously has always had a market. In fact, its Market Place has been in existence for more than 800 years.

The market was first given a charter in 1219 and as it grew in importance it gave East Rasen (or Little Rasen) the name it has today – Market Rasen.

The markets were held on a Tuesday and people from all around would flock to Market Rasen to buy and sell their goods and then relax in the inns around the square. Up until 1877 the market place was also used as a livestock market and another event was the hiring fairs.

Anybody looking for work would come to the market place and mill around hoping to be chosen for work – people would be hired for just one year, hence the name for the ‘annual hiring fairs’. They would carry the tools of their trade to show prospective employers what their line of work was – so a house maid would carry a mop and bucket, or a field hand would wear a sheaf of corn in his hat.

Once they had been chosen for work and settled on a fair wage, it was time to relax and celebrate and the market place would be alive with games and Punch & Judy shows for entertainment.

From 1800 to 1888 there was a week of festivities every year at the end of September, organised by local innkeepers and the Friendly Societies and this was the start of the horse races for which Market Rasen is now famous.

Markets continue to this day, with Tuesday still having a produce auction and the Saturday markets having monthly themed events. Most market towns in the nineteenth century England had corn exchanges normally designed as places where farmers of the locally grown grains (corn etc) would meet the merchants who purchased it from them.

In Market Rasen, however, there was some dispute about where a Corn Exchange should be located. Two sites were proposed – the corner of market place itself and a site in Queen Street.

The market place site was seen to be the best spot, but the land was owned by the church and would have to be leased to the traders for a fixed term of ninety-nine years, and then returned to the church. There was also some concern that if the Queen Street site wasn’t snapped up, it would be sold for other purposes.

In 1853 the decision went to the vote and the Queen Street site won hands down, however some traders wanted to secure a site in the market place so two rival Corn Exchanges were opened in the town.

The Queen Street Corn Exchange opened in July 1854 and the Market Place Corn Exchange opened two months later in September 1854. But it soon ran into problems.

By December 1855, the market place traders realised that Queen Street was more successful, and made an offer to rent some of the buildings. It was turned down but the Queen Street traders offered to lease some of the Market Place buildings for a different purpose – and negotiations continued until August 1856.

Finally, the traders put their heads together and came up with a plan which saw the Market Place Corn Exchange used as a Market Hall selling things like butter and eggs and the Queen Street site would continue being the Corn Exchange.

Years later the Market Place Corn Exchange became the Market Rasen Town Hall, and in 1914 a Picturedome which was pulled down in 1960.

The Queen Street Exchange went on to be used for many balls, concerts and meetings.

THE ADVOCATE ARMS
Built in the eighteenth century, The Advocate Arms in the centre of Market Rasen is one the town’s most historic buildings. It opened as The Advocate Arms in 2008, after being bought by Darren Lince and underwent a full refurbishment. Their five-star rated accommodation consists of ten recently refurbished en-suite bedrooms, which have all been finished to a high standard. Prices start from £60 per room per night and after a comfortable night, a full English and continental breakfast is available in the restaurant.

The restaurant and bar area underwent a full refurbishment in 2016 and standing proudly at the helm in the kitchen is head chef Josh Kelly. In 2016 Josh and his team earned their second AA Rosette for their menu, which includes a special lunch menu as well as various offers on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with two courses for £15.95 and three courses for £19.95.

Josh, who is butchery trained, said: “We buy a lot of our ingredients locally, including lamb and turkey at Christmas. We buy the lamb whole, which gives us the option to use every part of it. Our menu changes every nine weeks and we try and theme it seasonally to get the most from the ingredients. We are proud of all the food we send out of the kitchen, and unlike some AA Rosette restaurants our portions are definitely heartier – just what you need after a day of visiting the local area.”

The restaurant can seat up to 50, and they offer a separate area that can be used for meetings for up to twenty-five people or private dining for a maximum of 20. The main restaurant can also be hired out for private events.

Visit the Advocate Arms on Queen Street or take a look at their website www.advocatearms.co.uk

THE WILLOWS GARDEN CENTRE
There are plenty of reasons to visit The Willows Garden Centre and Restaurant at Glentham this spring. The popular restaurant will be serving Easter cakes and treats as well as their usual delicious lunch menu and specials board. Afternoon Teas are a speciality, and their Sunday Carvery has customers coming back time after time.

The covered plant barn stocks a large range of bedding plants, shrubs and trees, as well as tools, furniture and giftware.

Other shops on site include LIFEstyle Giftware, Treehouse Fruit & Veg Deli, Catkins Ladies Accessories and Blossoms Hair & Beauty Salon. There really is something for everyone.

The Willows is situated just eleven miles north of Lincoln and getting to this must-visit garden centre couldn’t be easier. Head up the A15, take a right at Caenby Corner towards Market Rasen and The Willows is located on the left hand side just before Glentham.

PETER RHODES
Peter Rhodes, in Market Rasen and Louth, is a family run business established in 1957 by Peter and Joyce Rhodes. The company is still owned by Joyce, who is celebrating 60 years at the helm this year, and her son-in-law Roger Clark. Specialising in electrical appliances and televisions, Peter Rhodes is one of the largest independent retailers in Lincolnshire. Brands include Panasonic, Miele, AEG, Bosh, Hotpoint, Neff, Zanussi, Britannia and Cannon.

This year has seen the opening of a new Peter Rhodes showroom at 21 Oxford Street. The new showroom will be home to both the electrical retail store and the kitchen studio, Rhodes Fitted Kitchens.

Joyce said: “We started off as an electrical contracting business in Market Rasen and then over the years phased that out and concentrated on retailing. We opened our Louth store almost forty years ago and our kitchen studio at about the same time. Louth was a natural expansion for us.”

Meet the team at their grand opening day on Friday 24th March from 10.30am with special guest Jim Broadbent.

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