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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the March 2014 issue

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Optimism is the order of the day for businesses in the ancient market town of Holbeach as 2014 gets into full swing and the struggles of the winter become distant memories.

The town’s range of independent shops has meant that Holbeach has managed to hold its own through the recession and new developments underway or planned are bringing fresh hope for a better future.

Though a couple of long-established family businesses have called it a day, new ones have recently set up shop in the area and the consensus of opinion on the High Street is that things will start to improve.

Mrs Lisa Teague, who owns Lisa’s Housewares shop in the High Street, said despite the fact that business is very up and down, the feeling amongst the town’s business sector is hopeful.

“Trade has been very mixed. Some days are busy, some are quiet. It is a varied picture from week to week. It is very up and down. You can’t predict what is going to happen but many of the businesses are well established and we are hopeful things are going to improve,” she said.

Patrick Limming of J W Limming Ltd garden and pet supplies, in Fleet Street, one of the long-established businesses, also feels the mood is upbeat.

“Holbeach is an established market town and still has a lot of traditional shops. It is good that we still have long-established independent shops in the town and though a couple of traders have closed down, we are still attracting new businesses,” he said.

Limming’s shop has been a familiar landmark in Holbeach for sixty-four years having been started up by Patrick’s parents, Anne and Jack Limming, in what was the living room of the family home.

As the business grew, adjoining properties were acquired and Jack’s dream was to build a ‘proper shop’ on the site. Unfortunately, he died before he could realise his dream so Patrick, who has worked in the business since the age of twelve, took up the challenge and opened the current shop in May 1986 – on his 31st birthday.

Limming still trades by the old values of personal service and a specialist product range, offering a large selection of animal feeds and accessories.

“We sold all sorts – fruit, vegetables, bulbs – and expanded along the street. We are a proper garden and pet shop and we still offer the ‘old-fashioned’ style of personal service which is quite important.”

Patrick has kept a diary since he was sixteen, which he has now converted into a book and is hoping to get published.

“I am known as Arkwright and the shop is a bit like Open All Hours. The shop has been in this location for sixty-four years and my father set me on in the business when I was twelve. I have given a couple of talks locally about the business so I thought I would put it all down in a book.”

Patrick is helped in the shop by assistants Jackie Ives, Kevin Patman and Kevin Wilson.

The people of Holbeach are well catered for by the independent retailers and there are a few newcomers in the town.

“We have the highest number of takeaways to population in the country and we have had a couple of new businesses set up in the town such as a baker’s shop and a hairdresser’s. There is even a Polish mini supermarket which offers something different,” said Patrick.

One of the largest independent businesses in Holbeach is the Hawkins Home Hardware store in Chapel Street, which was established by Len Hawkins in 1953 and which is also known locally as L S Hawkins & Son.

As well as being an agricultural and builders’ ironmonger’s shop, it has a security section, a huge selection of fireside goods and an extensive DIY and decorating section. It even sells nuts and bolts, screws and nails loose, just like in the old days.

Relative newcomer to the town, Toto Shoe Shop in the High Street, is a family-run business serving not only Holbeach, but Spalding and the surrounding area too.

Owner David Hudson, who is also chairman of the Holbeach Business Forum, said there are quite a few positive signs that things are going to pick up.

“There are quite a few niche shops in Holbeach and if businesses can hold their own in this slow period it bodes well for the future,” said Mr Hudson.

“A couple of well-established businesses have thrown in the towel and it is a shame when they are traditional shops, but generally the majority of businesses are holding their heads above water and hoping that we are creeping out of the recession and that recovery is on the horizon.”

Toto is coming up to its third year of trading and it has gone from strength to strength.

Mr Hudson said: “Business for us as a shoe shop has been pretty good. Business has increased every year and our figures are up by quite a substantial amount.

“It certainly has gone in leaps and bounds, but we are a fledgling company and have had to start building up a client base from scratch.”

So successful and popular is Toto that, for the second year running, it was been shortlisted for a national Footwear Industry Award.

“It is the industry that nominates a business, so we are very proud of the fact that we have been shortlisted for two years running,” said Mr Hudson.

Holbeach Business Forum was set up to bring the town’s businesses together to address any issues they faced and, as a group and a business community, to come up with solutions.

Mr Hudson added: “It has been dormant over the winter but we will be reigniting it again and have one or two ideas in the pipeline for this year. We need to increase footfall on the High Street and it would be good to secure some major investment to revamp the town.

“There are one or two dilapidated properties on the High Street and it would make a difference if some of the big High Street names located a bit closer to Holbeach.”

Holbeach is an ancient market town having had a market for more than 750 years. Its market charter was awarded in 1252 to Thomas de Moulton, a local baron and today there is a market every Thursday and Saturday and a Farmers’ Market on the third Saturday of the month.

Land reclamation in the Middle Ages means Holbeach is one of the largest parishes in Lincolnshire and one of the largest in the whole of the country. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century the sea came to within two miles of the town but the land drainage programmes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries moved the coastline of the Wash nine miles away, leaving the town surrounded by more than 23,000 acres of reclaimed fertile agricultural land.

No wonder then that agriculture and horticulture are an important feature of the local community and these industries are major employers.

The town’s University Academy is undergoing major refurbishment work at the moment to transform it into a learning facility ‘fit for the twenty-first century’.

Under the £9m development, five buildings, dating from the 1950s and 1970s, have been demolished and replaced by twenty-four new classrooms, computer rooms, design and technology workshops and a new language laboratory, all of which will help mould the town’s business leaders of the future.

Work is due to be completed by April or May this year.

CCTV SCHEME
Plans are in the pipeline for CCTV to be installed in Holbeach town centre, under a district-wide security scheme.

Parish councillors in the town were originally against the idea, but changed their minds after a South Holland District Council task group looked into the possibility of linking into the system used by neighbouring local authority Boston Borough Council.

That system was monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and worked via wireless broadband so cameras were movable and meant immediate police action, which made a big difference.

Parish council clerk, Christopher Seymour said the scheme had been under consultation since October last year.

“Holbeach Parish Council has agreed to it in principle if it is tied in with the system used at Boston, which is monitored twenty-four hours a day and the clarity and ability of the cameras is far superior to what they used to be,” he said.

“It is going to be a big benefit to businesses in the town and they have even been offered the chance to have their own CCTV installed as well.”

If the scheme gets the go-ahead the CCTV cameras could be installed around the town as early as May.

HOLBEACH MOSAIC
Holbeach’s reputation as an ancient market town is marked by a special feature sited at a point where the town’s four main streets meet, close to where the weekly markets still take place.

The mosaic illustrates aspects of the town such as the Romans’ presence after 54AD, the land reclamation which began in the twelfth century, the Domesday book, King Henry III’s granting of a market charter in 1252 and the Holbeach river which runs under the street.

It also features some of Holbeach’s most famous sons, such as Olympic weightlifter, Geoff Capes and Paralympic gold medallist, Sally Reddin.

But it is not the only commemorative mosaic in the town.Record numbers of people were out on the streets the day the Olympic Torch came to town in July 2012 and it left a lasting mark on the community. And the town’s newest wall mosaic is dedicated to the memory of that special and historic event.

It is one of five in South Holland created by local artist, Fiona Gurney and is positioned behind a public bench adjacent to the south wall of the Holbeach and District Age Concern Centre.

The location – at the centre of the Holbeach conservation area next to the churchyard of the Grade 1 listed parish church – was chosen because it is the most prominent place in the town.

South Holland District Council commissioned Fiona to lead the project and communities throughout the district worked on the five mosaics – one for each of the locations that were on the Torch map.

The mosaics have been created out of coloured broken tiles, which contributors have glued, leaving Fiona the task of grouting the finished pieces.

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