Glynis Fox discovers a town with history and creativity at its heart.
Currently home to more than 19,800 people (2021 census) – with plans for 1,400 new properties at Handley Chase expected in the coming years – this market town is an important employment centre.
In common with many other destinations, Sleaford has been unable to stem the departure of some retail names, but along Southgate you will still find brands such as Boots, Iceland and Greggs, as well as home-grown businesses, such as plumbing, heating and building materials firm Turnbull.
Naturally, Sleaford is also home to more retailers and service businesses scattered across streets including Westgate, Northgate and Eastgate.
This is a town where you can explore the comings and goings of its more intimate areas, including The Riverside Shopping Centre, Millstream Square and the Bristol Arcade.
The Riverside Shopping Centre is the place to find the town’s post office, Diamond Nails and the popular Sleaford Community Grocery, which charges people £5 to become a member; this entitles them to do two weekly shops at £6 each (worth £25 at regular supermarkets).
The Community Grocery has also opened a café, called Time, which people can access from the grocery store.
Millstream Square, which is tucked away off Southgate, is a great spot to take a quick coffee break, buy pet essentials, or get your hair or nails done. Look out for names including Emily’s Bakehouse, Lockys Hair & Beauty, The Hutch Shop and others.
Shoppers expressed disappointment at the closure of the long-standing health store Mother Nature last autumn, but there are still other stores waiting to tempt you.
Look out, too, for The Beautifully Handmade Giftshop – which sells an amazingly diverse range of crafts and gifts, all made by local artisans.
Next door, Roberta Hunt opened Treasure Trove just in time for the town’s Christmas Market. The shop supplies upcycled furniture, retro household items, decoupage pots and more.
With its selection of pubs, cafés and restaurants, it is easy to find somewhere to catch your breath and enjoy a quick meal or snack in the town before you continue exploring – and there’s more to see.
On a fine day, you can enjoy a stroll alongside the River Slea and discover Lollycocks Field, a nature reserve which boasts a variety of wildlife. A short distance away is the Grade II Cogglesford Watermill, which dates back to Saxon times and which still works today.
Visitors have an opportunity to learn about the history and the workings of the mill, as well as seeing it in action on one of its monthly milling days. People can buy items from the mill shop and should look out for Cogglesford’s special events.
HISTORY AND EDUCATION
Sleaford educational establishments include Carre’s Grammar, Kesteven & Sleaford High and St George’s Academy along with various primary schools.
Landmarks include the parish church of St Denys, Carre’s Hospital Almshouses, the Handley Monument at the top of Southgate and Sleaford Castle remains.
Work is due to be carried out to better highlight the Handley Monument. North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) said this project has been allocated £165,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to carry out improvements that will highlight and reflect the character of the town’s Grade II-listed monument. This will include uplighting it and improving the space around it.
The raft of changes includes a new electricity supply and LED feature lighting, to pick out its architectural aspects and showcase it as a gateway feature to the town as people enter via Southgate.
There will be an information board, explaining the monument’s history and Henry Handley, whom it commemorates.
Other changes include the provision of two new planters, with benches incorporated, and the area around these will be repaved. A new bicycle rack will also be incorporated into one of the planters.
Work follows a public survey by NKDC when people were asked to say what improvements they would like to see made to the monument.
The project has also been developed together with a stakeholder group including Sleaford Town Council and the Sleaford and District Civic Trust, and it has been shared with businesses next to the works.
Henry Handley served as MP for South Lincolnshire from 1832 to 1837. He is also known for his interest in agricultural improvements at the time, including acting as an advocate for steam power.
After his death in 1846 more than £940 was raised by the public towards this monument in his name, and it was completed in 1852.
North Kesteven District Council economic development manager, Alan Gray said: “Handley Monument is one of the first things that welcomes people into Sleaford as they come in through Southgate and is a very important part of the town’s character and heritage, so it’s exciting to be improving the space around it.
“The scheme also represents positive investment into this part of the town, creating a more attractive space for residents and visitors to enjoy the monument while also visiting nearby businesses and Sleaford Museum.
“Installation of the new power supply is expected in January 2024, followed by the new lighting for the monument, to be installed over February and March.
“Once appointed, a contractor will then carry out the main public realm improvements including the new planters and benches in early summer.”
Work is also underway to define the shape of improvements for Monument Gardens, next to Sleaford Museum on Southgate.
Members of the public have been recently surveyed and asked how they rate the Garden’s facilities ahead of this. Funding for the improvements will be provided by the Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
HUB – HOME TO UNIQUE TREASURES
If you are passionate about the creative arts then make Sleaford somewhere you visit on a regular basis.
Make time to pop into the Hub, home to the national centre of craft and design, and prepare to be wowed with the fantastic and diverse art and craftworks on display.
This may be recognised as a world-class centre featuring exhibitions by contemporary designers and makers, but it is very much a place where local people can hone and showcase their talents as well.
The Hub, based in the town’s Navigation Wharf, sits in an old seed warehouse, which boasts four gallery spaces and hosts world-class exhibitions every year, from innovative and challenging accomplished artists and new talent.
Visitors can enjoy wonderful fresh food and good coffee in the CafeBar. It also offers a popular learning programme, encouraging people of all ages, varying skills and interests to discover their hidden talents.
There’s also a brilliant shopping area where you can treat yourself to a special gift or buy something individual for a friend.
Exhibitions currently on show include: Jo Cope: The Wisdom Is In Your Feet, in the Main Gallery until 17th March.
Jo, who has a background in fashion, performance and leathercraft, has spent the last decade reimagining an alternative life for shoes. This should come as no surprise since her grandfather was a cobbler and her grandmother was a heel coverer most of her life.
However, Jo’s display, which explores her handcrafted footwear artefacts and recent filmic work, will make you think!
The next show in the Ground Floor Gallery will be Brian Voce and Darren Diss, 13th Jan-14th Apr, which brings together ceramics and print-making by two Lincolnshire-based artists incorporating 2D and 3D work inspired by geography and walking.
The Hub offers a wonderful range of workshops, so don’t forget to get in touch or drop in for a programme of sessions. Earlier events have featured silversmithing, dance, lino printing, life drawing and much more.
For more information please go to hub-sleaford.org.uk or pick up a guide on your next visit.
The Navigation Wharf area – close to the Hub is home to a range of small businesses, including those bursting with creative talent.
Among them is art shop and open studio owner Ruth Burrows, an illustrator who sells a dazzling selection of art and craft supplies, art books and journals, as well as her eye-catching prints and cards. If you decide to visit, be prepared to be met with a kaleidoscope of colour!
“I moved in here a year ago, after returning to Lincolnshire after living abroad and deciding to set up a studio and shop. It has gone really, really well. There is a lot of creativity in and around Sleaford and I am very happy to have my art shop here,” said Ruth.
“My hopes for the New Year are that people will continue enjoying coming into the shop and studio and, if there is anything in particular they are looking for on the art side, I would be pleased to get it in for them.”
NEW 2024 SEASON AT THE HUB!
Everyone is invited to join us this season for a new programme of exhibitions, events, classes, workshops, talks and performances.
• Jo Cope exhibition tour and talk on Sat 24th Feb at 2pm.
• New Stretch, Strengthen and Move class for adults.
• New Junior Dance Fusion class for children aged 7-11 yrs.
• New National Saturday Art Club for young people 13-16 yrs.
• One-off ceramic workshops for adults – ceramic bird, slab jug making and handcrafted shoes.
• One-off Stamp Print Surprise workshop for 8 yrs+
• And of course, don’t forget to save the date for our fantastic town-wide RiverLight festival finale on Sat 22nd Jun! This collaborative event brings together artists, communities, schools, businesses and venues to celebrate the culture and heritage of Sleaford.
For more information about all our brand new events and regular programme, please visit and book through our website: hub-sleaford.org.uk. Tel: 01529 308710, @hubsleaford, @hubdanceteam. Hub, Navigation Wharf, Carre Street, Sleaford NG34 7TW
Photographs: Mick Fox