Horncastle – The gate to the Wolds

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
October 2023

Glynis Fox takes a tour of this historic market town and discovers the appeal of its popular independent shops and businesses.

On the edge of the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds and en route to the county’s fantastic coastal resorts, few people can resist taking a break in the market town of Horncastle.

There’s always something going on, whether it is long-standing traders relocating or new businesses springing up. This destination is also attractive to longer-staying visitors, which is unsurprising when you take time to “get under the town’s skin!”

Ask anyone what they think Horncastle is best known for and they are likely to say antiques. However, when you consider its location, surrounded by a wealth of rural villages, you soon discover that it has many other shops, service businesses and leisure facilities too.

Antiques and collectables lovers will have a great time bargain hunting, whether they are in search of ceramic items, pictures, furniture or even musical instruments. It’s unlikely anyone will end up going home empty-handed!

A Hare & Sons, which was based in Bridge Street, ceased trading earlier this year after 60 years in the business, but there are plenty of others in the town worth more than a second look.

Some to check out include Great Expectations, Laurence Shaw Antiques, Drill Hall Antiques and a new business which was starting to get stocked up as we went to press, ready to open in early October.

Riverside Emporium is the brainchild of Sarah Ingram-Hill – who has been helped by her husband Richard (who has 40 years’ experience in the antiques trade) to fit out the West Street shop, which they formerly rented out.

“I have also welcomed two dealer friends to my new venture, who have brought not only their stock but also their enthusiasm,” said Sarah.

When Lincolnshire Life dropped by the outlook was very promising. Lots of passers-by were poking their heads around the door and admiring the many interesting items being put on display!

Richard also runs Good for Books in North Street, which is the place to find secondhand and out-of-print books. Every Saturday Sarah offers people her freshly baked scones, tea and coffee, the perfect temptation to complement their browsing!

Horncastle is also really well served with other independent traders, from newsagents to butchers, fashion, shoes and gift shops.

If you’re looking for a gift for a friend, why not pop into Magpie Boutique where you will be dazzled by the sheer choice of gifts and garments in every colour of the rainbow and more.

Ladies are likely to also enjoy visiting First Clothing in the High Street, nearby Shoes by Grace and, overlooking the Market Place, Grace’s Boutique.

Interested in witchcraft and spiritualism? You might be surprised to learn that Horncastle has a shop dedicated to that too! Shelley Mayes launched her West Street shop Flange and Prong in 2017 and it’s still going strong. Shelley comes from a line of Romani gypsies and says that her grandmother was a witch.

Having done palm reading when she was young, she has gone on to expand her horizons and employ staff too. More than a witchcraft and spiritualist shop, Shelley sells incense, crystals, dreamcatchers and also offers tarot readings and past life regression in the shop and online.

Exploring a destination can make you hungry, but if you need a rest there are plenty of places where you can enjoy much-needed refreshments, including a variety of traditional tearooms and restaurants.

They include Just One More Bike facing the Market Place, Bar Unico in Church Lane – for coffee and Italian treats – and Myers Café & Tea Room, right next door to the famous plum bread maker’s bakery and deli. All have a different ambience.

Just One More Bike is owned by Paul and Amanda Sanderson, who are helped by their two daughters. On first impression you might wonder whether this business is a café or a bike shop – actually it’s both!
Amanda used to work for the MoD and Paul formerly served in the Royal Air Force. They opened in April 2021, when they were only able to offer takeaways due to the lingering Covid pandemic.

“I had always wanted to have a café and we started off by looking around the Coningsby area, after Paul left the RAF. We found this former bank in Horncastle overlooking the Market Place and we decided it was in the perfect location for us,” said Amanda.

“However, it took us months to revamp the premises ourselves to turn it into what you see today.”

What the couple have created are highly flexible premises, housing a modern café/bistro (which welcomes dogs), an area to display new cycles and cycling accessories, a workshop area where Paul can carry out cycle repairs and maintenance, and even a second seating area in the enclosed yard at the rear. And there’s more…

“We welcome members of the public, including cycling clubs and we have very popular open mic nights on the last Friday of every month (from 7pm) and that’s when we clear the cycle display area, move in more tables and chairs and, at the same time create an area for visiting performers,” said Amanda.

“The open mic nights are really popular and attract regular and upcoming artists. There is a good, sociable atmosphere and people can enjoy pizzas and burgers while they are listening to the artists, which can include performers from away from Lincolnshire.

Horncastle also boasts a selection of pubs, eateries and places to stay, including The Admiral Rodney hotel, where you can lunch or dinner, or enjoy a stopover.

Horncastle attracted crowds of locals and visitors when it celebrated the 75th anniversary of the town’s last Horse Fair – and the good news is it will be galloping back next year!

In the early 19th century, the fair was reputed to be the largest horse fair in the country, and maybe the world. It took place annually and traditionally around the Feast of St Lawrence on 10th August.

This year’s events, some of which included those organised by Horncastle History & Heritage Society, featured an exhibition, free workshops, a film screening, a Horse Fair Trail featuring wooden horses displayed in the windows of 40 of the town’s business premises and much more.

The celebrations were staged with funding from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and form part of a two-year programme, which is being delivered by Spilsby Sessions House, which secured the funding to support several creative projects in East Lindsey.

Spilsby Sessions House worked with Different Light, a Lincolnshire collective of artists, producers and technicians to deliver the Horse Fair, together with key partners Horncastle History & Heritage Society and Horncastle Town Council.

Freelance producer with Different Light, Simon Hollingworth said: “We loved this event and really enjoyed working with the partners involved. We are excited at the prospect of bringing it back next with even more varied events.”

The Joseph Banks Centre in the town’s Bridge Street is currently hosting a free exhibition charting the story of the Horse Fair, for the town’s History & Heritage Society. It reveals details of the fair’s heyday in the early 19th century and its decline in the face of the early steam engines, followed by motor cars and tractors. Giddy up, this is one not to be missed – but you need to act quickly because the exhibition which is open from Thursdays to Saturdays, between 10am and 4pm, finishes at the end of September.

The town features many well established businesses including Dinah Ward’s Horncastle Cake Art, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in October and has made many delicious designs for snooker legends and Lincolnshire events over the years.

Electrical store Robinsons of Horncastle, another long established business in Horncastle’s centre, stands out for being the last remaining shop of its kind in the town. Owners Andy and Linda Robinson have decided to move into “retirement” mode, but the High Street shop could live on! As we went to press, Mr Robinson shared that he had received a couple of “expressions of interest” from entrepreneurs in renting the premises from him.

Andy’s grandfather, Cyril Robinson, owned the business in the 1930s and his son, Andy’s father Michael, took it on in the 1960s. Andy and Linda have been at the helm since his dad sold it to him in 1990.
Robinsons sells a range of white goods, televisions and aerials and fits and repairs them too. “When I took over there were six electrical shops in the town and five of them sold washing machines. Now mine is the last,” said Andy. “I will still do aerial installations and repairs after I leave the shop.”

Creatives who love sewing and crafting only have to step through an archway off the Market Square to find a stitchers’ paradise.

Although not visible from the street scene, it’s a great find and owner Deb Davis usually leaves a board out signposting people to the colourful and crammed store All Sewn Up by Debs. A former teaching assistant, Debs got the chance to snap up the stock and start her own enterprise after the shop’s former tenant said she was moving away.

“I was given first refusal and I carefully thought about it and decided to take the plunge,” she said.
Today she is proud to be at the helm of a shop which stocks an amazing range of eye-catching fabrics, stacks of haberdashery items, fabulous books and greeting cards.

“I also enjoy running workshops, which give people the opportunity to improve their skills, building their confidence and exchange ideas with others,” said Debs.

Workshops, which focus on free machine embroidery, take place at the Fulbeck Craft Centre and Bardney Manor House.

Amateur actors who belong to the Horncastle Theatre Company typically stage six productions a year, including a traditional pantomime. Coming up on 15th-18th November is Ladies Day – a comedy about four likely ladies from Hull fish docks who are determined to have a fabulous day out at the races.

The theatre company, which is a registered charity, is happy to welcome new members who would love to put themselves under the spotlight! The Lion Theatre, which hosts the productions, is at the top of The Red Lion hotel yard in the Bull Ring.

Based at their showroom in a custom converted barn on the Revesby Estate, just outside of Boston, Expressive Audio is a family-run business with more than 30 years’ combined experience in HiFi and home cinema.

As Lincolnshire’s HiFi, home cinema and multi-room experts, the team pride themselves on bringing high-quality entertainment to people in their own homes.

“We are passionate about helping people make the most of their music and movie collections and aim to bring you as close as possible to the live entertainment experience in the comfort of your own home,”
With the winter nights ahead, if you are looking for a new TV, or custom HiFi and home cinema installation, the friendly experts at Expressive Audio can help. The shop also hosts ongoing and popular music nights. This month’s ‘Bring Your Own Music Night’ is Sunday 15th October at The Red Lion in Revesby – bring along your favourite music in vinyl, CD or digital form to share with like-minded people!

For more information call 01507 499047, visit the showroom at Moorby Yard on the Revesby Estate, or visit www.expressiveaudio.com

Brylaine, which has operated in Lincolnshire since 1981 as a family business, has announced a long-term aim to reframe local bus services as an affordable and easy way to get around with multiple benefits.

31st October, the national bus fare cap will enable travel on any single distance fare for just £2. From 1st November to 31st October 2024, it will increase slightly to £2.50, still making taking the bus cheaper, faster and more sustainable for families.

The fare cap continues to enable local residents to pay a maximum of £2 for any end to end single trip length. You can get on in Boston and travel all the way to Lincoln, or anywhere in between for just £2.

Brylaine also accepts Lincolnshire Concessionary Passes and three under-5s can travel for free with a fare paying adult or pass holder – plus your canine friend can travel with you for a £1.

Since 2017, every single penny of Brylaine’s PAWS tickets have been donated to a dog rescue charity. From 1st October 2023 monies will go to Jerry Green Dog Rescue.

Having started in Old Bolingbroke with just three coaches, Brylaine now has a fleet of 52 buses carrying up to 5,000 passengers a day and operating over 1.4 million miles a year, with 60 team members operating from Boston, Skegness and Coningsby.

“We have invested in technology, with all routes being contactless and smartcard enabled. We were the first Lincolnshire bus operator to launch apps and digital tracking systems, along with CCTV and audio across the entire fleet for on road and passenger safety.

“Operating between Boston, Lincoln, Horncastle, Spilsby, Skegness and Splading, Brylaine covers a huge area of this amazing county and we look forward to doing so for many years to come.”

For full timetables, including services which operate on school days, visit brylaine.co.uk or download the app from GooglePlay or the App Store. 

Set in a secluded and calming environment in the Lincolnshire Wolds, Oxcombe Pottery is the perfect place to inspire creativity, boost business team building, or simply help you unwind.

Oxcombe tailors the experience to clients’ requirements and offers a range of activities in its pottery and art studio; the clay experience can be customised to individual needs, from a fun first go on the wheel and relaxing hand building session to a collaborative team-building workshop.

This can be paired with conferencing/team building time in the adjacent barn with optional yoga wellness sessions, plus various catering choices.

Develop your creativity with the support of knowledgeable tutors, learn new skills and achieve a sense of wellbeing in this unique relaxing environment. Oxcombe also offers a range of workshops for complete beginners to more advanced potters, as well as specialist workshops for those looking to develop their skills.

Don’t miss Oxcombe’s Ceramics Exhibition at Harding House Gallery Lincoln in October, and the Christmas Artisan Market at Oxcombe on Sunday 26th November.

For further information visit www.oxcombepottery.co.uk or contact Clare Briers – (office) 01507 534238, email: enquiries@oxcombepottery.co.uk

The Phillips Animal Health business has been part of the Horncastle community for 50 years and the introduction of its pressure washer business in 1976 was a major milestone for the family firm.

There is an extensive selection of machines available along with excellent after sales service and support. Built for all sectors of industry and agriculture, the machines are high quality and long lasting.

Working in partnership with MAC Pressure Washers has meant that the range continues to develop and now includes electrically heated pressure washers.

Utilising the latest technology and innovation, all electric machines in the range provide an effective cleaning option, permanently heated with zero emissions leading the way for a sustainable future.

Visit the Horncastle site to talk to one of the team or visit www.phillipspressurewashers.co.uk for full details of the range.

Situated in Horncastle’s market square, Just One More Bike is a family run bike shop specialising in leading brands such as Raleigh, Lapierre and Corratec, as well as a bistro. The shop offers servicing and repairs and customers can enjoy more than just coffee and home-made cakes in the bistro, with indoor and outdoor seating plus a licensed bar offering a delicious menu, including cocktails, with alcohol-free options.

Owners Paul and Amanda Sanderson aim to promote mental and physical good health in the community, hosting charity quiz nights, coffee and canine meets, open mic sessions, pottery and bike repair classes, as well as Bro Pro UK evenings.

“Our Bro Pro UK events provide a safe place for guys to meet and talk and encourages peer-to-peer support, while cycling promotes a feeling of wellbeing too. It’s a great way to improve your fitness and heart health and releases bursts of endorphins, feel-good transmitters, which can make all the difference.”

For more information visit www.justonemorebike.co.uk

Photographs: Mick Fox

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