Independents lead push for visitors

Dining Out

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
April 2014

The port town of Boston is buzzing with renewed energy as businesses and homeowners look to the future after the challenges caused by the recent floods.
There is a fresh air of optimism as retailers, restaurateurs, cafes and other enterprises look to make the most of springtime. A major push is also under way to drive up the town’s multi-million pound tourism industry.

Boston boasts an interesting range of shops, is home to some impressive manufacturers and has lots of history under its belt. Not all of this is immediately obvious to the newcomer or occasional visitor, so the message is: go exploring.

On the retail front, national names are complemented by long-standing, family-run stores and enterprising friendly independents, many of which can be found tucked down Boston’s quaint lanes and alleys.

From furniture to fashion and jewellery to cafes, it’s all in the mix and waiting to be discovered.

Well-known businesses in the town include Oldrids, a feature of the landscape since it was established in 1804 by John Oldrid and Richard Hyde. In addition to its popular department store in Strait Bargate, the company has Downtown outlets on the outskirts of Boston and Grantham and it has also taken its name to Lincoln and Gainsborough.

Another well-known name is Cammacks. Founded in 1919 by gifted cabinet maker Francis Alfred Cammack, its purpose-built shop in Wide Bargate was constructed in the 1930s.

Give yourself time to look around this amazing store, because its furniture and furnishings are displayed over four floors.

If you really want to invest in your home, make time to visit The Sack Store in Spalding Road, on the town’s Redstone Industrial Estate, where you will find everything from woodburning stoves to Harris Tweed furniture.

Keen to treat yourself to a new dress or coat, or go for a complete new look? Oldrids and Coneys (near Cammacks) are well worth a look.

Actually, the shopper is more than spoilt for choice, provided they are prepared to wear down a bit of shoe leather!

When it comes to smaller independent businesses, Boston has plenty that are worth seeking out.

For those in the know, Pen Street is an unmissable treat for shoppers determined to find designer or individual fashions, shoes, hairdressing and other services – aimed at ensuring customers are turned out to perfection.

This is the place to find Cherries Designer Ladies Fashions, which was started by June Twiddy and her daughter Cheryl Babington-Tree twenty-nine years ago. It is complemented by Cherry Tree, next door.

Today Cheryl is at the helm of Cherries, which is bursting with cool designer fashions, while Cheryl’s sister Gillian Burns runs Cherry Tree, which attracts customers looking for good brands of footwear and handbags.

“A lot of people, particularly visiting shoppers, head for the centre of town and park up. They don’t realise that Pen Street is a destination where they can find all sorts of things,” said Cheryl.

“Being an independent means we can offer people a shopping experience combined with great personal service.”

Further down the street, Jenny Brewster is ready to give a warm welcome to browsers and shoppers who pop in to check out the latest deliveries, at Timothy Guy.

Jenny stocks an entirely different selection of clothing and accessories to Cherries, but in common with her neighbouring retailers she is keen to raise the profile of Pen Street.

“Timothy Guy has been here for thirty years, but I have owned it for the past eight. I think Pen Street is an undiscovered gem. We try to be totally independent in what we offer people and work hard to ensure it is different but complementary to what everyone else is doing.

“We now have the Pen Street Action Group, which is trying to promote the area generally. Members meet up to discuss ideas for things which we might do, such as the possibility of having local musicians performing in our shops, and other initiatives.”

Other niche areas of town, which are well worth a visit, are Church Street and Wormgate – where retailers are busy welcoming back long-standing and new customers to an area which is determined to bounce back after the recent floods.

Boston Borough Councillor, Carol Taylor said these streets are home to an incredible mix of hardworking businesses.

“We want to encourage more shoppers and visitors to explore these areas and discover these gems for themselves,” she said.

Fellow Councillor, Mary Wright added: “This is an area where businesses suffered badly during the recent floods, but most have got back on their feet and are determinedly looking to the future.”

In Church Street you will find the fascinating China Cabinet, which is owned by Robert Hempsall and which has been trading for forty-three years. Mr Hempsall also owns the neighbouring leather shop.

Churches Restaurant, which is owned and run by David and Caroline Wilson is also well established, having traded for more than twenty years.

Then there is the Nevermind the Music Store, which is owned by Gareth Skinner. This one’s a must for fans of long-playing records and cool rock clothing, right down to Dr Marten boots.

Other businesses include a Mexican restaurant and a florist.

Wormgate is just as individual, and home to the popular traditional Italian restaurant Bizzarro. Owners Tony Filos and Jo Christmas have been in Wormgate for more than a decade and offer a warm welcome at their cosy eaterie.

Godfrey Brothers, which has been in Wormgate for more than twenty years is known for its expertise when it comes to herbal remedies, and is happy to offer free advice.

Then there’s Rebecca Callow – The Cake Lady – who saw her home and business hit by the December floods. Happily the mum-of-three has now been able to re-open her Wormgate premises.

Other traders in Wormgate include a pet shop, a beauty lounge and, of course, Goodbarns Yard pub.

There’s a bonus if you visit Boston on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when you can check out the popular market and head home laden with fresh fruit, local vegetables, fish, meat and other non-food items.

But if all that retail therapy leaves you in the mood for a tasty platter of golden fish and chips, don’t leave town without taking a break at Tate’s in New Street.

It’s been part of Boston’s streetscape for more than 100 years, so what more proof do you need of its popularity? Dine in its family restaurant, or sit outside if the sun is shining.

Alternatively, if you want to cook your own meal here’s a tip: Mountains Boston Sausage scooped The People’s Choice Award in the recent Select Lincolnshire Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards – there’s food for thought!

Tourism in Boston already contributes a massive £55 million to Lincolnshire’s high-value visitor economy – but there’s a drive to send that figure spiralling.

The Boston Visitor Economy Partnership (BVEP) is working closely with businesses, the Borough Council and other stakeholders with its sights set on almost doubling that figure over the next decade – in line with the county’s ambitious vision for this sector.

The director of operations at ‘The Stump’, Michael Bartlett said the magnificent seventy-year-old Parish Church of St Botolph is well placed to play a key role in this collective effort.

Mr Bartlett said The Stump attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year. People spend time exploring this much-loved building before going on to explore other visitor attractions. These include the Boston’s Guildhall Museum, which includes the Tourist Information Centre and which is open from Wednesdays to Saturdays between 10.30am and 3.30pm; Fydell House; the Maud Foster Windmill; Hussey Tower; The Pilgrim Fathers’ Memorial and the Blackfriars Theatre.

Mr Bartlett said: “We believe that The Stump is a catalyst for change. In Boston, the Church has been involved in commerce for 700 years. The Port was once the second largest in the UK, next to London, and The Stump was built because of the wealth of local merchants.”

Mr Bartlett said it is hoped to lever money from the BIG Local BIG Lottery Fund, to help supercharge the visitor economy. An award of £1m could be used for a variety of purposes, including the creation of community facilities, training and employment.

He added that The Stump is in the process of doing a large Heritage Lottery bid and part of that could be used to develop the tourism economy in Boston. This may include using some of its available space to provide visitor information promoting other things to do in the area.

Another of the town’s players which is keen to see a substantial increase in local visitor numbers is Coastal Boston, which has received initial funding from local Community Interest Company, TaylorITEX.

The project, which is based at the Black Sluice Lock Cottages on the banks of the South Forty Foot Drain close to the site of the forthcoming tidal barrier, was launched in March 2013.

Project heritage officer, Caroline Wallis said the aim is to create a waterways heritage centre, complete with exhibition spaces, a cafe, gift shop and cycle hire scheme. She is delighted to report that the concept is already creating a buzz.

“We have had a great deal of interest and support from so many individuals and organisations, including the local press and the Borough Council. It looks like 2014 will be the year that we set our sails to the wind and see the project go from strength to strength,” said Caroline.

Visitors to a pilot exhibition on display at the Black Sluice Riverside Café (also at the Lock Cottages) have been encouraged to leave feedback and let Caroline know whether they think an heritage centre would be good for the town.

Readers can get more information by calling Caroline Wallis on 07765 114822.

Plans to mark the centenary of the First World War in the town are gathering momentum.

Co-ordinator of The Boston Great War Commemoration, Michael Hallett has released further details of the event taking place in Boston Drill Hall, in Main Ridge, on 2nd and 3rd August.

Mr Hallett said the location is of significant historical interest as it is where the Boston ‘C’ company of the 4th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment trained and assembled, before they marched out to battle in 1915.

The August commemoration is free to all visitors who, upon entering the Drill Hall, will be greeted by stallholders ready to show off their First World War artefacts and collections.

Mr Hallett, who is keen to acknowledge the help he has been given by the 25 Platoon Boston Lincolnshire Army Cadet Force, said people attending the event can expect to meet Zeppelins expert Cliff Clover, and Martin Credland who has an extensive collection of uniforms belonging to a variety of nationalities.

“We will also be working with Caroline Wallis of the Coastal Boston Project to explore the part the port of Boston played as a repatriation area for prisoners and the tales of civilian fishermen who risked all ensuring the nation’s plates were never empty,” said Mr Hallett.

Family history experts will also be on hand in the bar area to help people keen to research their own family history and the hall’s two lecture rooms will be used for short talks on specific topics connected with the war.

Outside, it is hoped there will be a chance for people to see genuine First World War vehicles and even a quarter-scale tank.

“I am still trying to formulate at least a day of schools visitors to host a workshop dealing with the First World War, to be connected to the National Curriculum.”

Mr Hallett started the project with colleague Dr Don Jenkins, but he is still keen to hear from other people eager to get involved.

He can be contacted by email at –

More people in Boston are being encouraged to get involved with the arts, thanks to a community focused programme known as Transported.

The programme, which is also aimed at people living in South Holland District, is funded by Creative People and Places from Arts Council England and was launched last May.

Last year the Transported team spoke to more than 6,000 people, asking them what should be featured in the programme, which has led to eleven individual projects to be pursued.

Past Inspired, a project with heritage venues and organisations to celebrate and preserve local history, was launched at the end of February. Others to look forward to include:
• Open Book – a partnership project with local libraries taking arts events and activities to these venues.
• Haulage – a partnership with the local haulage industry, exploring themes of exchanging art from around the world
• Transported Live – which aims to take more live performances to local people by touring unusual venues, such as workplaces.
• Pop-Up Spaces – Using art to brighten up temporary empty locations. This builds on the success of the August empty shop project which took place in Boston and Holbeach.

Boston boasts a brand new £750,000 landmark measuring sixty-five metres long. Boston Park Academy schoolchildren were the first to cross the St Botolph’s Bridge, which spans the River Haven and overlooks The Stump, and Boston Borough Council arranged for each child to be presented with a special certificate.

Witham Ward Councillors Mary Wright and Carol Taylor said the structure, which links two sides of the town, marked a new beginning for businesses trading in the Wormgate and Church Street areas, which suffered in the recent floods.

The bridge has been funded by Boston Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund.

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