Making the most of heritage assets

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
April 2022

Market Rasen’s many connections to history add to the attraction that it holds as part of the Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. By Melanie Burton.

April is the month when people like to get out and about, making the most of the lighter nights and warmer weather to enjoy a day trip to one of the county’s historic towns, or a short break on the East Coast – with many wanting to take a walk in the picturesque countryside.

It should not be surprising then that the bustling market town of Market Rasen, on the western edge of the Wolds, is a popular destination, with its great walking routes and trails just a five-minute stroll from the town centre – all of varying lengths and difficulty levels meaning there is something for everyone and all ages.

The town used to be one of only four Lincolnshire towns that were part of the Walkers are Welcome network but during the pandemic outside group activities were not permitted for some time.

It now has a Market Rasen Walkers and Cyclists are Welcome group which meets every Thursday morning and it is hoped that eventually the town will get its Walkers are Welcome accreditation re-instated.

Once described by Charles Dickens as the “sleepiest town in England”, Market Rasen normally is far from that.

A major traffic route to the East Coast, it is a favourite stopping off point for day-trippers and holiday-makers en route to the seaside.

Market Rasen is an historic market town, with its centre being largely Georgian and Victorian. Though the parish church is medieval it was much restored in the Victorian period.

The town was originally known as East Rasen, a less important settlement than nearby Middle Rasen.

But when East Rasen was granted the right to hold a weekly market it gained in importance and became the larger settlement.

The growth of the market eventually gave rise to a dispute in the mid-19th century when the merchants of Market Rasen wanted to build a Corn Market, where merchants could purchase goods from local farmers.

However, when they couldn’t agree on where it should be built, two rival Corn Exchanges were erected, one on the Market Square and the other on Queen Street.

The Market Street site later served as the Town Hall but was pulled down in 1960. The Grade II listed Queen Street Corn Exchange still stands and serves as an office space.

Market Rasen also has very strong links to the family of Alfred Lord Tennyson who was Poet Laureate from 1850 until his death in 1892.

The Tennysons were prominent in Market Rasen in the later 18th and early 19th centuries. Tennyson’s grandfather, George, had a law practice in the town from 1774 and his father, also called George, was born there.

The heritage of Market Rasen has been very much in the mind of local authority West Lindsey District Council, shown by the fact that at the end of last year it appointed a conservation specialist to deliver an innovative project to preserve the historic character of the town.

Liz Mayle passionately believes heritage-led grant schemes can be “transformational” and has taken on the role of Market Rasen Historic Buildings Grant Officer.

With more than 21 years’ experience as a conservation accredited professional, Liz has successfully managed heritage-led regeneration schemes in the market towns of Spalding, Holbeach, Crowland and Long Sutton.

She said: “I am delighted to see that the historic market town of Market Rasen will have some much needed dedicated funding to improve and restore key historic buildings.

“Heritage-led grant schemes can be completely transformational for individual historic buildings, which in turn enhance the experience for those who live, work and visit our historic town.”

Liz is working closely with a local project steering group made up of local businesses, councils and conservationists to deliver the project.

The grant will help fund work to improve and conserve historic buildings, using traditional materials and techniques. This includes work such as the repair of pantile or slate roofs, repairing timber windows and shopfronts, removing unsightly paintwork or repairing or renewing damaged render.

The project will also support the reinstatement of architectural features including ‘putting back’ lost features, such as traditional shopfronts, replacement windows or doors, and reversing alterations which have damaged the character or appearance of the building. It also can include new traditional hand-painted signage, more in keeping with the property.

West Lindsey District Councillor, John McNeill, who represents Market Rasen, said: “This project will breathe new life into our old buildings and unlock the potential of Market Rasen’s heritage assets.”

Even Market Rasen station has not been overlooked. Since 2004 the station has been looked after by a small action group called the Market Rasen Station Adoption Group which was started by John Skelton to provide visitors with a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment.

He was living in the station house at that time and was disgusted by the neglected and vandalised state of the station, which had been unstaffed for many years.

John began by tidying the platforms, removing graffiti etc, and following some publicity he was joined by other people.

Since then, a group of about 10 members has been carrying out regular patrols of the station throughout the week, and has raised funding to allow the purchase of platform and wallflower planters, which are well stocked with seasonal flowers and shrubs. It has also completed several wall paintings to brighten the surroundings even further, and more are in hand with other local community groups.

The group has just appointed a new chairman who is keen to keep the site blooming. John Pope moved to the area nine years ago and has been involved with the group for the past six years. In his new role, John will be keeping on with the current schedule of work, including planting up the tubs and baskets for summer and then again for autumn. Meanwhile, his wife Vivienne is continuing to provide artwork for the platforms.

The group, which meets at the station every Friday morning between 8am and 10am, is also looking to add to their band of volunteers.

Work is progressing well on a scheme to turn the Market Place in Market Rasen from a car park into the centrepiece of the town.

Plans are progressing well with a new seating area, street planters and hanging baskets to make the area as inviting and welcoming as possible.

At the end of last year, West Lindsey District Council was awarded a share of the Reopening High Streets Safely/Welcome Back Fund to help boost the look and feel of high streets. The town council has invested part of the funding in a new seating area to encourage shoppers to stay longer in the market place and soak up the atmosphere.

A new digital screen to keep local people and visitors up to date with the latest events and activities taking place in the town is to be installed and the fund will also be supporting an additional Christmas installation in the town centre in the form of an electrical Christmas tree decoration.

The current proposed scheme also includes a mixture of ‘municipal black’ planters, bollards, barriers and gates to be used to mark off traffic-free zones and car routes, and a one-way system in operation around the market place to ensure safety and ease of movement.

West Lindsey District Councillor, Councillor Steven Bunney, who represents Market Rasen, said: “Market Rasen has taken the opportunity of this funding to purchase items of street furniture to enhance the appearance of the town for residents and visitors.

“It has allowed us to purchase extra seating, planters and litter bins for the Market Place and other public locations on the main shopping streets.

“One of the other projects funded by the scheme is to provide mobile hoarding frameworks to display murals depicting local historic events, to be displayed at various events in the town.”

The main focus of the Welcome Back Fund in Market Rasen is on the development of the Market Place from a car park to a multi-use forum in the centre of town – along the lines of a continental piazza or a classical forum.

Councillor Cordelia McCartney, who also represents the town, added: “Several murals will be drawn on to canvas hoardings so that they are interchangeable. In between events the stands and canvases will be stored/on display at The Festival Hall/Auction Shed and or Old Court Room. They will not be at permanent locations so that we can display them at different events around the town such as gardeners’ markets, craft fayres and Jubilee celebrations.

“It is envisaged that the canvases will be researched and produced by local residents.”

The town is also home to the county’s only racecourse, which under normal circumstances attracts thousands of horse-racing enthusiasts to the town.

Market Rasen Racecourse, which is part of The Jockey Club, usually stages more than 20 jump racing fixtures each year and is a leading conference and events centre in the East Midlands.

Regarded as one of the friendliest places in the country to watch jump racing, with events held throughout the year, the track is best known as a premier summer jumping racecourse. Top races include the Listed 188bet Summer Plate and 188bet Summer Hurdle, both run during the annual Ladies’ Day in mid-July.

It was also chosen by the Racehorse Owners’ Association as one of the top six smaller racecourses in Britain for three years running.

Normally thousands of racegoers flock to Market Rasen for the races. But it had to close its gates during lockdown and when it was finally able to resume activities last year, it had to run the race programmes virtually and behind closed doors because of the restrictions on large outdoor events.

However hopes are high that things will be back to normal over the coming months and it has plenty to offer starting with the Easter Bank Holiday when it is holding a Beer & BBQ race day with seven races to enjoy and the added opportunity of taking part in the Darts Challenge, where would-be darts players get the chance to take on legends Bobby George and Peter Manley in a series of quickfire challenges.

Market Rasen racecourse is not just a horse-racing venue. It also has its own caravan park located at the heart of the historic racecourse, which means race-goers can enjoy all the site has to offer on race days and can also explore the surrounding picturesque countryside.

Motorhomes, caravans and tents are all welcome on site.

Businesses in Market Rasen and the surrounding area are to benefit from a new and enhanced promotional package linked to the Love Lincolnshire Wolds website, which is the main website and brand for promoting the area to visitors. Thanks to funding from the Welcome Back Fund, West Lindsey District Council has been able to enhance the presence of their market towns in a bid to increase visitor numbers and footfall.

Nearby Caistor will also benefit from the promotional package.
‘Love Market Rasen’ and ‘Love Caistor’ will provide information on places to eat, shop and stay as well as things to do in the area, with businesses outside of these categories also welcome to create a listing.

New branding has also been created that reflects the Love Lincolnshire Wolds character, demonstrating how the area now covers all six market towns that sit on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Vice chair of the Prosperous Communities Committee, Councillor John McNeill, said: “Following on from the necessary and important work we have already begun in our town centres, and the joint work we have begun with social media experts Maybe Tech, this is a further tool to further enhance local businesses in our area.

“As a council, we are committed to helping to strengthen all of our local businesses as much as we can, and providing a further promotional tool is another element to this. At a time when businesses are looking to build back from the challenges of lockdowns, now is the time to showcase what the district has to offer and help our businesses and towns prosper.”

Visitor Economy Project Officer, Faye Pudney said: “This free promotional package offers a fantastic opportunity to further demonstrate to locals and visitors alike what Market Rasen has to offer.

“Many people are still not aware of the many local restaurants and independent shops that sit beautifully in the area and now is the time to change this for good.”

Mayor Councillor Stephen Bunney, said: “I know how committed and passionate our local businesses are.

“Being able to help promote these independent establishments will increase the chances of bringing more people to the area, encouraging more people to spend locally and create a bond between these local businesses and visitors that will last a lifetime.”

It is hoped that Love Market Rasen and Love Caistor will go live this spring.

A Poucher and Sons (Bardney Dairies) Ltd is a family farm growing arable crops and forages. Pouchers built their first grass dryer in 1945 and traditionally sold dried forage to animal feed manufacturers. In 2012 they expanded in a new and exciting direction with their own branded range of equine and animal feeds.

This year Pouchers are proud to be celebrating 10 years of Emerald Green Feeds – a completely natural range of 100% pure forages, suitable for equines and other grazing animals. As a fifth-generation family-run business, they are in complete control of the whole process from sowing and growing to bagging the feeds on site.

Some of the UK’s top horse riders use their feeds today, including a current world champion from Lincolnshire. Support from customers locally and across the UK, including wholesalers and retailers, has been vital to the brand’s success. Customers appreciate the quality, value, and health benefits of a natural feed.

CLIP has been offering local adult education in Market Rasen for over 25 years. Market Rasen Learning Centre is situated behind Café CLIP, between Queen Street and John Street Car Park. This community business specialises in widening participation in learning for the local community in and around Market Rasen and, in the last 15 years, has also opened learning centres in Mablethorpe (Mablethorpe College) and Gainsborough (The Bridge).

CLIP offers a wide range of programmes to meet different needs and interests, whether a GCSE or Access programme to help progression to college/university or short courses for interest and personal development. Topics are wide-ranging – from IT, English, Maths or Job-Search to Yoga, IT, First Aid, Health/Wellbeing and Gardening. Courses are updated regularly and enrolment is ongoing throughout the year.

For current details, check out the website at, pop into Reception or Café CLIP at 8 Queen Street or call 01673 843489 to find out more.

Photographs: Mick Fox

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