Streets ahead for independent businesses
The market town offers a unique visitor experience, finds Melanie Burton, with historical features preserved and an ‘air of independents’ to its retail offer.
When you have a diverse range of independent businesses and retailers such as Brigg can boast, you don’t need big High Street names in the town centre to attract footfall.
It is a pleasure to amble the streets that form the main precinct in Brigg but couple that with what can be discovered down the little alleyways and courtyards leading off them and it is a sheer delight. There is two hours of free parking (weekdays) and parking is free all day on Saturdays so relax and combine some retail therapy with an enjoyable coffee or lunch break.
Wrawby Street, Bridge Street, Bigby Street and the Market Place are home to a great selection of independent shops offering visitors and residents a great choice of gifts, fashion, homewares and daily essentials, as well as great value and friendly customer service.
Many of the independents are niche businesses that attract visitors from far and wide.
Take Jaylaurs Sewing Studios in Wrawby Street for instance. It is a long-established sewing and haberdashery business and holds evening and weekend classes as well as events and monthly clubs attended by people from in and around Brigg and further afield.
O’Brien’s also in Wrawby Street is another specialist shop. It is Brigg’s oldest opticians having been trading in the town for 40 years and it specialises in treatments for dry eye syndrome and specialist lenses for Macular Degeneration.
Then there is Wallhead Menswear town and country clothing shop which is the town’s oldest family business and has been part of the fabric of Brigg since 1898.
The historic feel of the town is enhanced by the delightful names of some of its shops including Shipley’s Curiositeas vintage tea room, which was established in 2015 and serves afternoon and cream teas and homemade sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
Or Sweet Memories by TLK – a family run business which sells sweets, chocolate waffles, popcorn and milkshakes and also caters for a variety of events. It even has a delightful sweet cart, Ferris wheel and Ferrero Rocher heart stand as well as a milkshake machine which it does hire out.
Grandad’s Shed is another renowned Brigg business and has just celebrated its 21st anniversary.
It started life as a stall on Brigg market back in 1998 and has grown into the two-storey family-owned furniture store it is today.
Furniture restoration is also available, ranging from scratches, chips and dents removed to full repair and French polishing.
The top floor of Grandad’s Shed is the Loft Restaurant/Bistro which was voted Restaurant of the Year in the Telegraph Best Café/Bistro awards in 2011.
Looking after the interests of the business fraternity in Brigg and striving to protect the town’s ‘air of independents’ is Brigg Town Business Partnership, which was formed in 2011 to support local independent traders in the traditional market town.
“The partnership is still going strong but is undergoing some changes at the moment with a new committee and new plans looking forward to next year,” explained current chair Deb Dunderdale.
“We want to update the town map, do some more marketing and organise some new events for the town for next year.”
It is thanks to the town’s diverse and numerous independent businesses that Brigg has been able to survive at a time when other small towns have been struggling.
“Business is up and down,” explained Deb. “But there is no pattern to it. It is very difficult to work with but everyone cuts their cloth accordingly. Market day is every Thursday and Saturday, with an award winning Farmers’ Market held on the fourth Saturday of each month. Even those can be busy one month and not so the next.”
Deb said: “There are only a couple of units empty at the moment. One is because the owner of the building wants to sell it and the other has now been let, so a new shop will be opening up in there.
“There are a lot of independents here in Brigg and it helps the town survive and keeps us going.”
A blow to the town has been the closure of Stennett’s auction house, known locally as Stennett’s Market, in Station Road, which can be traced back more than 100 years.
However, North Lincolnshire Council, which owns the auction site near the railway station, said it is working towards finding a new operator for it.
NLC leader, Councillor Rob Waltham, who is also ward member for Brigg and the Wolds, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for a new or existing business to take stewardship of one of North Lincolnshire’s many thriving markets.
“As someone who can remember visiting the old Stennett’s Market on many occasions over the past 40 years, I am really keen that we keep up the traditions of this auction and reinstate it as soon as possible.”
The market site has traditionally opened on Thursdays with a whole host of different goods including fresh produce, poultry and game and complementing the Thursday Market, which is held in the pedestrianised town centre.
Brigg has a number of iconic buildings in the town and on the outskirts that attract visitors from far and wide.
The Buttercross in Brigg’s Market Place has just marked a major milestone in its history with a celebration evening on 28th June – 200 years to the day it opened in 1819.
The building is home to North Lincolnshire Council’s Tourist Information Centre and underwent a £20,000 external makeover late last year.
The Buttercross, in Brigg’s Market Place, was built by the Elwes family to provide a meeting place for local organisations. It was completed and opened in 1819 and its stone-paved ground floor was originally used as a market for selling butter, eggs and poultry.
The ground floor, which was originally left open to the elements, was closed when the building was refurbished as part of the Brigg regeneration scheme in 1991.
It then reopened as the Tourist Information Centre and has seen an increase in visitors since then, from 17,000 in the first year to the most recent figure of 27,000.
Another landmark on the outskirts of the town is also starting out on a new phase in its history and will be attracting visitors to the area, helping to boost Brigg’s local economy.
The historic Wrawby Windmill, which dates back more than 200 years and hasn’t produced flour for more than 40 years, is now working again following extensive repairs. It is now one of only a handful of working windmills of its type in the country.
It was damaged by high winds in the 1970s and has been unable to grind wheat since. However, hard work by Wrawby Windmill Society has helped get the windmill back in working order.
The long list of repairs the windmill required included work to the brake wheel and stone drive mechanisms, and making sure the gears were locking together correctly. The shutters in the sails were also weathered and deteriorated.
The windmill is thought to have originally been built between the 1760s and 1790s, serving Elsham Hall near Brigg. A restoration was carried out in the 1960s to bring it back to its former state, before it was damaged once more and fell out of use.
OUTSTANDING PRACTICE FOR CHALLENGING EYE CONDITIONS
O’Brien’s Opthalmic Opticians are the longest established, independent eye care specialists in Brigg and champions of sourcing high quality, handmade frames and lenses from the best independent manufacturers in the UK and abroad. Leading names include Nikon Lenswear and Carl Zeiss.
Dr Sheeraz Janjua has been heading the practice since 2003. During this time he has built a substantial patient base and excellent reputation, offering North Lincolnshire’s best service for those with the most challenging eye conditions.
“We see many patients with conditions such as macular degeneration (AMRD), glaucoma or retina disorders,” explained Dr Janjua. “Prescribing specialist lenses, including high prismatic ones from America or specific contrast filters, can ensure the optimum improvement in vision and quality of lifestyle for our patients.”
Dr Janjua completed his Doctorate in 2017, at the time he was one of only 25 opticians in the UK to complete the course while in practice. “My research related to the effects of diet on dry eye syndrome, which was correlated with other data from across the UK by scientists at Aston University. The diet within our county area can be fish oil deficient which was shown to affect the condition. We now offer a Dry Eye Treatment Plan to patients as one of the changes they can implement to help alleviate symptoms of the condition.”
These specialisms are perhaps unusual to find in a historic Lincolnshire market town but Dr Janjua’s work has been recognised by local eye surgeons and within the industry. In 2018 he was nominated, shortlisted and came runner-up in the UK Optician Awards for the title of Optometrist of the Year.
In 2019 the practice was nominated, shortlisted and came runner-up in the UK Optician Awards for the title of Independent Practice of the Year.
“To be put forward by our patients for these awards is very rewarding. They recognise the expertise we can bring to creating a bespoke service for their individual needs. Many people do not realise that even common symptoms such as crusty eyes, or blepharitis can be a bacterial infection of the eyelashes which compounds conditions. We offer a specific treatment plan for eyelids to negate its effects on vision.”
Patients can be referred via GP surgeries, eye clinics and Lindsey Blind Society while others make an independent decision to travel to Brigg from near and far for their diagnosis and eye care.
If you would benefit from a comprehensive and individual consultation on the health of your eyes and vision, contact O’Brien’s Opthalmic Opticians on 01652 653595 or visit: www.obriensopticians.co.uk
DELI & DINER
The Deli & Diner in Wrawby Street has been part of the fabric of the town for 25 years and is planning to mark it modestly.
“We will have a little bit of a celebration but not sure what yet,” admitted manager Deb Dunderdale, who is also chair of the Brigg Town Business Partnership.
“It is a lovely small business and we make freshly made sandwiches and make all our own cakes.”
Attractive from the outside with its street furniture and hanging baskets, it is a food lover’s delight.
You can choose from a range of homemade pies, cakes, salads, freshly cooked meats, hot snacks and meals all prepared to your individual needs or tuck into a full English breakfast that is sure to set you up for the rest of the day.
“A new venture for the business is the spit roast on our barbecue selection,” Deb said. “Customers tried it outside the shop on the evening of the Christmas Fayre and it went down a treat.”
The business also does outside catering and attends a number of the public events that take place in the town.
The business is owned by Mr Parris Watson but Deb has worked there for the whole 25 years and has been manager for 23. In the spare time she has, Deb works in her role as chair of the Town Business Partnership and understands the needs of the town’s independent businesses.
“Street appearance makes a difference,” she said. “The Brigg in Bloom judges have been round and we do all the floral tubs in Wrawby Street.
“The council has also hired a new handyman who goes round and picks up the rubbish, sweeps the alleyways and mends everything, which all helps to improve the appearance of the town.”
Jaylaurs Sewing Studios in Wrawby Street can boast 35 years of service to the town.
“I trained as a seamstress with Zandra Rhodes many years ago,” explains owner Jayne Brett.
“I also attended the London Institute as a trainee costume designer’s assistant but after my time in London and the birth of my first child Lauren, I returned to Lincolnshire, where many of my family lived.
“I started a market stall in Brigg, creating and selling my own designs and after a successful year, I moved into my first bricks and mortar shop.
“Continued growth allowed me to move twice more, upgrading and expanding my business each time.
“We now run a very busy fabric and haberdashery retail outlet offering ladies and gents clothing alterations, soft furnishing services and a full annual programme of sewing and craft workshops.”
Jayne employs six staff, who are all trained seamstresses and have a wide knowledge of all things sewing.
Jaylaurs is a one-stop shop for all your sewing needs and stocks the largest range of dress, craft fabrics and fat quarters in the area.
It is an Aladdin’s Cave full of ribbons, buttons, threads and accessories and is a stockist of Butterick, McCalls and Vogue patterns as well as sewing machines, sewing gifts, books and magazines.
As well as hosting evening and weekend classes, Jaylaurs holds events and monthly clubs. Workshops planned for this month (August) include Patchwork for Beginners, Free Machine Embroidery, Crochet, Needle Felting and Make a Bag/Purse.
Jayne said: “Future plans include developing and presenting our own children’s dress range, Jaylaurs Juniors, which will all be one-off individually designed dresses. We never do two dresses the same.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRIGG BUTTERCROSS
For regular visitors to Brigg, few would dispute that its most iconic building is the wonderful Buttercross, this year celebrating its 200th anniversary, and Brigg Heritage Centre has been busy organising a series of events to mark this occasion.
Next up is Lincoln born historian, Tracy Borman who will be taking a fresh look at the story of Henry VIII. He may be the king who married six times, but it was the men in his life who shaped this notorious monarch. In a special talk, based upon her major new biography, Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him, Tracy will tell the story of England’s most famous king through the eyes of the men who surrounded him. She will introduce a dazzling cast of characters: some ‘mad’ (Sir Francis Bryan, the so-called ‘Vicar of Hell’), some ‘bad’ (the grasping minister, Thomas Wolsey), but none as ‘dangerous to know’ as Henry VIII himself. It was these men who shaped Henry into the man – and monster – that he would become.
Tracy was born in Scothern and has followed a hugely successful career in heritage, most particularly in her current post as joint chief curator for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Whitehall and many more.
She often appears on television and radio, and writes extensively, frequently giving talks on her books across the country.
The event is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 3rd September, with tickets on sale now. Call 01724 296771 for further information. There will be an opportunity to buy one of Tracy’s books, and have her sign it for you personally.
A WONDERLAND FOR ALL READERS YOUNG AND OLD
The Rabbit Hole is Brigg’s independent bookshop in the heart of the Market Place. Husband and wife team, Nick and Mel Webb, stock a large selection of newly published books for adults, both fact and fiction, direct from well-known and local publishers, not always readily available in the high street. The Rabbit Hole also stocks pre-loved books, collectible books and vinyl.
The children’s section is filled with books to inspire reading for pleasure from children’s classics to brand new publications all located at the front of the shop, allowing easy access for young children, with a play area and activities such as Lego, train sets and various toys.
The Rabbit Hole is the perfect place to browse and sit whilst choosing a book, and help and advice is on hand.
The couple also work with schools and the wider community to provide grant funded literacy projects, organise author events and procure books at a competitive rate. They also offer reading groups for all ages, which are managed by themselves and some dedicated volunteers.
Visit The Rabbit Hole at 21 Market Place, Brigg, or visit www.facebook.com/therabbitsbrigg