The Splendours of Spilsby
Considering that it only has a population of about 3,000 people, it is amazing to discover how much the East Lindsey market town has to offer.
Shopping-wise, this destination continues to boast a good mix of dedicated independent traders, exudes a lively community spirit and is well served with schools and other services, including an NHS dentist.
And while it is not immediately obvious on entering the town, Spilsby is also home to an impressive range of manufacturing and other businesses, which provide valuable local employment and sell their goods way beyond Lincolnshire’s – and even the UK’s – borders.
Many of these, including Jacksons Building Centres, Bush Tyres, Countryside Arts and the plumbread specialist Moden’s, can be found on The Vale Industrial Estate.
Mayor Councillor Michael Lenton said: “The current climate is difficult and many people are having to work twice as hard to stand still, but local businesses never cease to amaze me.
“Premises which become vacant in the town don’t stay empty for very long. Existing businesses are very robust and business owners are very hard working.”
It is true, Spilsby – which is the birthplace of the famous Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin – is not a place where the first thing you notice is a row of empty shop units.
One of the most noticeable buildings in the town centre is The White Hart Hotel, which is under new management and where Nigel Spurr and his team are waiting to welcome both regulars and people visiting the area.
This historic coaching inn, which dates back to the seventeenth century, serves food and drink and has eight letting rooms, so it is ideal if you want a base from which to explore the town and its surroundings, while also being within easy reach of seaside resorts.
Whether you are looking for men’s or women’s clothing, knitting wool, gifts, a delicious plum loaf, delectable ice cream, fishing tackle or new utensils for the kitchen, you can find it all in Spilsby.
Butcher and baker, Simon Johnson is proud of what the town’s traders offer to local people and shoppers who travel into Spilsby from the surrounding villages and, when it comes to helping to ensure Spilsby maintains its individuality, he has certainly put his money where his mouth is.
Already the owner of Simon’s Quality Butchers in Market Street, Simon recently took over the former Matt’s Deli, revamped the premises and launched Deli-E11even.
“I wanted to ensure that shoppers could still buy locally produced artisan breads and cakes and also take time out to relax over hot drinks and snacks in our coffee shop,” said Simon.
“I have a bakery on The Vale Industrial Estate which produces bread and other goods for the deli and butchery businesses and I would eventually like to make products for other businesses too.”
If you love flowers, a visit to Scentiments, which is owned by Julie Pagram, is an absolute must. You will easily spot the shop with its old-fashioned frontage, which is complemented by buckets of colourful flowers and foliage.
Julie said: “I grew up surrounded by flowers, so when I saw the opportunity to move into the business in 2010 I jumped at the chance. It’s a lovely business to be in and I have been extremely lucky gathering good, loyal customers who keep returning regularly.”
Fashion seekers should not miss popping into The Green House in High Street – a women’s fashion outlet which offers discerning shoppers a mouthwatering selection of temptations, from names such as Seasalt, Poppy and Adini, along with must-have accessories.
Sue and Greg Clarke have run the business for the past twenty-five years and Mrs Clarke is also chair of the Spilsby Business Partnership so she certainly knows a thing or two about giving shoppers what they want, including good customer service.
Other stores worth more than a second glance include the internet clothing retailer Gregs.co, which has opened a shop selling menswear and workwear, the long-established Spilsby clothing shop Godsmarks, Spilsby Angling Centre and Tong’s Cookshop.
Third generation family member, Mark Tong runs the hardware shop while his wife Tracey manages the vast cornucopia of utensils to be found in the upstairs cookshop.
“Initially Mark stocked a range of cookery items within our hardware store but opening a dedicated area for kitchenwear had always been his dream and eight years ago he converted three upstairs storerooms for this purpose,” said Tracey.
This part of the building now comprises an Aladdin’s cave of kitchen and related items and whether you are looking for traditional utensils, such as a pastry brush, or searching for a state-of-the-art coffee percolator, Tong’s is certainly the place to go browsing.
“There is a saying in Spilsby that, if you cannot find it at Tong’s, you won’t find it anywhere,” said Tracey.
She is very positive about local businesses and what Tong’s is able to supply to its customers.
“We aim to make every customer’s shopping experience personal. Over the years, loyal customers have become friends,” she added.
One of Spilsby’s better known businesses is Dennetts Ice Cream, which is headed by Robin Dennett and his wife, Claire.
The business has been going since 1926 and today employs five full-time and two part-time workers in Spilsby. Two other part-timers work with Claire at the firm’s ice cream parlour in Bailgate.
Mr Dennett said the firm makes forty-five different flavours of ice cream, six frozen yoghurts and eight sorbets and continues to supply customers across Lincolnshire, in parts of Nottinghamshire and as far afield as Ashby-de-la-Zouche.
The business supplies six different products to Lincolnshire Co-operative stores, including four different ice creams, and sells its products to more than seventy pubs and restaurants.
Monday is a good day to pop into Spilsby, because you can boost your shopping by checking out the regular, weekly auction and also the market which has recently been extended into the Buttercross Car Park.
SPILSBY BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP
The Spilsby Business Partnership was started about five years ago, evolved out of the former Chamber of Commerce and it has more than twenty members.
Chair, Sue Clarke said: “The Partnership aims to support all of the town’s businesses, allows the exchange of ideas and tries to make Spilsby a town where people want to come to work and shop.
“It is actually quite a lively market town and the market has certainly improved recently. The Town Council has aspirations to take it over (from East Lindsey District Council) and we think it would be fantastic if it was run locally.
SPILSBY TEENAGER’S VIEW
What does a typical young person think of Spilsby? We asked the town clerk Sara Clarke’s daughter, Brittany (14) for her thoughts.
“There are lots of useful shops which sell people’s everyday needs and the town is always clean,” she said.
Among the businesses given the thumbs up by Brittany are her hairdresser, a local nail salon and her optician.
“Turning Heads is a very good hairdresser which I have been to and it has a joined-on nail salon. I left this hairdresser feeling very satisfied and members of my family have been to this nail salon and their reports about it were excellent,” she said.
Brittany and her friends have also tried most of Spilsby’s restaurants and she said they have been given a warm welcome and enjoy delicious food.
The teenager, who has a brother, Miles, also loves the fact that Spilsby is conveniently within reach of places such as Welton-le-Marsh, Skegness, Alford and Mablethorpe.
Spilsby offers people a real choice when it comes to eating out – whether they fancy English, Italian, Chinese or Indian cuisine.
But those who fancy going a little further afield might choose to check out The Coach House at Keal Cotes, just three miles away. Here they will find a warm welcome from new hosts, James and April Elstob.
Australian born and bred, they only moved into the premises in January, but they are passionate about preserving the traditional English pub, and particularly this one, which has its own restaurant.
April, who lived in nearby West Keal in the 1980s, said: “When we came back to the area, we decided we wanted to work for ourselves and I had always wanted a quaint English pub with a warm ambience and a bit of history. It is sad when you see so many closing.
With special two-for-£10 deals on Monday nights, steak nights on Fridays and Sunday lunches served from 12 noon through until 6pm, there is something for all tastes. Winter time means that The Coach House is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
When the Keal Cotes Post Office closed in 1995, it was moved to a small house annex at the end of the village for several years, before being relocated to The Coach House, where it stayed until 2005. Today this lockable room within the pub is used for storage and still houses the old safe.
AUDIENCE IN COURT
The pillared frontage of Spilsby Theatre gives the visitor the impression that this is a venue which should be situated in a large city, rather than an attractive village.
But, of course, this Grade-Two-listed building in Church Street was originally put up in 1824 as a prison and courthouse and did not become a theatre until 1984.
Today the venue is owned by the not-for-profit Dandelion Trust and is managed by Bruce Knight and Jane Scott, members of the Theatre of Now.
“Initially it was my job to enliven this atmospheric building as a theatre but I have also been sucked into handling the entertainments side. I love Spilsby and I particularly love this building,” said Bruce.
It is obviously hard work maintaining such an historic building, but Bruce and his team are undeterred. Last summer a group of students on the National Citizen Service programme helped to relay and enlarge the stage floor, painted walls and moved seating.
The bar area has also been refurbished to a high standard and is a warm spot in which to relax before and during the interval.
The quirkiness of the building really comes to the fore when you visit the actors’ dressing rooms, which actually used to be the cells.
Although furnished to meet twenty-first-century needs, there is no hiding the fact that these once held people who certainly didn’t have acting uppermost in their minds – unless of course they were practising their lines while preparing to face judgement!
Spilsby Business Partnership chair, Sue Clarke is urging everyone to keep Sunday, 14th July 2013 free and reserve the date in their diaries.
That’s the date of this year’s Spilsby Show and everyone has their fingers crossed for plenty of sunshine after bad weather forced the cancellation of this hugely popular family event last year.
Planning is already well under way for the show, which typically attracts a crowd of more than 4,000 people and which is due to take place on the Boston Road Playing Field, kicking off at around 10.30am with the magnificent shire horse classes.
This extravaganza is scheduled to be officially opened by Radio Lincolnshire presenter, Rod Whiting at 12 noon.
This year the main beneficiary of this event, which raises lots of cash for good causes, will be the East Kirkby Aviation Centre.
A park and ride service from King Edward VI Academy ferries people from the town to the show.