Town hits its stride

Dining Out

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
October 2014

The east Lincolnshire destination of Horncastle is renowned for its antiques shops, but there is more to this traditional market town than curiosities from the past.
It has a range of long-established, independent, family-run businesses which have managed to continue trading at a time when many of their counterparts in other towns and cities have had to shut up shop.

Town council clerk, Gillian Mauger said much is being done to encourage visitors to the area.

“We have a Walkers are Welcome group now which is trying to generate interest in the town. It is working with local cafes to try and encourage visitors and locals alike to get into town and spend some time there,” said Gillian.
Horncastle’s first group organised walk took place last month and it is hoped that these will be a regular occurrence, with plans to hold them on the last Sunday of each month.

“There is a positive attitude in the town and we have had a couple of new shops opened which all helps bring people into the area,” said Gillian.

Car parking remains a big issue for traders in Horncastle but the town’s Federation of Trade & Commerce is doing its best to resolve a battle that has been ongoing for years, in a bid to boost the local economy.

They have come up with two initiatives to try and increase footfall and bring in more trade. One idea is to relax the current time restriction for on-street parking from one hour to two; the other is a parking ticket scheme, whereby part of the cost can be refunded when spending in local shops.

Flo Moore, the new chair of the Federation, said it is a big issue.

“There is a feeling that free car parking will help to bring people from outside the town into the town because they won’t have to worry about having to get back to the car,” said Flo, who took over Houlden’s newsagents in January.

“There are a lot of pretty shops on the outskirts of town and people need time to get to these areas. If they don’t have free car parking they will pay the minimum amount, just get what they need and go home.”

The refund scheme would help to encourage visitors to spend in local shops.

“Businesses have to support the scheme totally but they are not in a lucrative position, but I am trying to get as many businesses on board as possible,” said Flo.

“It has been agreed by the Federation that it is worth trying and it has been agreed by East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) that they will put the two-part ticket scheme in the central car park.”

The other advantage of a refund scheme is that the Federation will be able to collate visitor numbers to aid them in their argument for free car parking.

It has been a tough year for businesses in Horncastle, with long-term roadworks early on and a hot summer, which meant holidaymakers stayed on the beaches instead of exploring the inland towns.

“We were hit badly by the roadworks and it stopped a lot of people coming into the town. It has been slow to pick up since then,” said Flo.

But according to the latest vacancy figures, business in the town has fared well.

East Lindsey District Council’s team leader for the economy and tourism team, James Makinson-Sanders, said: “Horncastle’s town centre survey suggests that, when compared to national vacancy rates, the town is performing well. In June 2014, the vacancy rate was 3.6 per cent compared to a national average of 10.1 per cent.

“Additionally, ELDC has supported the development of the Horncastle Technology Hub which provides businesses with local access to the latest 3D hardware.”

One new face in the town is Rose West, who took over Horncastle Sewing Centre in May and brought a new lease of life into the shop in Bridge Street, offering a wide range of quality fabrics, ribbons, buttons, wool and haberdashery.

Not far up the road from the Sewing Centre is one of the town’s oldest established businesses and also one of its more forward-thinking ones.

Myers has been trading in the Bull Ring for thirty-five years and now has a bakery and shop, deli, cafe tea room and a giftware shop in the town.

It is renowned for its award-winning Lincolnshire plum loaf made from the original recipe created back in 1901, when Myers first opened in the small market town of Alford.

Four generations of the family have continued the tradition and it is the first and only Lincolnshire plum loaf to win Gold in the Great Taste Awards.

Marie Myers who runs the business with brother Robert and their father Richard, and with the help of other members of the family, said: “We have just refurbished our cafe tea room with a New England look, with coastal blue and soft grey colours.

“It is really modern and different from anything else in the town. We have tried to make it really relaxing and we have had a lot of good feedback on it.

“The menu has also been altered, with a few different items on there, making it new and interesting – with dishes from other places. The new items have gone down well and customers really like it.

“We have also accessorised the cafe with some items from our giftware shop, such as aprons for the staff and bits and pieces from our Country Stile shop. The casual look, country kitchen herb pots, and pieces like that, make it unique and quirky.”

Marie said they were always trying to come up with different ideas.

“We want to stand out and to not do what everyone else does. We want to make the customer’s visit special. We have to keep it fresh and exciting.”

As well as the cafe, Myers has a bakery and it has introduced different products, such as pork pies and haslet.

“We have never done that before. But we took on an additional baker at the beginning of the summer which has allowed us to broaden our range. We have done the savouries before, but we have now started doing a range of pork pies and haslet, cheesecakes and tortes as well.”

Myers also has an outside catering service, which is expanding.

“Things are still busy on the buffet side and we are catering much more for businesses in the town. We are also taking on more orders for birthdays and family occasions now.”

Other initiatives include a cheese of the week, with twenty per cent off the normal price in the deli, new ranges of bread – Parisian style baguettes, crisp rolls and Italian ciabatta – in the bakery which are going very well, and an art gallery in the Country Stile shop.

“It used to sell general giftware but we now have a designated art gallery, so we have a bigger range of frames, prints and canvases which have been going really well,” said Marie.

The new chair of the Horncastle Federation of Trade & Commerce, Flo Moore, has her sights set on a brighter future for town businesses.

As a business owner in the heart of Horncastle, she is well aware of the issues faced by traders and has a clear vision of what can be done to increase footfall and boost the local economy.

Resolving the car parking issues which have raged in the town for a number of years and putting on more events in the town are just two of the initiatives Mrs Moore and the Federation would like to achieve.

“My vision is to increase footfall in Horncastle. There is a feeling that free car parking will help to bring people into the town,” she said.

“There are a lot of pretty shops on the outskirts of town and people need time to get to these areas.”

Another idea is to have more events in the town.

“We should have a lot more going on in the town centre,” said Flo, who along with her husband Graham took over Houlden’s newsagents. The shop is now called Nice Things.

“Being twinned with the French town, Bonnetable, I would like to see at least one new market per year with French and English produce, and French and English music and dancing.

“I also want to reintroduce the historical horse fair, but without the live animals. We can get people to dress up, either with a mask, as a pantomime horse, or even just by plaiting their hair; then parade around the town and gather in the Market Square to give out prizes.”

Horncastle’s great annual horse fair was probably the first held in the thirteenth century. It used to last for a week or more every August and in the nineteenth century it was likely to be the largest event of its kind in the United Kingdom. The slogan, ‘Horncastle for horses’ was an indication of the town’s standing in this trade.

“The idea is to try and have some events that bring people into Horncastle from outside the town but also to encourage residents to come in and enjoy it,” said Flo.

Business owners in sectors as diverse as architecture, manufacturing and food production are benefiting from a new techonology hub in Horncastle, which is supported by East Lindsey District Council and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Based at Mortons Media Group in the town and run in partnership with onlincolnshire, the Horncastle Technology Hub provides the opportunity for businesses to use state-of-the-art equipment as well as access workshops and advice.

Businesses can use 3D printers, 3D colour scanners and a laser cutter; access workshops and specialist advice; try out cutting-edge technology to see how it would help their business or help with a buying decision, and access twelve hours of business advice and one-to-one support which can be tailored to meet the needs of the business.

Montebello Ristorante opened in the former Angel Inn in North Street on December 2013 after receiving an extensive refurbishment. The restaurant offers an excellent selection of the most popular Italian dishes with a specials board that changes on a regular basis and a fantastic wine list. Most of the restaurant’s fresh produce such as fish, vegetables and meat are sourced locally to ensure the freshness and support the local producers. The restaurant is located at 65 North Street, Horncastle LN9 5DX.

Tel: 01507 522777, visit the Montebello Ristorante website or alternatively follow on Facebook. Opening times: Lunch 12 noon–2.30pm, Evening 5.30pm–9.30pm, closed all day Monday and Tuesday Lunchtime.

Lorenzo and his team from Tuscany look forward seeing you.

Award-winning food brought to you from this quintessential English country pub. Situated on the edge of the idyllic Wolds, The Sebastopol Inn prides itself on serving menus using only the freshest seasonal ingredients from local producers and growers to design menus for both traditional and contemporary tastes.

Complement your meal with a glass of wine from their extensive list of wines from all around the globe.

Or perhaps you’d just prefer to relax with a quiet pint of cask ale from one of the region’s many craft breweries.

Whatever your reason for visiting, The Sebastopol Inn looks forward to welcoming you soon.

New measures have been introduced by the Government this school year to try and encourage more youngsters to read books. But in Horncastle there has been a high demand for children’s books for quite a while. Jabberwock Books in Lawrence Street has been trading for twenty-eight years and has seen trends come and go.

Bob Flanagan, who owns the business with his wife Pauline, said: “I think the theory that children don’t read has always been a myth. There is a massive demand for children’s books. Years ago there was a nostalgic demand for classic books but children’s books are better than they have been in the past, which is why we sell new books rather than the old ones. We have a large range, all at a cut price.”

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