Town welcomes newcomers

Dining Out

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
October 2012

Business and community leaders are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that Gainsborough continues to grow as a shopping and visitor destination
And a share of a £100,000 pot of regeneration cash could be used to help its Town Centre Partnership to drive forward projects designed to create a stronger synergy between the traditional ‘old’ town centre and the contemporary Marshall’s Yard development.

Gainsborough remains a magnet for new arrivals of all sizes, from McDonalds, a well-known national operator which opened its doors in May, to Browns department store (which has invested more than £650,000 in Marshall’s Yard) to fledgling enterprises, such as beauty salons which have chosen premises in the original town centre.

But the challenge is undoubtedly about getting the balance right when it comes to ensuring there is a good mix of shopping and services in both areas, as well as quality redevelopment in areas which are poised to benefit from regeneration projects.

Town centre manager, David Hawkins said that although Gainsborough failed to win Mary Portas Pilot funding on two occasions this year, bidding for the cash has certainly not been a waste of time.

Going through the process and learning about the success of other towns has confirmed that the Partnership is thinking along the right lines in its determination to make Gainsborough more vibrant economically.

“The Partnership, which has a mixed membership, is keen to be joined by representatives from more businesses and organisations,” said Mr Hawkins.

Following on from the Portas Pilot bids, Gainsborough has accepted Housing and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps’s invitation to become a Town Team Partner – which means it will potentially benefit from a multi-million pound support programme to turn good ideas into reality.

The Partnership is also pulling together sustainable ideas for improvements, which could win backing from West Lindsey District Council’s £100,000 High Street Innovation Fund.

“We want to explore ways of injecting fresh vitality into the heart of the town, by opening up empty premises, building on the existing Market, highlighting features of interest and making it easier for shoppers to enjoy an enhanced experience,” said Mr Hawkins.

“Tackling the vacant shops issue is one of our biggest challenges and we are looking at ways of engineering the take-up of empty units. We are getting an increasing amount of support on this front from the county’s commercial property agents.

“We are also looking at the possibility of using vinyl window dressings for empty shops, which would help to brighten the streetscene and also highlight retail opportunities in a positive way,” added Mr Hawkins.

The traditional town centre hosts regular markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays and it is home to Lincolnshire Co-operative’s Lindsey Centre, branches of national stores, long-established family businesses, solicitors, florists and charity shops.

Traders include jeweller Barnes and Son and Walters Opticians in the Market Place, Horsley and Co – a family-run business which was established more than a century ago and which has two stores in Church Street – fashion outlet Barron Bou and specialist party shop PartyLand in Lord Street.

The Town Centre Partnership is particularly keen to encourage shoppers to THINK Local First and regularly support the traders and market stallholders on their own doorstep.

With this in mind, it will be supporting the normal town market on Saturday, 20th October and underlining the importance of people buying from homegrown enterprises. Various shops are expected to offer special deals on the day.

This promotional event is timed to coincide with the fourth Gainsborough Beer Festival, which takes place at Gainsborough’s Old Hall from 18th to 21st October, and which is guaranteed to attract more visitors to the town. The Festival is a part of Gainsborough’s Octoberfest celebrations.

Of course, there are lots of interesting old buildings to explore and signs of Gainsborough’s heritage everywhere you look. Take a short cut through Curtis Walk, off the Market Place, and you will find a reminder of one of the town’s notable residents. If you look at a property which rises over the passage, there is a plaque which tells visitors this is the rear of number 23a Market Place – at one time the home and studio of the well-known watercolourist Karl Salsbury Wood (1888–1958).

The plaque reads: ‘Karl S Wood – artist of old Gainsborough and windmills had his studio situated opposite at 23a Market Place. Plaque erected by The Delvers.’

Wood was a self-taught artist who spent most of his adult life in the town and is best known for his paintings of windmills of the British Isles. His mission was to paint all the country’s windmill remains, travelling to them by bicycle.

This attitude may appear rather eccentric to us today, but Wood’s results are such that his work is now a source of study for historical researchers.

It you are ready to hit a few more shops, you can check out the multi-million pound Marshall’s Yard development, which welcomed its first customers five years ago. It attracts thousands of shoppers every week.

Mr Hawkins said the Town Partnership should be joining in with Marshall’s Yard’s activities even more than at present, because the key to success is for everyone to work together for the town as a whole.

The development was brought forward by the Yorkshire based retail property specialists Dransfield Properties working with Prospect Estates in a £39 million investment scheme which transformed the former Marshall’s factory site.

Since April 2007, the complex has gone from strength to strength and is now home to a great range of national and independent companies and retailers including Marks and Spencer, DW Sports and Fitness, Next, Wilkinsons and Laura Ashley.

The successful delivery of the mixed-use town centre regeneration scheme has also helped to attract other businesses and investment into the town.

A spokesperson said the recent creation of starter business units in the Pattern Store at Marshall’s Yard has given small businesses the chance to get on the first rung of the ladder in the town.

The latest talking point is undoubtedly the opening of the independent family-run department store, Browns. The company has been in business for more than 100 years and also has outlets in York, Beverley and Helmsley, choosing Marshall’s Yard as the location for its fourth store.

Browns splashed £650,000 on a luxurious new shop-fit for the store, which welcomed its first customers in August.

The company’s chairman and managing director, Nick Brown, said the shop is helping to “beef up” the retail offering in the town, by offering a wider range of goods and products – keeping people shopping in Gainsborough.

“We are confident that our new Gainsborough store will soon become a flagship store for Gainsborough and will attract people from across the region,” said Mr Brown.

“Marshall’s Yard as a whole provides extremely pleasant surroundings for shoppers and is a fantastic shopping destination. This makes us confident we’ve picked the ideal location for our fourth store.”

Marshall’s Yard centre manager, Jackie Helliwell, said: “It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Marshall’s Yard opened.

“It’s important to keep evolving and introducing new ideas and this year so far we’ve had two exciting new developments with the outdoor TV screen and our first department store.

“We’re very fortunate at Marshall’s Yard to have a healthy list of businesses which are keen to have a presence in the town, which really shows the confidence in the town and the region and will ensure we can continue to compete with other towns and cities in terms of the great retail line-up we have here.”

Sturton-by-Stow company Gelder Group – which has just scooped the Outstanding Contribution to the Community accolade in West Lindsey District Council’s Business Awards – is among developers helping to change the face of Gainsborough.

It is currently hard at work on a number of projects which promise to boost the local economy and create new jobs.

They include a £2m development at land off Corringham Road, where the company is putting up a retail complex as part of a new neighbourhood centre, in conjunction with Gelder’s subsidiary company Tillbridge Developments.

The scheme features six traditional units; three are currently let. They consist of the largest which has been taken by Spar, No 4 is Barnardos and No 6 is Starfish. They are being constructed as part of new housing estates.

As we went to press, the Gelder team was hoping to get planning consent from West Lindsey District Council to embark on a £1m redevelopment of the Fanny Marshall Institute – a well-known and prominent building at the corner of Acland Street and Church Street.

When the Institute was completed in 1896, it was gifted to the town by James Marshall. It provided community facilities and a free gym for the people of Gainsborough.

The building has been utilised in many ways, including providing office space in the 1970s. Its last known use was as a furniture warehouse, but in recent years it has been empty and fallen into disrepair.

Historically planning permission has been granted for fifteen apartments, but the latest proposals will provide a medical centre, pharmacy and community hall in a well-established residential area, with an existing school, shops and good transport links.

This community hall would also provide an additional space for The Gainsborough Parish Church School, situated on Acland Street.

It is believed that the doctor’s surgery and pharmacy could create between twenty-five and thirty jobs. All materials and labour for the job would be found locally.

Guy Taylor Associates (Architects) spokesman Keith Rodgers said: “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting project to restore this important historic building and put it back into public use as originally intended.

“The building will once again support the health of the local community and provide a valuable community space for the local school and community groups, as well as offering health classes, all in the spirit of James Marshall’s original gift to the town.”

The Half Moon Pub in Heaton Street dates back to 1832 but has been closed since 2008 and the site has become an attraction for unsociable activities.

Gelder is keen to replace the community facility with a development that will bring this site back into beneficial use and boost the regeneration of the area.

A spokesman said: “It is known that new housing development in town centre locations can act to stimulate urban renaissance and this proposal is ideally located to achieve this.

“In our proposal, we have adopted a range of recyclable materials and renewable technologies to ensure its impact on the environment will be low.”

The Half Moon project could provide work for about thirty-five building industry workers and the new development would take a year to complete.

Anyone keen to explore or research Gainsborough’s amazing past, should visit Gainsborough and District Heritage Association’s ‘new’ home in the Old Post Office building in North Street.

Formed in 1994, the Association has gone from strength to strength since opening the doors to these premises in August last year.

Association vice-chairman and publicity officer, Carlton Bradley said: “The centre has a research room, shop, kitchen, toilets and exhibition hall. The Association won a £25,000 grant from Lincolnshire Co-operative’s Big Birthday Awards in 2011, enabling us to renovate the remaining rooms on the ground floor and open the exhibition hall. This was officially opened on 13th April 2012.”

There is currently a Gainsborough Trade and Travel exhibition on display. It costs £3 to visit (Association members £1.50). The Centre is open on Saturdays from 9am until 3pm and on the second and fourth Sundays each month, from 11am to 4pm.

“We have an extensive archive of information including: schools, several databases with details of births, deaths and marriages from local newspapers and a local newspaper headline database. We’re constantly adding to these,” said Mr Bradley.

“We also have information about buildings, businesses and streets in Gainsborough and a limited number of work records for Rose Brothers and Marshalls together with information on these two famous companies. Our shop stocks books, CD-ROMS, DVDs and other items of interest relating to Gainsborough and its heritage.”

The Association published a book about Rose Brothers (Gainsborough) Ltd, which sold out its print run and also won the inaugural Flora Murray Award from the Lincolnshire Society for History and Archaeology.

More have followed, with the launch of the Parish Church School book in November 2011 and this year a book about the Gainsborough Girls High School. Plans are ongoing to publish a book on Gainsborough Artists for 2013.

“As to the future, sustainability is our key word. Our future plans include renovating another four rooms of the building, including a Photographic and Art Gallery and, hopefully, being allowed to exhibit the Karl Wood Collection, as well as holding more exhibitions and other events,” said Mr Bradley.

The Old Hall in Gainsborough is a well-loved and instantly recognisable landmark.

In April, this iconic building reopened its doors after being closed for three months, when several improvements were made.

Rooms previously used for storage have been opened to visitors – the Stewards Quarters and the Green Room.

Thanks to a new PDA (audiovisual device) visitors can experience historical images and paintings as well as video re-enactments. There are two tours. In the one for children, the tour guide is a ‘ghost’. TV historian Jonathan Foyle, who is chief executive of World Monuments Fund Britain Ltd, is the guide for the adult version.

Dr Foyle has been quoted as saying: “The Old Hall’s kitchens alone are a national treasure, but they’re just part of the best preserved English house of its date. Once seen, never forgotten.”

Site co-ordinator for the Old Hall, Victoria Mason Hines said: “The PDA system won the Inspiration Award at the Lincolnshire Heritage Awards. We will shortly be adding British Sign Language tours to the devices and also have a separate device and tour for visually impaired visitors.”

The re-siting of the gift shop and café on the eastern side of the building means that anyone not visiting the Hall can wander around the shop seeking out that unique gift and visit Chambers, the new coffee shop and Tastes of Lincolnshire member.

In the new gift shop visitors can enjoy seeing the seventeenth-century wall painting, following its painstaking conservation. This spring the remains of the painting were cleaned and restored by a medieval wall paintings expert, following a generous grant from The Pilgrim Trust and the Trent Vale Landscape Partnership.

The conservation work involved the detailed cleaning and consolidation of the remains of the wall painting which has allowed further analysis to be carried out on the designs and original paint colours used.

As a result, a modern reconstruction banner of the painting has been produced. This will hang in front of the wall painting to give visitors an idea of what the painting would have originally looked like.

A textile banner, inspired by the original wall painting, has also been produced as a result of a collaboration between a community artist and a local women’s group. This stunning, modern interpretation of the seventeenth-century painting was also made possible by generous funding from the Trent Vale Landscape Partnership.

The Old Hall is also a wedding venue, having gained a licence earlier this year, to carry out civil ceremonies as well as offer a full wedding hospitality service.

“There are four unique rooms for couples to choose from, each perfectly suited to differently sized services. From simple, intimate occasions, to larger ceremonies, we can tailor the layout to a person’s wishes, helping to create the wedding they’ve always wanted,” said Victoria.

Culture and entertainment go hand-in-hand at the Trinity Arts Centre and, by building on its strengths and listening to what its audiences want, it is bucking the trend by reporting record attendances.

Popular newly-released films are being shown on Friday nights and a diverse range of high quality live events are also driving the trend.

West Lindsey District Councillor, Gill Bardsley is thrilled with the success of the programming at the Council-run centre.

“With all these fantastic films and the excellent choice of live productions things can only get better,” she said.

Lincoln Drill Hall director, Simon Hollingworth has recently been working with Trinity Arts and is delighted to be back at the centre.

He said: “I’m so fond of Trinity Arts Centre and so delighted to see it picking up again after a time of uncertainty. I worked here in the mid-90s as the venue’s education officer and still hold a great deal of affection for it as do many, many people.

“I would urge the people of Gainsborough and West Lindsey to keep supporting it and attending films and shows there – it’s a unique building with a great programme of events and really deserves to flourish.”

Councillor Jessie Milne said: “It is excellent to see that all the hard work put in by staff and volunteers at Trinity Arts Centre is finally paying off.”

Volunteer, Wendy Bagot (74) from Gainsborough Road, Willingham by Stow, admits to helping out at the Trinity Arts Centre for “selfish” reasons.

She said: “One year I visited the arts centre forty-three times, so it is important to me to keep this special place open. I like coming here and I wanted it to stay open, so I thought I would offer my services.”

Live entertainment includes the monthly HOOT comedy club, which usually has two headline acts, helped along by resident compère, Elliot J Huntley.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional pantomime this year, why not join Little Mouse on a wintertime adventure? Staff are preparing to welcome back the Blunderbus Theatre Company for a special festive show ‘The Very Snowy Christmas.’

Blunderbus artistic director, Bill Davies said: “Trinity is a very special arts centre and we have always had such a great response from the audience, ever since our first visit three years ago.”

Performances of ‘The Very Snowy Christmas’ are taking place on the following December dates: Sat 15th, Sun 16th, Thur 20th, Fri 21st, Sat 22nd and Sun 23rd at 11am and 2.30pm.

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