A bright new year ahead
Celebrations were the order of the day in 2015 for the historically important Georgian and Victorian market town of Caistor and residents are hoping 2016 will be much of the same.
With a long-awaited development around the Market Place in the pipeline, some exciting archaeological research projects planned and plenty of events and activities in the area, it looks set to be a memorable year.
Helen Pitman of Caistor Town Council reflected on the town’s achievements of the past year and said that although 2015 had seen quite a few closures of local businesses, 2016 looked promising.
“There is a push with West Lindsey District Council to try and attract businesses to the town and promote Caistor, particularly in light of the developments on the Humber Bank,” she said.
“Thanks to the Caistor in Bloom group, we were successful in winning silver in the Britain in Bloom competition and gold in the East Midlands in Bloom competition.
“We also won the past winners category in the Best Kept Village and Small Towns competition. There is also some movement on the future of the old Co-op building in the Market Place.
“Heritage Lincolnshire has been working on a feasibility study and option appraisal as to what the community would like to see happen with it.”
There have also been a number of events which has brought the crowds flocking to the town.
“Caistor is very active and there are lots of things happening. We had a very successful Caistor Goes…Medieval event in the summer. It was a two-day event to do with Magna Carta and work is already underway on next year’s Caistor Goes… event,” said Helen.
“There are also some new grant-funded facilities in the town. There is the skate park on the sports ground and a new multi-use games area and outdoor pursuits area which attracted more than £35,000 grant funding from WREN.
“The skate park has just been signed off but there is still some work to be done on the multi-use ball park.”
Looking ahead to this year, the town’s Walkers are Welcome group, working collaboratively with Market Rasen and Horncastle, have been successful in being able to host the national Walkers are Welcome conference.
“It is a two-day event with walks and activities going on in Caistor and Market Rasen on the Saturday and the conference taking place in Horncastle on the Sunday,” said Helen.
2016 could also see something done with the disused Co-op building in the Market Place, which has been a bone of contention for a number of years.
Liz Bates, chief executive of Heritage Lincolnshire, said it was involved in the Co-op building project because it is a building preservation trust and it was invited by the Town Council who were concerned about the building.
“We look for listed buildings that are derelict historic buildings and try to find a new use for them. It does help maintain the character of our market towns,” she said.
“The old Co-op building has now been empty for five years and there was concern in the town that it was going to become a bit of a blight and with it being right in the centre of the market place it has an impact on the whole area.”
Heritage Lincolnshire and Hodson Architects have carried out a survey and feasibility study on the building.
“The Co-op has offered funding towards the study because they could see it needed some work doing on it. There are structural issues with the building. Originally there were six or seven individual properties which were knocked through to create a large interior space for the Co-op,” said Liz.
“That is the main problem because all of it is in a pretty poor state of repair. The repair bill is estimated to be more than £1.2m. Because of the cost of repairing the building we went out to the community to find out what they thought.”
People wanted to see the building reinstated as individual properties and approved a mixed use for it.
“They wanted to reinstate the courtyard so it became a little hub in itself with units that fed off each other.They wanted it to be as sustainable as possible,” said Liz.
After three consultation sessions with the town, the idea is to have small business units around a courtyard which people from outside Caistor will want to use as well.
“A bed and breakfast within it was a key thing for everyone because they were keen to entice tourists into Caistor and make the area a gateway to the Wolds,” said Liz.
“They also wanted the retail side to be outdoor activity related because there is a lot of running, cycling and walking in the area.”
Now the architects are working with consultants from London, drawing up a business plan to ensure the project will be viable and having a look at the costs to find out how much fundraising will be needed to make it work.
“Once we have the costings and know where the funding will come from, we will go back to the town council and the Co-op with the feedback from the community and advise them what we think the next step is,” said Liz. “It is likely to take some years to sort out but it has moved on massively.”
Caistor has a lot of heritage in the town and can boast fifty-six Grade II listed buildings, two Grade I listed buildings, a scheduled ancient monument and more than 160 significant archaeological finds including two medieval fish ponds.
It was also the subject of the Village SOS scheme which was launched by the Big Lottery Fund in 2009 to seize the challenges and opportunities faced by people living in rural communities and televised by the BBC.
The scheme saw more than 160 innovative village projects come to fruition, from community shops to a community forest company. Caistor’s Arts and Heritage Centre is one of only two of those projects still in existence.
Centre manager Stephanie Dale said: “We are one of only two remaining places from the Village SOS series. There were about six or seven but out of all the televised ones there are only two of us surviving, which is fantastic for Lincolnshire that it is still going.
“Originally the building was a Methodist Church and in the ’70s and 80s it was a youth centre. But it became just a storage place for the town and was becoming derelict and wasn’t in use at all.”
Now it is a library, has a heritage department, art gallery, workshop space and a café and provides lots of opportunities for local people to gain work experience and learn new skills.
“We started doing some coach trips last year to places of interest, such as Scampton Heritage Centre and behind the scenes at Humberside airport,” she said.
“More trips are planned this year to Elsham Hall, the Humber Bridge visitor centre and Giansborough Old Hall.
“We also try and find new and imaginative ways to generate income for the centre. We also do a pudding club which has a good following and a supper club. But the biggest thing for us is that we have taken on the library fully. It is entirely managed and run by the centre’s volunteers.”
Caistor has plenty going on in the town for the local community, but it also hosts a range of events to attract visitors from outside as well, thanks to a scheme called ‘Caistor Goes…’
Organiser, Alan Caine said: “There are two aspects of Caistor Goes… One is event organisation and the other is that we provide a lot of the logistics for ourselves and other organisations.
“We have lots of equipment so we can provide things such as lanterns with tea lights, snow machines and portable sound systems. We also have people trained in appliance testing.They go out and PAT test for all our voluntary organisations, as well as the town hall and multi-use centre. It is all voluntary.”
Caistor Goes… began as The Lion’s Birthday street party in June 1997, celebrating the centenary of the Parish Pump in the Market Place, which was erected by public subscription to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
“Last year we organised Caistor Goes… Medieval and this year it is Caistor Goes… To the Movies,” said Alan. “We did Proms in the Park, the Christmas Market in the Market Place and we help out at all sorts of events in other towns as well.”
CAISTOR IN BLOOM
Last year proved to be an award-winning one for the Caistor in Bloom group. Not only did it win gold in the East Midlands in Bloom competition, it was awarded a silver gilt in the Britain in Bloom competition and won the Past Winners category in the Best Kept Village competition.
One of its main volunteers also won a special award in the East Midlands in Bloom competition.
Chairman of the Group, Deborah Barker, said: “We are very pleased with our achievements. It was hard work but a really nice summer and it is all down to our volunteers.
“We were only two points off winning the overall category in the East Midlands in Bloom competition and in all competitions we got 50 out of 50 for community involvement.”
The group receives some funding from the town council every year but also does a lot of its own fundraising including running three or four raffles a year.
“That usually generates £5,000. The generosity of the people of Caistor is lovely. We are so fortunate in that people do support us really well.”
This year, the town is going to be awash with red, white, blue, yellow and pastel blooms.
“As it is the Queen’s 90th birthday, we are thinking of having a red, white and blue theme in the Market Place and its surrounding area,” said Deborah.
CAISTOR THEATRICAL SOCIETY
Caistor Amateur Theatrical Society (CATS) faces a busy time ahead because 2016 is a special year for the group. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is planning to promote its youth section as well.
Membership secretary Pam Cluff said: “We normally do two productions a year but we are hoping to have a youth production in the summer. We are planning weekend workshops and we are in the process of deciding how to mark the 25th anniversary. We are looking to have an Oscar-style red carpet event.”
Caistor Amateur Theatrical Society (CATS) was founded in October 1991 when two residents advertised for people interested in forming a drama group. Since then, it has produced a total of fifty different productions and its annual family pantomimes are highly popular.
The shows are staged in Caistor’s Victorian Town Hall, which is also where the society rehearses.
“We have a busy year ahead particularly if the workshops happen,” said Pam.
ANN K. ROBINSON
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Ann and the staff at AKR Accounting would like to wish all her clients a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
CAISTOR’S ROMAN PAST EXPLORED
Caistor, which lies on the Viking Way on the north-west edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, was originally a Roman fortress but only a few fragments of the fourth-century walls remain.
However, all that could change in the future thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Caistor Historical & Archeological Research Society (CHARS).
They are working with Dr Stephen Willis from Kent University on a site just outside the town where it is thought the original Roman settlement was before the fortress was built.
Society chairman, Alan Dennis said: “Mr Willis has done a lot of work on Roman sites on the Wolds and what we are looking at with him is the connection between those sites and Caistor itself.
“We are also working on the Roman walls because, although some work was done in 1958, no one has done any serious research on them and we haven’t got any archaeological evidence as to where the walls go.
“The society wants to trace the route of the walls and prove they are Roman and see if there is a connection between Caistor and Horncastle. On the thickness of the walls, we think there is a close connection. But we haven’t got the evidence yet, whereas Horncastle has.”
The society, which only formed in July 2015, is also having a website developed where all information that is discovered about Caistor and the surrounding district will be stored.
“Caistor.co.uk is still being developed. It is an active website but it hasn’t got the amount of information on it that we want,” said Alan.
Alan is also vice chairman of Caistor Heritage Trust Limited, which is a Company Limited by Guarantee tasked to look after any artefacts from Caistor.
“We are hoping to find an archive building to house the artefacts, so they are available for the public to see. They are stored in various places at the moment and it will be an eye-opener when it happens because there are so many artefacts.”
Although CHARS is a new organisation, its roots lie in the Caistor Community History (CCH) group which formed at the turn of this century to develop and share the knowledge of the history of the town and was a collaboration between Alan and Roy Schofield.
At that time there existed in Caistor the Civic Society, an established and successful organisation concentrating on the architecture of the town.
CCH provided talks, walks and collected audio and visual recordings and both Roy and Alan dreamed of opening a museum in the town after many artefacts relating to the its past were given to the CCH to look after.