A town that pulls together

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
September 2012

The London 2012 Olympic Games which united the country and proved that community spirit is still very much alive, but we can find that spirit much closer to home.
Residents and shopkeepers in bustling Horncastle already knew that, following the severe rainy weather experienced back in June and July when areas of the town were flooded and people rallied round to help those hit the worst.

Horncastle was hit by three separate flash surface water floods during the torrential rainfall which was almost unprecedented. It flooded places which hadn’t been affected during the last floods and some properties were hit twice.

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Bill Aron who, with the Mayor Councillor Fiona Martin, is a town flood warden, said: “There were a significant number of properties flooded with quite a few that hadn’t been flooded before.

“With a team of volunteers, we issued hundreds of sandbags on each occasion and also toured the area visiting flooded houses to get first-hand reports from those who were worst affected.

“It was a credit to the community that everyone worked together. East Lindsey District Council delivered sandbags to the elderly and infirm and also to those without transport and neighbours were helping each other out too while the emergency services were working flat out,” said Coun Aron.

He and Coun Martin, who are both members of Horncastle’s Flood Defence Working Group which is pressing for the long-awaited flood alleviation scheme for the town to be implemented, have compiled a report and held debrief meetings with the various agencies to see what went wrong and what could be improved.

“There were people affected who were flooded twice so this is why we are trying to ascertain when we can implement the scheme,” said Coun Aron.

The scheme, to create flood storage reservoirs for both Horncastle and Louth, will significantly reduce the risk of flooding from rivers as experienced in 2007.

Horncastle Town Council clerk, Gillian Mauger also praised residents for their response to the emergency and said it wasn’t the first time the town had pulled together, which is good news for proposals to develop a Neighbourhood Development Plan for the town.

“Community spirit here has been evident over the past few years with the development of Stanhope Hall, people helping fill and distribute sand bags during the flooding recently and now with the level of interest from people in developing the Neighbourhood Development Plan,” she said.

Under the Government’s Localism Act, communities now have the opportunity to become directly involved and play a greater role in planning at the local level by producing a Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The town council organised a public meeting to gauge public opinion on the idea and received a good response with forty people saying they were keen to be involved.

A Neighbourhood Development plan allows communities to plan for growth themselves. Normally, the district council would allocate sites for housing and employment and write planning policies for the district as a whole. But a neighbourhood planning scheme gives that power to communities. Though there are still some national rules to abide by the new power allows communities more freedom than previous legislation.

The proposal will now be discussed at East Lindsey District Council’s (ELDC) next meeting this month. If it is accepted, a steering group will be set up and those who expressed an interest at the public meeting will be contacted to see if they still want to be involved.

Plans are also in the pipeline to promote the Market Place in a bid to re-establish it as a key part of community life. ELDC’s portfolio holder for economic regeneration, Councillor Craig Leyland said the markets have been the responsibility of the district council since the 1970s.

“There has been criticism as to how well publicised the markets are. ELDC decided to keep the markets for the next five years. There are cost challenges so we have to make sure the running of them is efficient,” said Coun Leyland.

As part of the markets regeneration scheme, entertainment was introduced into the Market Place during the successful SO Festival earlier this year and its appearance has been improved.

“A market place is an integral part of community life and with better promotion we think it can be once again,” said Coun Leyland.

“We have appointed a market manager to oversee the promotion of the markets and to ensure they are kept in the public eye.”

News on the markets will be publicised through the ELDC’s own website and there will be increased signage to attract more visitors. Regulations are also being relaxed over the stalls which are allowed to trade at the market.

“Horncastle and Louth are the two markets that are performing well in ELDC, but we still need to promote them and keep them in the public eye,” said Coun Leyland.

“It is work in progress but it is nearly ready to roll out. It has been accepted by the market traders and we will be looking to see what gaps need filling. Horncastle can be a vibrant town, it has a good market and that is something we are keen to encourage.”

As a whole the town is still faring well in attracting visitors particularly those from overseas. The Sir Joseph Banks Society’s Centre in Horncastle has an ever-increasing visitor book and recently welcomed an entourage from the City of Bankstown in Australia.

Society trustee, Paul Scott said: “The Banks Centre has enjoyed success in many areas such as training people with learning difficulties, fantastic gift shops helping to support twenty-six local craft businesses, a fascinating tribute garden with many plants associated with Sir Joseph Banks, not to mention being the base for the international Sir Joseph Banks Society.

“However the pleasing thing is the incredible contribution we are quietly making to tourism and international friendship. Our visitor book is testimony to this with entries from all corners of the world.”

Horncastle is a popular town where there are a good number of independent traders which are proud to try and offer shoppers something a bit different, all wrapped up with excellent customer service.

The town is also well known for being a focus for the antique trade in Lincolnshire and it draws dealers from all over the UK and abroad. With it amazing range of specialist shops, it continues to remain a hive of activity after being voted Best Antiques Town in 2001.

Horncastle’s traditional English tea rooms are also proving to be a big attraction and the town’s community venue, Stanhope Hall which was saved from demolition by a group of community campaigners is going from strength to strength.

Horncastle’s Sir Joseph Banks Society has a visitor book full of people’s names from far and wide – but it has been forging its own international links with Australia by welcoming a civic party and guests from the City of Bankstown in Sydney.

The group, led by Jon Hillman, the convener of the Museum of Bankstown Foundation Group, met Horncastle Mayor, Councillor Fiona Martin and was given a tour of the Sir Joseph Banks Society Centre and Banks-related buildings by Society trustees Jean Burton, Paul Scott and Pearl Wheatley.

The visitors handed over a letter of greeting and gifts from the Town Council of Bankstown and finished off their trip with lunch at Horncastle’s historic Bull Inn, one of the oldest hotels in the town.

This sixteenth-century hotel has strong links with Oliver Cromwell, notably when the building was in its primary stage in 1643 and he rested at the hotel.

But the group’s visit was particularly appropriate as Sir Joseph regularly used The Bull for meetings, more than 200 years ago.

After lunch the visitors were treated to a tour of the Revesby Estate and were able to see the believed site of Sir Joseph’s original house.

Bankstown, with a population of 26,000 people, is to be found in the suburbs about twelve miles from the centre of Sydney. It was established in 1795 and was immediately named after Sir Joseph who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Australia’.

Interestingly, its adjoining city is Revesby with a population of 12,000, also named in honour of Sir Joseph whose Lincolnshire home was in Revesby.

Travelling with Mr Hillman, were Julie McGowan and Nancy Stanbridge. The visit was part of a European tour with opportunities to make useful connections for a proposed museum in the town’s old library building.

The Sir Joseph Banks Society donated books and CDs of display material to the group and it is hoped that this successful visit will lead to long-standing co-operation and friendship between the two organisations.

Horncastle’s former town hall, which was saved from demolition by a campaigning community group and refurbished at a cost of £200,000, is going from strength to strength. Stanhope Hall, in Boston Road, which has just marked its second year of business, has become a well-used community hub and attracted a lot of people to Horncastle. All the office suites are let and the hall and meeting room are increasingly being hired out, with its versatility coming to the fore over the past few months.

During the Diamond Jubilee celebrations virtually the whole five-day programme was centred around the Hall, which played host to all kinds of activities, from the roller disco, to the judging of the parade, the Sunday Lunch, the tea dance, the children’s parties and the big breakfast.

It was transformed into an evacuation and rest centre after an HGV careered into a bungalow on Boston Road, severing a gas pipe in its wake. Just weeks later it became the ‘local command centre’ for the Horncastle Flood Wardens and volunteers issuing hundreds of sandbags to those people whose houses were most at risk of flooding.

Since then it has been a by-election polling station and is also home to the town’s U3A club, which has 150 members and which holds its monthly meetings there.

Twice a week the judo club meets there, with some sixty members, and there are cooking classes, ‘vitality’ classes and a weekly new age curling club.

On top of the regular sessions, the hall is proving a popular venue for wedding receptions. Auctioneer Robert Bell & Co holds a monthly sale there, attracting more than 500 people each time.

Stanhope Hall was built in 1901 to replace a smaller Drill Hall which the volunteers had outgrown. As it was funded by public donations, it has always had a dual role as a place of public entertainment and that of the local Army Headquarters. 

During World War I the Red Cross took over the building and it served to treat 1,127 wounded soldiers between 1914 and 1919. Again during World War II it was also a treatment centre for the wounded soldiers.

Two Rolls of Honour are displayed in the Hall in memory of the men of the Lincolnshire Regiment who died during the two conflicts.

In 1967 the Drill Hall was renamed the Town Hall and became the home of the Horncastle Urban District Council.

In 1974 at local government re-organisation East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) was formed and they created their area office in the building along with the Town Council office. More recently ELDC decided the building was surplus to its requirements and in January 2009 the building was closed down and boarded up.

The whole community rallied round, fought hard to save the building from demolition and on 21st April 2010 ELDC’s full council voted to allow the community to take over and run the facility, led by the Stanhope Hall group which is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Horncastle is well known for being the centre of the antiques trade in Lincolnshire, drawing dealers from all over the UK and overseas.

No wonder then that the antiques programme Bargain Hunt paid the town a visit to film an episode of the popular BBC television series.

Exact details of what happened on the day are strictly under wraps, but four town antiques shops were visited and the programme is likely to be screened towards the end of the year.

The programme’s Amy Ferrier said: “We spent two days in Horncastle and visited various local shops – the Drill Hall, Great Expectations, Trinity Antiques Centre and Horncastle Antiques Centre. 

“The experts were Jonathan Pratt and Charles Hanson and the auction took place at Bateman’s Auction House. Unfortunately I can’t let you know the results of the programme.”

Bargain Hunt is a British television programme in which two pairs of contestants are challenged to buy antiques at a fair and then sell them in an auction for a profit.

Two teams, designated the ‘Reds’ and the ‘Blues’, compete. Each team has two members, who wear matching tops that correspond to their team’s colour.

At the beginning of the show, each team is given a set amount of money with which to purchase antiques. The objective is to find items that will earn the team a profit when later sold at auction.

Each team is accompanied by an antiques trade expert, though it is the contestants’ decision whether or not to heed the advice given by their expert.

After the contestants have completed their purchases and presented them to the host, home viewers are shown a ‘what the auctioneer thinks’ segment in which the auctioneer appraises the buys and give an auction estimate of what they will fetch.

At the auction, as each item is sold, the host compares the auction sale price to the price originally paid by the team, with the difference being either subtracted from or added to the team’s total.

If the final total shows a profit, the team receives that profit in cash; otherwise they get nothing. The profit/loss does not take into account commission (buyers’ premium) or VAT.

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