A town with hidden depths

Horncastle is a popular stopping-off place for travellers keen to break their journeys to and from the county’s bustling coastal resorts, and many are surprised when they discover unexpected treasures. By Glynis Fox.

The Lincolnshire Wolds market town plays an important role in providing the surrounding rural and farming communities with a wide range of essential shops and services.

Horncastle sits at the “hub” of a network of roads leading to Skegness, Boston, Woodhall Spa, Lincoln and Louth with its many interesting shops and businesses scattered about.

The historic town has become a favourite haunt for collectors thanks to its reputation as a centre packed with Aladdin’s caves offering irresistible temptations for antiques lovers and collectors of crockery, period furniture, old books, jewellery and more.

If bygones are your thing, you could find anything from an amazing piece of furniture to a special china cup and saucer – which might be just what you’ve been trying to track down for ages in order to replace broken pieces in a treasured heirloom tea service.

Historically, the town has long been associated with family businesses. It still is today. In keeping with that trend, this is a destination where you can enjoy the personal service offered by a wealth of independent traders.

Of course, the local population is also served with supermarkets and that choice looks set to grow with plans for both Aldi and Lidl to bring their names to the town.

Naturally, there have been plenty of changes on the retail front but, despite the current economic challenges the town has welcomed newcomers and celebrated expansion news.

One of the best-known local businesses is Myers, which has a bakery, café and cheese shop and deli, based in neighbouring premises in the Bull Ring. Myers also has the tempting gift shop The Country Stile in the High Street, overlooking the Market Place.

Manager Marie Broughton-Myers said: “We had a very busy Christmas period, now we are looking forward to the Easter period and thinking about the coming Coronation.

“We have a really loyal following, including people who love products like our traditional plum bread, which we also supply to farm shops and other outlets outside of Lincolnshire. We have also been selling a lot of our hampers from our website.”

Myers’ highly popular tearoom offers regulars and new visitors to the town a delicious range of meals and snacks, and it is also the perfect place for the business to showcase its seasonal and other new lines too.
“We shall be putting up decorations for the Coronation and introducing specials, which could include tray bakes, cookies and cupcakes,” said Marie.

Marie has also recently refreshed The Country Stile, adding new artwork, ladies fashion accessories and more, so it is worth popping in and taking a closer look when you are shopping for a friend’s birthday, family occasion or even a treat for yourself.

“It is good to see one or two new shops in the town and it is important that people continue to visit them and see what independent traders offer,” added Marie.

Sleaford-headquartered builders’ merchant, bathroom and kitchen specialist Turnbull & Co snapped up the West Street premises formerly occupied by the long-standing company J T Friskney. It closed after 110 years of trading upon the retirement of its former managing director Eric Young.

Family-run Turnbull opened its Horncastle branch in mid-December, creating 20 jobs and managers say more will be generated in the coming months.

Branch manager Andy Chapman said: “The company bought the former Friskney’s site and we are currently providing trade and domestic customers with their building, plumbing and other supplies.”

As we went to press, the company was also looking forward to creating its kitchen and bathroom showrooms on site and growing its workforce in the town.

Meanwhile, butcher Ashley Brumby, who took over Wisby’s butchers in the town centre in 2022, kick-started 2023 on a high note – after moving over the road into a unit formerly occupied by a discount shop and starting his new venture at the beginning of January.

Since then, Ashley has been at the helm of The Busy Butcher, which has become an increasingly diverse business. The outlet caters for people who love traditional cuts of meat and others who want trendier offerings, such as barbecue bombs and ready prepared dishes. He also sells fruit, vegetables, cheeses and much more – in what is like a mini farm shop.

“There is never a best time to start a business but I am delighted with my shop. I currently have three employees, but I expect to expand to employ five by taking on a couple of part-timers in the coming weeks,” said Ashley.

“I am offering products to suit all customers, from those who want traditional cuts of meat to people looking for trendier cuts and ready meals. We are also offering a wider range of goods because when I opened our doors I wanted our business to appeal to everyone.”

Ashley is continuing to keep his new venture fresh and interesting by also stocking products from other local businesses.

Other independents include the Magpie Boutique in the Bull Ring and the quirky Flange & Prong in West Street – a popular haunt for those fascinated by witchcraft!

The Magpie Boutique is owned by Kate Donald and is a colourful Aladdin’s cave, featuring a string of rooms bursting with clothing, handbags, jewellery and gifts galore.

Another branch of the business can be found in the Lyndhurst Garden Centre in Burgh Le Marsh.

Meanwhile Flange & Prong, run by Shelley Mayes and her colleagues, is an irresistible magnet for anyone intrigued by the subject of witchcraft, looking to have their palm read, attend a spells workshop or simply pick up a few crystals, dreamcatchers and much more.

Back in the High Street, you will also find Grace’s Boutique, another attraction for those looking for ladies’ fashions and accessories.

Owner Joanna Holderness has had the boutique for more than 10 years. In November 2021, she expanded her business interests in the town by taking over the former Poyntons footwear shop, now known as Shoes by Grace.

Both businesses are doing well and, as we went to press, the finishing touches were being put to a website which will feature everything from dresses to shoes and accessories.

Naturally, Horncastle is also home to many service businesses and its choice of hotels and eateries means it’s also a great place to get a meal and stay, while exploring the surrounding area.

Not everyone realises that Horncastle has its own Theatre Company, which aims to put on six productions a year.

Performers take to the stage at The Lion Theatre, which has about 100 seats and which is located at the top of The Red Lion Hotel’s yard, off the Bull Ring.

Players were busy during January and February entertaining families with their version of Dick Whittington.

Next on the bill are performances of Alan Ayckbourn’s acclaimed comedy Bedroom Farce. It will be performed on the evenings of 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd April at 7.30pm.

For more information visit the website, www.horncastletheatre.co.uk

Early 2023 marked a new era for East Lindsey District Council, which moved to new energy-efficient and central headquarters in Horncastle.

Late January saw the council leave Tedder Hall in Manby after 44 years and switch its operations to the Hub in the town.

It follows the council working with Boston College to help provide a campus in the town to fill a learning and skills gap. The Hub is a shared facility with the college, which has been providing a range of 18+ courses for people locally and in the surrounding areas from the campus since November.

The project was supported by The Greater Lincolnshire LEP which contributed £1.2 million for the college campus.

ELDC funded the remaining £6.23m of the project costs – recognising that it would be a cost-neutral project over a maximum of 15 years, when factoring in the sale of Skegness Town Hall, Tedder Hall and the reduced running costs of the new building.

Given the significant increase in utility prices, this payback period has now significantly reduced to about eight years.

ELDC said the Hub supports its commitment to reducing CO2 and minimising its impact on climate change.

The sale of Skegness Town Hall was completed last summer and the sale of Manby Park (including Tedder Hall) completed in December.

ELDC Leader, Councillor Craig Leyland said the move to Horncastle marks a new chapter in the authority’s history.

“The project has helped Boston College to fulfil an ambition to provide a campus in Horncastle. More people are able to access a range of courses without the need to travel far.

“The Hub has been built to ensure it is as energy-efficient as possible, in line with our other ambitions around sustainability and the response to climate change.”

The Sir Joseph Banks Society’s Natural Science and Heritage Museum is launching three major exhibitions over the coming months.

The first exhibition, which runs from 3rd April – 30th June, features the work of notable wildlife artist, naturalist and falconer George Edward Lodge (1860-1954).

Born in the town, he was also a prolific illustrator, best remembered for his superb illustrations for Dr Bannerman’s 12 volumes of The Birds of the British Isles.

This special exhibition will feature work never seen before in public, and includes a selection of his paintings and personal objects donated by the George Edward Lodge Trust.

Later in the summer, look out for the Horncastle Horse Fair exhibition (6th July – 15th September), which looks at the social life and conditions of a Victorian town, warts and all.

Established in the 13th century, the fair was held annually and according to records, two Grand National winners were purchased here, as well as several which joined the 17th Lancers and took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The ‘It Happened On A Summers’ Day’ exhibition (21st September – 18th November), features the work of leading botanist Rev Adrian Woodruffe-Peacock, who took a leading role in the foundation of the Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union in 1893.

The exhibition also tells the stories of pioneering amateur naturalists who were founder members of the Union, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

“In a very short time frame we have secured some amazing natural history collections and we are most proud of how we are using these to support the education of students, from primary school to university level,” says Paul Scott. “If we care about our natural world, we need to encourage the development of young naturalists.”

The centre is also home to tourist information, a tribute garden and library, with standing exhibitions relating to local history and Sir Joseph Banks.

Admission is free and visits from schools, societies and clubs are welcome by appointment. Open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm, with extended hours during school holidays.

For more information visit www.joseph-banks.org.uk

Established in 1992, family furniture retailers Askew’s have always sought the best British made products and currently display collections from top UK brands across their three Lincolnshire locations.

Their new Horncastle store on North Street, aptly named ‘Askews Best of British’, sells nothing but tried and tested British made furniture and accessories.

“Our flagship store in Alford turned 30 last year and with all our years of experience we know that buying local and buying British is very important to consumers and now more than ever people want to support their local high street businesses.

“Our newest store in Horncastle was our chance to meet that need and so we only house the best of our British brands in upholstery, including sofas, chairs and recliners, all available in a range of striking fabrics so you can style them to suit your own interior.

“We also stock big names in beds and mattresses such as Sealy and Silentnight, as well as mobility assistance products, such as rise and recline chairs and adjustable beds. We even stock a range of accessories, candles, cushions, mirrors, art and more, all made here in the UK.

“If you haven’t visited an Askew’s store in a while, or you are new to the family, then we encourage you to visit our new Horncastle boutique – you really are in for a treat.

“We offer a free ‘white glove’ delivery service to all customers spending over £500, which includes delivery, assembly (where required) and removal of packaging – all free of charge. We can also provide an old furniture removal service should you wish us to take it away for you on the same day, making your entire shopping experience hassle-free.”

For more information visit www.askewsfurniture.co.uk

Situarted in West Street, Flange & Prong is a well established “witchcraft” supply shop which opened in March 2017 offering a range of eclectic gifts, alternative clothing, crystals and specialist books, as well as psychic readings, reiki, healing, weddings, naming days and funeral services.  

“Our holistic and spiritual items for sale include essential oils, meditation candles and cushions, well-being supplies, plus plenty of other lovely things,” explains founder Shelley Mayes, who is a tarot card, crystal ball and palm reader, as well as a specialist piercer.

Shelley runs the shop with her helpful team, including newly appointed junior partner, Tessa Lowe: “Our friendly team is available for a huge range of psychic readings, and are wedding and funeral celebrants, and we also perform house blessings, naming days, handfastings, plus meditation and hypnotherapy workshops and more.

“Come in to meet us and find out more – everyone is welcome!”

For more information visit www.flangeandprong.com

For one of the largest selections of freshly baked breads in the county, look no further than Myers Bakery in the Bull Ring. The Myers family have been baking since 1901. Using scratch recipes, traditional techniques and only the finest ingredients, their selection includes classics such as wholemeal, white and granary, alongside deliciously different lines like spelt and honey, low GI, sourdough and Irish soda bread.

Accompanying their breads and rolls, you’ll also find a full range of morning goods, confectionery and fresh cream cakes. If it’s something savoury you’re after, the small team of craft bakers also produce pork pies, haslets, sausage rolls, various pasties and quiches, all made using locally produced meat and their own handmade pastry. Myers is also the home of the famous Lincolnshire Plum Loaf, a unique light and moist fruit loaf with a flavour all of its own.

The popular bakery also supplies Myers’ café tearoom situated next door and serves breakfast, brunch, lunches and afternoon teas. Children are also well catered for with the recent launch of a special menu, allowing the adults to relax and enjoy their food and drink whilst little ones are kept entertained with puzzles and colouring. They can even enter their work into the Myers colouring competition to be in with a chance of winning a special surprise!

Photographs: Mick Fox

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