Alford centre for crafts and chords

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
September 2017

Situated as it is on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds and within easy distance of the coastal resorts of Mablethorpe and Sutton on Sea, this small town is always a popular place to visit.
With a number of historic buildings to attract the tourists who flock to the Lincolnshire coast throughout the summer months and a forward thinking community that supports its local facilities week in week out, Alford is a place dear to many people’s hearts.

At first impression Alford may appear to be a small rural market town at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a closer look reveals it has a lot to offer behind the scenes.

Named after the ‘alder trees growing by the ford’ and granted a market charter by King Edward I in 1283, Alford became the market town serving the rural community with markets on Tuesdays and Fridays, cattle markets (now finished) and latterly craft markets.

The buildings in town represent most of the architectural periods since the fourteenth century and the centre of town is a Conservation Area.

Its Corn Exchange was built in 1856 at a cost of £1,400. A Grade II listed building, it was used as the Civic Offices for the Town Council and for functions and events.

The parish church is St Wilfrid’s, which was built around 1350 and is the town’s oldest building, built to replace an earlier church on site since 1150.The grammar school began life here in a schoolroom above the porch.

Alford even has its own windmill which is set on the approach to the town from Mablethorpe and still mills flour. Built in 1815 and the sole survivor of four mills in Alford, it is a well-known emblem of the town.

But it is Alford Manor House that people flock to visit.

Built in 1611 this is a Grade II listed building, and is now owned and run by the Alford Civic Trust. The Manor House was extensively refurbished over many years and now serves as a museum and venue for a variety of functions, from weddings to birth ceremonies.

Reputedly the largest thatched manor house in the country, Alford Manor House was built to a traditional H-plan in 1611.

Comprising the The Museum of Rural Life which houses many of the town’s historic artefacts, tea rooms and gardens open to visitors, there is something to see for all ages and plenty of events and activities to enjoy.

The Manor House is preparing for an extremely busy few months with a Heritage Open Weekend taking place on 9th & 10th September which also includes a Vintage Tractor Day and a Steam Threshing Day.

There will be tractor runs around the local area on the morning of 9th September and vintage vehicles and stationary engines on display in the Manor House grounds.

On Sunday 10th September visitors will be able to view the method of threshing and baling of straw on the Manor House’s fully restored vintage machines which are powered by steam. Some Pre-war Austin Seven Club members will also be visiting and displaying their vehicles in the grounds.

October will be another busy month for the Manor House with events to mark Lincolnshire Day, and an Apple Day when visitors will be able to see a wide range of locally grown apples on display in the marquee and listen to the experts explain how we have learnt to prune the apple trees to encourage good growth.

The Manor House is also supporting the Wolds Words Events, acting as a venue for literacy, and hosting willow weaving workshops and a talk on ‘The changing face of Lincolnshire farming’ by Alan Stennett.

The Manor House also hosts the annual August Bank Holiday Craft Market Weekend which first put Alford on the map four decades ago and is still going strong.

“It is a big event attracting 5,000 people,” explained Prisiclla McGirr, who is chairman of Alford Craft Market which organises the event and is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1974 to promote quality Lincolnshire crafts via its events, shop and classes.

“It is not just a craft market, it is a festival with live music and entertainment in the grounds of the Manor House as well as craft demonstrations and workshops. People come to it from as far away as Nottingham and we get bus loads of visitors from the coast too.

“It has been going since 1974 and is always a big event because a lot of people know it from when they were children and they used to visit with their parents.

“The whole craft market is generally getting bigger and better. It is the main event of the year and we had 30 per cent more stalls booked this year as well as a few new stalls.”

One of the longest standing craft markets in the UK, it was the first of its kind in the Lincolnshire Wolds and was established in 1974 by two craftspeople Heather & Michel Ducos of Alford Pottery, who both had a long-term vision and a love for their town.

Proud of their craft, they wished to create a venue where Lincolnshire craftsmen, makers and artists could gather and sell their work offering the public something different, handmade and in a variety of disciplines: ceramic, wood, iron, glass, textile etc.

Alford Craft Market took a new step last year when it opened a craft shop in the centre of town, which is supplied by Lincolnshire craftspeople and run by volunteers, with the aim of promoting the best of Lincolnshire crafts as well as providing a centre where people interested in handcrafts could visit and exchange ideas.

Priscilla said: “Our shop is open and doing very well and is getting busier all the time. The craft centre is also very busy and we can now offer classes in ceramics, glass fusing, and glass bead making in addition to the many craft classes that were already being run.”

The increase in classes is all thanks to the organisation’s latest project, the Bakehouse Project which was made possible thanks to a Big Lottery Fund Grant.

Alford Craft Market Centre was chosen as one of only five community groups to be filmed for ITV’s The People’s Projects Competition run in March 2016.

They were eligible for up to £50,000 to renovate and equip the Old Bakehouse, a large building next door to the Craft Centre, as a Pottery and Glass Studio.

“We were successful in winning the grant and The Bakehouse Project was one of three out of five projects to get the most votes from the public,” explained Priscilla. “Since then we have been getting lots of bookings for our classes .”

Another new ever-expanding facility for the town is Alford Focal Point which came about following Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to sell off its libraries.

“It was left to volunteer groups to come forward and take the libraries over and the group that came together here were called Alford Focal Point,” explained chairman of the Trustees Richard Quantrelle.

“When the library closed we lost a few regular customers but they are beginning to come back and we are getting back to the same usage figures as before, so it has been going well.”

The building belonged to Lincolnshire County Council but only the downstairs area was being used by the library at the time.

“Upstairs had been a community dental health service which had been closed for a couple of years. So we asked for the use of the whole building and they agreed,” Richard explained.

The first thing the charity did was to change the look of downstairs because it didn’t appear to be very welcoming.

“We felt it was laid out in such a way that the message being given out was ‘get your book and go’,” Richard said. “There were no seats so we have created a sitting area in the children’s section so mums and dads can read them stories.

“The adults’ section has been set out around a fake fireplace with some comfortable leather chairs so visitors can take a book, read it in comfort and have a bit of peace and quiet.

“There is even a table in there with magazines.”

The building also had a computer suite which has now been converted and updated with new tables, chairs and a large screen so presentations can be given.

Upstairs a large conference room has been created which is now used as the town council chamber.

“The council used to meet in the Corn Exchange but they are planning to do something else with that building so the town council moved and now holds its meetings at Alford Focal Point,” Richard said. “The room can also be used by other groups as well.”

By kncoking down walls between three of the other rooms, a good sized family room has been created with two settees, a television and a coffee table.

“It offers a more informal, intimate meeting space,” Richard said.

With grant aid from LCC and East Lindsey District Council the group has been able to add a fully equipped kitchen and downstairs toilet facilities including a disabled toilet and baby changing facilities.

“It has been two years since the library closed and we have spent about £25,000 on the improvements to the building,” Richard said. “And because it now has some good sized meeting rooms, we have added to what the town has to offer as we realised that though there were a lot of large to medium sized halls Alford didn’t have many meeting rooms.”

Alford not only has a unique sense of togetherness amongst its community, it has some of the best nursery provision in the county as well.

The nursery located at Ormsby Lodge in East Street in the town is part of the Mon Ami Group of nurseries which also has branches in Wragby, Boston and Swineshead.

It has been nominated for Nursery Group of the Year having completed outstanding Ofsted reports across its nurseries in March and its senior nursery manager, Kristina Johnson, is in line for the ‘Regional Manager of the Year’ title.

Samantha Britton, co-owner of Mon Ami Children’s Nurseries, said: “This is brilliant news and we’re all absolutely thrilled. We’ve had an amazing year which was capped in March when Ofsted gave our new nursery in Wragby the highest inspection rating.

“That means all four of our nurseries are rated Outstanding, and we would like to pay tribute to all our staff and managers who have worked so hard to make this possible.

“They certainly deserve every success. We didn’t think this year could get any better but gaining national recognition for our achievements is the icing on the cake. It also gives parents even more confidence in the quality of our nurseries and staff an even deeper sense of pride in their work.”

Mon Ami Nursery in Alford was opened in 2008 by Jarrod and Samantha Britton who already had two nurseries in Swineshead and Boston.

The children’s centre in Alford needed a designated child care provider and Lincolnshire County Council approached the husband and wife team to find out if they would be interested.

“We were delighted to accept the offer and were lucky enough to find the most beautiful building,” Samantha said. “Although it had been empty for quite a while, it had a really homely feel with lots of period features and beautiful grounds.

“We could tell it had massive potential as a children’s nursery and fell in love with it straight away. We have refurbished the coach house and the orangery – one of the nursery’s many beautiful period features – which has really enhanced the quality of the provision in Alford by creating sixteen more places and lots more space for the children to enjoy.

“We’ve also introduced a holiday club and an after-school club which has added to the childcare available for under-5s and means we can now care for children aged from 0 to 11.”

And they are not going to rest there. Future plans for the nursery include converting the stables to create even more places.

Alford has much to offer its own residents in terms of entertainment and leisure and one group has even been flying the flag for the town for more than fifty years.

Alford Silver Band has more than sixty playing members, including a large training section which is predominantly made up of youngsters but also has a number of adults who have decided to learn a brass instrument in their more mature years.

Unlike some of the more ‘household name’ bands, it does not compete in brass band contests nor is it a ‘marching’ band.

“It is a concert band that enjoys making good music and entertaining people,” explained band secretary Jane Taylor. “The band has a wide ranging repertoire of music from the classics to pop, and everything in between. And more music is being added to the extensive library all the time.”

There has been a band in Alford since the 1860s, when the town formed a Rifle Brigade Band, in common with many other towns and cities throughout the country.

This early band later became the Excelsior Band until 1900, when it divided into two separate bands. The outbreak of World War I and the loss of many players to the armed forces caused the suspension of the brass bands in Alford, and it was not until the 1920s that the band reformed as the British Legion Band.

It then became Alford Town Band and was the first band to bear the town’s name. However, the outbreak of World War II put paid to it until the 1960s when Alford Silver Band formed.

“It has gone from strength to strength ever since,” Jane said. “The players are all unpaid and play just for fun. But there is a lot of musical talent in the band.”

Due to illness the main band has an acting musical director in the form of David Boorer but the musical director for the training section is Andrew Taylor who himself is a product of the band’s training scheme and went on to study music at university and obtain a Bachelor of Music degree.

He is now the band’s principal cornet as well as being responsible for developing the trainees.

In an age of big corporate takeovers and globalisation, it’s refreshing to hear of a Lincolnshire business that’s been around for 175 years and is still thriving as an independent concern today.

As one of the longest-established independent property specialists in east Lincolnshire, Willsons is a familiar and well-respected name from the Wolds to the sea. From revamped offices in Alford and Skegness, the firm provides a first class service for town and country customers across the entire region.

The running of Willsons today is in the expert hands of Paul Robinson and James Boulton, both of whom are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.

Full estate agency services are offered at both offices with competitive fees, local and national coverage via the local press and well known website along with and

The Skegness office is also home to a thriving rental department, with Alford being the main centre for the auctioning of furniture, farm machinery and equipment. Willsons are also proud to be auctioneers at Lincolnshire’s only remaining Livestock Market in Louth.

Other services undertaken by the firm include valuations of a wide variety of residential and agricultural properties for various purposes as well as RICS Red Book valuations.

Willsons continues to follow the original ethos of keeping customers fully satisfied by delivering a personal service of the highest standard.

Safelincs has just completed the purchase of a large industrial complex in Alford, currently known as Gnutti. Safelincs MD, Harry Dewick-Eisele, started his career in Alford in these buildings when he began work for CS Martin back in 1995 as project co-Ordinator. Whilst undertaking an MBA, as part of his development within this role, he set up Safelincs as part of his research for his final dissertation.

In 2004 Harry left his job to focus on Safelincs and soon the company rapidly increased in size. Soon he will be moving back into the building where his career in Alford first began. “We have a great team at Safelincs and it is great to see the company go from strength to strength,” said Harry. “We currently employ 37 staff, the move will enable us to expand and we are currently recruiting a further three members of staff.”

The Wine & Glass Company is an established Lincolnshire Wine Merchant in the East of the County.

They have a selection of over 250 wines from all over the world and specialise in Bordeaux and Port. They welcome all enquiries, not only for the wines they list but can also try and source other wines their clients might request.

Wine tastings can be arranged for private parties and charity fundraising events, discounts will be offered to charities.

Glass hire and delivery is free, throughout Lincolnshire, when three or more cases are purchased.

You can visit Mary and her team at the following events:
Marie Curie Christmas Bazaar, Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa on 15th and 16th November.
Christmas Extravaganza, Alford Manor House on Friday 1st December.
Lincoln Food and Gift Fair, Epic Centre, Lincolnshire Showground from 1st to 3rd December (1st is a preview evening, which is by invitation only).

Looking for hands-on experience that gets you and the family involved and outside? If so, get yourselves to Galley Hill Farm! Throughout September and October, Galley Hill Farm offers hands-on experience of picking your own apples directly off the tree, there’s no more satisfying feeling than eating the fruits that you have hand picked yourself. Or if that’s not for you and you just want to try the delicious apples for yourself, the farm also offers bags of ready picked apples.

Galley Hill Farm has a wide variety of apples and pears: Katy, Sunset, James Grieve, Fiesta, Falstaff, Jonagold Red, Russet, Bramley Cookers and Pears. Open 11am-5pm daily in September and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm throughout the duration of October there is plenty of time for you to gather up some friends and have the unique and fun experience of apple picking.

In addition to the delicious apples and pears, Galley Hill Farm offers a range of scrumptious homemade jams, jellies, chutneys and local honeys for sale. The farm is easily accessible and is located outside Alford and is off the A1104 just before the Woodthorpe Garden Centre.

Packed full of enthusiasm, tenacity and drive – that’s the Fairburn’s Egg Team.

Very much a hands-on family business, the third generation of the Fairburn family work side by side with their incredibly creative team and produce the freshest, tastiest, British Lion approved eggs. L J Fairburn & Son has a heritage firmly rooted in Lincolnshire and has been producing eggs in the county for more than 66 years. The business is unrecognisable from those early years in 1951 but one thing that hasn’t changed is the drive and determination to produce the freshest, tastiest eggs for its customers.

Dynamic and determined, the new management team at Fairburn’s have really pushed the business into the 21st century. Taking control of every process of producing eggs for customers they have focused on establishing a vertically integrated business model. Attention to detail, successive investment into new technologies and pushing the boundaries of innovation to produce new varieties of eggs have seen this team captivate the interests of the major supermarket chains. They are now proud suppliers to Aldi, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons, The Co-op, Costco and food service company Bidfood. Assisting retailers with product development and working in close partnership ensures that new opportunities to create more artisan egg types can be explored. Because of the passion to innovate and create new and delicious egg types the company is particularly proud to supply beautiful golden yolked eggs into both Sainsbury’s and ASDA and to supply its brand new British Blue® hens eggs into both Aldi and Sainsbury’s, all available under the supermarkets’ premium egg offerings.

Expansion and innovation on such a large scale has naturally brought prestigious recognition. This has included being listed on the London Stock Exchange ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’, winning Made in the Midlands Manufacturer of the Year (over £25 million turnover) 2017, 2017 Northern Winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and most recently, gaining a coveted 2-star Great Taste award for its British Blue® Eggs which means judges dubbed it outstanding – the utmost accolade and seal of approval for quality of taste. Judged by over 500 of the most demanding palates, belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs and producers, as well as a whole host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers. British Blue® will now wear the unmistakeable black and gold Great Taste label, a signpost to a wonderful tasting product!

Fairburn’s is proud to be one of the only egg producers to produce every single type of egg for retail. They control every part of the production process from rearing their hens from day old chicks, milling their own feed which is 100% natural to give a fantastic favour and superior yolk – to delivering over 80 different products direct to supermarkets all on a daily basis.

Across Lincolnshire consumers can pick up their Fairburn branded packs of eggs in ASDA and Co-operative stores and the 24 egg pack is available nationwide in Costco.

The Alford Corn Exchange has been at the helm of the community since October 1283 when it was granted ‘Market Status’. In the early days it was used by farmers, selling corn and potatoes and the community at large held their regular dances and other functions there.

East Lindsey District Council and the Alford Town Council owned the building, however in the present financial climate found it untenable. Discussions with a prominent businessman resulted in the building being sold to the Alford Corn Exchange Group of Trustees in 2014. Charity status was granted in April, 2015.

With support from the Councils, the Lottery and grants from private organisations and generous donations from local businesses, renovations began. The hall is now hired out to regular hirers. The kitchen and back room, having been renovated, allows for refreshments to be served and a bar run as required. Tea Dances and many other functions, for the benefit of the whole community, are held and other charities are supported in their fundraising efforts.

Sunday 10th September – Laura Abella, soprano plus special guest tenor featuring Harpist Robert Pacey, 12noon-5pm, tickets £18.50 including Afternoon Tea. Tickets available from JB Flowers, Talking Heads Salon and Rob Rays Emporium. Tel: 01507 466242/07939 003109.

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Calling all UK young artists!Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition Doddington Hall and Gardens, Lincolnshire invites submissions from UK-based sculptors and 3D artists, aged under 30, for an exciting new open exhibition to be held this summer. Doddington is looking for pieces to be exhibited in the historic working Kitchen Garden, which complement the Garden and its surroundings. The Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition will run alongside the main bi-annual Sculpture at Doddington exhibition and is an opportunity to exhibit alongside some of the finest contemporary sculptors selected from across the country and further afield. Prizes: 1st prize – £750, 2nd prize – £250Submission deadline: Sunday April 21st 2024Further details about eligibility, terms and conditions can be found at: apply, please email your submission as a PDF document to ... See MoreSee Less