Beating heart of the district

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
March 2014

The former market town of Kirton in Holland, four miles south of Boston, was during the reign of Elizabeth I the third largest settlement in Lincolnshire.
It is now one of the biggest villages in the borough and looks set to grow even more, with plans in the pipeline for the development of up to 140 new homes off London Road and both Kirton Primary School and Middlecott Secondary School expanding.

Clerk to the Parish Council, Belinda Buttery, said Kirton is a traditional village with much to offer.

“The A17 and A16 are close by so it is easily accessible and the industrial site is starting to get filled up. It is a busy village and it is growing. There are just over 4,200 people on the electoral roll and the planning department is looking to build another 500 houses in the village, so it is going to be even bigger,” she said.

“We have a busy town hall which is booked out a lot and the secondary school is in the process of increasing its capacity by fifty per cent this year. The primary school is also expanding and its roll is going to go up from 400 pupils to 600.”

A busy, bustling village with a variety of shops, banks and offices, Kirton is surrounded by areas of marshland which are popular with naturalists and wildfowlers.

“We are quite a traditional village with traditional shops – a bakery, a butcher, a flower shop, which is an Aladdin’s cave that sells everything,” said Belinda.

“Because the library is going to close, there are plans for a couple from the village to open a coffee shop in there and keep it as a library too.

“We are trying to get hold of funds to build a skate park as well. We have applied for a WREN grant and we are hoping that, if it is successful, the park will be built by the school summer holidays.”

Sam Chapman, village resident, chairman of the Town Hall Management Committee and editor of the village magazine, Kirton News, said improved facilities for the youth of Kirton has been a regular bone of contention for many years, and a skatepark the topic on many of those occasions.

“Although, in the past, enthusiasm seems to have quickly drained away, over the past few months there has been something of an upturn in interest in the subject,” he said.

“For the first time a group of local youths have formed themselves into a ‘pressure group’ and have had remarkable success.

“With encouragement and guidance from several areas, they have lobbied the Parish Council and put together a realistic and genuine argument as to why a skatepark could, and should be constructed as a major part of a new local leisure area. It has generated much respect and admiration from all sectors and the adults have been impressed with the maturity shown by the group and the respectful way it has conducted itself.

“The youngsters have been encouraged that their voice has not only finally been heard but has been taken notice of and acted upon. It has revived a true example of community spirit and co-operation.”
Land has been allocated, the plans have been drawn up and the youngsters have already started to fundraise.

“It is worthy of help. The project will benefit the whole village by relighting that beacon of community spirit and co-operation,” said Sam. “The youngsters are the future of this village. It gives them a hands-on opportunity to help build a part of that future.”

Kirton was one of the first Royal centres for the Saxon kingdom established after the Romans left in the fourth century. It was also a major administrative centre for the Holland district of Lincolnshire in the seventeenth century.

One prominent figure in village life was farmer and philanthropist William Dennis. He was benefactor of the Town Hall, which was built in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of George V, and the founder of a family business still flourishing in the village today.

Born in 1841, he built up a huge potato enterprise and supplied all the potatoes eaten at a dinner for the poor of London to mark King Edward VII’s coronation. There is a statue in his honour in the village.

The farm, Woodlands Organic Farm, consists of level silt fields which were reclaimed from the sea by the monks of Crowland Abbey some 900 years ago.

As with many other villages, the church, of St Peter & St Paul, dominates the centre of Kirton and has thirteenth-century origins. Originally it was of cruciform design and extremely large, but in 1804 architect William Hayward used gunpowder to blow up much of the dilapidated building. The transepts were destroyed. The chancel and nave were shortened and a new tower was built at the west end.

Interesting features inside include a memorial window to the memory of JS Paulson, a local lad killed in the First World War, and a scroll in appreciation of the work done by Dame Sarah Swift from Blossom Hall, Kirton Skeldyke, who was matron in chief of all Red Cross Hospitals in the same war and founder of the Royal College of Nursing. The beautiful kneelers in the church are the handiwork of local ladies. Many commemorate friends and relatives.

The church has just undergone major repairs but parishioners are now reaping the benefits.

Father Gary Morgan, priest in charge, said it now has a complete new lead roof.

He said: “The old one was Victorian and it leaked. The repairs cost £180,000 but we got a grant from English Heritage and raised funds locally. It was very difficult to raise the money. A small group of people worked extremely hard and we managed to raise £20,000 which is very good for a village, but it was hard work.”

Father Morgan has been in charge at Kirton’s church for four years and is also priest in charge of neighbouring Algarkirk’s church, also named St Peter & St Paul.

The church has a good number of worshippers in the congregation and it is in big demand for weddings and christenings.

“We have a lot of baptisms and weddings and a Sunday congregation of between forty and sixty people. We have found that the church is much warmer now since the roof was repaired. Our coffers are a bit depleted though,” said Father Morgan.

However, there is a treat in store for villagers next month when ’60s singer Ricky Valance, best known for the number one single ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, comes to entertain. A born-again Christian, he will be giving a concert in the church on 23rd April starting at 7pm. Tickets are £6 and proceeds are all for church funds.

“Because we spent so much on the roof repairs, our church funds are a bit low and people are tired of fundraising, so we are struggling to make ends meet. We are hoping this event will help boost the coffers a bit,” added Father Morgan.

Kirton can also lay claim to being the home of one of the country’s oldest brass bands which is still going strong today. Formed in 1870, Kirton Town Brass Band has played at a number of major events including fetes and festivals, sports days, coronations and jubilees.

The band played while 1,600 sat down to tea on the village green to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897 and in the 1960s its prowess was such that it reached the final stages of a national competition in London.

Kirton is home to Woodlands Organic Farm which was founded by William Dennis – the benefactor of the Town Hall.

The son of a farm labourer, William came to be regarded as something of a visionary farmer, particularly in respect of his work with the potato. He was also a philanthropist. For the King’s dinner to the poor following the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901, he provided sufficient potatoes to feed all the poor of London.

The farm consists of level silt fields which were reclaimed from the sea by the monks of Crowland Abbey some 900 years ago. And today it is still very much a family farm.

From William the farm passed first to Frank Dennis, then to Peter Kirton Dennis before it was passed to the current owner, Andrew Dennis.

Today Woodlands is a mixed farm with a herd of Lincoln Red Cattle, Lincoln Longwool Sheep, Curly Coat Pigs, rare breed turkeys and chickens. It also produces a wide range of organic vegetables and salads.

In April 2000, the farm set up an organic vegetable Box Scheme designed to provide affordable organic produce for people living locally and more recently it set up a biodynamic farming pilot project.

“Woodlands is a 690-hectare mixed organic farm, which means it grows vegetables, arable crops and keeps livestock. The fertility and structure of the soil is enhanced by our cattle, turkeys, sheep and chickens, all of whom play their part in our traditional crop rotations,” said scheme manager Karl McGory.

“The soil at Woodlands is grade one alluvial silt, ideally suited for vegetables, especially brassicas for which the area is famous. The farm is a popular feeding ground for sea birds: lapwings, shelduck, herons and numerous white-winged gulls. Hares abound, bright-eyed, spry, as brown as the soil. From the farm it is possible to see six church spires which is also a feature of our area.”

The farm practices an ‘open farm’ policy. School visits are encouraged and open days are held for customers and special interest groups. It has an active arts programme and hosts events and demonstration days for a number of organisations.

Kirton Brass Band has a long history, being one of the oldest brass ensembles in the country established for more than 140 years, but it is still looking very much to the future.

Founded in 1870, it has remained in existence throughout this period apart from during the First and Second World Wars. However, its focus now is on encouraging youngsters to take up a musical instrument and join the band in a bid to secure the band’s future for years to come.

Publicity officer, Steve McCracken said the band’s existence relies on having a very stable membership.

“In order to future-proof ourselves we have invested quite a lot of time and money in the training band to develop new players,“ said Steve.

“We provide them with the free loan of a high quality instrument, teach them how to read music and develop them so they can feed into the main Kirton band.

“This year, for the first time, we are going to use local radio as an advertising medium to find musicians who learned to play at school and who would like to return to playing.

“Over the past thirty years the schools in South Lincolnshire have been very good at producing brass musicians to a really high standard. But when they’ve left school, they’ve disappeared. We are going to try and find them and encourage them to return to playing.”

The band has enjoyed notable contest successes in the past but, for some time, has concentrated on concert performances in the Lincolnshire area. However, this year the band is going further afield.

“In the past our concerts have tended to be very much community based, but this year we are performing at some large garden festivals – at Newark, Peterborough and Huntingdon. We have also been invited to perform at Blenheim Palace in the summer,” said Steve.

The highlight in the band’s calendar, though, takes place this month, when it travels to Leeds to perform with The Black Dyke Band for a concert in the town hall.

“The band is an ambassador for Kirton at this event. The Black Dyke Band is the world’s most famous brass band and there are 1,200 people in the audience. For our centenary anniversary, we commissioned the band’s composer in residence to write a piece of music especially for us, so it is now our signature tune and we are very pleased with it,” said Steve.

Band membership currently stands at twenty-five for the main band. There are twelve learners in the training band. Players not only come from Kirton, but travel from Skegness, Sleaford and the Spalding area to weekly rehearsals and engagements.

Never miss a copy!

Big savings when you take out a subscription.