Bustling Brigg gives warm welcome

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
August 2014

If you love the originality, individuality and personal service traditionally offered by independent shops, then this North Lincolnshire town should be high on your list of places to visit.
Brigg, which is steeped in history, offers a wonderful mix of niche and mainstream shopping, enhanced by colourful weekly and monthly markets. What’s more, it’s so easy to explore on foot.

But there’s more than retail therapy on offer. Why not pop into the Brigg Heritage Centre and check out some great artefacts or take a look at the River Ancholme, which runs through the town?

Brigg Mayor, Councillor Edward Arnott is proud of what the town offers, but he is also keen to see Brigg grow and attract a much wider mix of visitors. Now is a very good time to go, because in August you can catch two major events.

Foodies are sure to be tempted by the Brigg Summer Food Festival, which takes place on Saturday 23rd August, and music lovers won’t want to miss the great line-up of performers taking to the stage at Briggstock on Saturday 30th August.

Coun Arnott said: “Brigg is thriving. We have weathered the economic storm and we have a good mix of national names and independent boutiques. The town has its own identity and it offers people a wonderful range of products and services.”

The regular weekly markets, which take place on Thursdays and Saturdays, along with the Farmers’ Markets on the fourth Saturday of each month, are centred around the Market Square, but often extend along Wrawby Street. You can buy everything from fresh produce to gifts from stalls which add a burst of colour and extra buzz to the streetscene.

Brigg is well known for its long-established and family-run businesses. Popular retailers include Wallheads and Grandad’s Shed. Coun Arnott said the town’s butchers’ shops are always very busy too. Traders, such as Barnard Butchers, are often spotted with queues outside.

Brigg is great for shoppers who enjoy tracking down boutique-style stores which offer something different, along with a liberal helping of quality personal service.

The Steel Rooms, which opened about two years ago, is a good example. In addition to being a popular haunt for chic gifts and individual home accessories, it offers artistic workshops and boasts a lively coffee shop.

This North Lincolnshire town is also famous for its ‘courts’ – little yards which are home to niche enterprises. They include College Yard, which has recently welcomed Amici’s, a new Italian eaterie.

Brigg continues to attract outside investment. One of the newer arrivals in the town is the department store Boyes, which Coun Arnott believes is just one indication that things are looking up.

Coun Arnott said that money is also being spent on breathing new life into two pubs. The former Nelthorpe Arms is undergoing refurbishment and JD Wetherspoon is splashing the cash and revamping the town’s old White Horse inn.

On the supermarket front, the future of the former Lidl store – bought by Tesco after Lidl moved out of the Springs Parade site to a new store in Atherton Way – remains unclear.

Tesco was going to extend the premises but then changed its plans and confirmed it was not moving from Barnard Avenue. It is now believed to be looking to sell the unit to someone else.

“As a result of the Lidl development, we secured funding to undertake further work on the banks of the River Ancholme, near to the A18 Ancholme Way Bridge, where we have created the Josh Parkin Community Memorial Garden,” said Coun Arnott.

“It is an area for reflection and dedicated to a young man who sadly died in a car accident.”

Attractions-wise, Coun Arnott believes the River Ancholme is the town’s biggest selling point. He said the Town Council had spent a lot of money cleaning it up and clearing it of litter, with the help of the Environment Agency.

In late May, Brigg hosted its first River Festival, the day before the river featured as part of the Brigg Bomber World Quadrathlon Championships, secured for Brigg by the Lincsquad Club.

During the Festival the River Trust combined with Brigg Rowing Club and Glanford & Scunthorpe Canoe Club to organise activities on the water.

“We are currently trying to get funding to improve the river towpath. There is an ambition to make it possible to walk alongside the river to South Ferriby and to connect with the Humber Bank paths,” said Coun Arnott.

He is also keen to see Brigg make the most of its fascinating heritage and to maximise the use of its Heritage Centre, which is based in the old Angel Hotel.

The Town Council is based in the old Angel Hotel, which it shares with North Lincolnshire Council. The Town Council offers the Angel Suite for meetings and functions, such as wedding receptions, ploughing the income back into its upkeep.

People now have the opportunity to get married in Brigg’s distinctive Buttercross building, which is also home to the Tourist Information Centre, and then pop across to the Angel Suite in the old Angel Hotel for their reception.

So what will Brigg look like in the years to come? Coun Arnott said people living and working in the area now have a chance to have their say.

“The Neighbourhood Plan consultation is underway. It is community-led and we are keen to find out what things people want to see in Brigg in the future. Following the consultation, it is intended to take the plan to a referendum on whether to adopt it, in August 2015.”

Finally, Brigg is working with The Friends of Brigg & Lincoln Line and North Lincolnshire Council to try to get an extension to the “very limited” service that currently serves the town.

A business group, which is working hard to encourage more people to discover Brigg, wants more traders to get on board.

The Brigg Business Partnership said it is making headway in its drive to promote and increase footfall into the town’s shops and businesses, change people’s perceptions of supermarket and internet shopping and give them a varied choice and shopping experience aimed at ensuring the High Street doesn’t disappear.

Vice chair, Paul Keane said: “The Partnership is a membership group. Businesses pay a small fee, but gain access to free advertising on the Brigg is Best website and other benefits.

“We have between forty and sixty members and they range from retail shops, selling homewares, to butchers, cafes, accountants and pubs.

“We have achieved a massive response from the public and council, extending to people travelling large distances to visit our specialist shops and independent businesses, but we still need more people and we are widening our scope to encourage other sectors to join in.”

The Partnership has successfully staged various events over the past two years, ranging from food festivals to outdoor concerts in the market place. Support has been won from the Mary Portas Pilot Scheme, together with council matched funding, allowing better events to be staged each month.

The Brigg Summer Festival on 23rd August is a free event, promoting Brigg’s food, cafes and restaurants, and will feature cookery demonstrations by local chefs and food stalls.

The Ancholme Valley Heritage Trust took over the management of Brigg Heritage Centre from North Lincolnshire Council earlier this year and it is eager to encourage more people to discover the secrets of Brigg’s past.

Centre manager, Judy Lundgren said: “Since opening in 2012, we have welcomed about 9,000 people, but we are really keen to drive up that number.

“Our best exhibit is a Bronze Age Raft which dates from about 800BC. The raft had been stored and preserved in a thick coat of wax at Greenwich Maritime Museum, but it is now the star feature of our collections.”

There are lots of other artefacts on display in the centre, which is based in the The Angel. These reflect the town’s long history, including the way in which people dressed, lived their daily lives and ran their businesses.

The Heritage Centre can cater for school and group visits, provide hands-on workshops and even has three great rooms available to hire.

Judy is also excited about a new series of talks, which are taking place at The Buttercross – which is close to The Heritage Centre and which houses the town’s Tourist Information Centre. This is also managed by the Ancholme Valley Heritage Trust.

We are offering the following talks over the next three months and people can get more information and tickets by calling the Heritage Centre on 01724 296771,” said Judy.

• Wednesday 20th August at 2pm – Tom Glossop: Brigg Fair. A talk about the Traditional August Horse Fair, that continues to this day. Tickets cost £3, including tea, coffee and biscuits.
• Wednesday 24th September at 7pm – Chris Bailey: The 1/5th Battalion in WW1. This talk will coincide with a WW1 exhibition at the Heritage Centre, in collaboration with Sir John Nelthorpe School. Tickets cost £7 to include a glass of wine and nibbles
• Thursday 23rd October at 7pm – Brian Peeps: The Sloops and Keels of the Humber – An Illustrated Talk. Tickets cost £7 to include wine and nibbles.

During the school holidays, the Heritage Centre is also hosting a fun series of Children’s Craft Days. Participants will get the chance to make wind chimes, 3D animal masks, work with mosaic tiles and more.

Brigg is crammed with amazing niche businesses, including popular stores such as Grandad’s Shed, Wallhead’s and the Thomas Bell Country Store – so why not take a closer look?

Paul and Beryl Keane are the second generation of their family to run Grandad’s Shed, an inspirational furniture store with a café restaurant, The Loft, situated above.

Paul developed his knowledge and flair over the last fourteen years, after working closely with his sister and brother-in law in the business. And things have been going so well that Grandad’s Shed has expanded, taking its name to Market Rasen in July.

The business, which also features country ranges and upholstery and which is focusing on the full interiors package, has opened in the former Goldmine pub in Queen Street.

But back to Brigg. Over the past five years the business has undergone a sympathetic refurbishment, which has taken in Grandad’s and The Loft.

Since then, Grandad’s Shed has continued sourcing new and interesting ranges in a variety of woods. The business also offers a bespoke service where craftsmen design and make furniture to customers’ requirements.

Furniture restoration is also offered. Grandad’s Shed also does contract work for venues, including restaurants and offices.

The Loft Restaurant/Bistro, above Grandad’s Shed, serves up everything from breakfasts to lunches. It also continues to develop its outside catering arm.

After recently being shortlisted for its coffees and winner of the Best Café Restaurant 2011/2012, Beryl feels that The Loft’s investment in an Italian coffee machine and major staff training are paying off.

Wallhead’s in Wrawby Street is probably one of the best known, and longest-estabished businesses in the town and stocks ladies’ and gentlemen’s countrywear, including major brands such as Schofell and Barbour.

The business was founded by current owner Richard Wallhead’s grandfather 117 years ago, in 1897. Now Richard’s son, a fifth generation member of the family is helping to drive the store into the future.

“There are not many businesses like ours about, but we own our premises, stock what people are looking for and customers come from miles around to buy from us and enjoy our high standard of customer service.”

If you keep animals or love the great outdoors, you could also pop in and see what the Thomas Bell Country Store in Bigby Road has to offer.

This family-owned businesses is the place to find pet, equine and farm feeds and it also sells accessories for pets, horses, stables and quality country, shooting and equestrian clothing.

Apart from priding themselves on offering great customer service, staff are also happy to share their knowledge.

Thomas Bell Country Store hosted a birthday party in June to celebrate the quarter century of Graeme King, their store manager, working in the business.

Customers were able to join in the celebrations with a weekend of live entertainment, free refreshments, enticing discounts and lots more.

A charity balloon race was held in support of Lindsey Lodge Hospice and one lucky winner won £100 for the longest distance covered by their balloon.

Andrew Major, managing director, thanked Graeme for all his hard work and commitment to the company over these years.

“This milestone is a real testament to Graeme’s loyalty and dedication to our business. Our business has evolved but excellent customer service is and has always been central to everything we do at Thomas Bell.”

Graeme started work in 1989 and was promoted to store manager nine years ago.

Brigg recognises the power of staging lively events when it comes to encouraging more people to flock to the town.

Top dates for your diary include:
• 23rd August: Brigg Summer Food Festival – Tuck into some great foods and pick up some hot tips from local chef Nigel Brown. There’s music and entertainment too.
• 30th August: Briggstock – Catch the musical talent performing on stage in the Market Place and at busking stations around the town centre. The fun starts at 10.30am and continues right through to 5.30pm.

Looking ahead, you could pop Brigg Christmas Fayre & Festive Window Dressing – taking place on 28th November – to your diary. Organised by Brigg & District Lions, with support from the Town Council, The Mayor will welcome stars from the Scunthorpe Pantomime to help open the festivities, which start at 5pm.

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