Celebrations herald new era

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
September 2010

A major facelift has recently been completed in Gainsborough, while history and heritage are still part of the draw.
Shoppers and visitors are celebrating an amazing £3 million revamp in a county market town. Gainsborough has marked the end of a major facelift at its heart, with a string of events.

On 24th August, stallholders finally moved back into the Market Place, after being temporarily based at the old Guildhall/Ship Court car park.

Everyone enjoyed a range of entertainment, including cookery displays by Lincolnshire celebrity chef Rachel Green, exhibitions by the Performing Arts Clubs and a competition prizegiving ceremony. People also had the chance to try their hand at New Age Kurling.

Other festivities including street entertainment, jive workshops and Irish dancing displays, were also arranged for 28th August, the day the Saturday Market was due to return to the Market Place.

West Lindsey District Council economic development and regeneration committee chairman Councillor Jeff Summers said that the work which has been carried out is designed to revitalise the whole of the town centre.

“Projects have been completed on the Riverside, Marshall’s Yard and now the town centre, which are all part of the resurgence of Gainsborough. All of this work dovetails into the plans to see the town double in size over the next twenty years and to ensure the prosperity of a much larger area of West Lindsey for many years to come.”

The town centre has been improved by the installation of York stone paved areas, timber seating, better lighting and signage, along with ‘pop-up’ electricity supplies for the market and events.

Councillor Burt Keimach said: “This work has reinstated the Market Place as a key focal point and meeting place. It has also provided a vital link between Marshall’s Yard and Riverside Walk and has made the town even more attractive.

“Inevitably, there has been some disruption as the work has progressed and I am very grateful for the patience and understanding shown by traders who I am sure now feel it has all been worthwhile.”

The work was funded by the East Midlands Development Agency, Lincolnshire County Council, West Lindsey District Council and the private sector.

While the project was underway, eleven skeletons, dating back to medieval times, were unearthed at the river end of the town’s Silver Street. Contractors found bones barely a metre down.

Specialist archaeologists were called in to investigate the discovery and they retrieved nine adult and two infant skeletons from what they believe was a twelfth century graveyard.

The bones were recovered by a three-strong team led by Colin Palmer-Brown, a director of Saxilby-based Pre-Constuct Archaeological Services. The company is cleaning and dating the early-medieval remains.

Councillors have also taken a major step towards doubling the size of Gainsborough over the next twenty years. Members of West Lindsey’s planning committee have given outline permission for a new neighbourhood of 2,500 homes on land south of Foxby Lane in the town.

Subject to Government approval, the development will include community services and facilities, shops, restaurants and cafes, food takeaways, two new schools and a four-doctor surgery.

Cllr Summers said Gainsborough has Growth Point Status. This is the first of a number of proposals which will increase the town’s population to about 36,000 people and a very significant milestone in Gainsborough’s history.

Cllr Keimach said: “This is good news for Gainsborough and the whole of West Lindsey. As well as providing a major employment boost in the construction stage, the development will eventually support 1,500 new jobs in the business, industrial, retail and homeworker sectors.”

The development is expected to take twelve to thirteen years to complete, with about 200 new homes being added each year.

The current application, from Thonock and Somerby Estates, also includes public access to woodland, sports pitches, a multi-use games areas and changing facilities. There are also plans for new cycleways and footways and the developer will be expected to extend existing bus services and plan new ones.

But that is looking to the future. What about now?

With the newly-reveamped town centre and the bustling multi-million pound Marshall’s Yard development and its ongoing attractions a few hundred yards away, Gainsborough is getting better and better.

But there are lots of other things to do if you don’t want to shop, especially if you love history, the arts and the natural world.

If you enjoy learning about the past and exploring old buildings, it is definitely worth checking out Gainsborough Old Hall and also the town’s magnificent All Saints Church.

All Saints in Church Street, is medieval in origin and still boasts its medieval tower, but the nave was rebuilt between 1736 and 1744, by Francis Smith – designer of All Saints Church in Derby, and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the north midlands.

You can take a tour of the church, which has its own café and giftshop. This venue also hosts summertime concerts and evening concerts at various times of the year.

The Gainsborough and District Heritage Centre in North Street is the place to learn about the town’s famous ‘industrial’ past and how it grew its name in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The centre is also home to a range of First and Second World War exhibits, including those on the Dambusters, as well as other local memorabilia.

If you enjoy live performances, plays and shows, you could visit The Trinity Arts Centre – a multi-functional building in Trinity Street, which stages all sorts of entertainment to suit people of all ages.

This venue is based in a converted Gothic church which still has some original features. You can sit and relax over a drink in the bar and consider its interesting architecture, as well as work by local artists, in the break between shows.

Other attractions include Gainsborough Model Railway, in Florence Terrace, where you will find the trains of yesteryear, all running to a strict timetable. The museum has a fine scale model layout of Kings Cross and other east coast mainline stations.

The building of the current railway started in 1953 and it has now become one of the largest ‘O’ guage model railways of its kind in the country.

Start counting: there are more than 115 locomotives, 100 coaches, 200 wagons and vans, 150 pieces of pointwork, half a mile of trackwork and nine stations!

Keen to stretch your legs, then pop along to Richmond Park in Morton Terrace, which has pleasant grounds and a fully-refurbished greenhouse – thanks to donations from local and national firms. Look out for tropical plants and a large fish pond.

Of course, if you are planning to visit Gainsborough from the end of October onwards, and looking for a spine-tingling evening out, you could decide to book a place on The Gainsborough Ghost Trail Experience!

And if you want to stay in town overnight and go shopping the next day, that’s an option too. Among your choice of places to stay is Bridge House Bed and Breafast, which offers you a bed in a Grade Two listed Georgian house on the banks of the River Trent.

Lincolnshire Co-operative’s Lindsey Centre offers a wide range of services including furniture, clothing, lingerie, electrical goods, travel shop, coffee shop and Post Office. Wherever possible Lincolnshire Co-operative believes in supporting their local suppliers and this is demonstrated in the home-made, locally sourced food served in the café to the Lebus Furniture range manufactured in Scunthorpe to the Fogarty bedding and linens which is manufactured In Boston.

The Lindsey Centre and its staff serve the community with more than a better retail experience. They have staff trained to use a defibrillator which is housed at the Lindsey Centre and will be the first to respond to an emergency in the town centre. Staff also take pride in being involved in many events in support of charity or town centre promotional activities.

Since its facelift, the Lindsey Centre has been even more popular as a one-stop-shop for many shoppers, so if you haven’t visited recently, be sure to call in for a look around and take a break with a Fairtrade tea or coffee and a snack in the
Balcony Coffee Shop.

Gainsborough is situated on the east bank of the River Trent – nineteen miles north-west of Lincoln and about 150 miles north of London.

The town, which has a population of about 19,000 people is based within West Lindsey, an area covering about 445 square miles, which has a population of around 77,000.

This busy market town has some fine seventeenth century red brick architecture and boasts one of the finest medieval manor houses in the country, Gainsborough Old Hall. Once an important river port, the town has developed a diverse industrial base.

Today agriculture is the largest industry and food manufacturers have capitalized on this, with Gainsborough accommodating national meat and poultry processers.

In recent years, the large founding and engineering companies of Gainsborough and district have given way to dynamic modern companies, such as Eminox, Ping Europe and William Sinclair Holdings.

This has been complemented by the recent relocations of the international headquarters of The Imperial Consolidated Finance Group and the Inland Revenue’s national training centre. Unemployment is lower than the regional and national averages.

A performance of Messiah on 17th and 18th December 1859 seems to have been the catalyst for the formation of Gainsborough Choral Society. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported: “So very successfully has the effort of native talent proved that we may look forward confidently to see a reappearance, especially as we understand the practising and instructing are to be regularly continued”.

Under the baton of George Robinson, organist and choirmaster of the Parish Church, the Society gave its first concert on 2nd November 1860 in the Banqueting Hall of Gainsborough Old Hall. The energy and quality of successive musical directors has contributed greatly to the survival of the Society. Alan Stephenson provided inspired musical leadership after the First World War and left Gainsborough in 1934 to become organist at Coventry Cathedral. The succeeding director, W Stanley Vann moved from the town to take up the post of organist at Peterborough Cathedral. Successive directors, Alan Morrow, William Snowley, Philip Ainsworth, Stephen Burnage and presently Richard Green have maintained the Society’s long association with Queen Elizabeth’s High School and outstanding musicianship.

The 2010-11 season will rightly be one of celebration for the Society and starts with an 150th Anniversary Concert of Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, 13th November. All concerts are performed at All Saints’ Church, Gainsborough. Further information about the Society, becoming a member or buying tickets can be found at www.gainsboroughcs.co.uk

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