Discover the Deepings

The natural border between Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire in the south of the county is the River Welland, which has an abundance of picturesque and peaceful river scenes and is ideal rambling territory.
On the surface, the area appears to be a quiet rural retreat. However, there is much going on in the town and villages that are idyllically situated along the riverbank and make up the area known as The Deepings.

Today they are thriving communities with many beautiful old buildings, from the ancient town of Market Deeping, with its attractive old coaching inns and bustling antiques centres, to the villages of Deeping St James, built where a twelfth-century Benedictine priory once stood; the picturesque West Deeping featuring quaint stone houses lining a Roman road, and Deeping St Nicholas which at seven miles long has the distinction of being one of the longest villages in the UK.

Another village that is sometimes included in The Deepings is Deeping Gate, a small hamlet across the River Welland in Cambridgeshire.

The villages are mentioned in the Domesday Book and as the area is very low-lying, its name is derived from the Saxon name translatable as either ‘deep places’ or ‘deep lands’.

Market Deeping is the largest settlement in the Deepings but is the only one with town status.

The town is known for its stone buildings dating back to the seventeenth century, its largely fifteenth century church dedicated to St Guthlac and the remains of a market cross. Its market has been held since at least 1220.

As a town Market Deeping is a busy place but it also has more than its fair share of open and green areas in the town which are all looked after by Market Deeping Town Council.

The John Eve Field is used for community events, fairs, circuses, Armed Forces Day, carnivals and more, and incorporates a children’s play area and BMX track.

In contrast, Welland Gardens is a tranquil area running alongside the River Welland and offering shade in the summer and bluebells and snowdrops in the spring, while Riverside Park – located at the boundary of Deeping St James and Market Deeping – hosts the peace memorial and provides seating for residents to sit by the river.

“The council bought the John Eve Field more than twenty years ago so that it could protect a green space area for residents of Market Deeping, and this year the council will make its last loan repayment for the field, making the field totally owned by the council,” explained clerk to the town council Julie Bourne.

“In November every year, the council hosts the opening and closing of the Remembrance Gardens at Riverside Park, where residents, members and organisations gather to remember those who lost their lives in conflict.

“This event has seen attendances grow over the years, as people come to pay their respects. It was the idea of the late Councillor R Howard, a war veteran and longstanding serving councillor of Market Deeping Town Council, so it is a tribute to him.”

Nature spots can be found at Rectory Paddock which is a large area where the growth of wild flowers is encouraged and The Pond, located in between Rectory Paddock and The Spinney, which forms a natural habitat for insects and butterflies.

There are two limestone churches in The Deepings, the largest being The Priory Church at Deeping St James, which is based around a now lost Benedictine priory. The priory was closed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, but some of its stones were later used to build a seventeenth-century manor house.

Deeping St James is also the largest settlement in the Deepings and boasts three primary schools, a secondary school which also houses the Deepings Leisure Centre including the swimming pool.

The other church is St Guthlac’s in Market Deeping. It is largely a fifteenth-century church and on the south face of the tower is a limestone sundial inscribed with ‘The day is thine’, with a similar sundial on the north face which bears the words ‘The Night cometh’.

The nave is supported on the south aisle by Norman arches, whereas those on the north aisle are later Gothic period. The stained glass windows in the chancel depict scenes of the life of St Guthlac, including one in which he is seen sailing through what is now the Fens to establish a monastery, now Crowland Abbey.

Market Deeping is also home to the Deepings Library, which has its own story to tell. The building itself, in High Street, is a Georgian House once called The Park and owned by the well-known local family, the Wades.

In 1972 they sold their home to Lincolnshire County Council which opened it shortly afterwards as a public library and it has operated as that very successfully ever since.

When Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) took the decision to classify its libraries into tiers as part of a programme to cut £2m from the budget, Deepings Library was classed as a Tier Three library.

Chair of The Friends of Deeping Library, Liz Waterland, takes up the story: “Ten Tier One libraries and five Tier Twos were to be kept open but Tier Three libraries were to be handed over to groups from their communities to be staffed and almost entirely funded by volunteers – or they would close forever.

“Deepings Library was to be one of those Tier Three libraries, despite its being busier than four out of the five libraries in Tier Two, with 7,000 registered users.

“It also has the fifteenth largest population in the county, with 18,000 residents in its area. Half of these, 9,000 residents, signed a petition against the plan as a response to LCC’s consultation on their proposals.

“The Friends of Deeping Library (FoDL) was formed to fight this proposal – either to get it reversed, or to seek to keep a volunteer library open.”

The fight continued but the battle was won when, following a £175,000 revamp by the county council, the group took over running of the library and it opened to the public at the end of January this year with 1,000 people coming through the doors.

Now the Deepings Community Library is one of the busiest in Lincolnshire, both in the number of users and because it runs such a range of services and activities both at the library and in the community.

“Adults, young adults and children are all catered for,” said Liz. “We run a computer buddy scheme, which offers help with access to computers and the internet. There is also a wide range of non-fiction, including local history books and research papers and the children’s non-fiction is specially arranged to help with school project work.”

“Teenage-junior and teenage-adult books and graphic novels bridge the gap to the adult library,” said Liz.

“Author workshops, reading activity schemes and storytelling or dramatic events extend the library into the weekends, holidays and evenings.

“And in the community we run a minibus service to pick up older people who couldn’t otherwise get to the library, events in schools and a volunteer library service in the local care homes.”

The success of Deepings Library has also led to plans being formulated for a literary festival to be held next spring, with something for the whole community. It will hopefully take place at the end of April and a small committee made up of district councillors and members of the Friends of Deepings Library is in the throes of organising the festival and speaking to a range of popular national authors to speak or do book signings.

Deepings councillor Judy Stevens said the idea for the literary festival had been brought about as a result of the success of the Deepings Library since it was taken over by the Friends.

“While there is that interest in the library, we hope to build on that and the library is doing very well at the moment,” she said.

“I think it would be exciting for the whole area, not just the Deepings, and it would be something the whole community can get involved in.”

West Deeping is the smallest of the Deepings group of villages but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in community spirit.

It was first recorded around 1086 in the Domesday survey, but there were prehistoric settlements there from the Stone Age, through to Roman times. On the electoral register of 2012 it had approximately 120 homes, and there were 225 names listed.

The village church of St Andrew’s dates back to the thirteenth century, with further additions in 1676 and 1803 and a restoration in 1876-77. It is a beautiful Grade 1 listed building in a lovely setting by a mill and the millstream and has Rector Carolyn Kennedy at the helm.

There are two lay ministers – a reader, Susannah Aldred, and an Authorised Lay Minister Allan Crowson – who both lead worship in the village and are involved in the community.

West Deeping, though small, does still have a service in church every Sunday and in December will have a Crib Service, for all age groups and Midnight Mass.

The village has a very active historical society and there has been much research done into the area.

Maggie Ashcroft is chair of the West Deeping Heritage Society which formed in 2010 with the purpose of encouraging a sense of community and an interest in the village’s heritage, to hand on to future generations.

“It started after I did a talk in the church about the gravestones and plaques there. I thought if people were willing to attend that, they might like to come and learn about local history,” said Maggie.

The group meets once a month from September to April and has activities ranging from speakers to archaeological digs.

“It is fluid and flexible and attracts a lot of support from people not only in West Deeping but the surrounding areas as well. We charge on the door but we keep everyone’s email addresses and circulate the information about talks and events to them,” said Maggie.

“It has got to the point where we are asked to give talks to other groups and we give guided tours of the village for groups that want to visit.”

The Heritage Group is run by a small committee headed by Maggie.

“We don’t have an active membership, they mainly come to listen to talks,” explained Maggie, who has also been a parish councilor for five years.

“But members of the group have been very supportive and there is a hard core of people who come along and contribute their skills and information.

“We have had ownership of hundreds of enclosure awards and people helped to transcribe that and they also came to workshops about the First World War and researched who went from West Deeping. They also helped with the Canal Project taking photographs and carrying out interviews.”

The website has been the focal point of Maggie’s work and has helped quite a few people research their family history. Maggie is the sixth longest resident in West Deeping, having lived there for forty years.

“There are some long-standing residents who have been born here in the village and remember when it was agricultural land, when there wasn’t a school and when the church was well attended.”

The group’s next projects going forward are a follow-on in 2018 from the Deepings Remember 1914-18 Project and a book about West Deeping World War One servicemen.

“There were fifty-four names despite the fact that West Deeping is a tiny village and we are waiting for the go-ahead to restore a framed manuscript in the church, which is a list of the people who enlisted month by month from 1914 to 1918,” said Maggie.

“For 2017 there will be a parish project to produce a pamphlet with a garden theme because West Deeping is well known for its garden heritage.”

With fish and chips being the nation’s number one meal, visit Linford’s table service, stylish 32 seater restaurant which continues into an outdoor 18 seater garden area. Linford’s have four different types of finest fish to make up their menu: haddock, cod, plaice and rock salmon (also known as huss).

The variety of fish is prepared in three different ways: in traditional golden batter, dusting in flour or steamed.

The Linford family have been frying the best fish and chips in the Peterborough area for the past twenty-five years, using their secret batter recipe. All of their fish comes from the well managed and sustainable waters, and their potatoes are supplied from local farmers in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

The restaurant runs gluten-free foods on Monday between 4-8pm and lunchtime all day specials.

Linford’s are pleased to announce that they have successfully achieved the NFFF Fish & Chip Shop Quality Award for the high standards maintained in the shop. This award recognises:
• The UK’s best quality and best tasting fish and chips
• Fish sourced from environmentally sustainable stocks
• Freshly and safely prepared under well managed conditions
• Clean, hygienic and safe premises
• Well trained staff and served with a smile
• Fully inspected by a trained industry professional

6 Market Place, Market Deeping, Tel: 01778 347970, Web:

Felicity in Market Deeping has been providing the town with womenswear since the 1980s. In 2008 the owners sold the business to Jan and Elaine. Since then the ladies have introduced new and exclusive brands with an emphasis on fresh, forward fashion and now stock names including Pomodoro, Adini, Seasalt and Emreco.

Jan said: “As times changed we found that more and more new labels were encompassing ladies of all ages. A woman wants to feel and look good at any age and our customers are looking to buy quality fabrics and designs that wouldn’t date from season to season.”

In September 2014 Felicity moved from their original premises in the Precinct to their new address on the High Street.

Elaine said: “To be honest it’s the best thing we have ever done. Our customers have moved with us and we are attracting new customers from far and wide. It’s unusual to find a boutique such as ours these days with so many labels available under one roof.”

Market Deeping has a variety of well established retailers and traders and the word on the street is that business is faring well.

An organisation based in the town has worked hard to provide support and advice for the local businesses and its efforts have paid off.

The Deepings Business Club is relatively new, having been running for the last decade. It is a not for profit organisation run by members for its members.

Chairman Andy Pelling said: “We have thirty-five member businesses and we meet once a month.

“We are more focused on providing help and support for each other’s businesses rather than anything else and we organise training events, bring in specialist speakers and then share experiences amongst ourselves.”

The club has a dedicated website with an events calendar and free listings for members and try and do special projects.

“The club is run by volunteers and it is going pretty well. We get about half the membership turn up for meetings four or five times a year and most our members say their businesses are going reasonably well.”

The club tries to restrict membership to within five or six miles of the Deepings although it is flexible, as there are people who don’t have fixed business premises in the area but have a lot of customers there.

“A lot of the things we do are Deepings focused and the business awards are for businesses in the Deepings,” said Andy, who has been club chairman for the past two years.

“A good indication that business is thriving in the area is the number of recruitment advertisements that are coming in.

“The local publication, the Deeping Advertiser, has received a huge number of recruitment adverts, more than ever before. We used to average one a week but we are getting four or five now, which is unheard of.

“It is an indication that businesses are growing and doing very well.”

The club has just held its first ever business awards which proved to be a resounding success.

“No-one else has done it before and we had a lot of nominees,” said Andy. “We asked the public to nominate businesses in nine different classifications and there were more than sixty different businesses nominated. They were shortlisted so we had more than forty finalists and then we asked the public to vote again.”

More than 1,500 people voted and the awards were presented at a gala dinner.

“It was a fantastic event, very well received with a standing ovation for the winners. It was such a success we are going to carry on doing it for the foreseeable future,” said Andy.

“There are some great businesses in the Deepings and the awards were a celebration of everything that’s good about the Deepings. It was a chance for the community to honour its favourite businesses and has proved just how proud the community is of them.”

There were twelve awards presented on the night – nine nominated and voted for by the residents of the Deepings, making the Deepings Awards the most democratic business awards locally.

Big winners on the night were Cloudnine, who won two awards: Retailer of the Year and Outstanding Customer Service and Towngate Tyres who took home the accolade of Deepings Business of the Year as well as the Practical Excellence award.

Dick Callow of Callows in Market Deeping was awarded a lifetime achievement award to commemorate his sixty years of service to the town.

The Deepings consists of the four settlements in the South Kesteven area of Lincolnshire approximately eight miles east of Stamford: Market Deeping, Deeping St James, Deeping Gate and nearby West Deeping. However, they are also linked to the South Holland village of Deeping St Nicholas, which often gets overlooked.

That could be down to the fact that it was created in the seventeenth century and was not one of the old Deepings settlements which had grazing rights.

Chair of West Deeping Heritage Group Maggie Ashcroft said: “It was only when the area was drained that it became viable as a residential area and Deeping St Nicholas was created in the seventeenth century. It often gets left out.

“The village has a nineteenth-century stone church, the parish church of St Nicholas is one of the focal points in the village and several groups meet here as well as our weekly service on Sunday.”

It was built by Charles Kirk, an architect from Sleaford, in Decorated style common in older surrounding churches

The other village that makes up the Deepings is Deeping Gate but as it has a very small population, is void of any major services, including a post office or even a chapel; the community depends on nearby Market Deeping for economic and market services.

However, it does have a famous son in the form of Renaissance composer Robert Fayrfax who was considered the most prominent and influential duirng the reigns of kings Henry VII and Henry VIII.

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