Explore hills and hollows

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
October 2014

The north Lincolnshire town of Caistor sits at almost the highest point of the county, on the western spur of the Wolds. It has a history going back more than 2,000 years, and is one of the most important conservation areas in the whole of West Lindsey.
The community is justly proud of its heritage, reflected in the fact that it can boast a Heritage Trust, a civic society and an Arts and Heritage Centre.

The attractive Georgian market town has fifty-six Grade II listed buildings, two Grade I listed buildings, a scheduled ancient monument, two medieval fish ponds and more than 160 significant archaeological finds.

It was a Medieval borough, mentioned in the Domesday book, Danelaw Charters and Pipe Rolls of 1197/98 and the Viking Way runs through the town.The original town was ravaged by fire in 1681 and the present buildings in the town centre date from that time.

And Caistor’s early history has not been forgotten. A Roman centurion woodcarving was commissioned by the Caistor in Bloom group a year ago, to depict the town’s links with the Romans.

It was put up at the back of the town’s Co-op store which was built on the site of the derelict Talbot Inn. When builders moved in to clear the site, archaeologists found forty-six sets of human remains including whole skeletons and believed the spot to be a fourth-century Roman cemetery.

Chairman of the Caistor in Bloom group, Deborah Barker said: “A woodcarver made the Centurion for us and it has now been put up and is being made into a directional sign for the Town Hall.

“There are all sorts of different projects. It is amazing. We have put quite a lot of planters in and around the town. It encourages people to come and gives businesses a boost.”

Life has been made easier for the group since it was awarded a £100,000 National Lottery grant, which has allowed the purchase of a Kubota vehicle that can carry a big water bowser on the back for watering the hanging baskets.

“It makes life easier for us and we use water from the springs for the plants. Spring water is much better for the plants and people don’t have to pay on their water rates. Volunteer teams help with the dead-heading,” said Deborah.

Most of the houses in Caistor are Georgian or Victorian and there is a good community spirit.

“We have fifty-six Grade II listed buildings, which is phenomenal for a small town like ours. Our projects are done to attract people to the area and make it a nice place for people to live,” said Deborah.

“We have a lot of help from the community. We have been given a hay wagon, which has been painted and restored by the Lions. It has been concreted down and around it we have planted a wildflower meadow. It is at the entrance to Grimsby Road, so it is a nice welcome for visitors to the town.

“The group is also busy planting around the town signs to make them look a bit nicer and in the autumn we will be planting something more sustainable.”

A community garden has also been created by the group and it has planted 1,500 wildflower bulbs in the rear of the church, through the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

“It all contributes to the feel-good factor,” said Deborah.

However, it was just a few years ago that Caistor was in danger of losing its historical and cultural identity. Its artefacts were on show in other parts of the country and there was no space to display the ones it did have.

So a plan was formed to turn the town’s disused former chapel into an Arts and Heritage Centre which became a reality, thanks to a £400,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund and the Village SOS project.

Known locally as 28 Plough Hill, it now hosts regular events and exhibitions as well as arts and crafts festivals.

As well as Caistor in Bloom, the town is home to a number of other groups which help to put it on the tourist map.

Clerk to the town council, Helen Pitman said: “We have a very strong Walkers are Welcome group which organises regular walks both around Caistor and out into the surrounding countryside. Caistor has its own Civic Society and Heritage Trust which deals with the artefacts in the town.

“We are also looking ahead to Christmas and this year we are combining our Christmas market with the Christmas lights swtich-on. Normally we have them as separate events, but we are combining them so it will be bigger than usual.

“Our Christmas tree is as big as the one they have in London, so for a small town we do very well.

“The town council is working with many groups in the town to promote Caistor and we are all aware of what each other is doing.”

The Walkers are Welcome group organises walks of varying lengths which take in many of the town’s historic sites, including the Union Workhouse site and the ironstone mines. There is even a challenging twenty-five-mile walk passing through eight villages and churches.

Guided walks are also organised by the Civic Society and the Heritage Trust, all of which celebrate Caistor past and present and give an insight into town buildings of days gone by, such as the Home Guard HQ, the Old Sessions House, the nineteenth-century fire station, the old Wesleyan Chapel, dating from 1842, and the old National School.

Caistor Civic Society was founded in 1978 by a group of people keen to retain and promote the character of the town. For more than three decades, it has monitored and commented on planning applications and been consulted on listed building consent in the Caistor conservation area. It arranges guided tours around the town, to help attract more visitors to the area.

The Society has also been responsible for placing blue plaques on a number of buildings and features, indicating their significance within the conservation area.

As well as its heritage, Caistor has a number of unique businesses which help make it a special place to visit.

Model railway enthusiasts will be enthralled with Caistor Loco, which is a dedicated model railway shop and is an official stockist for Hornsby.

Then there is Sandhams Wine Merchants, which was established in 1976 and specialises in all types of wines, beers, spirits and liqueurs from around the world.

Another relative newcomer is The Settlement in the Market Place. It was formerly a printers and newsagents but had been empty for ten years before being renovated into a wine bar and restaurant.

Caistor can still boast its own post office as well. Last year it underwent a £56,000 makeover to bring it up to date, with an open-plan office style, new counters, a hearing loop and extended opening hours.

The community of Caistor can be proud of its long and interesting heritage, particularly with the knowledge that its present layout came about because of a fire in 1681.

It started in the house of John Sheriffe and within the space of three or four hours, houses, barns, stables and outhouses in the town were burnt to the ground leaving many families homeless and several people dead.

Shops and warehouses were also affected apart from one, Mercer’s Shop in the Beast Market. Caistor was rebuilt in attractive red brick instead of wood, giving the present town centre its look.

Caistor House, in the west side of the Market Place, was built in 1682 and was the first house built after the fire. The front was added a century later and bears the coats of arms of the Wickham and Walpole families and a lion’s head just below the roof, which was part of the coat of arms of the Tennyson family. It is now a Grade II listed building and a block of flats.

Caistor’s listed buildings include the Sessions House, built in 1662 and used as a magistrates’ court. It is the oldest building in Caistor to have survived the flames. Once the headquarters of the WRVS, it is now privately owned.

Another significant building is Caistor Methodist Chapel in Chapel Street. It was originally a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1842, and has a Sunday School attached to it which was built in 1867. The interior was altered in 1871.

Following the unification of the Wesleyan and the Primitive Methodists in the 1950s, the chapel was no longer needed and in 1966 it was transferred to Lincolnshire County Council, which turned it into a youth centre – a role it performed until the turn of the millennium. Now it is enjoying life as the town’s Arts and Heritage Centre.

Caistor Grammar School’s Library in Church Street is another listed building. It was once the Congregational Church, built in 1842. The school building itself was constructed in 1631, with alterations made in the nineteenth century. Even the town’s post office is a listed building dating back to the eighteenth century.

Caistor is adorned with a number of wood carvings, memorials and tributes to the town’s past.

The latest additions have been brought about by the Caistor in Bloom group which has a number of projects underway to celebrate the town’s links with eras gone by.

One is a carved horse’s head in the historic Horse Market area of Caistor. It is based on a horse called Bob, who used to pull the town’s fire tender back in the 1600s. He would have played a significant part in tackling the Great Fire of 1681 which destroyed much of Caistor, claimed the lives of several residents and left locals homeless.

Deborah Barker, chair of the group, said it is now a feature of the town.

“Caistor burned down in the 1600s and Bob used to pull the fire tender back then. Only the Sessions House building survived.

“We commissioned a carving for the heritage of the town and we thought we would have a horse’s head made to look like Bob.”

At the junction of South Street and the Market Place stands the war memorial which takes the form of a three-stepped octagonal base, an octagonal plinth and a cross – with inscriptions on the sides of the plinth and top step.

It pays tribute to the men of the town who lost their lives fighting in both world wars. There are forty names for the First World War and thirteen for the Second World War. The memorial was unveiled by the Mayor and dedicated in August 1920.

There is a second memorial inside the Church of St Peter & St Paul and this takes the form of an oak panel and has the names carved into the wood. It was unveiled and dedicated in January 1921.

Also standing majestically in the Market Place is the unmissable Caistor Lion statue. It was erected in June 1897 to commemorate the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

Experience a holiday you will want to return to again and again at the newly developed Wolds View Touring Park. Situated just a mile from Caistor town centre, the park is in an ideal location for visitors to explore the outstanding natural beauty of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The Park sits on four acres, overlooking The Wolds to the east, open countryside to the west with open farmland and horse paddocks to the north and south. Suitable for caravans, motorhomes and tents, the park offers a choice of sixty generously sized grass pitches. Every pitch has a sixteen-amp electric hook-up and convenient fresh water access.

The Park is complete with showers and toilets, housed in a new immaculately clean eco-friendly building. Hot water is free of charge. The small shop and visitor reception is fully stocked with camping essentials, food and Wi-Fi. Wolds View Touring Park is open all year round. Bookings can be made online via their booking system or over the phone.

The Queens Head is a rural country inn situated in North Kelsey Moor on the outskirts of the Lincolnshire Wolds next to the Market Town of Caistor, close to the Viking Way and only fifteen minutes from Humberside Airport.

A Full Menu is available at lunchtimes and in the evening, Tuesday to Saturday and a Sunday Lunch Menu is available through the day on Sundays.

Owner, Becky Wells says: “With help from family and staff I have developed this inn. I’m now coming up to my first year as owner and landlady, so to celebrate the continuing success we are holding a party which is taking place on 24th October with live music and a hog roast. Everyone is welcome. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all customers that have supported me over the first year and hope that they can join us and carry on supporting me into my next year.”

The Queens Head, Station Road, North Kelsey Moor, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire LN7 6HD, Tel: 01652 678055.

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