Explorer draws visitors

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
March 2014

The historic rural market town of Spilsby, just a few miles from the Lincolnshire coast, is well known as the birthplace of Sir John Franklin, the famous Arctic explorer.
Franklin’s repute ensures that Spilsby is firmly on the county’s tourism map – and a particular draw for Canadians. But the town is also an important provider of local jobs and is home to enterprising and independent businesses and good schools.

All of this is not immediately obvious to the casual visitor, but it is well worth taking time out to explore and, if you happen to be thinking of moving to the area, you will be glad to know that Spilsby also has a lively community spirit. Spilsby is home to more than sixty organisations, so there’s definitely something to suit everyone from children to adults of all ages.

Town Council chairman and Mayor, Councillor Peter Grant and temporary Town Clerk, Bonny Smith are proud of how much Spilsby has to offer locals and people living within its catchment area.

One of the first things you will spot upon arriving in the town centre is the impressive statue of Sir John Franklin. There is also a plaque on the wall of the Franklin House Bakery (now Cooplands) where he was born in April 1786.

The Franklin Hall, which is home to the Town Council, an East Lindsey District Council office, and the hub for many community groups, also houses a bronze bust of the explorer. Spilsby & District History Society has also put a display of Franklin information in the Hall.

Franklin joined the Navy at the age of fourteen and fought in two great sea battles – Copenhagen in 1801 and Trafalgar in 1805. He also served as a midshipman to another Lincolnshire explorer, his cousin Matthew Flinders.

In 1829 he received the Geographic Society Gold Medal and he was also knighted by King George IV. Spilsby people presented him with a silver plate. He became Governor of Tasmania in 1836.

Franklin made his last voyage at the age of fifty-nine, commanding an expedition which went searching for the Northwest Passage between Canada and the Arctic, but he never came home. Twelve years later it was reported that he had died on Beechy Island in July 1847.

Cllr Grant said: “People are very interested in Franklin and he is seen as a hero in Canada. Representatives from the High Commission of Canada have visited the town in the past and they are kept updated on our activities.

The High Commission has worked on a number of different activities to do with Franklin and the Northwest Passage and, over a number of years, marine archaeologists from Parks Canada have organised an annual expedition to find the lost ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus.

However Canada is not the only overseas destination which has links with Spilsby because the town is twinned with Fresnay sur Sarthe in France and Bassum in Germany. And the Spilsby & District Twinning Association, whose committee meets regularly in the town’s Red Lion Pub, ensures that there is plenty going on to keep these links thriving.

The Charter twinning Spilsby with Fresnay sur Sarthe, which is in France’s Pays de Loire region, was signed in 1988 and the one linking Spilsby with Bassum, in Lower Saxony, in 2010.

Temporary Town Clerk, Bonny Smith said: “When we go to France we take a busload of fifty people and Spilsby Junior Football Club also takes along a team every time. We raise our own funds for our activities, although the Council makes donations from time to time. We are spreading the word about Spilsby and the Association’s activities help to bring new visitors into the area.”

Staying with things to do, the retired and semi-retired, including newcomers to the area, are likely to be amazed to discover that the Spilsby U3A is another very vibrant organisation – which more than 300 members!

“Members can do lots of different things, from learning French or Italian, to following their interest in astronomy, churches and heritage, the theatre, Scrabble, table tennis and much more. There is also a regular luncheon club,” said Bonny.

Other activities on offer in the town, include Yoga, Keep Fit, Indoor Bowls and, if floral art is your passion, you might want to join the Spilsby Flower Club. Spilsby also has its own theatre.

Something which is proving to be particularly popular with youngsters and adults alike is Storm UK, Spilsby’s kickboxing and urban combat classes. The chief instructor is Wayne Pearl and the club secretary is Gemma Holland.

“We are starting our third year in April, but we have been based at the Franklin Hall since October, which has given us a chance to grow the club, which formerly used the Scout Hut in West End,” said Gemma. “Our youngest members attend the Spilsby Little Tornados kickboxing sessions for children aged four to seven years old. They learn the basics once a week on Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. We currently have twenty youngsters and a waiting list.

“Then we have the main class, for youngsters from seven years upwards and adults. Those sessions take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7pm to 8.30pm. With our new starters in January we now have about forty-five regular members.”

Gemma said the club’s martial arts sessions increase self-confidence but also encourage respect for others.

Spilsby Bikers is another popular group, which meets monthly at the Red Lion Pub. A key date for the group is 20th May, because they are gearing up for the annual Spilsby Bike Night – which will kick off at 5pm.

Between 2,000–3,000 riders are expected to converge on the town centre and Spilsby’s cafes will be catering for the hungry and thirsty. Last year, world class rider Emma Bristow joined the get-together and £200 was collected for the Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.

This year donations can be made directly to the Air Ambulance’s stand. More information is available from Peter McDowell at A E Wildman & Sons Motorcycles on 01790 753219.

Spilsby’s Recreation Ground belongs to the people of the town and is managed by the Spilsby Recreation Ground Committee. This is another great facility where people can enjoy everything from table tennis to Zumba classes, as well as junior and senior football on the tailored pitches.

It is also the home of the Spilsby Show – a treat for the whole family. This year’s crowdpulling event will be taking place on Sunday, 13th July, so make a note of the date.

The Methodist Chapel Schoolroom in Halton Road is also a popular place to meet and hosts coffee mornings on Mondays. It is also where members of SLAPS – the Spilsby Local Amateur Pantomime Society – get together and practice.

Wherever your family chooses to live, it is good to know that there is a variety of shops, job opportunities and great schools on your doorstep – whether your children are ready for the reception class or senior school.

Shopping-wise, Spilsby is certainly a destination which is known for its independent businesses and eateries, whether you are looking for fresh meat or vegetables, an item of clothing, estate agency help, a gift for a friend or a pub meal.

When it comes to schools, your selection includes the King Edward VI Academy, Spilsby Primary School and the Eresby School and there’s plenty of pre-school provision too, including Totschool, which meets at the Franklin Hall and Buttons Day Care Nursery in Boston Road.

Spilsby Town Centre – where business premises are about eighty-two per cent occupied – is home to a wide variety of enterprises.

It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for fresh vegetables, tasty meat, a mouthwatering plum loaf, a piece of jewellery, an eye-catching shirt or an estate agent, Spilsby can deliver.

Spilsby Business Partnership chair, Sue Clarke said: “Although we have a few empty units, this is a great town. We have a Monday Market and an auction which takes place from 10.30am on the same day, so both rub off each other.

“We have businesses selling clothing, household goods and local produce, everything really, and there are some good places to eat. For example, Deli-E11even – a deli-bakery and coffee shop taken over by butcher Simon Johnson just over a year ago – is going from strength to strength.”

Mrs Clarke, who runs The Green House, which sells scarves, jewellery and fashions, added that Spilsby continues to attract new enterprises, such as recent arrival I.Sew.

Pubs include The George Hotel, The Red Lion, The White Hart and The Nelson Butt Inn.

Butcher’s shop Simon’s of Spilsby is one of the town’s best-known businesses. Owner, Simon Johnson has been at the helm for twenty years. After snapping-up Deli-E11even more than a year ago, he added Modens Bakery to his business portfolio last October.

Relative newcomer I.Sew is creating a real name for itself thanks to owner Deanne Sumner-Wilson’s talent for customising formal and business shirts, by giving them fancy backs and sleeves. A former tailor for the army, Deanne had previously lived in Germany and Cyprus. She moved into the Spilsby area with her gardener husband, Mark.

“I wanted to breathe a little extra life into Spilsby, so I decided to open a shop offering alterations (and now also dry cleaning). Many people come in, but I didn’t think bespoke shirts, like I used to make for people in the army, would go here. However, I’ve sold more in Spilsby than anywhere else, which is really surprising.”

Spilsby is also home to a range of good-sized employers, including Countryside Arts, J & A (International) Ltd, Tong Peal engineering, GPC Industries Ltd and ice cream maker Dennett’s.

Tong Peal Engineering, in Ashby Road, has been manufacturing since the early 1930s, when it started out as an ironmonger’s shop, which still trades as E J Tong & Sons. Founded by Edward Jackson Tong, his son Ken diversified the business into engineering large-scale equipment for the agricultural industry. In the 1970s, Ken was joined by his son Charles Tong, who is managing director. Charles is supported by his son Edward Tong, the firm’s operations director.

The family firm that is Tong Engineering Ltd, trades as Tong Peal Engineering after a takeover of Horncastle based Peal Engineering in 2004.

A spokeswoman said: “What started as a family business more than eighty years ago remains a family business today, but it employs more than 140 local people and makes equipment for customers all over the world. Thirty per cent of output is exported, to destinations ranging from Australia and Russia to Europe.”

Materials handling, storage and access equipment specialist GPC Industries Ltd, which is celebrating thirty years in business, has customers across the UK and in Europe.

The company was started by director, Greg Clarke and one colleague, but today it employs twenty-two people.

“It is amazing what is hidden in a small market town. What is different about us is that we are major suppliers of our type of equipment across the country, from a sales, marketing and administrative point of view,” said Greg.

GPC works with two factories in the Midlands and one in Boston. The firm’s Spilsby workforce is drawn from the local area.

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