Largest village in Lincolnshire welcomes you

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
July 2017

It might be classed as a village but Heckington in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire thinks and acts very much like a small town.
With lots of fine buildings, visitor attractions, a museum, community swimming pool and even its own railway station, not to mention its easy access to the major A17 road network, Heckington is a popular place to live, work and visit.

2017 is a special year for the quiet but busy village because it is celebrating 150 years of the Heckington Show – a milestone, but truly remarkable when you realise that in that century and a half it has grown to become Britain’s biggest village show.

Staged on sixty-five acres of land, the show is run by Heckington Agricultural Society and features something for everyone from athletics, cycling and showjumping to live music, fireworks and living history displays.

The show, which will be held over the weekend of 28th–29th July, retains many original Victorian features – Shire horses and the flower show come to mind – but the enthusiasm and energy of the show committee and the wider community have driven the show forward to offer a great country day out for all.

Around 35,000 people a year are drawn by the special blend of village show charm and county show quality and this year’s celebration show promises to be extra special.

The Main Ring sees not one but two star attractions. Sunday features the Big Pete Monster Truck while the Saturday programme has the J C Balls Digger Dance supported by Ye Olde Redtail Falconry and the Red Devils Parachute Team and continues with the usual stunning firework concert.

The 2017 event also features tribute band Queen II – the chance for everyone to join the birthday party.

The excitement spreads far beyond the main ring with trade stands bringing together international brands such as Joules, Land Rover and John Deere with local groups such as Heckington Guides & Scouts and St Andrew’s Church Tea Tent offering homemade cakes served in a delightfully vintage style.

Taking part also means Lincolnshire farmers can see how their breeds shape up against the best of the rest and brings to the show competitors and judges, dog lovers, rabbit enthusiasts, antique collectors, talented craftsmen and an incredible mix of living history displays that make up the show’s Heritage Zone.

Show general secretary Sarah Gray said: “This is another area that exemplifies the continuous innovation that makes it such a wonderful weekend – try out life as a Roman or Viking soldier, meet suffragettes and mint coins to pick just a few options.

“Other more recent and equally enjoyable corners of the show include a food court promoting the best of Lincolnshire produce and a larger than ever Activity Zone.”

Heckington Show has its origins in the village’s 900-year-old feast week linked to the Feast of St Mary. A country show can be traced back to 1863 and the current site has been the Show’s venue since 1867.

There is no wonder that Heckington is dubbed the largest village in Lincolnshire when it has as much to offer its community in terms of services, facilities and heritage as the small towns that surround it.

It also has a range of independent businesses from pet supplies, butchers and greengrocers to hairdressers, florists and fast food outlets.

Add to that a church that is one of the finest medieval churches in England and a working windmill that is the only one of its kind in the country, it is not difficult to see why the village is so popular.

The village has a number of attractions which draw visitors from far and wide.

The beautiful St Andrew’s Church is one such attraction. Built in the 1300s in the decorated style of the period. it is a true medieval church. Adorned inside and out with many statues, gargoyles, beasts, royal faces, angels and animals leaping from the world and imagination of the 14th century stone carvers, it contains the finest grouping of Easter sepulchre, sedalia and piscina in the country.

One of the village’s most popular businesses is Lindsey James ladieswear, which was set up in 1993 by Jan Palmer and supplies a wide range of garments from casualwear to occasion wear in sizes 10 to 32 and attracts customers from far and wide.

Having outgrown two original premises, in September 2002 the business moved to a converted barn in Heckington Fen with a tea shop attached, full disabled facilities and free car parking.

However, it moved back into the village in 2014 and is now a well-established part of the street scene located in the former Oak Public House building.

The village even has its own swimming pool open from May to September to all age groups and facilities. Heckington Pool is a community facility operated and maintained by volunteers, funded from pool takings and community fundraising/donations.

It offers public swimming, family time, one-to-one sessions and group lessons/water confidence sessions, Toddler Splash time and a very successful summer swim school.

It also offers exclusive ladies evening swims which are always popular, Adult Swim sessions so that couples and men can have their own pool time too and Twilight Swim late evening sessions.

Heckington’s Windmill is a unique landmark attraction and a magnet for visitors, being the only eight-sailed windmill in western Europe and the sole survivor of just seven such mills built in the UK.

Thanks to a £1.2 million Heritage Lottery grant, the mill has undergone a regeneration programme. The grant, obtained by the Heckington Windmill Trust, enabled the Trust to buy the rest of the buildings on the windmill site and redevelop it to include a new spacious visitor centre with exhibition area and innovative educational displays, a new disabled lift providing direct level access onto the ground floor of the mill and a new visitor centre entrance and mill shop.

The visitor centre which was the old granary will open to the public this month.

Miller Jim Bailey said: “We are waiting for the information and display boards to come. But the visitor centre will open to the public on 17th July although there will be a formal opening later in the year.

“Work goes on at the windmill as usual and the new millstones, which will be accessible to disabled people, will be installed later in the summer.

“The new tea room is open and is doing very well. It is attracting lots of visitors and they are enjoying the new menu and the cakes that are made with our own flour in our own onsite bakery.”

The mill is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon but from 17th July it will open every day throughout the summer holidays.

The mill was originally built as a five-sailed mill in 1830 by Edward Ingledew of Gainsborough for Michael Hare. Following a severe thunderstorm which blew off the cap and sails, it was repaired in 1892. The repairs were carried out by John Pocklington using a cap and eight sails from a windmill in Boston. The bricks from the Boston mill were recycled and used to build the millhouse that stands at the front of the site.

Heckington Mill ceased work in 1946 and deteriorated until it was purchased by Kesteven County Council in 1953 and made safe. The mill underwent restoration in 1986 and further major repairs were carried out in 2004.

The original eight sails that you see at Heckington today were not built for the tower that now stands on the site. The cap overhangs the tower bricks, confirming that it came from a different mill.

When the new sails were fitted in 2014, it was the first time that all eight sails had been replaced since it was installed in 1892.

John Pocklington purchased the mill tower and bakehouse for £250 in 1891 and the Pocklington family lived at the mill for more than 100 years. At the height of its working life, the mill frequently worked around the clock. Forty sacks of grain (five tonnes) per day were often exceeded.

Thanks to the parish council, a redundant church building that it bought three years ago has been transformed into a new village community centre which is also the Parish Council chambers.

Situated opposite the village’s St Andrew’s Church, it is also home to Heckngton’s first static library.

Although small in comparison to the larger libraries such as Sleaford, the library is based on the ground floor with wheelchair and pushchair access and it is exclusively volunteer run.

Chairman of the parish council, Jan Palmer, said the library is housed in the village Community Building in St Andrews Street.

“This is the old church rooms, which the council bought and renovated about five years ago. Now we have the council office in there, which is open 9am to 12noon Monday to Friday, our council chambers for meetings and a meeting room which we also rent out.

“The Heckington Voluntary Car Service also has an office there, to arrange their appointments to transport their patients.

“The library is on the ground floor, so is easily accessible and totally run by volunteers and it is not unusual for there to be 300 visitors to the library a month.”

New vitality was breathed into The Oak when Jan Palmer relocated her well established fashion store, Lindsey James, to the heart of the village at 1 Boston Road.

“It was a significant move for us,” said Jan, “with long standing as well as new customers appreciating the ease of access, plentiful parking as well as the spacious and naturally lit interior. Of course, the dedicated staff and focus on providing a memorable shopping experience for each customer came here too.”

At Lindsey James you will find a collection of top quality brands ranging from casual to occasion wear in sizes 10 to 30. This season’s summer collections feature many floral prints and a return of vibrant pinks, turquoise, coral and greens.

“These are such versatile and flattering palettes which mix well with navy and block colours,” explained Jan. “When I am buying I bear in mind that customers could be planning anything from their holiday wardrobe, to a visit to Buckingham Palace, to a special family event.”

The choice of occasion wear has options for a broad age range, with three generations of one family recently visiting to find mother of the bride and wedding guest outfits.

Jan said: “In this setting we can offer a personal shopping experience, ensuring that that there are no clashes in design or colourways. Our range of accessories including hats, hatinators, shoes, hand or clutch bags and jewellery means we are able to co-ordinate the complete look.”

Lindsey James is proud to be a major sponsor of the Lincolnshire Life Food & Drink Awards for 2017, sponsoring the Wedding Venue of the Year category. With entries for this year’s competition open, Jan and her team are looking forward to the awards night later in the autumn.

Jan combines her busy life as a businesswoman with a role as chairperson of the Parish Council, always engaged in ensuring the community receives the expected level of service.

Jan added: “I thoroughly enjoy getting to know my customers and ensuring they leave Lindsey James feeling good in the clothes they have purchased. Equally, I like to give back to the village and the community which has supported me for so long.”

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