Make yourself at home in Horncastle

Featured in:
February 2021

Reports from the housing sector in the town are positive and measures are in place to help businesses spring back in the coming months. By Melanie Burton

Just six months ago the town’s retail sector was reporting a good start to their return to business after they were allowed to operate again. With two national lockdowns to contend with since then and a period of tough restrictions it has been hard to foresee life returning to normal again – but there have been encouraging developments.

According to some estate agents, the pandemic has actually seen a boost in house buying and selling over the past 12 months and a recent survey of 1,000 homeowners has shown that as many as 26 percent of people are considering moving within the next year, with more than half (55 percent) of respondents directly linking their reason for moving to Covid-19 and the fact that many of us are obviously spending more time at home.

Horncastle’s long-established estate agents, Robert Bell & Company, which has been part of the fabric of the town since 1872, is reporting that things did not slow down with the arrival of 2021 and this year looks like it is going to be a very interesting year for the property market.

The company reports on its website: “With the property market remaining open and levels of demand still high despite the new challenges, 2021 has defied expectations and continued the strong levels of performance the industry ended 2020 on.

“2020 was a year of towering contrasts for the housing market. After a strong start in January/February, the market was then dominated by the impact of Covid, as was every other aspect of our lives.

“According to the Halifax, house prices were down by 0.5% at the mid-year turn, with the imposition of Lockdown 1.0 seeing the market effectively grind to a halt.

“However, when the market reopened, limited supply in conjunction with the force of pent-up demand lit the fire under what must be seen as a most remarkable recovery, thanks to buyers’ lockdown re-evaluations of their future housing requirements and the added fuel to the fire of the government’s time-limited incentive of a stamp duty holiday.

“The Halifax reported that average house prices were 6.0% higher at the end of 2020 when compared to December 2019.

“Despite the looming end to the stamp duty holiday deadline on March 31st there is little or no let-up in demand. Rightmove has reported property views were up by 33% in January. So Lockdown 3 has brought even more buyers from outside of our county.”

New grant scheme
Local businesses could benefit from up to £10,000 of funding through a new grant scheme being planned by the county council. In light of the economic impact of coronavirus, Lincolnshire County Council has proposed using some of the authority’s reserves to provide a £12m package of support for local firms, including business grants.

The support is particularly aimed at those that have not benefited from the government’s Covid support schemes and smaller businesses with 50 employees or fewer.

Council Leader, Councillor Martin Hill OBE, said: “We know local businesses have had a particularly tough time during the pandemic, so we want to make additional support available.

“Local businesses are the backbone of the Lincolnshire economy – there are around 43,000 in the county and it is vital that we support those that have not received any help to ensure they survive the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is clear this latest countrywide lockdown will bring economic repercussions, which will hit the county’s business community hard. With that in mind, I am delighted that we have been able to allocate a £12m package of support through our new grant scheme – thought to be the first of its kind nationally.

“We have targeted the support particularly at those firms that have not been able to access existing government Covid support schemes, in particular smaller businesses.

“This year’s budget proposals include over £500m for the day-to-day services residents rely on, such as adult care, children’s services and the fire service. However, in addition, the council is proposing to invest around £200m in infrastructure and building projects, such as improvements to local schools and new roads.

“We are also recommending that extra funding is made available for flood response and roads, as we know these areas are a priority for our residents.”

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “It is vital we help those that have had no help to ensure they survive the financial impact of the pandemic.

“The focus will be on those businesses that have been unable to access the government’s Covid support schemes, such as those that are less than a year old, or without premises, or home-based.

“And there are likely to be separate pots of money for specific needs, such as a digital technology grant and a village shop grant.”

Focus on heritage
Being set in the heart of the county equal distance from its bigger neighbours – Lincoln, Louth, Skegness and Boston – Horncastle is known as the gateway to the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Originating from Roman times, and claimed in the Domesday Book of 1086 to be owned by King William, Horncastle is steeped in heritage and history. With its cobbled streets, thatched houses and 18th and 19th-century architecture the town is a gem to explore.

A focal point of any community is its town hall and it is thanks to the efforts of a group of campaigning residents that Horncastle still has one.

The Stanhope Hall was constructed in 1901, funded in the main by public subscription. It was designed as a drill hall for training volunteers and the assembly of soldiers, recalled from the reserves and the Territorial Army. It also doubled as a place of public entertainment. During World War One it served as a Red Cross Hospital, where hundreds of injured soldiers were treated.

East Lindsey District Council acquired the hall during the 1974 local government reorganisation and it provided a full range of local authority and community services until the decision was taken to close it.

Though negotiations for community ownership had begun in February 2005, it was only in 2009, when ELDC decided to bulldoze the building, that the town council stepped in to help save it. ELDC gave the town council a 125-year lease and a 50-year peppercorn lease was subsequently given to the Stanhope Hall community group, which is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Horncastle has a long history as a market town and can boast a long tradition going back beyond when it was given a Charter by Richard II in 1389. Today it welcomes visitors to its weekly markets on Thursdays and Saturdays and monthly Farmers’ Markets, held on the second Thursday of each month.

Because it is a Georgian town with a lot of traditional businesses, Horncastle attracts people from all over the country, not just for the visitor attractions and its fascinating heritage but for its niche independent retail outlets as well, all with delightful names.

Inspired by nature
Horncastle is also home to one of the country’s oldest county wildlife trusts and like many charities it has been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic.

However it has played its part in helping give people something to focus on during the latest lockdown with its ‘Lincspirational Plants’ art competition, an open call to artists, both amateur or professional, to capture the beauty of Lincolnshire’s wildflowers and trees.

The submitted artworks featuring one of 30 inspirational plants are to be showcased in an online exhibition where they will be auctioned to raise funds for further Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust wild plant projects.

The aim is to host a 2021 exhibition (Covid-19 rules permitting) showing 30 selected artworks at sites around Lincolnshire.

LoveLincsPlants project officer, Sue Fysh, said: “Lockdown during the cold winter months can feel bleak but spring is on the way. What better way to anticipate its arrival than putting pencil or brush to paper and illustrating the flowers that we will soon be seeing?

“The Trust is delighted at the response so far with some beautiful and creative artwork submitted. Two-thirds of the 30 species of plants are now represented but there are still 10 waiting to be drawn or painted.

“The exhibition is a celebration and reflection on the last three years of the LoveLincsPlants project. And what an amazing three years it’s been.

“The project survived the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018, some of the hottest summer temperatures on record, one of the wettest winters in 2019, and a global pandemic in 2020.

“Throughout it all we have managed to collect some hundreds of Lincolnshire plants for our herbarium project. Now, more than ever, is the time to lose ourselves in creating some wonderful artwork based on one of the 30 inspirational plants.”

Based in Banovallum House in Manor Road, Horncastle, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is a voluntary charitable organisation which cares for Lincolnshire’s wildlife and countryside from the Humber to the Wash.

It is one of 46 similar Wildlife Trusts covering the UK which are affiliated to the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and is one of the oldest in the country, having been founded in 1948.

Sir Joseph Banks Centre
Just eight months ago speculation was rife about the future of the Sir Joseph Banks Centre in Horncastle following the decision not to reopen its popular gift shop at the end of the first national lockdown.

Just a few months ago, however, the Society was awarded £10,600 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which has been used to carry out the conversion of the centre into a natural history and local heritage centre, with museum accrediation. The shopping list included modern museum cases and display equipment, raspberry pi controlled playout devices, and other interpretation signage.

The aim of the Sir Joseph Banks Society is to stimulate interest in his life and achievements through education, research, publications and events and by strengthening Lincolnshire’s links with Australia and New Zealand.

The building in Bridge Street is a restored Grade II listed building and houses numerous society curated collections including a Reference Library, Herbarium and Tribute Garden.

Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He accompanied Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery around the world and was responsible for the establishment of Kew Gardens.

Ending speculation about the centre’s future last year, the Society’s Paul Scott said: “It has enjoyed a full restoration carried out by Heritage Lincolnshire, which was part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“The centre hosts the Sir Joseph Banks Society which runs and maintains the unique Joseph Banks tribute garden and is host to the new Lincolnshire Herbarium, together with the historic Seaward Herbarium. It also focuses on Banks’s impact in Lincolnshire, nationally, and through him our close links with Australia, New Zealand and the Indian Pacific regions.

“The Society’s aim has always been to create a unique natural history and science centre in Horncastle, something that does not presently exist in the county.

“As well as our existing botanical collections we will seek to display objects from across the world representing the travels and work of Sir Joseph Banks.

“Our plans involve celebrating and exploring the cultures of indigenous people from across the world. Our focus will of course be Australia, New Zealand and the Indian Pacific region.

“This very ambitious venture will require skills and knowledge that we do not currently have, and will therefore necessitate us engaging with a wide range of sector specialists together with people and cultures from across the world.”

Phillips Animal Health is an evolving Horncastle business with quality, trust and service at its heart. For almost 50 years now it has served the local agricultural community supplying a wide range of products.

Originally a specialist in the pig sector, the company is now a key supplier to livestock farmers, smallholders and pet owners in the region. The product range has expanded beyond core animal health products to include feed, gates, fencing, tools, workwear and much more.

The industrial cleaning equipment part of the business, Phillips Pressure Washers, boasts an extensive range of mobile and static machines for all applications.

“We do our best to be a ‘one-stop shop’,” says general manager Paul Phillips. “As a local family business, looking after our customers is our priority. We understand the importance of building strong relationships that will last over many years and generations. We’re fortunate to be a part of this great community.”

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