Market Rasen rocks on

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
April 2016

Since winning Portas Pilot funding and a share of a High Street Renewal Award, the Wolds town has continued to regenerate itself and is pushing on with its efforts to promote the thriving and vibrant area.
Though the town’s Business Improvement Group no longer exists, a new Town Partnership with Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce is doing all it can to continue the group’s work.

MR BIG worked tirelessly to improve the town for both residents and visitors alike and it strived to achieve its aim of enhancing the look and feel of the High Street retail areas. It introduced regular monthly markets in the town’s historic Georgian Market Place to celebrate everything that is special about Market Rasen.

Up until the thirteenth century, Market Rasen’s market originally took place on Sunday but it was changed to Tuesday. Over the years it has seen a wide assortment of goods bought and sold such as cattle, arable crops, grain, coal fertiliser and salt, and is still an integral part of the town with markets taking place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Market Rasen has always been seen as a quiet market town, with obvious agricultural ties because of its situation. But don’t be fooled. At one time in the nineteenth century it boasted nearly a dozen breweries or beer houses, dealers in coal, lime, sand and agricultural requisites, and manufacturers of items as diverse as tiles and washing machines/mangles. There were many inns and coaching houses, and Market Rasen was a centre for the carters from surrounding villages, who converged on the town for market days.

Located on the A46 main road between Lincoln and Grimsby, Market Rasen is a busy thoroughfare for coastal traffic, but it is also still served by a rail service.

Its railway station was built by the Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction Railway, with the opening of the line in 1848, and it is the only station now between Lincoln and Barnetby. Nowadays it is on the ‘Grimsby – Lincoln – Newark’ line and is managed by East Midlands Trains.

Market Rasen became well known around the UK on 27th February 2008 as the epicentre of an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale which was felt far and wide from Edinburgh to Plymouth and as far away as Bangor in Northern Ireland and Haarlem in the Netherlands.

The ten-second earthquake was the largest recorded example in the United Kingdom since the Lleyn Peninsula earthquake in North Wales in 1984 which measured 5.4.

The town’s early medieval St Thomas’ Church was owned by the priory of Sixhills, and the priory appointed priests until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.

The oldest parts of the current building are 14th century, with a major rebuilding in the eighteenth century and another in the late Victorian period.

The most dramatic event in the history of St Thomas’ came in 1563 when a mob of religious reformers removed religious statues and other ‘Papist’ imagery from the church and burned them in the market place.

Another thing Market Rasen is renowned for is its racecourse in Legsby Road which stages a year-round programme of racing. It is part of The Jockey Club, which has been at the heart of British horse racing for more than 260 years and runs the largest racecourse group in the UK with a £142.1m turnover, fifteen courses and attendances of 8.1 million.

Market Rasen racecourse has had an eventful past year with a new person at the helm, an increase in attendances and two top horse racing awards.

Nadia Gollings was appointed as the new general manager of Market Rasen Racecourse early in 2015. She succeeded the long-serving Pip Kirkby who left in the spring to become the new chief executive of the Pony Club.

Nadia, who is the daughter of racehorse trainer Steve Gollings, had worked for Jockey Club racecourses for seven years as commercial manager at Nottingham Racecourse, group racing executive and analyst at The Jockey Club’s head office in London and the last two years as general manager of Huntingdon Racecourse in Cambridgeshire.

The racecourse scooped two national awards during the year. One was from the members of the Racegoers Club of Great Britain – who chose it as one of the top six smaller racecourses in Britain. The club divides its annual racecourse awards into six regions – and Market Rasen was named ‘Best Small Racecourse’ in the North Midlands.

The other award was from the Racecourse Association – the trade body of Britain’s racecourses – and the sport’s promotional arm, Great British Racing.

They chose the Lincolnshire venue as the winner in the ‘All About The Horse’ category of the annual Showcase Awards which were held at Ascot Racecourse. The awards celebrate excellence and innovation among Britain’s racecourses.

The award was the result of the BIG Jigsaw Challenge, an interactive team game held during a family fun day in August which was created to help children learn more about horse racing and the welfare of racehorses, while having the chance to win prizes.

2015 was also Market Rasen Racecourse’s most successful season for thirteen years as nearly 81,000 people flocked to the venue.

The Boxing Day fixture attracted a bumper crowd of 9,023 and helped the racecourse to its highest aggregate attendance for a calendar year since 2002.

Racing has taken place at Market Rasen for more than 180 years. From 1828 until 1924 it was run on various sites on the outskirts of the town. Then Market Rasen Racecourse found a permanent home on Willingham Road.

Feast Week racing was held in the autumn from 1828-1887 and with the advent of steeplechasing in the middle of the nineteenth century a second fixture was added to the calendar. This race meeting has been held in spring from 1871 until today.

Market Rasen Racecourse found a permanent home on Willingham Road in 1924.

From 1945 to 1971 a gentlemen called Victor Lucas was responsible for the running of the course. He planned the layout of the course, paddock, parade ring, stands and weighing room.

During this era the fixture list was expanded from three meetings each year to a total of twelve in 1967 which included Easter Monday and Boxing Day.

In 1967, the course was sold to Racecourse Holding Trust which was a subsidiary of the Jockey Club. The company is now known as Jockey Club Racecourses, one of fifteen within the group.

There is an exciting year ahead for Market Rasen’s Festival Hall, with a major refurbishment on the cards and a number of new activities and events being launched.

Following last year’s feasibility study and community consultation, Market Rasen Town Council is putting its energies into the next stage of development at this valued community venue and is committed to seeing it become the ‘go-to’ place in town.

The 400-seater hall, which was built in 1972 from subscriptions raised by the town, is in need of extensive repair work including a new weatherproof roof.

Nicola Marshall, who is leading the project on behalf of the town council, said: “In order to secure the funding levels needed to refurbish and remodel the hall, hard evidence is needed of the demand from the local community and businesses both in the town and the surrounding areas. Therefore, this year is all about increasing activity and attendance at the Festival Hall so that we can demonstrate the real need for this venue in our town. The Town Council is committed to seeing it used to its full capacity and becoming a magnet of activity for our town.”

New activities and events are being launched and explored in a bid to get townsfolk into the hall.

By popular demand, wrestling is being brought back with a first event from Fight Factory Wrestling taking place on Friday 15th April and ‘Come Dancing’ is being reintroduced on Saturday nights.

“Through our community consultation last year, people told us that they wanted to see more public events at the Festival Hall. They remembered when the venue was buzzing and a hive of activity for the town,” said Nicola.

“We’ll be working with local people and groups to reinvigorate the programme of events at the Hall and we are looking forward to welcoming the return of plays, pantos, concerts and entertainment for all the family.”

As well as public events and community activities, the council will be doing more promotion of the venue for private functions, business conferences, weddings and parties.

“A marquee lining transforms the main hall into an intimate but spacious environment for a wedding or private function,” said Nicola. “The professional dancefloor is a magnet to regional dance groups and is a rarity in a community venue like ours.”

At the moment Nicola is busy making last-minute preparations for the open day which is taking place on Saturday 23rd April.

“We will be showcasing the hall, having a taster session when the public can call in and see the space, facilities and have a chat with the town council staff,” she said. “The whole project is about getting some funding to upgrade the hall.”

Travellers who choose to stop off at Market Rasen will find a wealth of long-established and independent businesses waiting for them, as well as national name retailers.

One delightful and well-known business is Garnett’s Confectionery in Queen Street which was established 110 years ago and has been run by the same family ever since.

It was set up by George Garnett, the grandfather of the current owner Louise Robinson.

“The business was founded by my grandfather who made ice cream and sold it around the villages. He passed it down to my mother who ran it for more than fifty years and I have continued with the family business for the past seventeen years,” said Louise.

The shop is filled from floor to ceiling with confectionery delights to suit customers of all ages. Its shelves are stocked with some 250 jars of confectionery and it has one of the best selections of hard boiled sweets, toffees and bonbons for miles around, as well as quality boxed chocolates gift-wrapped to suit the occasion, and offer personal service.

“Our range of confectionery is second to none. Throughout the year we attend many outside events and local shows and we have a sweetshop on Market Rasen Racecourse and one at Willow Banks Equestrian centre,” said Louise.

“During the summer months we are also busy with ice cream units and we have introduced a walk-in ice cream parlour at the shop, which serves Dennetts ice cream from Easter onwards.

“We recently introduced the opportunity for people to hire a candy cart or Ferris wheel for special occasions, as we pride ourselves on our vast selection of treats. We will be serving twenty different flavours and selling take-home packs as well. Selling ice cream will continue a family tradition.”

Market Rasen Racecourse is not just about offering great racing in a stunning setting. It is also a great venue for outdoor shows and, with its own caravan park on site, an ideal base for touring the Lincolnshire Wolds. It even has its own golf course.

Chart topping sensation Jess Glynne will be making her debut visit to the venue this summer when she headlines the Rasen Rocks/Evening at the Races event on 13th August.

First coming into the public eye as the vocalist on Clean Bandit’s Grammy Award winning hit ‘Rather Be’, Jess Glynne has since become one of the biggest UK breakthrough acts of recent years.

Her number one debut album I Cry When I Laugh has now turned double platinum in the UK, making it the highest selling debut album of the past year.

She also became the second British female solo artist to have five number one singles in the UK. With no signs of slowing down, 2016 is set to be a further massive year for Jess.

Last year the same event attracted around 14,000 people for Welsh legend Tom Jones.

Sales and marketing manager Patricia Grove said there is plenty going on at the racecourse.

“As well as Rasen Rocks in August we have two Ladies’ Days – one in June and one in July,” she said. “The Ladies’ Day on 3rd June is a big summer party type event and the 16th July Ladies’ Day has best-dressed competitions, an afternoon of racing, an after the races party, fashion shows and music from Marc Dillon. There will be Channel 4 racing on that day.”

There is also a family fun day on 3rd July, sponsored by Don Noble Bookmakers, which has seven races and free children’s entertainment, followed by the big family fun day at the end of the month.

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