Preserving our rich heritage
Kate Chapman meets Heritage Lincolnshire’s new chief executive,Tracy Stringfellow, who is flying the flag for our county’s historic sites.
Promoting our county’s wonderful heritage and encouraging more people to engage with it are top of the agenda for Heritage Lincolnshire’s new chief executive, Tracy Stringfellow.
Tracy grew up in Grimsby and has worked at museums and heritage trusts in Kent, Birmingham and London, but was delighted to return to her home county and take up her role with the Lincolnshire charity earlier this year.
She will steer the team as it continues to secure funding for the conservation of historic buildings at risk, as well as working to advance a wider understanding and appreciation of archaeology, historic buildings, local traditions and culture. As part of its remit, the organisation also looks after several historic sites across the county and offers a range of opportunities for education, volunteering and leisure activities too.
“Lincolnshire has such a rich, diverse heritage – from medieval sites to great industrial heritage, and it is our role to help people engage with it all,” says Tracy, who was previously chief executive of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in London.
“It is all about giving people access to these sites – physically, so they can actually visit these places; or intellectually so they can find out about their heritage, take part in workshops, projects or even volunteer themselves.
“We are quite a small organisation and obviously, due to finances, we cannot save everything. I think that today the heritage we pass every single day, the places we live, touch us without us even realising it and we can gain so much just by encouraging people to engage with it.”
Heritage Lincolnshire was formed in 1988, as part of a Lincolnshire County Council initiative. It became a registered charity in 1991, when it gained independence from the authority and merged with the Trust for Lincolnshire Archaeology, and now has its own commercial archaeological division.
As well as its own headquarters at the Old School, in Heckington, it cares for six historic sites across Lincolnshire including Bolingbroke Castle, near Spilsby, Holbeach Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Post, Tattershall College and Hussey Tower, Boston.
“Originally Heritage Lincolnshire was a building preservation trust. We would find buildings in need of conservation and repair, buildings at risk and develop projects to support them and bring them back into use before returning them to their owners,” explains Tracy.
“More recently, we have started to retain them – one example being the Old King’s Head at Kirton; an old pub at the heart of the community, which was on the At Risk register. We have worked on it and transformed it into a nine-bedroom B&B, with a room for events and other activities.
“We have given it a future, a sustainable use. We have retained it and now have our own hospitality team running it. This, along with our archaeological service, provides another revenue stream for us.
“We have also had a cottage at Tattershall left to us in a bequest and we are now working to turn this into a holiday let too.”
Boston Townscape Heritage Project is among the organisation’s current heritage initiatives. As a delivery partner, staff have consulted with local people about what they would like to see and are working in conjunction with Boston Borough Council, retailers and property owners, to help preserve and conserve of a number of the town’s historic buildings focussing on Boston’s Market Place.
Heritage Lincolnshire is also working on a scheme to bring Greyfriars in Lincoln back into use. Tracy said the 13th-century monastic friary has been empty for around a decade, having previously been used as a school and then as a county museum before The Collection opened. Funding for the project is being provided by many funders including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Architectural Heritage Fund and Pilgrim Trust.
“We’ve just started delivering this project on the ground, and construction work will begin in the new year,” added Tracy. “We are delivering a function space and we will be the end users. It will be a place where people can come along and find out about the building and hopefully there will be a lot of interest in it again.”
Heritage Lincolnshire employs around 50 people, split between its archaeology service and the charity side, including a hospitality team at the Old King’s Head. It also has a band of willing volunteers and is always keen to welcome more people who want to get involved.
“It’s all about giving access to our fantastic heritage, helping people find out about it and conserving it,” adds Tracy.
“As well as our own projects, we work with other community groups to help them develop and support their ideas and to fundraise.
“There are all sorts of ways people can find out about heritage. Everyone learns in different ways – we have online talks, and workshops where people can have a go at traditional crafts, such as leather working, and there are opportunities to meet traditional craftsmen.
“If people want to get involved, they can contact us through the website, or our social media channels, there is plenty to do and lots of opportunities for all. You do not need to get involved just because you want to be an archaeologist, a historian or are going to university. You can just come along to meet people, or work on a project like our heritage open days, there are opportunities for desk research and admin roles too as well as taking part in archaeological digs.”
On a personal note, Tracy is delighted to be back in Lincolnshire, having previously worked at the National Fishing Heritage Centre, where Grimsby’s fishing heritage is detailed, and which she credits for sparking her own passion for heritage and history.
And she is now looking forward to the challenge ahead of promoting Lincolnshire and all it has to offer.
“When I left London, friends and colleagues said that there was no heritage in Lincolnshire. I think there is a bit of a fence surrounding the county, people do not know what we have got here,” she added. I am very proud to have the opportunity to prove those people wrong. I have only been in post since 20th March, but there’s so much great stuff happening already, right across the county.
“People will start to say, ‘we should be going to Lincolnshire, let’s go and visit all of that heritage’. There is so much to share with people, that can put us over and above a lot of other places in the country, and that is what I am really proud and excited about.”
For more information about the work of Heritage Lincolnshire and details on how to volunteer, visit heritagelincolnshire.org
Photographs: Courtesy of Heritage Lincolnshire