Riverside Festival celebrates a millennium

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
June 2013

The West Lindsey town of Gainsborough, once the country’s capital and home to the King of England and the King of Denmark, has undergone a bit of a renaissance during the first period of the 21st century and is now looking forward to an exciting period of growth for the next.
With plans in the pipeline for new homes, new retail and community facilities and a range of leisure provision, there is no wonder that everyone is talking about Gainsborough and what it all means for its future.

But very soon thoughts will be turned to the past as ‘Gainsborough goes Norse’ for its annual Riverside Festival.

The event, now in its twelfth year, is themed to celebrate a special milestone in the town’s history.

It is 1,000 years since Gainsborough was, albeit very briefly, the capital of England when in 1013 Sweyn Forkbeard, the King of Denmark, who had built himself a Danish encampment at Thonock, conquered England and claimed the English crown for himself.

He and his army surrounded London and its provinces to cut off the capital from the rest of England and forced King Aethelred to flee to Normandy.

A triumphant Sweyn returned to Lincolnshire as King and made Gainsborough Castle his home and the town the capital of the country. However, he became Britain’s shortest reigning monarch when he was murdered at a feast at the castle of Gainsborough on 3rd February 1014 and his son and heir, Canute, succeeded to the throne.

Then shortly before Easter of the same year, Aethelred returned to England, launched an attack to drive out the Danes and regain the crown and re-established London as the capital.

Canute, who is most remembered in history as ‘the King who tried to turn back the tide’, went on to be one of the most powerful rulers of his age becoming King of England, King of Denmark and King of Norway by 1018 earning him the title of Canute the Great.

The Riverside Festival takes place on Saturday, 8th June from 12 noon, with stalls along the side of the River Trent and the whole town taking part in the festivities which include a parade, a duck race organised by Gainsborough Lions, street entertainment, fun, games and sports for all the family, and a fun fair.

The event first began back in 2001 to mark and celebrate the regeneration of the Riverside area of the town.

Gary Cooke of Gainsborough Town Council said: “The committee is very eager to ensure the 2013 event is one that is enjoyed by everyone.

“Gainsborough’s connection with the Danes is a justly proud one. Not only did the town become home to the Kings Sweyn and Canute, it became the base of military operations that resulted in the conquest of England.”

It is ironic then that the next phase of Gainsborough’s history is about to start with a programme of growth not only in the size of the town but for the local economy as well.

Exciting plans to build the first of 2,500 houses in Gainsborough as part of the new sustainable urban extensions are on track to start next year.

The multi-million pound scheme will include new retail businesses, community facilities, a new bus service, a lake, allotments, community orchards, parkland, access to woodland, cycleways and more employment for the town.

There are plans for a new hotel and cinema as part of proposals to regenerate land on the Elswitha Quarter, Whitton’s Gardens and on the site of the old Guildhall.

West Lindsey District Council head of strategic growth, Grant Lockett said: “Growth is our future in terms of the way we, as a district, are going to develop.

“We already have growth status thanks to the Gainsborough Growth Point, which links to housing provision but there are many more opportunities we need to explore.”

Gainsborough has enjoyed an upturn in its fortunes during the past decade with the opening of Marshall’s Yard in 2007 and new residential developments established on the northern and southern fringes of the town.

Building on these successes, the focus has turned more recently to enhancements to the traditional town centre with Market Street and the entrance to Church Street repaved in a continuation of work to refurbish Market Place, Lord Street and Silver Street, carried out in 2010.

The aim of the £3 million Public Realm Improvement Scheme was to improve the appearance of Gainsborough town centre to provide a more attractive environment for residents, visitors and businesses, and to attract future investment into the town.

The second phase of the scheme cost £500,000 and included new lighting, signage and the installation of new bins and benches. The carriageways were also reduced and footpaths widened to improve pedestrian access and to enhance the pedestrian link between Market Place and Marshall’s Yard.

Chair of the Prosperous Communities Committee, Councillor Malcolm Parish said: “The scheme plays a vital role in making Gainsborough an attractive destination for shoppers, visitors and businesses.

“Upgrading these key town centre streets improves the appearance of the area and contributes towards a more enjoyable shopping experience for both residents and visitors.”

Gainsborough has shot up the league tables for comparative towns in the past five years and to a certain extent is bucking the trend of market towns.

West Lindsey District Council Leader, Burt Keimach, said: “It is important that we develop the other side of the town near the Old Guildhall, to give people a reason to walk through the town. We intend to proceed with all our activities, including the regeneration of the Gainsborough riverfront, the rejuvenation of the Leisure Centre and much more to really help the district grow.”

Sustainable development is an important aspect of growth to any town and any business or developer interested in expanding or setting up a business is being urged to ‘talk’ to the council.

Gainsborough’s popularity as a great place to live and do business is proved through the number of new industrial premises for highly skilled manufacturing companies that have set up including Eminox, Paragon, Ping and AMP Rose who have all invested in the town.

Eminox is a highly skilled manufacturer and Gainsborough employer which is relocating to new premises in the town to secure jobs, attract investment and expand. 

Ping is an international blue-chip golfing brand with a manufacturing base in Gainsborough and a new extension of their premises which attracts customers from all over the world.

And AMP, which has an international client base including Pepsi and Cadbury, has built a new factory complex on Somerby Park as part of its relocation and expansion plans.

Grant Lockett added: “Success cases such as these are excellent news for the district as a whole. It demonstrates our area has a lot to offer in terms of available sites, value for money, skilled workforce and a supportive council.”

Ping Europe managing director, John Clarke said Ping has been in Gainsborough for forty years and now employs between 150 and 200 people.

“We have never had a problem recruiting dedicated, quality-minded, caring people. They are the backbone of our business and in return we have been able to deliver consistent growth over many years. The district council has been there whenever we have needed help.”

Mr Clarke would like to see more businesses, jobs, retail, restaurants, social and community activities and a good-sized hotel in the town but he said it already has so much to offer.

“Take a look at the developments in Gainsborough in recent years and you will see a town really moving forward. The local infrastructure available to businesses and the people of Gainsborough has never been better and, if future plans are executed successfully, there is more to come.”

Famous family-run Oldrids is the latest business to take its name to fast-growing Gainsborough.

This long-established company – which has a popular department store in the centre of Boston and Downtown shops on the outskirts of Boston and Grantham – is busy putting its stamp on Lincolnshire Co-operative’s Lindsey Centre in Gainsborough Market Place.

The move has seen Oldrids take over the Society’s staff, although the building remains under Lincolnshire Co-operative ownership. Oldrids has also taken over the Society’s Moorland Centre in Lincoln. Eighty people are employed across the two stores.

Oldrids’ managing director, Annmarie McClintock said: “We are excited about the future for our Gainsborough store.

“The welcome and support we received from staff already working there has been brilliant. We are now carrying out general refurbishment work and installing new fixtures and fittings, in line with our determination to offer customers a great choice.

“We are clearing out old lines and new products are already on the shelves.”

Customers can look forward to visiting a super new Cookshop department, browsing a wider variety of gifts and seeing the introduction of new fashion brands.

“The Lindsey Centre store will continue to offer furniture ranges and we are also keen to offer people a really good selection of electrical goods, so that department will be getting a full refit in late spring,” added Ms McClintock.

Marshall’s Yard in Gainsborough has just celebrated its sixth birthday and the last twelve months has seen some significant changes and investments at the centre, which are attracting new shoppers to the town.

In August last year the independent, boutique department store Browns transformed the former Carpetright unit with a £650,000 investment bringing a host of new brands and products to the town and complementing the existing retail line-up.

That was followed by a further investment by DW Fitness – remodelling the gym and retail store creating a brand new unit at Marshall’s Yard which has just been taken by the popular outdoor clothing and equipment specialist Mountain Warehouse.

The centre has also welcomed Sweet Traditions and The Wool Room in the last few months. The Wool Room works closely with The Campaign for Real Wool which has HRH Prince Charles as its Patron.

The company brings something completely new and different to The Yard and is keenly focused on sourcing and selling high quality British wool bedding, blankets and throws as well as a beautiful nursery and gift range.

Celebrity ‘Shepherdess’ Alison O’Neill, from Cumbria – who keeps a flock of 250 Kendal Rough Fell sheep, leads country walks, designs tweed clothing and is passionate about wool garments – launched the new store early this month.

Alison opened the store with the help of a Lincoln Longwool from James Chantry’s Fieldside Flock from Walkerith, near Gainsborough.

“I am passionate about wool and wool products and I am keen to promote it, which is why I am delighted to officially open Wool Room shops,” said Alison.

Marhall’s Yard’s popular Farmers’ Market, held on the second Saturday of every month, has continued to thrive and grow and the last twelve months has seen the addition of a new outdoor TV screen introduced in time for the Jubilee and the Olympics last summer.

Centre manager at Marshall’s Yard, Jackie Helliwell, said: “There have been a lot of changes at The Yard during the last twelve months and we’ve had the opportunity to bring some new retailers to the centre which are definitely attracting new shoppers.

“We’ve got another busy year ahead with a packed programme of events including a continental food market in August. We’re also working with other businesses and stakeholders in the town to get the message out that Gainsborough is a great place to visit and to shop!”

Marshall’s Yard opened in April 2007 and is home to stores including M&S Simply Food, Laura Ashley, Next and Brantano as well as the independent boutique Chic which stocks brands including Dubarry, Joules and Radley.

People can find out more about the centre and its location by visiting www.marshallsyard.co.uk

Historic milestones are very much to the fore in Gainsborough this year.

As well as it being the 1000th anniversary of the time when the town was capital of England, it is 100 years since the very fabric of Lea village changed forever. That was when the Anderson family’s connection with the place ended after centuries of being at the heart of the community.

It is a story that has just been published in a book entitled ‘The Last Baronets of Old Gainsborough’ which features Lincolnshire naturalist and antiquarian Sir Charles Anderson, the last Baronet of Lea, and Sir Hickman Bacon, the last Lord of the Manor of Gainsborough.

Author, Darron Childs said it is a fascinating part of history that has long gone.

“The aim of the book is to bring back to life a former time that related to when there were two Baronets associated with Gainsborough,” he said.

“I concentrated the book on the Anderson family of Lea. It is the history of Lea as a village and Lea as a place.Principally they owned the whole of Lea village. There were surrounding farms and they derived their income from the famers. But they were very well thought of people.

“It was a bit like Downtown Abbey. They were very careful that the people of the village were looked after. It’s hard to imagine today that life revolved around that family. But they were very important, not in a rich and powerful way, but for people’s lives and wellbeing.”

Life though, as they knew it, came to an end for the residents of Lea in 1913 when the whole village was put up for sale at auction.

“It needed a male heir to carry on the name. Charles had three boys and three girls but all the boys died during his lifetime so following his death the estate was left in the granddaughter’s hands. She had moved away and she thought it was best if it was sold.”

So the whole estate or village went under the hammer and was sold off in plots.

“The hall took on new ownership, all the farms changed hands and it was never going to be the same again,” said Darron. “Today there is very little left of the village’s connections with the Anderson family. But that connection goes back to the 1600s. It was a long dynasty and back in those days they were very well connected.”

In fact Sir Edmund Anderson, ancestor of the Anderson family, was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas under Queen Elizabeth I and sat as judge at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots actually signing the warrant for her execution.

“They were playing their part in national history and they then became a focal point in rural history when they acquired Lea,” said Darron.

The hall was demolished in the early 1970s and was replaced with a public park.

“It wasn’t a grand stately home, more of a country manor house but it was a terrible shame that it was demolished. It is a shame we lost not only the connection to the people but the place where they once resided as well.”

Darron, who is a member of the town’s Delvers History group, is doing his best to preserve some of Lea’s heritage by renovating the old Dower House next to his home.

The Delvers has also put up a memorial plaque – on the 40th anniversary of the demolition of Lea Hall – to mark the area’s connection to the Anderson family and highlight the fact that there was once a manor house there.

“A lot of local people don’t even know there is a historical house set in the parkland. The only remnant left today is a little building called the Butler’s Pantry,” added Darron.

His work on the Dower House, which is a listed building dating back to the 1700s, has seen it nominated for a National Heritage Angel Award which rewards the efforts of local people in saving their heritage. The results will be announced in the summer.

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