Sleaford steps forward

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
December 2015

Big changes could be on the way in the future for the busy Lincolnshire market town – but it is more than ready to step up to the challenges it may face.
It is situated in the North Kesteven district of the county which is one of the areas subject to the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan – a plan that, if it gets accepted, will establish policies for the growth and regeneration of Central Lincolnshire for the next twenty-five years and beyond.

The six-week consultation period on the plan has just ended and residents and businesses around the district including Sleaford have had the chance to say what they think.

Councillor Marion Brighton, leader of North Kesteven District Council, said: “It is a plan for their futures and their families’ futures and it is essential that they get involved in order to shape it and get it right.”

Currently in draft form, the Local Plan is a range of policies, plans and principles which will guide the planning of new homes, jobs, schools, shops, roads and other infrastructure to help meet projected population and economic change over the next twenty years.

“Within Sleaford the plan forecasts 4,435 new homes between the years 2012 and 2036, 1,450 of them already approved in the urban extension off London Road and a further 1,600 projected for the west of the town, with others identified or approved for The Maltings, land off Grantham Road, Holdingham,” said Mrs Brighton.

In keeping with this housing growth, which is about twelve per cent of the total projected for the whole of Central Lincolnshire, the town is also poised for a significant share of jobs creation; with more than a tenth of the total strategic employment land allocation to support hundreds of the 11,894 forecast for the wider area.

“This all helps Sleaford to realise its potential and re-assert itself as an important market town and destination for shopping and services,” said Mrs Brighton.

“The recent Made in Sleaford events helped us all to re-focus our minds on the scale and excellence of the town’s manufacturing and industrial output and how, historically, Sleaford has always had an economic impact way beyond its size.”

Through Made in Sleaford, townsfolk found that significant products are still made in Sleaford, including agricultural machines which hold world records, aeroengines used by James Bond, violins hailed among the very best, BMW engine development, top-flight cricket awnings and films catching celebrity attention. Chicks, cakes, iconic caravans, crafts and carbon-neutral energy also featured strongly.

As a legacy there is now a distinctive Made in Sleaford marque which companies can apply to their products.

A key inspiration behind Made in Sleaford – as a distinct new brand as much as a mindset and a celebration – was SHD Composites, which in only four years has developed such a strong global reputation for its composite materials that they are integral to the success of Richard Noble’s Bloodhound supersonic 1,000mph car project.

From Sleaford’s Enterprise Park, SHD is supplying the specialist composite materials for the manufacture of panels, nosecone, driver’s seat, wheel arches and other facets of Bloodhound SSC, using bespoke resins devised, developed and pre-impregnated into the material locally.

SHD was one of the earliest sponsors of Bloodhound SSC, with its logo (and potentially a Made in Sleaford badge) now on the car forever for a global audience of 2.2bn people to see.

The showcase at the National Centre for Craft & Design attracted between 4,000 and 5,000 people and cemented successful business networking and education outreach.

The National Centre for Craft & Design sits at the heart of Sleaford in the riverside setting of Navigation Wharf. The Centre, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013, is the largest venue in England and has the largest gallery space, outside of London, for the exhibition of contemporary craft and design.

One of its latest exhibitions starts this month and brings together nine contemporary British-based furniture designers and explores different materials, concepts and making processes used in contemporary furniture today.

Alongside the furniture itself, the exhibition will also show eight specially commissioned films that shine a light on the artists’ studios and demonstrate their unique use of conventional hand-crafting techniques alongside modern technologies.

The NCCD started life at The Pearoom in Heckington, which was built in 1870 by the Great Northern Railway Company and shortly afterwards was leased to the internationally renowned seed firm of Charles Sharpe of Sleaford.

In the 1970s, with the help of Government grants, fundraising activities, hard work by many volunteers and leadership by the Heckington Village Trust, the Pearoom was converted into a heritage, craft and tourism centre for the village.

It established itself as a contemporary craft centre, displaying a range of exhibitions through two gallery spaces and delivering a short course programme and unique shop. Artist workshops and a café also attracted some 30,000 visitors each year.

When the lease expired on the building, The Pearoom moved to a new home in Sleaford, where the opportunity to develop and build the Centre and resource was realised through one of thirteen major projects completed as part of a seven-year Sleaford Pride Regeneration programme.

The development of The Hub was a £2.4 million refurbishment of the old Hubbards and Philips Seed Warehouse in Navigation Yard. It opened in 2002.

Improving the street scene and adding new life to the heart of the town is a key element to attracting visitors to Sleaford and the first grant has been approved under a new partnership scheme to inject at least half a million pounds into improving shopfronts in the town centre.

This will provide grant funding to support owners of shops and prominent buildings to carry out improvements to their frontages that reinstate lost or deteriorating features; giving a potential spend of as much as £600,000 over the next three years.

The programme is primarily focused on shopfronts in the Market Place, Northgate and Southgate, with an invitation to traders to talk to North Kesteven’s conservation and planning officers about the possibilities.

The project was proposed by English Heritage in response to the whole of Sleaford Conservation Area being classed as “at risk” because of the deterioration in the historic detail which makes it special. In seeking to reverse this trend, NKDC identified the condition of shopfronts and public realm as priorities for intervention.

The distinctive Tudor-style building in the Market Place will be the first to be improved and restored to its former glory. This first phase will deal with the guttering, roof, façade and decoration of the upper floor, with a further programme of work intended for the ground floor.

Local business Donald C Larder Ltd owns the Tudor-style building having bought it in spring this year.

Company spokeswoman Jenny Sherlock said: “It is early days as the scheme has only just been launched. In essence the scheme is enabling us to complete work to the building to a very high standard and a standard that property owners wouldn’t often see as viable.

“We are righting the wrongs of previous decades of refurbishment work. We are putting new life into the shopfront. The whole purpose of this is to create a smart and well-presented building and also to create energy to the Market Place.”

Other elements of the project include the ground floor shopfronts and the reinstatement of the awnings.

“We have just completed investigation work to determine what the existing materials are on the shopfronts and it appears that a lot are bronze and some are marble,” said Jenny.

“There will also be work to reinstate the traditional awnings for the shops. Some have been completely removed but some are intact and in need of refurbishment.”

Jenny says they are also hoping to be able utilise the space in front of the building.

“We have asked to use the space in front of the building for the public rather than just for parking. We want to create space for meetings and trading within the immediate vicinity of the building. The Market Place needs an input of new energy.”

All refurbishment work is due to be completed by late June next year and expressions of interest from retailers who would consider taking one of the shop units would be welcome. Jenny can be contacted via email at:

John Jenkins started in the electrical trade in 1964 working for a local independent retailer. Fifteen years later, in 1979, John started his own business as J Jenkins Radio and Televisions in Westgate, Sleaford. Since then they’ve relocated twice, once in 1985 to Southgate, and now they are located at bigger and better premises on Boston Road. With a large car park there is plenty of time for customers to peruse the varied shop. In June 2010, the company went limited and now trades as J Jenkins Electrical Ltd. John and his wife Sandra have now retired and the business has been taken over by their children Tara and her brother Lee.

They are Sleaford’s local Electrical Centre supplying items such as televisions, kitchen appliances as well as digital radios, electrical accessories and more. They also service certain electrical items as well as repair them. The family are proud to be part of Euronics, which offers their customers the opportunity to buy online with free delivery to the store. This means the shopping doesn’t stop at their store.

John Jenkins strives on the fact that they’ve “built (their) business on good service and this together with well informed and friendly staff”. This allows the customer to feel confident, calm and satisfied that the workers there will look after them beyond the sale or services they provide.

Tara and Lee would like to thank their customers old and new for their continued support and wish them all a very Merry Christmas and New Year.

Sleaford has a number of notable historic buildings and its origins date back at least as far as the Iron Age.

It used to have a local history museum, which was opened in 1972 by the Sleaford and District Civic Trust in premises in the Market Place. But when the building was sold in 1982, the museum had to close and the collection has since been kept in storage until another home could be found for its permanent display.

To this end, the Sleaford Museum Trust was formed in 1994 by an association of dedicated people with an interest in preserving and disseminating the history and heritage of the town.

In the autumn of 2011, the Trust entered into talks with Sleaford Town Council regarding the possible conversion of the former toilet block in Monument Gardens into a town museum.

Under the chairmanship of David Marriage, a group of enthusiastic volunteers successfully applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other Lincolnshire organisations supplemented this with donations and Sleaford Town Council provided the building.

Four years on, the vision became a reality on 2nd April, when the new museum was officially opened and artefacts which had been stored in a variety of places around the town for nearly forty years were able to be displayed again.

In its first six months, more than 2,000 visitors have walked through its doors.

Vice-chairman and design co-ordinator Jan Spooner said: “It has been better than expected and it has gone from strength to strength. Our logo is ‘Sharing Our Stories’ and we hope to film some living history in the near future.”

Its first exhibition was ‘Southgate – a Walk Through Time’, with a nineteenth-century wall-end photograph, cabinets of artefacts from the shops that lined Southgate then, and information boards and cards. Maps of 1890 and 2014 made fascinating comparisons.

Recent displays have featured the story of Denys Finch Hatton from Haverholme, Ewerby, that was portrayed in the film Out of Africa and currently, Lee & Green’s factory, which was on an island in the River Slea and which produced aerated water and Ginger Beer around Lincolnshire and in America. This exhibition formed part of the recent Made in Sleaford event held in the NCCD.

Open evenings for pre-arranged parties can be booked through the secretary and the voluntary staff have hosted The Twinning Association, the Methodist Church Group, the Civic Trust and several others.

Schools have visited to inspire for a This is Sleaford trail, and there are activities for children such as a quiz, an embossed press from Charles Sharpe seed merchants, and dressing-up clothes.

Historical secrets from an undeveloped piece of land in Sleaford have been uncovered following a two-week archaeological dig, which was made possible through a £56,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The results have thrilled the town’s Old Sleaford Heritage Group which was behind the project and formed just two years ago specifically to undertake the investigation into the land at Old Place on Boston Road.

In the dig, two trenches were opened up on the site, one located near the house and the other near where it was thought the Roman road passed by.

Group chairman Dale Trimble said: “The results are better than we hoped. It went beyond what we thought it might. We did a couple of test pits in the summer which gave us a hint but when we dug it up it exceeded our expectations.

“We have evidence, documents relating to this site going back to the sixteenth century but there are two buildings on this site and one we are hoping is the Manor House, which predates the one that is documented.

“There are substantial walls on the site which we are hoping will take us back to the medieval period and we have also discovered pottery going back to the Conquest. It is all totally new information.”

The lottery grant will also fund a two-year programme of research into the site which is believed to have played a key role in the history of old Sleaford.

“All the analysis and report writing will be undertaken by volunteers with the help of professionals. We are going through the whole process of taking part in the dig, report writing culminating in the full publication of the information as well,” said Dale.

In one trench, the volunteers found thick layers of deposits that contained lots of Roman pottery and oyster.

“We don’t have a structure there but materials that they have been disposing of. We found a really nice bone hairpin and remains of a possible seventeenth-century building,” said Dale.

Now the dig is complete, research work will be undertaken and the marking and cataloguing of the items found will take place.

“All the artefacts we found will be recorded and the animal bones will be analysed by specialists in this field of work,” added Dale.

Lincolnshire Co-op, which owns the centre in Sleaford, is keen to breathe extra vitality into the pedestrianised precinct in Southgate, the main shopping street in the town.

The work, which involves the modernisation and extension of the centre, will be carried out in two phases.

The Society’s agent, Banks Long & Co, confirmed that the planning application submitted earlier in the year for the proposed alterations has now been approved by North Kesteven District Council.

This follows discussions between the firm, Lincolnshire Co-op, architect Framework, and the council’s planning and economic development officers.

Banks Long & Co director James Butcher said: “We want to begin the first phase of work – which will cost over £250,000 – as soon as possible now that the planning permission is in place.

“The aim is to inject fresh impetus into this important development, which is made up of seventeen retail and office units, plus some first floor flats. We are therefore in the process of tendering the project with a view to appointing a contractor shortly.

“The phase one proposals include opening up the central courtyard area, by removing the existing bandstand, a display unit and the colonnades fronting the shops along the southern side of the development.

“The idea is to improve these shops substantially by removing the existing, dated cladding on the front of the units and revamping them to create a more modern contemporary environment for shoppers.

“The second phase of the work will see the extension of the western block of the centre to create a large anchor unit to attract a strong retailer, that will act as a draw to shoppers from Southgate and the Sainsbury’s car park to the rear.

Our discussions are at an advanced stage with a national retailer interested in taking this and another unit in the centre, which would be great for both shoppers and the existing retailers within the centre,” said Mr Butcher.

“We’re intending to phase the work to ensure that it causes the minimum possible disruption to the existing retailers as well as shoppers using the centre.”

Lincolnshire Co-op’s senior estates and property manager Liz Welbourn said: “We’re really pleased to be moving forward with this project to rejuvenate the Riverside Shopping Centre.

“The centre, which provides a link from Southgate to the supermarket and 100-space car park behind, attracts lots of customers who’ll benefit from the improvements.

“We’re also confident that our development will attract other new enterprises to this area providing an extra boost to retailing.”

Exhibition opening event Saturday 12th Dec, 10am to 5pm.

Methods of Making is a new exhibition of British furniture, which brings together nine contemporary British-based designers and explores different materials, concepts and making processes used in contemporary furniture today.

Methods of Making features work from Sebastian Cox and Gareth Neal and explores issues such as recycling, waste, economics, architecture, beauty, value and sustainability through an extraordinary showcase of some of Britain’s best craftsmanship.

The exhibition will also include eight films of the artists’ studios and making processes produced by NCCD in collaboration with the University of Lincoln. Plus don’t miss a free family workshop with Susan Chillcott also on Saturday 12th December, 2-4pm.

Come along and learn to use simple hand tools and make your own piece of scale model furniture. You can also showcase your new carpentry skills in our giant dolls’ house for the duration of the exhibition. The exhibition will be open to the public until Sunday 28th February 2016.

One of the last remaining traditional piano shops in the East Midlands is located in Sleaford and has been for more than 120 years.

Not only that, it is the town’s oldest business, having opened in 1890. White & Sentance specialises in sales, restoration and tuning of all types of grand and upright pianos and stocks carefully selected traditional acoustic grand and upright pianos.

It was founded in 1867 in Grantham by William White as a “pianoforte and harmonium warehouse”, but the Sleaford branch was set up when George Sentance joined as a partner in the 1890s and the business expanded steadily.

Two music shops and a pipe organ factory were also opened in Grantham, and branches set up in Melton Mowbray and Peterborough.

By the 1920s, with the second generation of the Sentance family now running the firm, White & Sentance was serving musicians throughout a large part of the East Midlands, covering Lincolnshire, Rutland, and parts of Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire.

This situation continued until the 1960s, but then, as family members retired, and with no heirs to pass two of the shops onto, the Peterborough and Melton branches closed.

The second of the two Grantham shops followed in the early 1980s, leaving George Sentance’s youngest great nephew, Geoffrey, running the remaining business in Sleaford, latterly specialising entirely in piano sales and tuning.

In 1987, 120 years after the firm was founded, Chris Winter became a partner, having trained for many years under Geoffrey Sentance. He took sole charge in 1996, when a move to larger premises in a converted Victorian Baptist Chapel followed, from where the firm now offers one of the largest and most comprehensive selections of new and restored pianos for many miles.

“We are actually the oldest business still trading in the town. I was Mr Sentance’s apprentice and I took the business over in the mid-90s,” said Chris Winter.

The family tradition is continuing with Chris’s son Luke having joined the business just over two years ago.

“We are a piano sales and maintenance business. I cover most of Lincolnshire with tuning work, mainly private residential but some schools as well.

“There are a few tuners that work from home but we have a showroom and workshop and there are not many businesses like ours that have facilities to carry out restoration and maintenance work. Equally it is not everyone that has a piano.”

Chris still tunes one or two pianos near Bourne which were tuned by Geoff Sentance’s father going back two generations and he also has celebrities on his list of customers.

“Over the years I have tuned for celebrities but not in recent times. Ken Dodd was one of them because I did the work for the Embassy Theatre at Skegness and that is where I tuned the piano for his show.

“I did it for all their classical shows as well as Chas n’ Dave and the old time entertainers. But Ken Dodd is the one that springs to mind because over the years I have done that many times.”

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