Spilsby stepping forward

Words by:
Julie Sayed
Featured in:
October 2018

A strong sense of community spirit, a dash of entrepreneurial flair and a shared interest in boosting the fortunes of this bustling market town are proving advantageous, writes Julie Sayed.
It’s location close to the seaside resort of Skegness and easy links to larger towns such as Boston and Horncastle, as well as beauty spots in the Wolds, mean that Spilsby is well placed to pick up plenty of visitors.

Spilsby is a typical small market town but in latter years the Monday market had seen a dip in its popularity. This trend is now being reversed after a recent regeneration scheme was set in motion.

Town clerk Bonny Smith said: “We were down to just three market stalls but thanks to a lot of hard work and members of the community working together with East Lindsey District Council they have now secured ten pitches and also added an auction which has been seen as a great improvement and means the goods on offer are far more diverse.

“People like a bargain and they don’t always want to go to the supermarket and now with the regeneration scheme boosting the choice for shoppers it’s made a real difference. The last few Mondays, the market has had a real buzz and everybody is working really hard to build on that success.

“We have advertised the market in Skegness and Mablethorpe hoping to draw more tourists to the town and we are looking at further advertising, perhaps even a little further afield.”

The market has not been the only area to have seen improvements made. “We have recently been working with the Spilsby Business Partnership (SBP) looking at various ways to improve the look of the town and to attract more visitors.

“East Lindsey District Council has funding available to go towards regeneration plans so there is a real hope that changes can be made to benefit the town, said Bonny Smith.

“There are also community-led plans with people with specialities joining forces with others from the District Council, Fire and Rescue, the churches and others to build on the town’s future.

One area where this working partnership has made a difference is that we now have a community cinema which operates on the first Friday of each month and where the latest releases are shown.

“We have seen a big change with a number of new local councillors who are bringing new ideas to the table.”

There is a good choice of unique shops and businesses in the town, with teashops and gift shops, a traditional butcher, coffee shops, and fashion establishments.

“I would say we have some nice quirky shops and quite a lot of craftmaking,” added Bonny Smith.

“I think this all adds to the charm of Spilsby. We have good schools but like a lot of towns up and down the country we are short of affordable housing.

“To this end we are working with East Lindsey District Council, looking to encourage the revitalisation and use of empty shops and homes in the town.”

Spilsby has lots of organisations and for those looking for activities there are lots of clubs like the Badminton Club and the Luncheon Club to join. And over the forthcoming Remembrance Weekend there are special events planned to coincide with the end of the World War One centenary.

“On 11th November, invited guests will join together in Franklin Hall for afternoon tea,” said Bonny.

“At 7pm everyone will make their way to Sham Fields for the lighting of a beacon as part of the National Celebration. The reason for choosing this site is because back in time Franklin Hall was a Drill Hall and this area was used to make trenches as part of preparations for the war effort, hence the name Sham Field.”

Of course, Spilsby will once again be hosting its Christmas festivities starting on 1st December, with the Christmas Cracker event. This is an indoor crafts event that will take place in Franklin Hall, followed later by an outdoor market in the town culminating in the Christmas Lights switch-on which is organised by Spilsby Rotary Club. The town has invested in new Christmas lighting this year which it hopes will make things much brighter.

One long-established business in the town that has had a bumper summer is Dennett’s Ice Cream, an award-winning family business which has been in the town since the 1920s.

The business was started by Arthur Dennett, who passed the business down to his son, Eric. Now Eric’s son, Robin, carries on the family business. Today, as well as the factory in Spilsby, it has an ice cream parlour and sweet shop in town called Sweet Vanilla which is complemented by the ice cream parlour in Lincoln’s Bailgate.

Robin’s daughter Kate Dennett said: “Thanks to the glorious weather we have had a bumper summer.

“We offer thirty different flavours of ice cream and like to keep adding to the choice we offer our customers. It is in the spring when we decide which flavours we will market during the season and generally we have four new ones. Our sorbet selection has proved highly popular as a vegan option and sales of sorbet have now overtaken our sales of frozen yogurt.

“We also offer Christmas specials. Last year we had a mulled wine sorbet which was delicious and very popular. That may just make a comeback this festive season.”

As well as selling ice cream in their two shops, Robin Dennett goes out and about giving talks on the process.

“He gives talks to groups like the WI and the University of the Third Age and he’s a regular visitor to Rand Park Farm where he gives talks to groups of children explaining how ice cream is made.”

Dennett’s Ice Cream can also be found at county shows.

Bringing culture to Spilsby is the aim of Bruce Knight, managing director of the Sessions House CIC which is working to restore Spilsby Theatre back to its former glory.

“At present Spilsby Theatre is sort of a ‘falling down theatre’ but there is a great passion within the community to revive this important, and historic, venue which we hope in turn will become a huge asset to the town.” said Mr Knight.

The Sessions House CIC is currently running a £3.5 million pound project to restore the theatre to life.

“We have raised £18,000, partly raised by the group and with a Heritage Lottery Grant, and our hope is to fully repair the building and host lots of different cultural events. The scheme is well-supported by the townspeople and we have a growing membership scheme which has currently just over 100 members.”

This is a long-term project projected to run until 2021, but it may take a little longer. Unfortunately the grant systems have all changed but we feel this is a really important asset for the town, it’s a significant building and needs to be preserved.

Mr Knight added: “Built in 1824, it has a fascinating history and set a precedent at the time of its inception. We are hoping that when it is fully restored it will become a visitor attraction for the town as well as a fine venue for community arts based projects.

“A small part of the theatre, the Old Sergeant’s House is operating as a small community venue which hosts things like a Swing Dance Club, Acoustic Music Nights and Open Poetry and Spoken Word events.

“We have an active Kids’ Group which is great. However, the venue we can offer at the moment is only small, with seating for thirty.

“Spilsby is a very busy, little town with a lovely community, in a wonderful part of the world. It’s a very relaxing place to live and work, right on the edge of the Wolds.”

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The Dennett family are proud to call Spilsby ‘home’ to their business and have done for over 90 years. For four generations they have been making luxury dairy ice cream to their family recipe. Their dedicated shop Sweet Vanilla opened in 2017 on The Cornhill looking out at the statue of Sir John Franklin. Scooping 12 flavours of their handmade ice cream and sorbet they also stock all 30 flavours in take home tubs. If that isn’t enough of a treat, they also have over 60 varieties of traditional sweets to weigh out for you.

Sweet Vanilla Crafts opened this year in the rear room of the shop offering fabrics for dress making and crafts, haberdashery and handmade gifts. If you enjoy crafting don’t forget to drop in for a browse and treat yourself to an ice cream on the way out.

Tong Engineering has been based in Spilsby for over eighty-five years, and the family-run business is now one of Spilsby’s largest employers. Manufacturing a wide range of custom-built equipment for the vegetable handling and waste recycling industries, Tong Engineering now employs over 150 local people, and due to strong demand from both the domestic and overseas markets, the company is looking towards its next phase of expansion.

“We currently operate two factories in the East Lindsey area; our main factory in Spilsby and a second factory in Wainfleet,” says Edward Tong, managing director at Tong Engineering. “Over the last eighteen months, and following the Brexit debate, we have made efforts to expand sales and demand in export markets, particularly outside the Europe area, including Egypt, Australia, Japan and the USA. Demand in Europe and the UK also remains strong as our customers look to upgrade their equipment in line with new advances, to meet the needs of the large supermarkets.”

“We have just opened a Tong USA office in Michigan, to better service demand for our equipment across the USA, and following a recent recruitment drive we have expanded a number of departments across the business to support ongoing business growth,” explains Edward.

“Operating and meeting demand over two sites certainly has its challenges,” says Edward. “So, we are very excited that we now have permission to build a new, larger factory at the edge of the Industrial Estate in Spilsby. This will allow us to bring all our manufacturing and office functions under ‘one roof’ again. Being able to expand in Spilsby is very important to us, as we can continue to be part of the local community and economy where we have grown over the last eighty-five years.”

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