Town with a vibrant community
Kirton in Lindsey in North Lincolnshire is more akin to a large village and there is plenty going on to keep the community occupied.
From archery and gliding, fitness classes and sport to live music, gardening and a community cinema to name but a few activities, Kirton Lindsey as it is sometimes known, has plenty to offer.
The town has a noble and interesting history with Royal connections and links to the Romans, Vikings and the military.
It is also a growing community with on-going proposals for the redevelopment of the former RAF airfield, to include a mix of homes, and plans for a small housing development on land adjacent to Maple Lea in Gainsborough Road.
Resident Mary Hollingsworth who is the publicity officer and a trustee of the town hall, said: “You get the impression it is a big town. It got town status in 1974, but we look bigger than we are.
“There aren’t many jobs in Kirton, so a lot of people live here and work elsewhere like Lincoln and Scunthorpe. But there are two schools – a primary school and Huntcliffe School – and that helps the community. There are shops around the eighteenth century market place, including a Co-op, a butcher, a baker, an optician and two hairdressers.
“Further down the hill there are a range of businesses, including a plant centre which is thriving, so there is a bit of everything.”
Kirton still has its charter for the market, but it hasn’t had a market for hundreds of years.
“If you look at the farmers’ markets and other markets, Brigg’s is successful but some of the others aren’t. As we have problems with parking, people won’t come to Kirton if they can’t park,” said Mary.
Kirton in Lindsey straddles the Lincoln Edge and its history is firmly tied into the limestone ridge. That is where the rainwater collected and spurted out as springs, providing an unlimited supply of fresh water which, together with the surrounding fertile fields, gave rise to the early settlement.
“The Romans were here – which is not surprising given the proximity to Ermine Street. We know of two villa sites and suspect a third. Many people regularly dig up pottery and roofing tiles when they do their gardens.
“After the Romans, came the invasions by the Angles, Jutes and Danes. Once the kingdoms had settled down, the Anglo-Saxons were brilliant administrators as they governed their territories.
“They set up the Moot – a gathering of local elders who would meet to hear complaints and make decisions on behalf of their communities. Some historians see this as the origins of the parish and town councils we have today, which makes them the oldest democratic structures in our country. Something to treasure, celebrate and protect.”
The name Lindsey comes from the earliest Anglo Saxon times and means “the island of Lincoln.” It refers to the marshy areas south of the Humber and was a lesser kingdom, quickly absorbed into Mercia – one of the largest Anglo Saxon kingdoms.
“The name lives on however and gives a geographic location for Kirton which, otherwise, simply means church town – a name held by many settlements,” said Mary.
“But Catherine Parr lived here. She married Sir Edward Burgh in 1529 and came to live with his family at Gainsborough Old Hall. By all accounts, it was a tyrannical household and Catherine and Edward moved to Kirton to escape.
“Edward died in 1533. They did not have any children, so Catherine moved away. As we all know, she later married Henry VIII, became his sixth wife and survived him. Edward was her first husband, Henry was her third. She married for a fourth time after Henry’s death, making her the most married English queen of all time.”
One evident link to the past is one of the town’s most modern venues. The Diamond Jubilee Town Hall was built on the site of the Greyhound Inn in 1897 with original materials from the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Kirton in Lindsey House of Correction.
“The town hall is steeped in history and was twice saved from the brink of demolition. Its story takes us from prison to pillar of the community and is probably unique. It has been at the centre of the community for more than 100 years, hosting dances, auctions, parties and meetings. It cuts an imposing view at the head of the Market Place,” said Mary.
“It was reopened about five years ago by Prince Edward and is now a successful social enterprise.”
The town hall is a listed building but the community received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring it back into use.
“That was in 2010. Since then the community has worked hard to make the building viable. We have been very engaging and busy making sure we have the people to use it and it has now become quite a community hub,” said Mary.
“We have everything going on from social clubs to regular classes such as Slimming World, Weightwatchers, aerobics, circuit classes and seated exercises. We even have a community cinema which meets once a month and shows the latest films on DVD on a big screen. That is quite popular. There are not many slots in a week when part of the hall isn’t being used.”
One of its most successful programmes, which helps put Kirton Lindsey on the entertainment map, is its Town Hall Live project. This attracts the very best of UK and transatlantic folk and roots music to the area, including (in September) one of the main attractions in Nashville.
“Singer-songwriters come to play from all over the world. The artists and groups all have their own following, so we have had people come to stay from as far away as Cornwall, which helps the local economy.”
The town hall is run by a group of volunteer trustees and has three part-time staff – a caretaker, a cleaner and a venue manager, who takes care of the admin side of things and bookings.
“It really has taken its place at the centre of the community. But the story is really about the people who volunteer to make sure it is a success,” said Mary.
“We have about fifty volunteers on the books. Between them they donate a total of 4,000 hours to keep the town hall going. It is a lot of effort. But we have a lot of active people in the community doing good work and hours of time a week are given by dedicated people to keep the hall going.”
Kirton Lindsey’s history has been well documented by members of the Kirton in Lindsey Society. Set up nearly thirty years ago, it holds monthly meetings on topics of historic interest. Its civic role is to keep an eye on developments and the environment. But it only intervenes if it thinks something is going to damage the infrastructure of the town.
“Back in early 1986 a group of Kirtonians realised that they didn’t know much about the history of their town and wanted to change that,” said Mary.
“From this, a small group developed which became the History Club. It flourished, decided it should formalise itself into a proper society and on 15th September 1987 held the inaugural meeting of The Kirton in Lindsey Society.
“There are a lot of pieces of work done by the community, which are historically educating.
We even interviewed our older local residents who were reminiscing and their memories are captured on CD and in a book. The oldest person we interviewed was 104.
“Many of our publications have been written by Society members who have simply become interested in some aspect of Kirton’s history and wanted to research it. It really is history about the people, for the people by the people and, hopefully, will be continued for many years to come.”
The name Kirton in Lindsey is known by people worldwide through its military links and its World War II airfield.
The airfield opened in May 1940 as a fighter command station covering north east England. Many Defiant and Spitfire squadrons rested here for a short time during the Battle of Britain.
It was home to Number 71 squadron of the RAF’s Fighter Command which was composed of mainly Americans and was one of the Eagle Squadrons of American volunteers who fought in the war prior to the American entry.
In 1966, control was transferred to the Royal Artillery and was renamed Rapier Barracks. But in 2004 the station was returned to RAF control and became the home of the No 1 Air Control Centre which was a deployable ground-based early warning and air control radar unit.
However by March 2013 all parts of the site had closed and now there are plans for its redevelopment.
“A lot of people know Kirton in Lindsey because they or their relatives were stationed here during the war. Even in New Zealand, we met someone who knew about Kirton in Lindsey. But the airfield has all been sold off now and at some point in the future, it will be a development as a mix of housing and industry,” said Mary.
One example of community unity has been shown by the churches in the town and has helped to halt dwindling congregations.
The town used to have three churches – Methodist, Church of England and a Baptist Church. But an inspired idea by an active Methodist minister secured the future for churchgoers.
“The church in the town is St Andrew’s United Church. There used to be a Methodist Church, a Church of England and a Baptist Church all with their own church building and hall and falling congregations,” said Mary.
“Fifteen years ago the Methodist minister suggested they all combine, so the three joined forces and became a United Mission Church. They all worship in St Andrew’s Church but by combining they maintained a viable and thriving congregation.”
The historic Baptist Church has been converted into the church halls – used for toddler groups, weekly Fellowship meetings and other community activities. The halls are also used as meeting rooms by the church and other local organisations.
The Methodist Church buildings comprising the chapel and attached hall are no longer used.
Mary’s husband Martin is chair of the Kirton in Lindsey Amateur Gardening Society (KLAGS) which also meets monthly and is all set for its annual show in the town hall, and their neighbour helps run the Kirton in Lindsey Actively Supporting Sport in the Community group (KLASSIC) which worked hard to secure funds to develop a field on the outskirts of town into a multi-use sports field.
There is now a state-of-the-art sports pavilion on site consisting of two changing rooms with showers and toilet facilities, changing facilities for officials, disabled facilities, a kitchen and storage space on the ground floor and in the loft.
In addition to the football and rugby pitches, the site has the only artificial bowling green in North Lincolnshire.
Allwoods Furniture on Southcliffe Road has been in its current premises since 1996. Specialising in pine furniture, owner John Brailsford is proud to supply county made furniture to Lincolnshire residents.
Bedroom furniture including drawers, dressing tables and wardrobes can be fitted and delivered for free. For living areas you will find dining tables, chairs and benches.
John said: “Recently we have seen an influx in orders for rustic furniture. We use a local gentleman to make all our furniture and he can make one-off pieces for clients to suit their home.”
For more information or to visit the showroom call in at 29 Southcliffe Road, Kirton in Lindsey, DN21 4NP or call 07834 922490.
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I moved to Kirton in Lindsey in April this year and I love it! It is not only picturesque but people here are friendly and welcoming. There is practically everything I need on my doorstep…except for an arts and craft store, which would be ideal as I am always in need of paint!
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