Towns make lasting impression

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
February 2016

The medieval market town of Long Sutton and its neighbour Sutton Bridge, which are two places that help make up the Suttons on the Wash, may be considered by some people as sleepy backwaters but as everyone knows appearances can be deceptive.
Both have their own distinct characteristics, and have much to offer residents and visitors alike in different ways. What they do have in common, though, is history and a strong sense of community spirit.

In 2015 campaigning Sutton Bridge residents, helped by parish councillor Shirley Giles, won the fight against the planned renewable energy park at Sutton Bridge when the application was refused by South Holland District Council following a judicial review.

More than ten years ago, residents and parish councillors teamed up after realising that the existing village hall in Sutton Bridge was not fit for purpose and would not be able to serve the growing town into the twenty-first century.

They started a charity called Sutton Bridge Community Centre Fund (SBCCF) with the aim of raising money to build a multi-use community facility on the edge of the Memorial Park in the heart of the town.

The village hall was finally condemned when the cost of necessary repair work soared. The building was demolished and the town lost its library and community hall. But the site was cleared and, although for a while it looked as if funding for the new facility had stalled, various plans were drawn up and negotiations with funders and potential users continued.

Finally, everything was in place and charity president and local MP John Hayes initiated the building process in December 2010 and the patience of local residents was rewarded when the Curlew Centre was officially opened a year later in December 2011.

The work of the Sutton Bridge Community Centre Fund continues as the charity manages the new centre and continues to raise funds for the upkeep of the building. Everyone is delighted that the Curlew Centre is already proving popular and multiple bookings mean that its future is assured.

In Long Sutton, food and drink group Princes is set to invest £3.6 million in its largest food production site in the UK, as part of its ongoing commitment to strengthening its UK operations.

With work due to start in April, the investment will see the creation of new staff changing and catering facilities and a new office at Long Sutton. A new onsite restaurant will cater for the site’s 660 employees, forming part of Princes Public Health Responsibility Deal pledge to provide healthier staff restaurants.

Development work also involves an upgrade of existing welfare facilities in the main office including new staff locker rooms, toilets and shower facilities. Work is targeted to be completed by December 2016 and will provide a new workspace that will support teamwork and communications across the site teams and operational efficiencies.

Corporate relations director for Princes, Ruth Simpson, said: “Princes is committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of all our employees. We are investing in providing them with a modern working environment that promotes the development of Long Sutton as a best-practice producer of UK canned food.

“We are proud to work with local growers and suppliers right across Lincolnshire, who provide us with a range of produce. Ongoing investment in our operations comes despite a challenging global marketplace and helps us bolster local sourcing for products sold right across the UK.”

Long Sutton is a thriving market town with busy independent businesses both new and well established. Newcomers include the sixteenth-century thatched Ale House & Kitchen Pub, Palmers, which was Turpin’s ‘spit and sawdust’ pub in the heart of Long Sutton; an award- winning deli shop, Three Counties Deli and Coffee Shop, which was set in an Eco business community on the edge of town and a friendly coffee and sandwich bar, Delicious, which more than lives up to its name.

Long Sutton Parish Council vice-chairman and the town crier Charles Moore said: “The historic Market House and Corn Exchange, both of which were the hub of economic life in Long Sutton during the nineteenth century, are now stunning buildings in their own right.

“Long established businesses include electrical and toy shop Pledgers, which has been family run since 1945 and is one of the oldest shops in Long Sutton still open today; hardware store Parkways, which caters for all home and gardening needs and exclusive ladies fashion and shoe shop Sheila Tiller to name a few.”

Mr Moore said, looking ahead in 2016, plans are in the pipeline to revamp the Bull Hotel, once a thriving pub with a long and colourful history which has now fallen into disrepair.

“Long Sutton Parish Council and many other local organisations have campaigned tirelessly over many years to bring this wonderful building back to its former glory,” he said.

“With planning permission issues now resolved, work has already begun behind the hotel which will see new accommodation being built. This in turn will enable the restoration of the hotel and add another jewel to Long Sutton’s crown.”

“Long Sutton is perfect – busy but not too big, friendly and active with an ever growing population that just adds to the town’s development.”

Sutton Bridge is known as the “gateway to Lincolnshire” and is located on the west bank of the River Nene, close to the county borders with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Watching out for its interests is a group called Bridge Watch, which maintains a close watch on Sutton Bridge Parish Council to monitor its activities and ensure that proper democratic procedures are in place.

Bridgewatch team member Janet Blundell said one of the first campaigns launched was to challenge the development of a biomass incinerator.

“The developers would not acknowledge what their feedstock would be and from where it was to be sourced or to guarantee sustainability,” she said.

“In the end, the district council, prompted by us and our sister group, the Wash & Sutton Bridge Protection Group, posed a number of probing questions which they failed to answer and permission for the development was subsequently quashed.

“With the Wash European Marine Site Special Area of Conservation on the doorstep, the protection of its environment against this kind of development is of paramount importance, especially, where emissions and possible flood risk are a problem. This was uppermost in our campaign.

“We keep an eye on developments in the area and were particularly keen to provide updates on the East Lincs Wind Farm development now up and running, and are monitoring Dong Energy’s Race Bank wind farm.”

One project coming up this year is the Silver Jubilee of the Sir Peter Scott Walk, which was regarded as quite “avant garde” when it opened in 1991.

Running from the East Lighthouse on the east bank of the River Nene at Sutton Bridge, to West Lynn in Norfolk, on the tidal river Great Ouse, it was an early cross-border initiative to create a coastal path.

Councillor Chris Brewis, who has been Lincolnshire County Councillor for Little Sutton, Long Sutton, Sutton Bridge, Sutton Crosses and Wingland since 2005, said: “The co-operation between Lincolnshire and Norfolk was a forerunner for other initiatives including the South West Coast and the recently announced National Coastal Path project.

“The East Lighthouse has been regarded by its last two owners as a candidate for ‘the most important conservation building in the world’, since it was the home of Sir Peter Scott for a number of years before and around the Second World War. It was where Peter was living when he changed from being a wildfowler to a conservationist.

“Widely used by local people and those from further afield, and affording beautiful views over the salt marshes and the distant Hunstanton cliffs, the path has been a much-valued asset locally for our community.

“When it was opened in 1991, it had been hoped that Sir Peter Scott would be able to perform the ceremony, but he was too unwell to come.”

Sutton Bridge is currently considering a suitable way of marking the 25th anniversary of this landmark project.”

Another organisation working tirelessly for the benefit of Sutton Bridge is The Friends of Sutton Bridge Playing Fields & Open Spaces, which was formed by a small group of friends three years ago.

‘The Friends’ have installed rustic benches in the Memorial Ground, Arnie Broughton Walk and the children’s play areas of Chalk Lane, Lime Street and Princes Street; picnic benches on The Green and in the Memorial Ground; the adult fitness equipment; litter bins, and they also refurbished the picnic tables on East Bank overlooking the port.

Secretary Chris Brandon-Smith said: “We also successfully applied for a grant from the Armed Forces Covenant, to allow them to establish a ‘Community Commemorative Wood’, in a small unused part of the Memorial Ground between the children’s play area and Arnie Broughton Walk.”

“It has three picnic benches under the trees, with a circular notice depicting the three main Armed Services (Navy, Army and Air Force) at the end of each. The Friends are currently taking a short break, but wil be looking to make more improvements in the medium term.”

It may only be a small village in south Lincolnshire but Sutton Bridge is home to one of Lincolnshire’s premier fashion houses.

Cindy’s of Sutton Bridge offers extensive ranges from casuals to occasionwear, cruisewear and wedding outfits, as well as a whole host of accessories to match.

Owner Cindy Marritt said: “I started the business back in 1980 so am now in my thirty-sixth year. I moved into my current shop in 1988 and people travel from miles around, which is absolutely incredible.

“I think it is because we offer so much more than the high street stores. Our fashion selection is extensive, offering daywear collections, cruisewear and an amazing array of wedding outfits and millinery.”

Cindy’s will be displaying its selections at the fashion show and afternoon tea event at the Curlew Centre in March as well as at the Cupid wedding show at Springfields in Spalding.

“As a new year begins the shop is being transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour. The wedding season is beginning and, once again, outfits from leading labels like John Charles, Zeila and Michaela Louisa are making a statement within the store.

“Casualwear this season goes from vibrant strong tones to the ever popular nautical looks from Betty Barclay.”

Cindy’s is an individual shopping experience offering that “something special” including a specially-designed lounge for gentlemen and friends.

It also stocks accessories and fashion jewellery, as well as casual bags to complement any outfit.

A number of new businesses have opened in the last eight months including Mills Motorcycles, which was set up last August by twenty-four-year-old Gavin Mills, who is a young motorcycle racing champion.

“I have been racing since I was a child, having picked it up from my dad. I used to do motocross but I started road racing three years ago and won the championship in my debut season,” said Gavin.

He was crowned the East Midlands Racing Association (EMRA) Formula 125 champion in 2014 in his debut road race season. His success has seen him follow in the footsteps of his father Nicholas, who won the 1999 Classic Racing Motorcycle Club Championship.

“Previous to that I was building engines at home as a hobby. The work got greater and greater so I decided to pack in my HGV job and go and do motorcycles. It meant I could do something I enjoyed and I am passionate about, so I took the gamble and it has gone really well,” he said.

Gavin, who is helped by his girlfriend Stacey Ketteringham, said his reputation as a racing motorcyclist had helped make the business a success.

“It has gone better than I thought. With my racing, people knew who I was and that has helped. A lot of the work is aimed at helping young lads who don’t get sponsorship to race. I mainly do repairs and maintenance.”

Gavin said the hardest part was advertising the business and he and Stacey spent a lot of time and money going out delivering leaflets at night.

“But it has all come together. There is a lot more to go but we are going in the right direction. It has been going well and it is something I have been passionate about and will always be passionate about.”

Another new business is Ark Kidz which is a new arts and crafts shop in Long Sutton. It offers bespoke and personalised gifts, artwork and cards for all occasions as well as crafty drop-in sessions, children’s craft parties and workshops for older children and adults.

The business is the brainchild of Denise Crowley and Yvonne Bingham.

“There is nothing for children to do and art is coming out of schools yet it is something everyone can do. No matter what you do, you can make it your own and make it unique,” said Yvonne.

“We do messy play, where they come and do painting with their feet and hands, we have a crafty kids’ club where they learn to hand sew and make things like bunting for their bedroom and we do outreach where we go into homes every fortnight and do things like decoupage and decorations.

“We are developing that and want to do that more this year. We are a different face for the residents to see and it is something for them to do.”

Other new ideas on the horizon are party boxes so that, instead of people having their child’s party at the shop, they can pick up a box and take it to their chosen party venue.

Long Sutton & District Civic Society and its small, enthusiastic membership is drawn from the local area which includes Sutton Bridge, Sutton St James, Tydd St Mary and Tydd Gote, Gedney and Gedney Marsh.

Promoting community interest in its heritage, culture, natural history and environment, the Society, which is now fifty years old, has a busy work programme with a number of projects on the go.

It is planning for a community arts project at the Common Pit (Bridge Road, Long Sutton), following on from the successful first stage project celebrating its connection with the Wash, which was completed in April 2015.

The Society is also working on two local history publications – a revision of the History of Long Sutton and Pubs and Inns of Long Sutton Past, recording all local war memorials as part of a national scheme and holding a series of talks for the community on matters of local interest.

The Suttons is a cluster of villages around the small, medieval market town of Long Sutton and offers a varied day out or somewhere to base your stay, with B&Bs, boutique pub rooms and a motel.

Long Sutton resident Neil Burton has lived in the village for 15 years but he wanted to record both in words and on camera some of the long-standing businesses which make it so popular and charming.

I moved to Long Sutton in 2001 and I am a staunch believer in supporting local businesses. This isn’t a community which has lost its economic centre, quite the contrary. I decided to do something as a way of documenting and celebrating not just the businesses but also the people within them. I have taken oral accounts and a series of photographs to illustrate people in their working environment.

What struck me when I moved to Long Sutton was the array of local businesses we have and how they combine to offer more than enough for the average householder to find pretty much everything within reason.

Many of the people I have spoken to have spent their lives in the premises in which they work. They are members of local families or long-established businesses which have seen next generations or ownership change every now and then.

At the time of writing there are very few premises standing empty in the village and the weekly market, held every Friday in the Market Place, attracts people from across the rural community.

I did ask people in each business what they feel is the key to their continuing success and they all agreed it was the service they offer and I have to agree, and that their approach is reciprocated by the loyalty of the customers.

Finally, there are many businesses other than the ones included here. My project wasn’t meant to exclude anyone as they all deserve recognition. Rather, I have focused on ones which compete against far larger national stores but still offer an excellent selection of goods.

I hope that anyone reading this enjoys the accounts and can find inspiration to take a chance when they have a business idea.

Roy Gammon has been a barber throughout his working life. His father was also a hairdresser and had a ladies and gent’s hairdresser’s shop and taught Roy the skills he practices today.

In his early working life Roy entered many regional and national hairdressing competitions at events throughout the country and received many awards, diplomas and certificates.

Roy’s hairdressing career began in Bedford, but after a series of burglaries at the salon, his father moved the business and the family to Newport, South Wales. It is while the family were at Newport that Roy did a spell of National Service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

After his demob, Roy saw an advert for a manager’s position at the shop in Long Sutton which was then owned by Aubrey Tight. Roy remained as manager until he bought the premises and the business from Mr Tight. The family home is above the shop.

Gammon gent’s hairdressers is now run by David Gammon, Roy’s son. David has carried on the family business after attending The Peele School, Long Sutton then working at the weekends before becoming full-time.

David has run the salon since 1984 while his father attended the shop but since Roy’s retirement, David has worked in the busy salon single-handed and continues to manage the shop at the same time!

Pledgers opened its front doors to the public on 1st July 1945 and is still a thriving local business; continuing to evolve and provide service that is unrivalled among many larger stores offering the same product.

Pledgers began originally with Mr Dick, who started in a shop now occupied by Chilli Hut Takeaway. To the right hand side of the current store as you look at it from the street stood a butcher’s/pie shop owned and run by ‘Titchy Lee’; this shop was known as the pie shop at No 26 Market Place, Long Sutton.

Mr Pledger, the original owner, swapped premises at some point with Titchy Lee to allow for expansion of the television/radio sales and repair business. The transaction included the Pledger family home on Trafalgar Square, Long Sutton.

The current Pledgers store has undergone many alterations over the years to accommodate expansion, latterly internal alterations. The front of the current shop was once the Electricity Board shop and set back behind that store, inside the current premises, was the house that Mr Pledger occupied No 28 Market Street, Long Sutton.

During the 1950s the Electricity Board shop closed down and Mr Pledger bought the shop. Owning both the house and store fronts to 26 and 28 Market place allowed all three premises to become Pledgers as it is today.

In 1967 Mr Pledger retired and the shop was taken over by Maurice and Gwen Smith. Maurice had worked for Mr Pledger as a radio engineer since the shop opened in 1945. The shop is owned by David and Sue Smith, Gill and Gerek Wysoczonski and Graham Smith. David, Gill and Graham are the children of Maurice and Gwen Smith. Two other members of staff are also employed in the shop, Robert Tointon and Marion Mitchell.

Part of the existing shop has always been a hardware store of some description, beginning as Fletchers in the 1900s then later as Cristian & Dobbs, est. 1920–24.

The shop began where Henry’s Fish and Chip Shop is now, on the Market Place, before moving to where the main part of the shop is now. You may have noticed that part of the shop looks a little different and with good reason as the smaller section to the right of the store was originally Lloyds Bank.

During the early 1980s the shop was the second largest employer in the town and still employs one full-time and two part-time assistants. For the past ten years the shop has been owned and run by David Pateman, who began his working life as a commercial vehicle engineer before taking partnership with the late Ted Wateman, who had worked and run the shop since 1986.

David calls it a family business as that is how he and the staff are with each other and something they all work to convey to customers.

The shop sells a huge array of home hardware and includes key cutting, dry cleaning and bicycles in addition to the regular items. It’s a constantly evolving shop that continues to serve Long Sutton very well.

Time Out hasn’t always been named as such, but those behind the name are a fourth generation local family business who starting trading first as a grocery then moved in a completely different direction as a furniture sales business.

Shaun Cross began working in the grocery shop on London Road, Long Sutton (currently Tates or Spar). The current shop was opened in 2005 which continues to sell a very diverse range of quality furniture and accessories for the home and enjoys growing success and a great deal of repeat business. Shaun works in the store for the majority of the time and is often assisted by his father Trevor.

The upstairs of the premises is occupied by Jenny, Shaun’s wife, who runs the successful hair and beauty salon of the same name.

After speaking with Shaun he firmly believes that the key to the continuing success of the business is by putting service and the customers first, and of course free local delivery!

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