We’re off… to Market Rasen!

Words by:
Andrew Vaux
Featured in:
April 2024

Andrew Vaux takes a look at some of the many attractions on offer to visitors of this popular market town.

Market Rasen – a picturesque market town on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds – remains a popular destination for racegoers, shoppers, walkers and sightseers alike and there’s a wealth of activities to keep the whole family happy.

The town is known for having the only active racecourse in Lincolnshire. Located just a mile outside the town centre, the racecourse becomes a hive of activity on race days, sometimes bringing thousands of people to the town.

Market Rasen Racecourse has a long and colourful history. The town has hosted races since the early 19th century, when a horse called ‘Have a Clue’ won the first race on the course on Easter Monday 1924.

A day at the races is a lot of fun, and you can get tickets for as little as £10 in the low season and £12-£15 in summer. Midweek afternoon meetings are held every couple of weeks in the summer, with occasional weekend meetings too.

For the latest programme of events, visit www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/marketrasen/events-tickets.

As its name suggests, the town’s central focus is its marketplace. The market was first given a charter in 1219. The markets were held on a Tuesday and people from all around would go there to buy and sell their goods and then relax in the inns around the square – and maybe even abuse whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the stocks that day! Up until 1877 the marketplace was also used as a livestock market.

Anybody looking for work would come to the marketplace and mill around hoping to be chosen for work – people would be hired for just one year, hence the annual hiring fairs. They’d carry the tools of their trade to show prospective employers what their line of work was – so a housemaid would carry a mop and bucket, or a field hand would wear a sheaf of corn in his hat. Once they’d been chosen for work and settled on a fair wage, it was time to relax and celebrate and the marketplace would be alive with games and Punch & Judy shows for entertainment.

From 1800 to 1888, there’d be a week of festivities every year at the end of September, organised by local innkeepers and the Friendly Societies and this was the start of the horse races for which Market Rasen is now famous.

The races would take place on the Monday; Tuesday was like a giant sports day with events such as climbing a greasy pole or wheelbarrow races for the townspeople; on Wednesday there’d be a cricket match; and every day there’d be music and dancing late into the evening.

Over the years, this week of festivities grew to become an annual fair with rides and entertainment for all the townspeople to enjoy.

Markets continue today, with Tuesday still having a produce auction and the Saturday markets having monthly themed events.

Elsewhere for shoppers, the town is home to many independent shops and businesses. You’ll find traditional and long-standing family-run shops including ironmongers, butchers, menswear, confectionery, haberdashery, giftware and cards; and the town boasts high-quality and award-winning places to eat for all budgets.

Queen Street in the town centre is the main artery for these shops but take some time to wander up a few side streets too. 

One shop in Market Rasen well worthy of a mention in its own right is Garnett’s Sweet Shop. This is one of the town’s oldest businesses, now with the third generation of the same family. It has the feel of a traditional old English sweet shop and sells all manner of confectionery including gums, toffees, boiled sweets, fudge, liquorice, sherbet and chocolate.

For history lovers, there are many artefacts to visit around the town. These include:
• The Old Police Station – dating back to 1849, the court heard cases that affected people’s everyday lives in the town. The magistrates could hand down severe penalties, including hard labour and had the power to send the accused to Lincoln or Louth assizes. The court eventually closed in 1998. The Old Police Station, as it’s now known, is one of only three mid-19th century courtrooms left in England – making it a very important historic Grade II listed building.
• The Parish Church of St Thomas – there’s been a church building on this site for over 800 years, with written evidence dating back to the mid-12th century. The church was owned by the priory at Sixhills, and priests appointed by the priory looked after the spiritual life and needs of the people of Market Rasen until the 16th century.
• The Market Rasen Cottage Hospital – opened in 1868 to provide medical aid for people in the town, the hospital had just eight beds, four for maternity care and four for general cases. It closed in 1941 and the two nurses who worked there bought the property and continued to provide district nursing services from there for several years before living in it as a purely private residence.

As well as historical monuments, Market Rasen also hosts a range of activities suited to families of all ages. Attractions include:
• Wilderness Ways (www.wildernessways.co.uk) – offering bushcraft, axe throwing and outdoor activities for all.
• The Cheese Shed @ Cote Hill Farm (www.cotehill.com) – produces a range of five different artisan cheeses: Cote Hill Red, White, Yellow, Blue and Cote Hill Lindum. All are made by hand using the morning milk produced by the family’s own herd. At The Cheese Shed visitors can use the cheese vending machine which is stocked with Cote Hill cheeses, plus Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and butter.
• The Chocolate Drop (www.thechocolatedrop.co.uk) – a ‘one stop choc shop’ combining a chocolate kitchen, café and shop. The Chocolate Drop is a small, local, artisan company that was started in the area over 30 years ago. The team behind it are also the creators of Special Edition Chocolate, which has been recognised with various awards and accolades over the years, including three Great Taste awards and a feature in the book Rick Stein’s Food Heroes.
• Wild Pines Park (www.wildpinespark.com) – featuring one of the UK’s largest rope courses, numerous ziplines and other adventurous challenges among the treetops. It’s great for a team building day with colleagues or some raw competitive fun with friends and family.

For the more active countryside lovers, just a couple of miles outside Market Rasen to the east, you can plunge into one of the most picturesque forests in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Willingham Woods covers an area of some 290 hectares, intertwined with a network of gentle pathways that meander among its towering pine trees.

If you want to try a more substantial walk, the North Route of the Lindsey Trail passes right by Market Rasen. The Willingham Woods Bikers Meeting Point is the ideal start and end point, although it is a loop trail, so you can pick it up anywhere.

This trail is a 16-kilometre circuit that incorporates a section of Willingham Woods as well as the charming countryside villages of Tealby and Walesby. About two thirds of the route follows quiet countryside roads, with the rest on well-maintained off-road tracks.

The Lindsey Trail in its entirety loops 111 kilometres around the Lincolnshire Wolds. On this northern section of it, you can discover some gorgeous rolling farmlands, low hills and woodlands.

For a detailed guide of everything Market Rasen has to offer, visit: www.lovelincolnshirewolds.com/explore/market-rasen

At Top Barn Timber Frames, their expertise lies in the art of timber framing. Whether you’re envisioning a welcoming porch, a barn conversion, or a grand extension, they’ve got you covered.

Their skilled team guides you through every aspect of your project. From initial design to final construction, they breathe life into your vision. Expect nothing less than time-honoured craftsmanship.

As a well established family-run business, with more than 30 years’ experience, owners Oliver and Charlotte Penn and their specialist team at Top Barn Timber Frames pride themselves on creating exquisite timber-framed structures that blend tradition, sustainability and craftsmanship across Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties.

As spring nears, Charlotte says they’ve seen a huge increase in orders for garden spaces from oak gazebos, to summer houses, and pergolas.

This is also the year for the ever popular garden rooms, offering people the seamless blend of indoors and outdoors.

“The direct glazing we incorporate into the frames allows the maximum amount of light to flood into people’s homes whilst perfectly framing the natural views.”

All frames, which are built using sustainably sourced timbers, and held together with traditional joints and pegs, are handcrafted in the workshop in Osgodby utilising traditional techniques.

“We offer a full design, construct and install service for our customers, supporting them across every step of their journey,” says Charlotte Penn. “It’s great working on new and interesting designs and watching them come to life.”

So, if you are looking to add a new space to your home or garden then seek luxury etched in oak, character etched in time, and embrace the elegance of tradition.

Top Barn Timber Frames will be exhibiting at the Lincolnshire Show in June with a special oak framed stand designed and constructed and available to buy.

For more information visit www.topbarntimberframes.co.uk

The Advocate Arms stands proudly in the heart of Market Rasen. This historic building, which was built in the 18th century, has been refurbished to the highest standards with a contemporary feel, yet retaining a warm and welcoming character in which its guests can relax and unwind.

A favourite haunt for locals and visitors alike, the Advocate Arms Hotel boasts diverse options for dining and cocktails.

Our chef patron Matthew Horsefield presents a menu of luxury comfort fare and innovative creations so whatever your delight, we offer highest standards.

Our award-winning team is ready to assist customers, seven days a week, from serving breakfast/brunch to evening dining, we are sure to be able to tempt our customers.

Fancy a night away? Check in to our AA 4 stars restaurant with rooms!

rates and great value dinner, bed & breakfast rates too.

For more information visit www.advocatearms.co.uk

If you’re looking for something special and enjoy delicious breakfast, brunch, teatime and lite bite options, the friendly team at The Bistro Bar & Kitchen (formerly Nice & Naughty) in Queen Street offer a warm welcome with a five-star service.

Headed by Nicky Brooksbank and Tammi Franklin, the dedicated team pride themselves on offering superb menu choices, including a range of homemade cakes, bakes and savouries such as scones, sausage rolls and Scotch eggs, alongside freshly cooked dishes from the new spring menu.

Finalists in last year’s Taste of Excellence Awards for  Best Food to Your Door and Gold Citation winners in both the Best Bakes and Best Newcomer categories, this family, dog and cycle friendly bistro is open seven days a week (opening times vary) with special events and get-togethers held throughout the year.

Bistro Bakes Services also offer outside catering with a range of menu options, including BBQ packages in the summer, as well as creative celebration and wedding cakes.

For more information find Bistro Bar & Kitchen on Facebook or visit www.thebistrobarkitchen.co.uk

Photographs: Mick Fox

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