Window into a village

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
November 2015

The small south Lincolnshire village of Donington, near Spalding, may appear quiet and unassuming but there is more to it than meets the eye.
Windows and doors made there have been installed in prestige developments in many towns and cities across England, including central London, and the security of warehouses, offices, factories and even schools all over the country is controlled and monitored from the village.

The firm responsible for spreading Donington’s name far and wide is its oldest established company, George Barnsdale & Sons – designers and manufacturers of high performance timber windows and doors – and its parallel business, GBSG security solutions.

Barnsdale’s started life in the village more than 130 years ago, when twenty-one-year-old George Barnsdale purchased a plot of land in the Market Place, comprising a house, workshop and a storage shed for timber.

He began a small carpentry business that soon built a reputation on quality craftsmanship. When George sadly passed away, the business was handed down to his sons – Walter and Frederick. And so it has continued from one generation to the next.

GB Management Services marketing manager Paul Kitson said: “George Barnsdale & Sons has been in the same family since 1884. It started out in general joinery and in recent times has moved into the specialist area of timber windows and doors. What hasn’t changed over the years is its commitment to quality craftsmanship.”

Every window and door is precision manufactured using state-of-the-art robotic machinery, and then hand finished.

“It is a local company with a national reputation. Recently it has been supplying windows and doors for prestige developments in central London, amongst other places. and it also supplies them for large shop windows, offices and other big developments.”

George Barnsdale & Sons also works closely with homeowners to ensure they get the right windows for their neighbourhood.

“For instance, if you live in a conservation area and you need to replace your windows, the team will work with you to make sure you get the correct windows for the location,” said Paul.

“You might want to control the temperature in the house or not want to hear the outside world and the team can fit glass in the windows that allow you to do that. The company takes great care over the timber to ensure it is ethically sourced and everything is made in the UK. For a place like Donington it is amazing.”

The company employs about sixty staff and they are all based in the village.

“With the local fire station just a few doors down, several employees are retained firefighters. The company takes great pride in that and the fact that it has had a number of families that have worked here too,” said Paul.

“We also have a number of approved partners who will fit windows and doors in different parts of the country and a range of installers who work on our behalf.”

The company’s security division, GBSG, has been established for around thirty years.

It offers a range of services to ensure that customers feel safe and secure, whether at home or in the workplace and its extensive range includes intruder alarms, fire alarms, CCTV systems, access control, guarding services and keyholding.

“We protect people and property across the UK. We are security solution specialists. If you have a factory or a house, or a solar farm or a church, then we will come along and custom produce a security solution for you,” explained Paul.

“We have a remote video recording centre in Donington and it monitors places such as solar farms, food manufacturing sites, warehouses and factories all over the country.

“If the camera senses something unusual at a site it automatically notifies the control room. The camera is checked and if they see someone that shouldn’t be there, they can press a button in Donington and speak to that person wherever they are.

“Who would have thought there are so many hi-tech processes going on in sleepy Donington?”

This is a thriving village with every amenity a community needs, including a butcher’s, baker and a couple of village stores. It also has an active and highly successful Donington in Bloom group. A voluntary group, whose aim is to improve and maintain the environment in and around Donington for the residents and visitors, the group plants beds, containers and hanging baskets around the village to improve its appearance, making it an attractive place to live and visit. It competes in the East Midlands in Bloom competition and won a Gold award in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and it looks like it is going to be a busy time ahead for the group.

Chairman Liz Walker said: “We have just completed the autumn/winter planting of the village. The next job will be to ensure there are enough herbs in the community herb garden for use by Donington’s residents for their Christmas stuffing – always popular – and plans are well ahead for the group’s raffle and bag sale at the Christmas Fayre in Thomas Cowley High School on 29th November.

“The allotment holders appear to have had good returns for their hard work and they are a credit and make the village look cared for.

“As a group we are very grateful for the help we get, from the grants given by the Bicker Wind Farm Trust, all the help from the young people with the watering and the residents.”

Donington is the birthplace of explorer Matthew Flinders and a special anniversary took place in village during the summer to mark the 201st anniversary of his death.

Captain Matthew Flinders was born in the village in 1774 and died in London on 19th July 1814.

A Flinders commemorative service was held in the village’s St Mary and the Holy Rood Church and guests included Flinders’ descendant John Flinders (68) and his wife Simone as well as members of the Britain-Australia Society.

It was cause for a double celebration after the village was awarded more than £14,000 of Big Lottery Fund cash.

Donington Church Hall received almost £5,200 towards its £50,000 refurbishment, which includes new heating, lighting, floor, windows, clock, chairs and hearing loop. The rest was given to the community youth group Flinders Founders, which was set up in 2006 under his name to make Donington a better place for young people.

Open to, and run by, young people aged 11 to 19, Flinders Founders was awarded £8,960 to create a paved seating area at the Teen Park it runs in the village.

The Park, which the youngsters created themselves from a piece of derelict wasteland, opened in 2008 and is a skate park for teenagers with a BMX track around the outside and also a park with gardens, fencing, bird boxes and a wildlife garden.

Flinders Founders also organises a number of social and fundraising events throughout the year to draw the villagers together and help to build up a community spirit. Its next event is the annual Christmas Party on Sunday 6th December.

Donington’s village church, St Mary & the Holy Rood, has an area of particular note that attracts visitors from the southern hemisphere.

A traditional stone-built Grade I listed building, with parts dating back to early twelfth century, with fourteenth and fifteenth-century additions, the church features some beautiful stained glass windows – one of which commemorates the explorer Matthew Flinders who gave Australia its name after producing the first accurate maps of Terra Australis.

Donington PCC treasurer Jane Pearson said: “It also has a perpetual display of material relating to Flinders. The church regularly has visitors from Australia coming to look at the Flinders stained glass window, the Flinders family memorial stones and the many artefacts and material about him.

“They have included a recent coachload of students all the way from the Matthew Flinders Anglican College in Buderim, Queensland, who visited in October.”

The church also houses a memorial on the altar in the south aisle dedicated to the paratroopers of Arnhem.

“A division of the World War Two forces were billeted in Donington before going over to Arnhem, where many of them lost their lives. The memorial includes a book of remembrance and various tributes to these brave servicemen,” said Jane.

“There is also a mature oak tree in the churchyard, known as the Arnhem Oak, which was brought from Arnhem as a tiny sapling by one of the visiting survivors.”

Like many churches, the active church community has reduced over the years. However it does have a very lively and busy events committee which runs events throughout the year – generating the necessary funding to ensure the church is maintained and cared for.

The events committee organises more than forty events, including monthly coffee mornings, Sunday lunches, quiz nights, beetle drives, fashion shows, garden fetes, a whist drive, bingo and the annual flower festival amongst other things.

The fundraising that has been achieved and some very successful bids for grants during 2015 have enabled the group to undertake a significant refurbishment programme in the church hall this year,” said Jane. “The church hall was built around 100 years ago by public subscription. There has been redecoration over the years and the addition of a modern toilet block around ten years ago.

“However the hall itself had remained largely as it was when originally built – with no insulation – and had become very dated and was expensive to heat. With the aid of substantial grant support and the fundraising, more than £55,000 has been spent this year to bring the hall into the twenty-first century.”

The hall now boasts completely new electrical rewiring, wall and ceiling insulation, a new lighting system, new heating system, triple-glazed windows, a new floor, updated kitchen equipment new blinds, 120 new comfortable chairs and additional new tables – along with redecoration throughout.

In addition, it has a state-of-the-art sound system including a sophisticated hearing loop which enables hearing aid users to benefit from improved ability to tune in to what is happening.

To finish off 2015, the church will be fully decorated with Christmas trees – opening on 4th December and running through to the end of the year.

“With all the fundraising, we are hoping to have a schedule of projects for 2016 – but this time we will be focussing on the church,” said Jane.

“We are now looking at a number of potential ideas, including resolving the existing problems with pews in the North Aisle, probably upgrading the internal entrance door and possibly the reintroduction of the external floodlighting which was vandalised some years ago.”

The Thomas Cowley High School, founded in 1719, is now a co-educational all ability, Independent Academy for students between the ages of 11 and 16. Mr Ian Dawson has recently been appointed as the new Headteacher.

“Most of my career has been spent at Thomas Cowley, where I have been Deputy Head for thirteen years. During this time I have seen the school grow and develop into the Independent Academy it is today. I have been part of the school’s success during recent years and I will continue to lead the school with the same respect for the school’s history and ethos,” said Mr Dawson.

“I am absolutely delighted to have now started in post and consider it a privilege to have been appointed. I believe that The Thomas Cowley High School has many strengths and enormous potential and I am excited by the prospect of leading the school through its next phase of development. There will be many new changes over the coming months but my focus will not waver from ensuring all students make progress during their time at Thomas Cowley. We will work together to raise aspirations and transform lives and ensure every student’s welfare, learning and progress is our core business.”

Never miss a copy!

Big savings when you take out a subscription.

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE IN THE CATEGORY BEST RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR! We need your nominations – Celebrating Lincolnshire’s food, drink and hospitality businesses in our Taste of Excellence Food and Drink Awards 2024. Click here to vote date for nominations 31st August 2024. ... See MoreSee Less