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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the September 2011 issue

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History and antiques, education and shopping are amongst the attractions of Horncastle, but it is the residents and businesses that are shaping the future.

Businesses in Horncastle have breathed a sigh of relief after plans for a new supermarket on the edge of town were turned down.

East Lindsey District Council’s planning committee refused the proposals by Tesco to build a new store alongside the busy A158 Lincoln Road.

The unanimous decision delighted traders who feared that, had the proposal gone ahead, it would have had a detrimental effect on trade at a time when business is on the up. They said they would rather see Tesco’s existing premises in Watermill Road expanded instead. 

Horncastle Town councillor Richard Barker addressed the meeting on behalf of town groups and residents.

“Horncastle Town Council carried out an independent survey and found that more than eighty per cent of the town were against the proposal,” he said.

District councillor for Horncastle, Councillor Stephen Newton, told the committee: “We have a Tesco store now that does benefit the shops. It is close to the town centre and people park there, do their shopping and go into town. With the new store, that would not happen. It would have a huge effect on the town centre of Horncastle.”

Tesco may appeal the decision.

Rob Myers, who runs Myers Bakers, Deli, Café and Tearoom in The Bullring with his sister Marie, father Richard and uncle Michael, had said ahead of the meeting: “The concern is that a new Tesco store would have an adverse effect on the town.

“People park at the current Tesco store and walk into town. If it moved up Lincoln Road, shoppers won’t bother walking into town.”

Myers Bakers has been established in the county since 1901 when Richard and Michael’s great-grandfather Charles Myers purchased a six-sailed windmill and store in the small market town of Alford.

Their grandfather, Derek, introduced Myers to Horncastle in 1969. Since 1981, the business has expanded three times to meet demand. The café and tea room was opened in 2001 and in 2009 Myers established its deli.

“We are trying everything we can to help bring people into the town. It’s important to let the public know that businesses in Horncastle appreciate them. We have to offer them something that shows them we appreciate their custom,” said Rob Myers.

“We are supporting local producers as well and we must make sure the council does all it can to improve footfall when the shops are doing the same.

“It’s important to have different unique businesses in the town. It means it’s an interesting town for visitors. It’s important that all businesses take pride in the appearance of their shops to make them as inviting as possible. It gives people a reason to come to Horncastle,” added Mr Myers.

Another long-established family business is Perkins newsagents and stationers in the Market Place. Owner Graham Perkins is the third generation of his family to run the business, which opened in 1920.

“Horncastle is a busy market town with niche and family-owned businesses. That’s what makes it unique. Tesco’s plan would have affected trade. People don’t walk far these days. They would have stopped coming into town.

“It’s good news for the town that it has been turned down. It would have drastically altered the town centre because there wouldn’t have been enough footfall to warrant the trade. It’s been a good year and the Market Place is busy,” said Mr Perkins.

“We have had three new shops opening up which creates a better impression. But I’d be very surprised if Tesco doesn’t appeal,” he added.

One of the oldest firms in the area is J T Friskney Ltd,  established in 1909 when founder John Thomas Friskney started a motor and cycle works four miles outside the town,  in Baumber. He relocated to Horncastle’s West Street a couple of years later and the business has been there since.

Now run by managing director Eric Young and his wife Gwen, the company is a main dealer for top-name agricultural machinery and horticultural equipment and offers a first-class parts and back-up service, as well as specialist tool hire.

Mr Young, who bought the business back in the mid-1950s, said one thing lacking in Horncastle was clothing shops for the older age group.

“I’d like to see more menswear and ladieswear shops in the town particularly catering for those middle aged upwards,” said Mr Young.

He said the property market is still suffering and he believed it would get worse before it got better.

“I think any business connected with agriculture has a secure future. The recession has not really had any effect on businesses in Horncastle, because I feel it hasn’t reached us yet,” he said.

Friskney’s puts its success down to spotting potential opportunities for growth.

“Our latest development is in the showroom now. With the cost of running motor cars these days, I thought there was a market for electric powered bikes. So we are marketing and promoting the Powacycle and we are the only people around here selling them,” he claimed.

A stone’s throw away, Alan Read Antiques at the junction of West Street and the A158, is marking its thirtieth anniversary this year.

Mr Read specialises in seventeenth and eighteenth century furniture, accessories, antiques and fine copies and has supplied furniture for a number of high class London hotels and international corporations.

The new Tesco store would have been located at the back of Mr Read’s shop but he didn’t think it would affect business.

“It’s difficult to know whether it would be good for the town or not. It might bring some people into Horncastle that have never been here. Some say it would stop people going into town. It won’t affect me,” he said ahead of the meeting.

Mr Read said there were lots of things happening to attract more visitors to the town.

“The property market is very important for towns, because new people move in. That’s very slow at the moment but there have been a lot of new houses built over the past few years. That’s going to bring new people into the area.

“They are trying to revive the market a bit and we have a farmers’ market which brings in a lot of people too. There are one or two new businesses coming in. Anything that gets people into town is a good thing.”

Mr Read’s client base goes back thirty years. “They keep coming back because of the things I sell. They are passed on from one generation to another. We also produce newly-made bespoke furniture made to the clients’ specifications.”

Kitchen Solutions Ltd based in Wharf Road, is also celebrating a milestone anniversary this year.

It is ten years since owners Guy Shufflebotham and Daniel Johns started the business in Louth and five years since they moved to Horncastle. They say trade has increased since they relocated the business to its current address two years ago.

Designer Chris Taylor said: “From a small business point of view we are doing remarkably well. We are having a good time saleswise. We have seen signs of an increase since we moved here. We used to be tucked away on the outskirts of the town and people didn’t know we were in Horncastle.”

Mr Shufflebotham said: “Customer service is our priority.  Horncastle and Louth are our catchment area. We were a Louth company and the name is well known in the area.”

Kitchen Solutions Ltd employs five full-time staff and also uses relevant tradesmen from the local area.

“We do everything, from planning it out to building work, decorating, flooring, design and even replacement doors. We’ve got tradesmen who are trustworthy that we use all the time and we concentrate on giving the right service.

Mr Johns said: “At least sixty per cent of our work comes through recommendations. Providing you offer the right service there’s no reason why people shouldn’t come back again.”

To mark the anniversary, the trio have organised a cookery demonstration evening with celebrity chef Rachel Green at their showroom on 29th September from 6pm. Everyone is welcome.
Property consultant Robert Bell & Co, of Old Bank Chambers, is another long-established family firm. The company provides a full range of professional services including advice from selling or buying a home to letting property and sale by auction of property, chattels or livestock.

Lettings agent Jane Willows said: “We know from the numbers in the last few weeks that a lot of people are looking for rental property. We have seen an increase year-on-year in the rental market. But it’s got busier and busier.

“The reason is the current recession making it more and more difficult for people to get onto the property ladder. We are still selling property as well and looking at the numbers, we seem to be bucking the trend.”

TRADER IN TUNE
A Horncastle trader is helping to put the town on the map - through singing. Alan Read, who owns Alan Read Antiques, is a member of a special national choir which sings in cathedrals up and down the country.

Called The Orrishmere Singers, the group provides holiday cover for cathedral choirs.

It sang most recently in Durham Cathedral at the beginning of August.

“Altogether, I’ve sung in about twenty-six cathedrals in England including St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle,” said Mr Read.

“We mainly sing at services and we are called on a couple of weekends a year or for a week. Last year we were at Lincoln Cathedral and had three services in one day.”

The group was originally based in Cheshire and Mr Read was in from the outset.

“I am a founder member. The line-up changes but there are about twenty-six to thirty people in the group and members come from all over the place. No-one else is involved with the choir, from Lincolnshire, except my wife and I.”

In fact Mr Read met his wife Joann through the group. They have been married for seventeen years.

“We were singing in York Minster when we met. But we married in Worcester in a country church,” said Mr Read.

Both the group and Alan Read Antiques are celebrating their thirtieth anniversaries this year.

“I am one of four tenors in the group. Music is an important part of my life. I have written words and music for a few choral pieces which have been sung by the Boston Stump Choir. And I have written a song for Lincolnshire called ‘Lincolnshire Joy’.

“I have recently been in a recording studio. It would be great if I could release the song this year to coincide with my thirtieth anniversary with the choir and in antiques,” added Mr Read.

A VENUE FOR THE COMMUNITY
Horncastle’s old town hall is enjoying a new lease of life after campaigners saved it from being bulldozed.

East Lindsey District Council had planned to demolish the Victorian property in Boston Road because it was too costly to maintain. But residents, councillors, groups and organisations banded together to fight the proposal and in April last year ELDC handed over the hall to the Stanhope Hall Committee which had been formed by the campaigners.

Now called The Stanhope Hall, the community-managed building has just marked its first year anniversary and is going from strength to strength.

Though usage has been limited in the past twelve months, because contractors have been on site doing renovation work, there have been auctions, shows and exhibitions and the judo club has used it for its weekly training sessions.

Stanhope Hall Committee chairman Bill Aron - who is also a Horncastle town councillor and Lincolnshire county councillor -  said: “Obviously over the last year, we haven’t been able to let the hall fully because of the contractors working.

“But estate agent Robert Bell held its auction sales there, the judo club has been using it twice a week and there have been exhibitions and shows. The Civic Society held a heritage day, with 500 people coming through the doors, and we had a three-day art exhibition which attracted 800 people.”

The building has been given new windows and glass doors, an exterior overhaul and interior redecoration and refurbishment throughout. It also has four offices, new meeting rooms, kitchen, bar, toilets and main hall.

“The external work has now been completed and the whole building looks so much better. Before it was drab, it looked like a shed. But we have a new exterior, new windows and glass doors and it’s improved the look tremendously. It will improve footfall,” said Mr Aron.

“Our bookings are going from strength to strength. We have also had enquiries about holding actual wedding ceremonies there and that is being looked into. The hall is getting a whole new lease of life and all our hard work has been worthwhile,” he added.

The four new offices within the hall have already been let and the meeting rooms, one of which can cater for up to fifty people and the other for between fifteen and twenty, are ready for hire.

“We have four tenants taking up all the office space so it is 100 per cent utilisation of the office space and we have had enquiries about the new meeting rooms which is very pleasing,” said Mr Aron, who owns Houldens photographic shop in Horncastle’s High Street.

“We appreciate all the grant funding and that the district council transferred it to us for a peppercorn rent. But it’s important that we are able to let it out on a larger scale for it to be self-sustainable.”

Mr Aron said ELDC had set the committee a schedule of works to be completed within five years.

“We have have already completed ninety per cent of the work in our first year. We set out to refurbish the bar, the kitchen, new meeting rooms and the main entrance, but we got most of the external painting done as well as redecorating the main hall.”

LINCOLNSHIRE DAY
A day of festivities is being held at Horncastle College next month to celebrate ‘all things Lincolnshire.’

The event, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, October 1st, will feature craft and food stalls, displays and attractions, as well as entertainment by local musicians Elliott Morris and the Yellow Bellies Brass Band.

Lincolnshire’s night sky will be the subject of an astronomy talk by Paul Money and Rushmoor Park birds of prey will be demonstrating their skills. The air and army cadets, Lincolnshire Beekeepers’ Association, Lincolnshire Archives and the Lincolnshire Fire Brigade will all be taking part in the family fun day which is free. There will also be charity stalls to browse.

The event marks the fourth official Lincolnshire Day,  which was set up to commemorate the Pilgrimage of Grace - the 1536 widespread revolt against the rule of Henry VIII.

Although the initial uprising, which began in Lincolnshire, was short-lived at just two weeks, it represented a major threat to the government at the time due to the ‘dignitaries’ behind it.

It wasn’t just a working class revolt; people of note and standing within the community were up in arms. This shook the government so much that troops from other parts of the country were drafted in as the local militia were thought to be sympathising with the rebels.

The uprising quickly gathered pace and within a week there were 40,000 supporters on board. The gathering proceeded to march in an orderly fashion to Lincoln, where it received a warm welcome.

However, upon reaching the city, the party heard that the Duke of Suffolk was on his way with an army in tow. This proved to be the stumbling block for the noblemen who realised that they may well have too much to lose and withdrew.

Those who stood firm and defied the gesture of a review of some of the policies by the King, in return for spared bloodshed, were shown no mercy and rumour has it that they paid with their lives. However, the cause was then taken up by the people of Yorkshire, where the revolt continued at length.

While Lincolnshire was the epicentre for the unrest, the campaign was by no means regional and sympathisers from around the country voiced their indignation. It has been regarded as the biggest threat to the King’s reign, largely due to the vast number of supporters from all backgrounds.

More details on the Lincolnshire Day fun day can be obtained by calling the college on 01507 522449 or email: horncastlecollege@lincolnshire.go.uk.

SIR JOSEPH BANKS CENTRE
The influence of British explorer Sir Joseph Banks, one of Lincolnshire’s most famous sons and one of the greatest figures in Georgian England, is to be found worldwide.

And his name is helping to bring tourists to Horncastle from all corners of the globe.

The Sir Joseph Banks Centre, located on Bridge Street close to the town centre, has been recording visitor numbers since it opened a tribute garden to him last year.

Richard Locke-Wheaton is an employment service team leader at the centre, and works for Lincolnshire Community Trust.

“We opened the garden formally last June and in one year we have had visitors from all over the world, from South Africa, Spain and the USA to New Zealand and Australia, as well as all over the UK. Tourists are coming from Lincoln to Horncastle because of the Sir Joseph Banks link,” said Mr Locke-Wheaton.

The centre, the base for the Sir Joseph Banks Society, houses a growing reference library and is working towards establishing a research centre. There is also a thriving gift shop - owned and managed by Joseph Banks Ltd, a not-for-profit social enterprise offering training opportunities for people with learning difficulties.

It gives the youngsters retail training, as well as training on running a building and tending the garden.

“We have been running four years and slowly but surely we are getting busier and busier,” said Mr Locke-Wheaton.

“It’s quite pleasing that we continue to expand. A dozen local artists and world crafts people bring their work into the shop. We charge them commission for selling it and that runs the building. The surplus is used to pay the trainees for working here.”

Mr Locke-Wheaton said footfall into Horncastle is not dropping. 

It’s not easy in this climate, but it’s steady. In Horncastle we seem to have the mix right and that’s what Horncastle needs - depth and varied shops. It’s what makes Horncastle unique.”

The tribute garden features seventy different species of plants introduced into this country by Sir Joseph Banks, following his voyage on HMS Endeavour.

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