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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the October 2020 issue

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Momentum is building in the Georgian market town as businesses, the community and the local council pull together to recover from months of lockdown and begin to look ahead to the festive season.

The town’s retail sector has reported a good start to their return to business as usual and plans are in hand for a new housing development, a new education facility and a public sector hub which will all help to breathe new life into Horncastle and bring more people to the area.

Though a couple of shops have closed because of the lockdown others have moved in to fill the gap and there is an air of optimism among business owners and traders in the town.

Kate Donald, who has been in business for 12 years and owns Magpie Boutique in the Bull Ring, helped set up the Horncastle Trade Association at the end of last year with the aim of improving the town for local traders.

“We held our first big meeting in January. Everything was going in the right direction and we were just getting the momentum going when Covid happened and scuppered our plans for this year,” she said.

“A lot of us are single traders so don’t always have the time to network but we can share ideas and information through the Association’s Facebook page.”

One of its initiatives is its #shophorncastle scheme with the motto ‘Shop Local, Eat Local, Spend Local, Enjoy Local – It takes you to start the trend’ which is aimed at encouraging the local community to support its businesses and retailers to help keep them alive.

“That is our little motto and a lot of places have the #shophorncastle posters in their windows reminding people that they have a part to play in all of this,” Kate said.

When lockdown began Kate shut up shop completely and reopened in June when the Government said it was safe to do so.

“My preconception, based on what the media was saying, was that we would be very quiet and it would be dreadful to begin with,” she said.

“I have been in business 12 years and you always hope your regulars stay loyal and support you. And that is exactly what happened.

“Customers didn’t want to go into the larger towns and cities like Lincoln and Boston where there were more people. They tried to get as much as they could locally.

“During the pandemic because they had been coming into town for their essentials they had seen all the shops shut up, seen that we were all closed and they decided that they didn’t want to lose us so came back when we reopened.

“I have been blown away by the kindness and the support of the locals and from my regular customers who not only come from Horncastle but Skegness, Louth, Market Rasen and even Lincoln.

“It was a real surprise and I didn’t expect to be that busy. The media was portraying that the High Street businesses were dropping like flies but we have come back and the exact opposite happened. It was much better than I thought it was going to be.

“Just because the High Street is suffering doesn’t mean the whole retail sector is.”

Kate said customers coming in who are on holiday or visitors who are only here for a short time think Horncastle is wonderful because it has a lot of things to see that are different to what they have back home.

“For a lot of visitors these things have gone so we have to develop and expand what we have here, which is a pretty Georgian market town.

“We have to make the most of it and make sure everything is lovely so we can provide a good first impression.

“Pedestrianising the Market Place will help too and once it is done it will be a lovely addition to the Market Square,” Kate said.

“If this continues we will hopefully march on towards Christmas. Nobody is going to recoup what they have lost but if they can keep going up to Christmas and people shop locally for their Christmas goods we can start the New Year on a positive note.”

Horncastle has always been known as the ‘Antiques capital of Lincolnshire’ because of the amount of premises in the town. Each shop has its own unique features, styles and prices but the message is firmly that they are well and truly back in business.

Horncastle Antiques Centre in Bridge Street, Great Expectations in East Street and Clare Boam in North Street are all reporting that they are open as normal.

“We reopened as soon as we were allowed at the beginning of August and have been open as normal ever since,” said Steve Rollin who works in Great Expectations. “Business has been reasonably good in comparison to when we shut. We have had a lot of holidaymakers about, which has made a big difference.”

Horncastle Town Council provided 50 hanging baskets for all the businesses in town to help enhance the street scene and that is something Horncastle in Bloom will take forward next year.

Plans are also being progressed by Lincolnshire County Council to pedestrianise part of the Market Place as part of the Department for Transport emergency active travel fund plans which saw £105,000 allocated to LCC to support the installation of temporary projects during the recovery from Covid-19.

Councillor Colin Davie, executive councillor for economy and place at the county council, said: “We will be pedestrianising part of the Market Place which will support local traders as they try to recover from the severe disruption they have experienced this year.”

As well as improvements in the town centre, there are proposals to build a reduced 89-home development in Horncastle after a previous application was refused.

Gleeson Homes has applied to East Lindsey District Council for permission for the development off Winceby Gardens. It follows a refusal for 97 homes on the site in December 2019 after councillors failed to be impressed by the designs.

The new homes will include 24 two-bedroom, 58 three-bedroom and seven four-bedroom houses.

The documents said the proposal will provide: ‘The opportunity to bring forward low cost market housing, which will provide choice for local residents.’

Outline approval for 90 homes on the site was approved in September 2016.
The major new development on the cards for Horncastle though is the planned new college and public sector hub which was approved by East Lindsey District Council in August.

The project will see a new education facility operated by Boston College on Mareham Road alongside a public sector hub which will be home to ELDC and a number of strategic partners.

Boston College’s course provision for Horncastle and the wider area will be linked to the requirements of local employers and adults to allow adult students and apprentices to access education, including university level courses, creating more accessible learning opportunities in the local area.

Councillor Craig Leyland, East Lindsey District Council leader, said: “This is a major milestone for this fantastic project. By partnering with Boston College to bring forward a new education facility we can ensure that our residents can access quality education within the district.

“This is crucial to helping provide East Lindsey businesses with access to a pool of talented individuals that have the skills they need to help them grow and boost the local economy.

“Our new shared office space will also allow us to work far more collaboratively with our partners, helping us all improve the services we provide to our local communities.”

Claire Foster, Boston College principal and chief executive, added: “Never before has it been more important to provide opportunities for people to train or retrain for jobs and careers that will really make a difference to individual lives and the economic fortunes of our county.

“We are really excited to be working hand in hand with the council in Horncastle to drive the critical skills agenda of East Lindsey to enable people to get a job, a different job or a better job especially in such tricky times.”

Horncastle Hobby House
One thing that came out of the lengthy lockdown was people’s renewed interest in creative hobbies, which proved to be a lifeline for small independent craft shops like Horncastle’s Hobby House based on North Street.

Owner Dinah Ward explained: “We survived the lockdown mainly because we do business online and although we were not open I was in the shop most days sending out craft, knitting and crochet kits and yarns. The online business paid the shop rent for three months.”

Dinah said on day one of lockdown they got involved in the group making scrubs for the NHS, providing tapes, elastics etc at cost price.

“On the cake side of course there were no weddings and big parties but we found people ordering cakes online to be delivered to relatives they were unable to celebrate with,” Dinah said.

“The Horncastle Scrub Hub did a marvellous job providing hats, bags and scrubs for local hospitals and care facilities.

“This was an example of where the locals working with local councillors and businesses set up a group which not only provided scrubs but helped people on their own to have a purpose to get up and not be lonely.”

Since opening again the business is slowly getting used to the new normal.

“We have reduced opening hours as it can be stressful keeping customers distanced and safe,” Dinah said.

“The online business is still ticking over. People seem to be keeping on crafting and we have noticed that customers have told us they feel safer shopping in the smaller towns so long may it continue.”

Sir Joseph Banks Society
There has been much talk in Horncastle about the future of the Sir Joseph Banks Centre following the closure of its popular gift shop, which was located in the same building and sold products from local crafters.

Located at 7-13 Bridge Street, the building dates to the late 17th century and is a Grade II listed property.

The shop, run by the Joseph Banks Ltd branch of the company, closed at the beginning of lockdown but the decision was taken recently not to reopen the shop.

A statement on the Sir Joseph Banks Centre website said: ‘Sadly and with huge regret, the directors of Joseph Banks Ltd have decided not to reopen the gift shop within the Joseph Banks Centre.’

Paul Scott of the Sir Joseph Banks Society said: “It has recently enjoyed a full restoration carried out by Heritage Lincolnshire, which was part funded by the Heritage Lottery fund.

“The centre hosts the Sir Joseph Banks Society with its internationally acclaimed patron Sir David Attenborough, together with Lord Waldegrave, the Provost of Eton College. Its president is Prof Libby John, Pro-Vice Chancellor/Head of College of Science at Lincoln University.

“It runs and maintains the unique Joseph Banks tribute garden and is host to the new Lincolnshire Herbarium, together with the historic Seaward herbarium. It also focuses on Banks’s impact in Lincolnshire, nationally, and through him our close links with Australia, New Zealand and the Indian Pacific regions.”

The Sir Joseph Banks Society’s aim has always been to create a unique natural history and science centre in Horncastle, something that does not presently exist in the county.

“As well as our existing botanical collections we will seek to display objects from across the world representing the travels and work of Sir Joseph Banks,” explained Paul.

“Our plans involve celebrating and exploring the cultures of indigenous people from across the world. Our focus will of course be Australia, New Zealand, and the Indian Pacific region.

“This very ambitious venture will require skills and knowledge that we do not currently have, and will therefore necessitate us engaging with a wide range of sector specialists together with people and cultures from across the world.”

Feel at ease to shop and dine
Myers of Horncastle are pleased to be able to welcome back customers to their bakery, café and deli following lockdown closures. All three shops have now reopened under Covid secure guidelines.

The café tearoom used its 4th July opening to introduce a brand new coffee supplier to its menu. They are now proud to be serving Seven Districts speciality, single origin coffee that has been ethically sourced and hand roasted in Lincolnshire.

Situated next door to the café is the family’s bakery, famous for its Lincolnshire plum loaf. They have recently added loaf cakes to their wholesale range. With a choice of lemon, chocolate, toffee and caramel and coffee, these are now available to purchase from many of their plum bread and tea loaf stockists and will soon be joined by their popular traditional Christmas puddings.

As hamper season approaches, the deli shelves will soon be filling up with festive foods and drink. The deli is the perfect place to go to find an array of delicious and unusual Christmas items – use their hamper service to create a gorgeous bespoke gift or alternatively you can choose one from their ready-made range.

Located in the heart of the town, the Country Stile has recently celebrated 10 years of trading. The lovely giftware and home accessories store re-launched at the beginning of August with a brand new look, featuring lots of exciting products and brands never stocked before. We highly recommend a trip, but if you can’t make it to Horncastle, you can visit their online store at www.thecountrystile.com.

Local specialists in animal health and equipment
Phillips Animal Health are doing everything they can to meet the needs of customers during these uncertain times.

As a family run business supplying animal health products for over 45 years, Phillips Animal Health has seen farmers and smallholders face challenging times but nothing quite like the uncertainty of the current Covid-19 pandemic. What has remained an absolute priority for the business is providing great service to its customers.

In recent months, it has been key to adapt to the changing situation and the team at Phillips Animal Health are extremely grateful to customers for their continued support and flexibility. 

The business has been able to remain open throughout recent months and has now returned to regular business hours with Saturday opening back in place. Customers are welcome to visit the Horncastle site on Boston Road Industrial Estate where they will find a wide range of animal health and nutrition products, feeds, livestock handling equipment, fencing and gates, workwear, rodent control and much more.

If you’d like to find out more about these products and the Phillips Pressure Washer business please visit www.pahltd.co.uk.

Perfect for parrots
Founded in 2009, Scarletts Parrot Essentials in Fulletby, near Horncastle has many years’ experience in the parrot and caged bird sector, and provides everything needed to keep your birds healthy and happy.

Owned by dedicated parrot professionals Scarlett and Tristan DelaCroix, who also care for a number of their own rescue parrots, the couple are always keen to share their love and knowledge of the breed.

“We keep birds ourselves and properly understand their needs and requirements,” says Scarlett, who runs the business with a dedicated team. “Our unique range of bird products includes a no-peanut, no sunflower seed mix, Roudybush pellets, and zinc-free bird cages which are vital to the birds’ wellbeing.”

The business, which sells healthcare products and accessories, cages, perches for nail trimming, parrot stands and unique seed mixes, deals with online sales and their philosophy is that they will only sell a product that they would use for their own birds. “We know birds and know what they like.”

Scarletts Parrot Essentials: Open 8am–5pm Monday to Friday, Tel: 01507 534850, www.scarlettsparrotessentials.co.uk

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