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September, 2021

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“Gainsborough”: once used to be an important inland port on the River Trent and later a major industrial centre producing steam engines, light aircraft, tanks and tractors. It is still the main shopping centre for the surrounding rural area.

Lincolnshire hardly features on the tourist itinerary, although Lincoln itself does attract the tourists. Few get to Gainsborough, even though “Gainsborough Old Hall”: is one of the biggest and best preserved medieval manor houses in England with great hall and kitchens.

Few people have heard about the “Old Nick,”: which was the first purpose built police station in Lincolnshire and is now open as a museum.

Even fewer people realise that King Sweyn of Denmark was crowned King of England in Gainsborough in 1013, dying 40 days later. Gainsborough could be considered the capital of England for those 40 days!

On my last visit to the Old Hall, I picked up a “leaflet”: describing a walk around Gainsborough. I spent a very enjoyable morning just wandering with my camera and looking. There’s a lot more to Gainsborough than meets the eye and it repays exploring on foot.

There is the tiny Curtis Walk leading off the Market Place with its ‘quaint’ shops giving an impression of what Gainsborough might have been like 100 years ago. You need to remember to look up as many of the Georgian houses around the market place and surrounding streets had shops on their ground floor. The splendid Bank buildings reflect the importance of Gainsborough although many of them are no longer banks.

The Town Hall on Lord Street retains its splendid Victorian frontage. That on Market Street was damaged during a building raid in WW2 and was rebuilt in the 1950s.

The Library opposite the Old Hall was built in 1905 on land given by the Hickman family of the Old Hall, on the understanding that any building would complement the architecture of the Old Hall. It was partially funded by money from Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish/American philanthropist. It is one of the few Carnegie libraries to still exist. Don’t miss the carved stone shields on the walls commemorating famous men from Gainsborough’s past.

Just down from the Old Hall is another brick building in a similar style to the library, with Gainsborough House above the door. There is little information about the building which is described as ‘serving the people of Gainsborough as a public dispensary’, It later became the offices and showroom for the Yorkshire Electricity Board before being bought by the Urban District Council in 1967. It is now leased to a mental health charity which provides a safe meeting place for senior citizens and those with special needs.

On Church Street is the splendid facade of the Fanny Marshall Memorial Institute. This was built by James Marshall (of Marshall’s Yard fame) in 1896, in memory of his wife to provide facilities for the ‘betterment of the local community’. It included a library, reading room, games room and free gymnasium. It also played a key role in the Temperance Movement. In its later years it became a second hand furniture warehouse before being left derelict. The building has been demolished apart from the splendid facade and now houses apartments.

Also on Church Street in the impressive Plough Inn built in 1921. This closed in 2007 and is now offices for West Lindsey District Council.

“All Saints’ Church”: is a wonderful example of a Georgian Church. Nearby on Church Street is the United Reform Church, another splendid brick building commemorating John Robinson, a leading member of the Separatist Movement, who died before joining the Pilgrim Fathers in America.

Gainsborough also has an early Friends Meeting house built in 1704 and still in use today.

The tiny Catholic Church of St Thomas of Canterbury near the Old Nick was built in 1866 when Catholics were allowed to worship freely. The inside with its painted walls, reflects the Gothic Revival style popular at the time.

The old telephone exchange and post office now house the Heritage Centre, and the more modern post office sorting office is still next to it.

At the corner of Market Street and Beaumont Street is an imposing late C18th building which was the County Court in the late C19th. The building is now privately owned, but apparently still has the original court room.

The River Trent was once a major port and the remains of the old wooden staithes can still be seen. It was lined with large warehouses . Many of these have now been converted into apartments. There is also an attractive walk along the river front to the diminutive statue of the Pilgrim Woman at the northern end.

Throw in some interesting Victorian housing, including an old corner shop that could have doubled up as Arkright’s store in Open Old Hours, there is plenty to hold the interest.


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