From Banks to brothels - could a trail put our town on the map?

Could the Town Trail help put Horncastle on the map?
Could the Town Trail help put Horncastle on the map?

It must be one of Horncastle’s best kept secrets and now councillors are looking at ways to promote an official ‘Town Trail’ in a bid to boost tourism.

The trail is already established and follows a one-and-half-mile route, featuring many of the town’s historic attractions.

However, official trail leaflets are only available in the library which has limited opening hours - particularly at weekends.

Now, councillors - keen to attract new visitors - could consider placing leaflets in several other prominent locations, including car parks.

Town clerk Gillian Mauger said better marketing of the trail was one of several possible ideas being considered to make Horncastle more visitor friendly.

The move follows claims the town needs to drag itself into the 21st century and is missing out on income, because visitors are not aware of its many attractions.

Promoting the trail also follows the appointment of an official town guide who is using some of the information supplied in the leaflets to encourage visitors.

Town resident Colin Shepherd said: “I’ve lived here for 30-odd years and I didn’t know there was a town trail.

“The town needs something to bring in visitors and boost businesses.

“You go into Louth and Woodhall Spa and they are always busy.

“Horncastle can be deserted, especially on a Sunday and in the evenings. If people knew they could come here and see some interesting things, it would make a difference.”

The trail starts in the Watermill Road area and one of the first features is Stevenson’s Watermill, although only the outline of the old mill wheel can now be seen.

The neighbouring river basin was apparently used for baptisms up until the early 19th century.

The route moves in to Dovecote Alley and Mill View Court before emerging in North Street, close to the War Memorial Hospital building.

It continues past the Admiral Rodney Hotel and Old Nick Tavern before arriving at the Bull Ring.

Historically, the Bull Ring was the terminus for horse-drawn Royal Mail coaches and features two old posting inns - the 16th century Bull Hotel and the 17th century Red Lion.

The Bull was a regular meeting place for Sir Joseph Banks - the famous botanist - who held a number of functions to raise money for the town’s dispensary.

Next stops on the trail are the High Street and Market Place areas, which feature the town house owned by Sir Joseph.

The Market Place used to stage one of the biggest horse fairs in Europe.

There’s also reference to the Gothic-style Stanhope Memorial, named after the town’s former MP and benefactor Edward Stanhope.

The trail leaflet highlights a number of late Georgian and Victorian buildings, including the former George Inn where author George Borrow often stayed and wrote about his experiences at the horse fair in the novel ‘Romany Rye’.

The route moves on to Bridge Street and West Street.

Apparently, number 30 West Street was the home and asylum of Edward Harrison, a renowned physician.

Before reaching the end of West Street, the last building on the left was formerly The Great Northern Hotel - built at the same time as the railway. On the right, is the site of the old railway station.

The trail then crosses over the canal, completed in 1802 at a cost of £45,000. It provided a vital trade route, linking the town with Tattershall.

The latter stages of the trail feature several mentions of the notorious William Marwood, England’s last public hangman who honed his skills behind his home in Church Lane.

Also featured is St Mary’s Church, which dates from the 13th century and has many links with the Civil War and the Lincolnshire Rising.

The route goes on to include sections of the town’s Roman Wall and the 18th century Banovallum House, now home to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

Other buildings of interest include the old Free Grammar School, built in 1778 and in use until 1908 when the school moved to its current site in West Street.

The trail finishes back in St Lawrence Street, once the busiest area of the town and home to a variety of traders. It also featured several beer houses and brothels which were particularly popular, luring many visitors from miles around!