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      30.05.2001 02:42
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      Sleaford is a small market town in Lincolnshire, nestled beside the A17 where it meets the A15 and A153. Of immense importance to locals in a rural area where public transport is scarce (to say the least), the town is a centre for transport, commerce and education for the surrounding villages. The history of Sleaford can be traced back to the Iron Age. Recent archaeology digs off the Boston Road have uncovered the remains of a Roman mint, perhaps the largest of its kind in Europe. Roman Sleaford was situated slightly to the east of the new town, between Boston Road and the River Slea. The present town was established during the Saxon period. Sleaford was an established administrative centre for the region and the market there can be traced thus far. The River Slea provided the power for 18 water mills in the town/ In about 1140, Bishop Alexander of Lincoln had a castle built to the west of the town, although the present Castle Field exhibits nothing more than a few mounds which once belonged to the Castle. The castle never suffered an attack or a siege. King John is reputed to have spent one of the last nights of his life here, after losing his baggage and jewels in the wash. The Carre family bought the manor of New Sleaford in 1559. Old Sleaford had been possessed by the Hussey family until 1536, when Lord Hussey was beheaded for treason; it then passed to the Crown and later was acquired by the Carres. At the end of the 17th century, the Hervey family (Earls of Bristol) took the estate through marriage. Sleaford's importance as a market town grew through the years. At the end of the 18th century a waterway opened to link Sleaford with the River Witham, and thus Sleaford became a local terminus for the area's waterways. The railways opened in Sleaford in the 1850s, and the Navigation was closed in 1881. Cogglesford Mill is the only surviving watermill in Sleaford. Built around
      1750, with a top floor added in 1830, it is now open to the public after being restored to full working order (admission free!). The parish church of St Denys was built in 1180 (or thereabouts), and the spire was added in about 1200. It has one of the oldest stone spires in England. Standing at 144 feet tall, it was rebuilt in 1854 by local company Kirk and Parry after a lightning strike. Money's Mill stands proud in the centre of town, although it is now sail-less. It was built in 1796, 70 feet high with 8 stories, so that larger quantities of corn could be ground following the navigation's opening. Money's Mill now serves as the local Tourist Information Centre. Handley Monument is perhaps one of Sleaford's most important features. Henry Handley was a local Mp for 9 years. The monument was designed by William Boyle of Birmingham, and it takes its design from an Eleanor Cross, with a statue of Handley below. The Bull and Dog public House, on Southgate, has a date stone of 1689, and is believed by many to be the oldest surviving pub in England. On Westgate stands the Old Playhouse. Built in 1824, it was converted in 1850 into an infant school before being allowed to decay. It has recently been restored to its former glory by The Sleaford Little Theatre Company and now reigns once again as a theatre and centre for the performing arts. Present day Sleaford. Hugely residential, with more houses being built all the time, Sleaford seems to be becoming a grossly over-populated town. Schools are struggling to accommodate all of the town's children, although this is in the process of being rectified by increasing schools and building bigger ones. Access to Sleaford is easy: there is good road and rail access to all parts of the country, with the A1 being only 20 miles away. Traffic in town has always been a problem, and the efforts by the Council to improve the matt
      er are to be congratulated; at least they are trying! The market, despite its importance, is smaller now than ever. Selling mainly fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants, with a few clothing stalls and a pet stall,it takes place at the Market Place (funny that!) on Monday and Saturday, with a smaller market on Friday. Parking is a huge problem in town, with the difficulties seemingly impossible to alleviate. The shops in Sleaford, while being adequate for everyday items, are sadly not enough to "pull in the punters" from further afield. Supermarkets are prevalent - 4 at present, with one to be added later in the year - but what Sleaford needs is a well-stocked, reputable department store. Names such as Woolworths and Boots are reasonable, but - in my opinion as a local - Sleaford is a town to shop in purely for the mundane items. If anything more out of the ordinary is required, it is advisable to travel a little further and go to either Grantham or Boston. Food is readily available in Sleaford. Small convenience food outlets, such as bakeries and pizza takeaways, jostle for business alongside Chinese and Indian restaurants - and, of course, fish and chip shops! All in all, Sleaford is an important facility for the local folk, but one can't help but feel that it is lacking in something if it wants to compete with the "big boys"!

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