Bawtry - This South Yorkshire town isn't shy about coming forward

PUBLISHED: 00:01 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 13:02 10 June 2016

St Nicholas Church

St Nicholas Church

© Darren Galpin / Alamy

Elizabeth Steele reports

Bawtry Courtyard Farmers MarketBawtry Courtyard Farmers Market

A colleague of mine once wrote that the town of Bawtry has a habit of reinventing itself. From Roman settlement to port, from market town to stage coach stopover, it’s always on the move. Bawtry may stand on the River Idle but the townsfolk are anything but – today they are determined to encourage many more people to discover how much there is to enjoy here.

‘We’ve had the most fantastic summer,’ said Rebecca Dickenson, chair of Bawtry Retail Association. ‘The Visit Bawtry Polo Cup was a fabulous event, raising over £3,000 for local cancer charity Aurora. The Vanilla Rooms team met The Cown Hotel in the final, with the hotel storming to victory and remaining undefeated champions.’

It’s groups like the retail association and the people behind the new website Visit Bawtry that are working hard, introducing new initiatives to boost the local economy and strengthen community ties. The association has helped bring back the town’s traditional market which took place each Sunday until the 1980s. It now trades at The Courtyard, which was built in 2000 on land where the market used to be held. The market takes place on the first and third Saturday this month.

Sarah White, of Bawtry Eye Academy said hosting a market was a great way to offer weekend visitors even more choice and to support small businesses which may not want to commit to business premises. ‘There is a lovely range of fresh and homemade produce and gifts including fresh baked goods, jam, chutney’s, oils and syrups, cards, jewellery and plants,’ said Sarah. ‘We’re really looking forward to bringing a new retail experience to Bawtry and supporting the businesses that are taking part.’

Bawtry Farmers marketBawtry Farmers market

Websites and social media play an ever growing part in telling people about Bawtry. Discover the Bawtry bucket list on visitbawtry.com, a clever idea to encourage everyone to explore the town and which includes competitions and money-saving ideas from all kinds of specialist businesses. Bawtry.org is another website full of information which aims to keep residents and visitors up to date with events including fun days and concerts. The Crown Hotel, an award-winning luxury hotel, very much at the heart of Bawtry, not only promotes its wedding open days on its Facebook page but also extras such as their St Leger hibiscus cocktails.

Other businesses in the town are busy doing the same.

People in Bawtry like to be involved. Charity fund-raising events are held regularly such as Robinsons of Bawtry annual fashion show held this month for the 22nd year in aid of Yorkshire Cancer Research. So far the event has raised more than £250,000. And this year members of Bawtry Retail Association donated prizes worth more than £1,500 awarded on Ladies Day for the Best Dressed Lady and runners-up at the St Leger Festival at nearby Doncaster Racecourse.

And they like a little drama. Bawtry’s thriving Phoenix Theatre began life at the hall in 1932. Today its home is a converted chapel on Station Road. The theatre and its film society have its celebrity connections too; an active member is Rupert Atkinson, brother of comedy actor Rowan.

the Phoenix Theatrethe Phoenix Theatre

Bawtry clearly continues to thrive. And it remains an excellent introduction to Yorkshire as it stands close to the borders with Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. For many years it even boasted an address any son of the county would have envied: Number One Yorkshire. But some time back the post office re-designated that house as No 1 South Parade.

The Eat Bawtry Campaign

The courtyard, BawtryThe courtyard, Bawtry

This is another initiative that aims to introduce visitors to the town’s fine restaurants which have teamed up together, with the help of the Bawtry Retail Association, to celebrate their gastronomic success with the introduction of a diners’ card.

All six restaurants taking part use local produce and include:

The Crown Hotel – 4-star hotel – with stand out restaurant that serves dishes that are far from your average hotel food

Zinis restaurantZinis restaurant

Thyme – all food is homemade-style with ingredients from quality local suppliers

Dower House Restaurant (Indian) – celebrates 25 years in the town offering the best Bangladeshi cooking

Caviars Restaurant & Wine Bar - small intimate restaurant with open kitchen to provide a touch of theatre to your dining experience with a modern British menu

Ziniz (Italian) – family run, founded by Italian owner/chef and third generation of restaurateurs Alessandro Primo Calzini. Voted by The Times newspaper as one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in the UK

China Rose (Cantonese) – specialise in fine Cantonese cuisine made with naturally fresh ingredients. Over 30 years experience Carly Hui is the restaurant manager and husband Jason Kwan is the Head Chef - Chefs signature dish is the Aromatic Duck

Fully stamped diners’ cards will be entered into a prize draw next January with the prize yet to be confirmed but is expected to be a host of money-can’t-buy goods and services from Bawtry and its association partners’ most prestigious businesses.

History notes

And while Bawtry is very much a town of today it doesn’t shun its history. Archaeologists have unearthed a dozen skeletons off Tickhill Road. The remains date from the 14th century when a hospital run by monks was located there. St Nicholas Church dates even further back. It was founded around 1200, although it only became Bawtry’s Parish Church in Victorian times.

This is Pilgrim Fathers country – just up the road is Scrooby, home to the pilgrims’ leader William Bradford – and their minister, Richard Clifton, preached at St Nicholas. The link is commemorated in local names including the Bawtry Mayflower Primary School, and the Mayflower Sanctuary for dogs and cats.

Another notable building is the Grade II listed manor house, Bawtry Hall. Like the town, the hall has reinvented itself over the years. Originally built in 1778 as a family home for a mill owner, it was requisitioned by the War Office to become the northern RAF Bomber Command HQ. Bombing raids during the Second World War and the Falklands conflict were coordinated in the operations room. Today Bawtry Hall is a business centre.

The town’s name is derived from the Old English ‘Baltry’ and is thought to mean ‘tree rounded like a ball’ or ‘Balda’s tree’, and its roots can be traced back at least to Roman times, when it lay across the route from Lincoln to York. There were several Roman military camps in the area, and the legions are thought to have crossed the River Idle close to where the stone bridge on Gainsborough Road now stands.

The town first came to prominence as an inland port in the 12th century, thanks to the Idle, a tributary of the river Trent, and was granted its charter in 1213. In medieval times, roads were so bad that rivers were the preferred form of transport, and by the 14th century, Bawtry was a well-established river port.

By the late 18th century, traffic bound for the Trent and Humber was re-routed on to the newly-opened Chesterfield Canal, and the roads improved to such an extent that Bawtry became a major stopping ‘stage’ for horse drawn coaches.

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