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Archive for April, 2009

In our research, Sam came across some old photos of the West Common. Apart from the few buildings that used to litter the land alongside the Grandstand, it’s remarkable how little the area has changed in the intervening period. You could envisage that some of these photos had indeed been taken yesterday.

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Grandstand photos

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The Lincoln Grandstand is a proud building. Standing alone, it’s a time capsule. There’s no real reason for it being there – it’s used as a centre of the community, but there are probably more suitable venues.

No. The Lincoln Grandstand is a monument to history. Simply, it stands to tell us what once was. We look at it and we can imagine the cheering. We look beyond it and we can imagine the gentle rumble of the horses, charging from afar. It is a snapshot of time.

There will be few in the Lincoln area that has a greater interaction with the building these days than Duncan Hall. As the Warden of the West Common in which the Grandstand guards so fiercely, he works in and around the building everyday. Typically, he’s grown an attachment to the Lincoln folly: “Having worked in the area I’ve obviously got an affinity with the place and I’ve become quite proud of the building, regardless of what state it’s in. It’s a definitive feature, and it gives the Common plenty of character.”

Indeed, Hall is quick to point out the legacy that the Grandstand provides: “It gives us memories of the past, which I think is good,” says Hall. “You know, you see the children using the building and they probably have no idea about its former uses, or about the hundreds of stories that the building undoubtedly holds. The crowds, the excitement – all the highs and lows that people must have had there are all wrapped up in that one building. It might not seem like it just standing there next to the road, but it represents a big part of Lincoln’s heritage, and I for one am immensely proud of it.”

Nowadays, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Grandstand lies dormant. Unused and unloved, the barriers that litter the steps show a derelict monument. “Obviously, from afar, when you view it with the fences up against the stand, it looks almost derelict, but the truth is, the actual building is in decent condition,” says Hall. “It’s unfortunate that the back of the grandstand faces away from the road, because that still looks absolutely fantastic.”

Obviously, having worked around the area for so long, Hall is keen for the Grandstand to be restored: “It would be great to see it restored to its former glory, though. I’d love to see it with the crowds cheering again, and the horses charging past. It is, after all, what it was intended for.”

Certainly, the return of horse-racing would bring a rejuvenation of the area’s sporting legacy and immense excitement to the city of Lincoln.

However, the Grandstand is currently being used as a community centre, providing a home for numerous clubs, groups and societies. It’s something that Hall hasn’t missed, and he thinks that it’s new role is important for the local area: “I think as it is now, the Grandstand is playing a role in the community. The same goes for the Common in general, which is a great place for people to walk, to come and play sports. As a space, it’s a really good thing for Lincoln to have.”

So with renewed talks of a return of horse-racing to the area and a renovation of the Grandstand, how does Hall feel about the potential loss of a valuable community centre? “It’d be a shame to lose that community aspect if racing did return. Don’t get me wrong, I think the return of horse-racing would be fantastic and bring a lot of excitement to the area. But I would hope that we’d be able to keep something for the public in terms of a space to come and enjoy, and to use.”

But, the truth is, whether it’s used as a community centre or as part of a new racecourse for Lincoln, Duncan Hall is happy just to have the building there. Proudly standing come wind, rain or shine, one thing is for certain – the Grandstand isn’t going anywhere and it will continue to represent a bygone age. People will still be able to look on and wonder what happened there many years ago. And that’s something that everyone, Duncan Hall included, can be thankful for.

by Andrew Boyers

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Although the Grandstand of the old Lincoln racecourse looks redundant and derelict at the side of the A57 Carholme road, it is actually a thriving centre for the Lincoln community.

                   

Diane Gardiner, supervisor of Lincoln’s community centres and in charge of overseeing the Grandstand as a community centre, points out the importance of this structure in the district and the numerous activities it holds.

 

“It is a well utilised building with lots of different stuff going on for the people of Lincoln, the Grandstand is used every evening with martial arts classes, dance classes and band practices in the weighing rooms, there is also karate, tai chi and kickboxing lessons and we run the Lincoln 10k fun race from here.”

 

Diane is also keen to inform Lincoln residents about the availability of the Grandstand for their use and committed to ensure that this historic landmark is used to its full potential.

 

“We want more use of it especially during the day, we have a toddler group during the day and various ad hoc bookings but it would be nice to build up a the patronage during the day time because this building is for the use of all the residents in Lincoln not just the Carholme area.”

 

As well as the Grandstand, Mrs Gardiner also says, the community centre makes use of the adjoining West Common which formed part of the old racecourse and like in the old days this large expanse of grassland is still used for sporting activities.

 

“We have the West Common Sports Pavilion which comes as part of the Grandstand community centre and we hire that out for football, tennis, cricket and lawn bowls and I am looking to develop further activities in the future hopefully.”

 

The use of the Grandstand and common as an apparently thriving centre for the community makes it clear that any plans for the redevelopment of this area or possible reopening of the racecourse would have to take this vital residential amenity into account.

 

However, that is for the future but at the moment it is reassuring to know that this seemingly tired and redundant building is being used in a way that benefits the local community and in fact the whole city of Lincoln.

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Prospective Lincoln Conservative MP candidate, Karl McCartney, believes the majority of Lincoln’s community share his passion and desire to re-introduce racing to the city’s original racecourse on the West Common in Carholme.

 

As previously identified in an earlier section of this blog, the history of the racecourse on the West Common area stretches back to 1773 when the Lincoln Handicap symbolised the beginning of the flat-racing season. After a long history of almost 200 years, the Lincoln Handicap was relocated to nearby Doncaster in 1964, primarily for political reasons. The Levy Board, a UK Government body for horseracing, decided some racecourses throughout the country were to be closed. Fortunately for Lincoln, the racecourse at West Common was not one of those targeted. However, due to council restrictions, the maintenance of the racecourse sadly deteriorated and professional horseracing was withdrawn from Lincoln in 1964.

 

However, McCartney has made some positive strides in recent years expressing his ambition to help reinstate professional horseracing back to its original routes on West Common.

 

He said: “In 2004, one of the things I said was I wanted to see if I could bring the grandstand and the racecourse back into proper use and allow racing to take place once again here in Lincoln. In 2007, some meetings were held with officers at the city council and representatives of the International Racecourse Management Ltd who are a company who look after public racecourses in Britain and throughout the world. Conditional soundings about this project were made but we are only in the initial stages. However, I do know we are at that stage where we are working with the Lincoln Racecourse Trust on what the actual plans would be for the racecourse and that is something Lincoln City Council would like to see before any agreement is reached.”

 

With the original grandstand and racetrack still essential features of the West Common area, re-constructing the site to a suitable standard for racing wouldn’t be as challenging as many would expect. Furthermore, a Parliamentary Act passed in 1995 for Lincoln and West Common enshrines racing in this particular area which could provide a favourable angle for this hopeful project.

 

“We still have this five year plan but we will have to wait and see. It’s difficult times with the economy but what I do know is that the investors of International Racecourse Management approval are not necessarily all UK based so there is a firm backing. They are now pushing to get the agreement signed and bring the investment and racing back to Lincoln.”

 

McCartney also expressed his delight at the feedback he has received from the people of Lincoln with regards to this issue.

 

He said: “In the past year and a half, we have had direct questions on the racecourse and the response we have got has been 99.9 per cent positive so that is most certainly encouraging. The economical benefits far outweigh anything that anybody could say that racing would be a bad thing for Lincoln. We’re not taking away the Common; we simply want to bring back the area to its proper use.”

 

A news story referring to McCartney’s hopes of a return of horse-racing to Lincoln is linked here.

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