Since 2013 Alford Corn Exchange and Community Group have successfully breathed life back into this old building returning it to the heart of Alford.
The initial refurbishments were swift and impressive as the main hall was redecorated and the community rallied to support the project.
The group took on responsibility for the building in April 2014 and ownership followed in June.
Alongside an exciting line up of public events an extensive, and ongoing, renovation programme has resulted in phenomenal changes to the venue, particularly the transformation of the old ” back room” to a stylish bar area.
Full details of the venue and forthcoming events can be found on the official website: alfordcornexchange.co.uk
In 2013 the local community welcomed the new venture, in particular the personal memories of great evenings there, shared experiences with friends and family, came to the fore. When plans were announced to build the Corn Exchange it was a very different scenario and support for the project was far from universal.
A Corn Exchange for Alford
1855 : The proposal of a covered Corn Exchange for Alford
Rumours of a new, covered, Corn Exchange began in late 1855. In early November The Lincolnshire Chronicle and the Stamford Mercury reported that “the talk during the last few days” was that a new Corn Exchange would shortly be erected at Alford to provide shelter for the corn dealers. One week later the project was declared to be almost certain with the Rt Hon. RCN Hamilton, MP., having offered to provide a site along with 50l towards construction costs. A further 100l being promised from the late Mr Loft’s testimonial fund by his widow. The release of these financial details obviously caused consternation somewhere as, yet another week, later a small piece in the Stamford Mercury distanced their ” accredited reporter” from the provision of those details.
Alongside reports of Christmas in the Crimea the new year brought notice of a public meeting at the Windmill Inn to consider the project.
1856: Finding the best site
By the end of January the project was gaining a foothold, shares were reportedly being sold for 5l each, the object being to encourage as many shareholders as possible. One problem began to seem insurmountable; those involved were struggling to find a suitable site. Some argued for the purchase of Miss Buffam’s houses, between the two market places , in order that they could be demolished and the exchange built in their place.
On the 1st February the Stamford Mercury carried another item representing the views of concerned townsmen regarding a Market Place site.
At a meeting held at the Windmill Inn, Alford, on Tues last, it was, we understand, decided that the new Corn Exchange should be erected in the market place, 60 feet in length by 30 in width. This decision having been come to by parties not having any interest in the property surrounding [the Market Place] and has naturally given rise to considerable dis-satisfaction and even opposition on the part of the owners of such property, who for the most part are tradesmen, and consequently more liable to feel the inconvenience, if not actual loss in their trades, as well as a reduction in the freeholds to perhaps five or ten percent. Setting aside the question as to the right of any person or body of persons to obstruct the public market place even with the consent of the lord of the Manor, which we hope has not yet been obtained, we think it would have been better to first consult the townspeople by calling a public meeting and obtaining their assent. If no site suitable can be obtained why not treat with the committee of the Mechanics Institute for the use of the Mechanics hall ? Stamford Mercury 1856
By April the premises of Robert Mason, gunsmith and ironmonger had been identified and confirmed as the site of the new building. The committee purchased his lease and, as previously reported, the owner Rt Hon. RCN Hamilton, MP. donated the site to the project.
The Corn Exchange is tucked into the corner of the market place in a position which betrays the difficulties first encountered when trying to find a suitable spot for the new building.
Architect Henry Goddard of Lincoln advertised for those wishing to tender for the contract of several works to be done. The plans were available in Alford and at his offices in Lincoln. Henry Goddard had been appointed architect to the Geat Northern Railway in 1848 and had designed Spalding and Boston Railway Stations. Prior to the Alford Corn Exchange he had designed the Queen Street Corn Exchange in Market Rasen in 1854.
1856: Robert Mason
As the plans for the new building project moved forward Mr Mason was under pressure to remove himself. The advertisment below first appeared in the Stamford Mercury on 9th May 1856.
By the third week in June Mason had just days left to vacate the premises, a two day auction was held on the premises, ironmongery, farmer’s implements & blacksmith’s requisites were sold alongside his household items. The auction took place on the 24th and 25th June 1856, the list of items for sale reveals the true extent of Robert Mason’s business and shows the self sufficiency of Alford at this time. When the point came at which Mason was contractually obliged to vacate the premises, undaunted he set up, with some style, in the centre of the Market Place. A further auction was held at the end of September.
Alford.—An encampment of permanent character has been made in centre of Alford Marketplace during the week ; and had the authorities in the Crimea during the late campaign there shown the same facility of design and execution as our friend who has taken up his abode in the midst of us, we believe the sufferings of the army would never have been heard of. Mr. Robert Mason, ironmonger who has disposed of the lease of his premises to the committee for building the new Corn-exchange, in order that he might perform his engagements to them, has during “two days” erected the building above alluded to, which is of wood, 30 feet by 20 feet, with windows, doors, roof (slated), spouts, and all complete; and it is said that it is so put together that the owner will able dispose of it in three distinct parts. The military authorities would well to consult Mr. Mason, who is willing, we believe, to give every information in this style of architecture in his power. Stamford Mercury 4th July 1856
On 25th Sept 1856 The Globe listed Alford Corn Exchange Company among the new joint stock companies. The works rumbled on but despite huge efforts they just missed the January 1857 completion deadline. On the 9th January the Directors announced that the rooms above the Corn exchange were available for let.
16th Jan 1857 the Lincolnshire Chronicle announced
The new Corn Exchange at Alford was opened for public business on Tuesday last and, the entrance for the day being free, a great number of people inspected the interior of the building. The beautiful cornice is much admired and gives the ceiling a light and tasteful appearance. It is understood that a public dinner or some other opening ceremony will shortly take place. Lincolnshire Chronicle 16th Jan 1857
Just a few weeks later a ball was advertised, followed one month later by an afternoon tea for around 250 “females” from the proceeds. The premises was already proving its ability to win the hearts and minds of the community through their inevitable enjoment of a round of well hosted social engagements.
In some quarters criticism rumbled on for a while …
Alford – The account of receipts and expenditure in erecting the Corn Exchange has been published, showing balance of about 117l. overpaid. Shareholders now find that they have not kept a sufficiently vigilant eye upon those entrusted with the erection of the building, and what with blunders of the architect, and extravagant charges for extras they will have to sacrifice about two years’ interest. What have the committee been doing? Lincolnshire Chronicle 5th June 1857
Alford – The corn exchange that was lately erected here has cost upwards of 100l more than the amount raised by the shares. A meeting was held last week to inquire into the cause of this deficiency, but although several very questionable items appeared in the account rendered, and caused some unpleasant interrogation , yet no remedy could be devised , and it appears the amount must come out of the pockets of the shareholders. Stamford Mercury 5th June 1857
The Corn Exchange quickly became part of the fabric of Alford, beyond the Corn Market, the original raison d’être, the premises were let for many uses. The list of functions over the years is too varied to hope to do it justice here, from formal town business, to auctions & rabbit shows; balls and dances; produce markets; whist clubs and rummage sales the one thing they had in common was that they reflected contemporary society. This is nicely illustrated by a concert which took place ten years after the premises opened.
In February 1867 one Friday evenings’s entertainment was a concert given by the Tremont Minstrels. The group were touring the provincial towns performing concerts of the type seen in the Tremont Theatre in Boston Massachusetts, it is difficult to know how close the performers were to the original Buckleys Serenaders. The entertainers were visiting Alford for the second time returning by popular demand.
The Louth and North Lincolnshire Advertiser reported …
… the violin extravaganza was received with very great pleasure, and the songs etc. were raptuously applauded. The burlesque opera sketch at the close showed the skill of the performers, and the excitement of the audience was intense. Louth & North Lincolnshire Advertiser – Saturday 16 Feb. 1867
The controversial beginning was long forgotten.
While going through the beginnings of the Corn Exchange Mr Robert Mason has become a distraction and a post with his name at the top is likely to appear at some stage.
In the mean time the details of the two auctions he held appear below, the breadth of his stocks are astounding. The first auction was shortly before the vacation of his premises to make way for the Corn Exchange in June of 1856, the second took place from his Market Place building in September / October 1856.
Stamford Mercury : Friday 20th June 1856
Alford – Ironmongery and Bar Iron
To be sold by auction by Mr John Wilson
On 24th and 25th of June 1856, on the premises of Mr R Mason (as the buildings in a few days have to be taken down for the erection of a Corn Exchange.
The following extensive and valuable stock of Ironmongery, consisting of register and sham stoves, kitchen ranges, uniform ovens and boilers, shop stoves, sheet iron ovens, variety of fenders and fire irons, 80 sets of table knives, brass candlesticks, copper kettles tin goods, registered bath, tea trays, metal goods, beer taps, dish covers, door scrapers, patent india-rubber knife boards. Palmer’s candle and night lamps, French moderator lamps, whip and frame saws, hand and tenor saws, door looks, hinges, gravel riddles and sieves, patent stench traps, common street gates, iron pots and furnace pans, doors frames. Farmer’s Implements. —One Cambridge roll and 1-horse grass roll, 28 in. in dia., six 3 cwt corn machines and weights, two 5-owt, ditto, ten sack barrows, two merchants’ barrows, one patent sack holder, two 4-cwt. and one 10-cwt. scale beams, six counter machines, eight butter scales, boxend beam copper scales, five chaff cutters, cake mills, turnip cutters, 30 pair waggon and plough traces, backhands, halter chains, cart hames, plough brests, waggon brushes, spades, shovels, steel hay forks, nails of every description, 400 feet of iron spouting, screw jack capable of lifting 4 tons, 40 gallons of linseed and olive oil, 2 cwt. of soda, game netting and fencing wire, garden chairs, sofas, Bushby’s patent ploughs &c., Blacksmith’s Requisites.- Stock of bar, rod, plate, and hooping Iron, 40 bars shear and spring steel 10 patent mail axletrees and cart arms, 3 pair common arms, 2 pair bellows, 4 pair vice, sundry lots smiths’ tools, 60 doz. files and horse rasps, 40 doz. hand and frame saw files, drilling machine, platform for shoeing wheels, and quantity of good useable old iron.—l gig, 2 sets of harness, 1 pair of Lamps, quantity of wood and Iron blocks. Wednesday—Second Day’s Sale— Household Furniture: vis. —Chairs, tables, and drawers, desk with secret drawers, Iron bedsteads, clock, time-piece, pictures, wire blinds, patent self-rolling mangle, a new and correct sea chart of the whole world, by E. Halley, Esq., also 80 vols of books, the whole of the kitchen ranges and stoves, with chimney pieces, 20 old doors, 10 windows, floor boards and partitioning, with the interior fittings as they now stand in the house he occupies, 3 large water tubs and wood spouting, and 1 hand truck. N.B. The Farmers’ Implements will sold on Tuesday, at 1 o’clock; and the Bar Iron, Steel, and Files 3 o’clock. Sale to commence 11 o’clock on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday.
Fri 26th Sept 1856: ALFORD. Lincolnshire.
Notice to AGRICULTURISTS, BUILDERS, SMITHS, SHOPKEEPERS, and the PUBLIC.
To be SOLD by AUCTION, By Messrs. Winder and Mason,
In Booth in the Market-place, specially erected for the purpose, the whole of the remaining part of the immense Stock of MACHINERY and IRONMONGERY, belonging to Mr. Rr. Mason, ironmonger & founder.
First Day’s Sale, Tuesday the 30th September 1856. 40 farmer’s weighing machines and weights. 8 merchant’s machines, 6 wool, leather, and linseed cake machines, 9 lever balance machines, suitable for weighing potatoes, coals, and general produce, they do not require extra weights; 10 coal weighing machines and scuttles, 6 butcher’s weighing machines, 24 butter scales and shopkeeper’s standard balances, 20 sack barrows, turnip cutters (single and double action, made try Samuelson and other noted makers), 5 chaff cutters (manufactured by Richmond and Chandler, Samuelson, and Wright), roller mills for crushing oats, malt, beans, and barley (makers Stanley of Peterboro and Samuelson of Banbury), 6 cake breakers (by Wright of Chipping Ongar and Samuelson of Banbury), 3 field rollers (by Cambridge and others), with a variety of implements husbandry; powerful iron purchase crab, capable of lifting 6 tons. Superior Dog Cart with patent axle, excellent Gig with ditto (as good new), light Spring Car, with lamps and portable top, good condition, Light Phaeton and set of Harness, 8 patent axles. Stoves, chains, and shovels; 30 register and other room grates, 15 kitchen stoves, with ovens and boilers, 1600 feet of iron spouting with beads and shoes, 12 dozen of spades and shovels, 5 cwt. of backbands, waggon and plough traces, 12 tins of turpentine and oak varnish, with a quantity of white and bine paint; 18 cwt. of Roman cement.
Second Day’s Sale, Tuesday, October the 7th, 1856.—45 cwt. of farmers’ and builders’ nails, 2 dozen of steel forks and chaff knives, 6 bundles of steel, bellows and anvil, 6 pairs of smiths’ vice, 70 dozen of smiths’ files and rasps, 40 dozen of hand and frame saw files, 54 dozen of mortice, iron, rim, plate, and pad locks, 20 sets of fire irons, 30 sets of table and dessert knives, 40 dozen of pocket and pen knives, 36 room and kitchen fenders, 4 dozen of hand, tenor, and meat saws, 50 dozen of T and other hinges, 18 Palmer’s candle and moderator lamps, 40 sheet and cast iron ovens, 25 boilers (different sizes), 64 bouse and stable buckets, 70 quires of glass and emory cloth. 12 single and double-barrelled guns, 9 brace of pistols, 2 revolvers, 6 iron bedsteads, 6 dozen of rabbit, rat, and bird traps, 10 stench traps, with heavy stock of general ironmongery.
Also will Sold, in one or more lots, as shall be agreed upon, the substantial Timber and Slate-covered Buiding, 36 feet long and 15 feet wide, now erected in the Market-place, Alford, framed in three parts and put together with screw bolts, that it can be easily taken down and refixed in one or three separate buildings, each measuring 15 12 feet inside : the floor of redwood battens 6 inches wide by 2.5 thick. The roof covered by Welsh slates and ridge stone, fitted with iron spouting on each side. The two end Windows, being suitable for Shops, will sold separately, viz., one circular window, with shutters and bar complete, feet, one straight ditto, with shutters, 7 by 5 feet.
N.B. A first-class Self-acting Piano-forte of modern style, made by the celebrated Davis, London—plays 16 tunes, sacred and favorite airs.
Sale to commence each day 11 o’clock precisely.—The Building will be sold on the day of the second Sale, at 3 o’clock. Alford, Sept. 23d, 1856.