A happy birthday to ‘Mr Rasen’

Walter Casterton in a production of The Mikado
Walter Casterton in a production of The Mikado

KNOWN as the father of Market Rasen Council, back in 1966 Walter Casterton celebrated his 84th birthday and shared his memories with readers of the Rasen Mail.

He had spent all his life in Rasen and until he sold the family business in the mid-1940s to Boots the Chemist, it was regarded as the oldest trading concern in the town.

The business had been far more than a chemists and the first Lord Heneage was among the important customers of Smith Ellisons, the private bankers, who had this as their local establishment in the days when joint stock banking was in its infancy.

Mr Casterton’s father, James, had been chairman of the Market Rasen Local Board in the days before district councils came into being and Walter not only followed him as a councillor, but had two periods as chairman.

Market Rasen had not changed such a lot in its main streets, he said, only the names are different.

He remembered people like the three Wilsons – Joseph at Albion House, Edward the baker and Jessie the tailor.

It was regrettable, he thought, when the old Brewery Company closed down, following a sell-out to Holes of Newark.

The brewery was built up by people like William Pilgrim and owned houses all over the area.

This, together with the decline of the small maltsters, caused a Rasen setback which lasted for a generation.

Then the old brick yard, run by Tom Firth, closed down.

Mr Casterton saw this period as the end of a Rasen chapter and in this period, he thought, looking back, the council missed a chance when it saw the town’s market rights go up to auction on the sale of the Gordon estate without buying them.

But he pointed out, this was a period when Rasen was in decline and there was little money about.

But they were happy days, said Mr Casterton. The town had three football clubs – the town club, the Young Men’s Institute team and the Market Rasen Coronation Swifts.

In summer there was the Saturday cricket team and Thursday cricket team.

The Amateur Operatic Society, which produced a succession of sparkling Gilbert and Sullivan operas, was regarded in its day as being among the best in North Lincolnshire and the Amateur Dramatic Society also did well.