Walk 60: Grantham Town Walk: This walk’s not for turning

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Roughly 1.5 miles (2.41km)

Time to walk: Less than 1 hour, especially if it was throwing it down like when we did it!

Difficulty: Easy on flat town paths

Parking: We were staying in Grantham, but the walk starts near Morrisons supermarket in Wharf Road

Public toilets: Shops, cafes, bars etc

Map of the route: 

Grantham

We’ve passed through Grantham on many occasions over the years & have always regarded it as a bit drab from the car window. So when the chance to have a closer look arose through working nearby, we thought we’d see if our first impressions were true

What can we tell you about this Lincolnshire town. Well…we found out in a recent survey that it had picked up two accolades when it was named as one of the top commuter towns in the country with good value property & one of the best towns to live in Britain – what do we know?!!

The town is best known as the birthplace of a former Prime Minister, & the place where a famous physicist went to school. It’s close to an ancient Roman road, & was the scene of Oliver Cromwell’s first advantage over Royalists during the English Civil War at Gonerby Moor. Grantham is also notable for having the first female police officers in the United Kingdom, & producing the first running diesel engine in 1892, & the UK’s first tractor in 1896

We’ll pick up more history as we go &, as it’s throwing it down, we apologise for the damp pictures but…

Let’s Walk!

1. Come out of the car park into Wharf Road & turn left towards the town centre…

Note the foul conditions

Note the foul conditions

There’s a really eclectic, & international, array of shops & restaurants / fast food joints along this street

Chinese with "extras"?

Chinese with “extras”?

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2. Pass the Baptist Church on the left…

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 …turning left into the impressive wide avenue that’s the High Street. You’ll spot a large statue over the road. The old red building is now a rather nice Wetherspoon’s pub & is well worth a visit if you would like a good beer at less than £2 a pint!

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3. The statue between the two roads is of the Hon Frederick James Tollemache who was Member of Parliament for Grantham for 40 years, spread over four periods between 1826 & 1874

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The bronze statue cost around £1,700 which was raised by public subscription. Many poor people gave pennies they could ill afford. The statue depicts Tollemache supporting himself on a long staff, which became something of his trademark in his later life, & wearing his favourite oversized Inverness cape. He failed to gain re-election in 1830 because it was thought his ideas for change were too modern. He had wanted to retire from politics in 1865 but was persuaded to re-stand. A huge crowd waited to greet him & supporters pulled his carriage through the town

4. Continue along the street on the right running parallel to High Street, known as St Peter’s Hill. On the right’s the town museum which gets very good write ups

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The museum started here in 1926 & also housed the public library which was partly funded by the Carnegie UK Trust & was a continuing part of Andrew Carnegie’s project of building libraries across the United Kingdom. Grantham’s library is now located in the Isaac Newton Centre & the museum occupies the whole of the building

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The idea of a museum can be traced back to meetings of the Grantham Scientific society in the 1890s. The basis of the collection is material provided by Henry Preston, the first Curator and Founder, & 20th century additions included material about the Dambusters Raid, Sir Isaac Newton & Edith Smith, the first British Policewoman

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There’s also memories of the well-known satire programme Spitting Image

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5. The gardens between the two roads are very well kept & a feature of the area…

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In the middle, beside a beautiful old tree’s another large statue. This one’s of Grantham’s favourite adopted son Isaac Newton, who was educated in the town

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Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist & mathematician widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time & a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for classical mechanics

Newton’s Principia formulated the laws of motion & universal gravitation, which dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. By deriving Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, & then using the same principles to account for the trajectories of comets, the tides, the precession of the equinoxes, & other phenomena, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the Solar System. This work also demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth & of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. His prediction that Earth should be shaped as an oblate spheroid was later vindicated by the measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, & others, which helped convince most Continental European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over the earlier system of Descartes

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Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope & developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours of the visible spectrum. He formulated an empirical law of cooling, studied the speed of sound, & introduced the notion of a Newtonian fluid

6. The building that Newton’s got his back to is Grantham Guildhall, & a lovely building it is too. The Guildhall & jail on St Peter’s Hill in Grantham was commissioned in 1866 by Mayor Thomas Winter after criminal Jesse Dale, who was serving 15 years for stealing, twice walked out of the town’s original jail in 1864

The original Guildhall & jail building stood on the corner of Guildhall Street & High Street & dated from 1787. After Jesse’s second escape, the governor at the time William Mayer was sacked & a government inspector condemned the building. The inmates had to be sent to Lincoln. The site of the demolished Guildhall was bought by the Stamford, Boston & Spalding Bank (later Barclays) & is now home to the Goose at the Bank pub

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On the current Guildhall site was an old school, The Firs, housed in a former town house. The original Guildhall was made up of three separate buildings – the main building which housed a ballroom & courtroom (or session’s hall), a governor’s residence & a jail for up to 18 men & women on two floors. However, although it seemed no expense had been spared on the building, officers from the South Lincolnshire Militia were less than happy to find it was missing a certain facility when they booked to use the hall – a toilet. At this point, councillors agreed one should be installed to avoid further embarrassment

The new Guildhall was also home to the four-sided clock which was the first time many of the town’s residents would have had the luxury of telling the time with any accuracy. It was this fact that coined the local phrase ‘under the clock’ meaning, ‘to appear in court’. As late as 1930, publican Frank Milner of the Victoria Hotel, Commercial Road, was let off with a caution for serving out of hours because he set his time by the clock which was, & still is, a little slow

In 1882 an area of the building was leased to cigar makers Robinson & Barnsdale & 15 years later, to the Grantham Technical Institute. Staff who work at the Guildhall today are convinced it’s home to a cigar-smoking ghost as, on occasions, the strong smell of cigar smoke will appear in one or more rooms & then after a few minutes, disappear as quickly as it came

Today it’s a thriving arts centre with some star names bringing their shows to town

7. Follow the railings round into Avenue Road & cross over down Castlegate…

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ALIVE Church on the corner began life on 12th January 2014, however this was not the beginning of the story. The story actually began 30 years ago when, in 1983, two churches in Lincoln came together to form New Life Christian Fellowship. These two churches were ‘Evangel Church’, an Assemblies of God church under the leadership of John Shelbourne & John Phillips, & ‘Lincoln Free Church’ which was under the leadership of Stuart Bell. The newly formed church benefited from the background of both churches & found a new identity with a vision to reach the city & region

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For many years New Life Lincoln grew in size & influence both locally & nationally. In 2007 they decided to launch their first location outside of Lincoln in Grantham

8. Continue along Castlegate where we glimpse our first view of the church with an incredible spire which we’ll visit shortly…

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On the left’s one of the town’s most famous public houses…the Beehive

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The Beehive public house in Grantham sported a real bee hive as its pub sign. The hive was located in a tree that grew directly in front of the pub & had a plaque, bearing the following poem:

Stop Traveller! This wondrous sign explore
And say, when thou has viewed it o’er,
Grantham, now two rarities are thine:
A lofty steeple and a living sign

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9. Further down this street is the Castlegate Inn who look like they’re getting ready for Euro 2016

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10. At the junction turn left into Finkin Street…

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Despite the weather this is an interesting little street with some buildings worth a look at including Christchurch

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Finkin Street Methodist Church is a Grade II listed building. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in 1840 & was the childhood church of Margaret Thatcher. The chapel has a lectern dedicated to Thatcher’s father Alfred Roberts who was a lay preacher here. In 2010 it was decided, following a vote involving around 50 members of the congregation, that the church should be sold. The chapel is now known as Christchurch & is used by a union of Methodist & United Reformed Church congregations

11. Turn first right down Elmer Street. We’re getting closer to the spire now…

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…but first turn right into Bluegate. There’s many references to ‘Blue’ in the town. When Charles II, whose symbol was the ‘Royal Oak’ was defeated in the Battle of Worcester in 1651, it was decided by the local land owner, the Duke of Buckminster, that a pub we’ll see later needed a new name

At the time he paid his staff in blue tokens, blue being the colour of his political allegiance. To signify where the staff could use their ‘wages’ the canny Duke named all his outlets with blue in the name. All his pubs had the name of an animal prefixed with blue. Blue Pig, Blue Bull, Blue Dog and Blue Horse to name a selection, some of the original pubs have unfortunately closed but none have ever decided to rename themselves

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Bluegate is the street that the Duke’s merchants traded from & yes, there is still a pair of blue gates at the street entrance today. When driving in the surrounding countryside farmers who lease from the current Duke still have to maintain blue gates on the fields

12. At the end of Bluegate turn left along Castlegate again…

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…to finally arrive at St Wulfram’s Church which we’ll have a look at shortly

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First though on the right’s a huge stone property known as Grantham House which is owned by The National Trust. A town house, built in 1380, it has architectural features from various eras & a riverside walled garden. The house is a Grade I listed building, with additional separate listings for the Stables & the garden wall. Unfortunately you don’t get the best view from Castlegate

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13. Opposite Grantham House turn left into Church Street. On the right’s the King’s School…

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Blue Plaques abound here. The King’s School has an unbroken history on the same site since its re-endowment in 1528 by Richard Foxe, although its history can be traced back to 1329. Nicholas Pevsner in his Buildings of England, dates the original School building to 1497. Foxe was born & raised locally. He entered into the service of Henry Tudor, while Henry was in exile in Brittany. When Henry took the throne of England as Henry VII, Foxe became his secretary & later founded Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1517) & Taunton Grammar School (1522). In the 16th century the School became known as the Free Grammar School of King Edward VI. Scholars numbered perhaps a few dozen at foundation & there were still fewer than one hundred until the 20th century

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Isaac Newton was a King’s School scholar between 1655 & 1660. As was customary in his time, he carved his signature on the wall of what is today’s school side hall, although the signature has never been confirmed as authentic; visitors from around the world come to view this indication of Newton’s education

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A replica of the signature is on display in Grantham Museum

14. Let’s pass into the churchyard & have a closer look at St Wulframs…

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It’s believed that a church stood on the site long before Norman times, but of the original Saxon church probably only a few stones, near the organ loft, remain. The church was totally altered by the Normans & the parts of their church may still be seen in the nave. From its foundation until the 18th century, it was the only church in the town, helping to explain its size in comparison with the churches at nearby Stamford. Although there were a number of religious cells in Grantham, including a Franciscan Friary, the Grey Friars, west of the market place, the wealth of the medieval wool trade was channelled into St Wulfram’s Church

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The church was restored in 1866-67 by Sir George Gilbert Scott. In November 2015 Fr Stuart Cradduck installed an artificial ice rink & more than 100 decorated Christmas trees in the nave of the church. He said, “No-one expects an ice rink inside a church… so let’s do something unexpected. Be something different & challenge people’s conceptions about who we are & what we are doing

We were back in the town & November 2016 & this year they’d arranged a superb beer festival with the church decked out with hops etc

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15. Pass around the church where there’s the town’s war memorial…

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…exiting through the west gates. On the right’s the rather lovely Hurst’s Almshouses

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16. Turn right along Swinegate & head towards the traffic lights at the junction with Brook Street – it really was throwing it down now

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17. Cross straight over into Broad Street & bear left round to North Parade…

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The corner shop on the corner has a place in British history

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Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain, was born Margaret Hilda Roberts in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 13 October 1925. Her father was Alfred Roberts, originally from Northamptonshire, & her mother was Beatrice Ethel (née Stephenson) from Lincolnshire. She spent her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned two grocery shops. She & her older sister Muriel were raised in the flat above the shop in the above picture

Margaret Thatcher still divides this town with some people wanting to erect a statue & others not. There’s also been talk of naming a road after her which hasn’t come to fruition

18. Continue round the corner & cross the road by the witty named tattoo parlour…

 IMG_7672…& follow it back to Swinegate where there’s one of the remaining “Blue” pubs – the Blue Pig

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The pub’s considered to be one of four remaining Tudor buildings in the town & is a survivor of the disastrous fires of the 1660s

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19. Turn right up the side of the pub into Vine Street which, at the end, broadens out into High Street once more

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Bear left pass Grantham’s most famous Hotel – the Angel & Royal. The Angel & Royal Hotel is said to be the oldest Inn in England. Whilst the front’s only 600 years old, the inn dates back to 1203, & was built as a hostel for the chivalrous Brotherhood of the Knights Templar

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It’s had many ‘royal’ visitors..King John (of Magna Carta fame) held court here in 1213 &, over the centuries, so did Richard III, Edward III, Charles I (as well as his enemy Oliver Cromwell) & George IV. But no one thought to add ‘Royal’ to the name of the hotel until 1866. What prompted the change was a visit by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Edward the Prince of Wales, & heir to the throne. This visit was finally considered to amount to royal patronage, & the old Angel Inn became the Angel & Royal Hotel

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One more recent ‘royal’ story goes as follows…when Prince William received his pilot’s wings at Lincolnshire’s RAF Cranwell in 2008, the Angel & Royal paid host to a young lady, known simply back then as Kate Middleton. Arriving late on a Sunday evening, the future princess impressed the staff with her total lack of airs & graces. Seeing the restaurant was closed & the tables had been set for breakfast the following morning, she asked for a bowl of cornflakes & munched on her impromptu snack in Reception, before heading to her room

20. Cross over the road down Butcher’s Row into the Market Place…

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There’s a bar down here that could be associated with Prime Ministers

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The Market Place contains some art worked linked with Isaac Newton. The Orrery by Paul Lewthwaite takes its inspiration from Newton’s First Law of Motion “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it”

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This means that if an object is moving in a curve or circle it must have a force acting upon it. Gravity is the force holding all the planets in orbit

21. Across the Market Place is the Market Cross. A cross has stood in this location since 1300. Demolished twice, in 1779 & 1884, & restored each time through public pressure

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Cross over to look at the Conduit, (or well head) which was built in 1597 to ensure a supply of fresh water to the town. The water was piped in from springs near Barrowby, using lead pipes originally laid by the Greyfriars in 1314

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22. With your back to the Conduit turn right into Westgate…

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On a shop over the road there appears to be a large dustpan attached to the wall. There used to be a shop here called The Little Dustpan. The store on Westgate was run by ironmongers Collards & sold everything you needed to keep your home in tip-top condition. Although the shop closed in 1982, the symbolic dustpan can still be seen on the building

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23. This is another lovely area of the town, especially as it opens out into Wide Westgate…

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Along here in the past were several of the ‘Blue’ pubs…remember them from earlier. Sadly the only remaining one along here is on the right, which is the Blue Cow & now that one’s for sale too…

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The Blue Cow Inn is a very old building dating back to 1273. It started life with one cottage, now the small dining area, with the bedroom above. In approximately 1550 two further cottages & an animal shelter were added. These now form the front bar & main restaurant. In the very early 1600’s all the rooms were knocked into one to allow a pub & Post Office to start trading

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The building’s haunted by two ghosts, one a lady that appears in a window, & the other a dog, however this only appears in February in one particular room. We hope someone takes this piece of history over soon

24. At the far end of Wide Westgate turn left back into Wharf Road…

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…& follow it round past Morrisons once more to where we started our walk

So…bedraggled, soaked to the skin & trying to protect the camera, what did we think about Grantham? Well…we thought it was a really rejuvenated little town, lots of individual shops & a real vibe about it

Well done Grantham, we loved visiting you. Now…about that Maggie statue…

Go Walk!