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Grantham is a market town within the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It bestrides the East Coast Main Line railway (London-Edinburgh), the historic A1 main north-south road, and the River Witham. Grantham is located approximately 26 miles (42 km) south of the city of Lincoln, and approximately 24 miles (39 km) east of Nottingham. The resident population at the 2001 census was 34,592 in around 18,000 households, excluding the adjacent village of Great Gonerby. With the housing estates in Londonthorpe and Harrowby Without (around a population of 4,500), this figure would be around 42,000.

Grantham is home to the Church of St Wulfram.

The town is best known as the birthplace of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and the place where Isaac Newton went to school. It is close to an ancient Roman road, and 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, in 1914, and producing the first running diesel engine in 1892, and the UK’s first tractor in 1896.

The origin of the name “Grantham” is uncertain, though is said to probably be Old English language “Granta+ham”, meaning “Granta’s village”, and appeared as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book in its present form of Grantham. The Roman name for the river Witham was “Granta”.

The town boundary crosses the A1 to the west at the Dysart Road bridge. North of there it lies to the east of the A1. It crosses the B1174 at Gonerby Hill. All of the Manthorpe estate is a part of the town, but the (smaller) Manthorpe village and the church are part of Belton and Manthorpe. The boundary then follows Green Lane, bordering the parish of Harrowby. It passes to the west of Harrowby Hall and over Hall’s Hill. It then crosses the A52 at the start of Somerby Hill, borders Little Ponton and crosses the B1174 at the southern end of the Spittlegate Level Industrial Estate.

The origin of the name “Grantham” is uncertain, though is said to probably be Old English language “Granta+ham”, meaning “Granta’s village”, and appeared as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book in its present form of Grantham. The Roman name for the river Witham was “Granta”.

Late neolithic vessels from a burial were found at Little Gonerby, in the north of the town, in 1875.

In Grantham Queen Edith had 12 carucates to the geld. There is no arable land outside the vill. Queen Edith had a hall, and 2 carucates and land for 3 ploughs without geld. 111 burgesses. Ivo has one church and four mills rendering 12s and eight acres of meadow without geld. The land of Bishop Osmond. In Londonthorpe … is land for two ploughs. this land belongs to the church of Grantham. In Spittlegate St. Wulfram of Grantham has half a carucate of land to the geld. In Great Gonerby, St. Wulfram of Grantham has 1 carucate of land. there is land for twelve oxen.

In 1363 Grantham Castle was granted to Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and fifth son of Edward III of England, It was north-east of St Wulframs, and has its legacy in the naming of Castlegate.

Grantham received its Charter of Incorporation in 1463.

The town developed when the railway came to the town. The Nottingham line (LNER) arrived first in 1850, then the London line (GNR) – the Towns Line from Peterborough to Retford – arrived in 1852. The Boston, Sleaford & Midland Counties Railway arrived in 1857.

Until the 1970s the housing estates west of the town centre were green fields. Green Hill, on the A52, was literally a green hill.

During the famous Dams Raids Royal Air Force (RAF) mission in May 1943, the RAF Bomber Command’s No. 5 Group and the operation HQ was in St Vincents, a building which later housed a district council planning department. It was built by Richard Hornsby in 1865, lived in by Richard Hornsby’s son, and is now a private house. In 1944 (including D-Day), this was the headquarters for the USAAF’s Ninth Air Force’s IX Troop Carrier Command, being known as Grantham Lodge. During the early part of the war Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet lived in the town.

RAF Spitalgate trained pilots during both world wars, initially as a Royal Flying Corps establishment, but has never been an operational fighter or bomber base; although it did see operational service during the 1943 invasion of Europe as a base for American and Polish gliders and parachutists. It officially closed in 1974. The WRAF had been there since 1960, and moved to RAF Hereford (now the home of the SAS).

RAF Spitalgate is now a Territorial Army (RLC) barracks called Prince William of Gloucester Barracks. Grantham College use the site for football development. The large mast on the base was part of the BT microwave network.

The RAF Regiment was formed just north east of the town in parts of Londonthorpe and Harrowby Without during December 1941 with its headquarters at RAF Alma Park which is recognised as the birthplace of the Corps. The Alma Park and Belton Park estates had jointly also been the training centre for the Machine Gun Corps from November 1915. In total Harrowby Camp as it was known housed 18,000 men during World War I.

The RAF Regiment quickly grew to in excess of 66,000 personnel and during training they were housed at RAF Belton Park which was the Regiment’s first depot, RAF Folkingham and RAF North Witham. The RAF Regiment stayed until August 1946, when they left for RAF Catterick.

Grantham is notable as being the first place in the world after London to recruit and train women police officers. Grantham was the first provincial force to ask the newly formed Corps of Women’s Police Volunteers to supply them with occasional policewomen, recognising them as particularly useful for dealing with women and juveniles. In December 1914 Miss Damer Dawson, the Chief of the Corps, came to Grantham to supervise the preliminary work of the women police. The officers stationed at Grantham were Miss Allen and Miss Harburn. (Grantham Journal, 19.12.1914) In 1915, Grantham magistrates swore in Mrs Edith Smith, making her the first proper policewoman in Britain with full powers of arrest.

In 1905 Richard Hornsby (1790-1864) & Sons of Grantham (founded 1815) invented the revolutionary caterpillar track, for use with Hornsby’s oil engines; these engines were developed by Yorkshireman Herbert Akroyd Stuart, from which compression-ignition principle the diesel engine evolved, being manufactured in Grantham from 8 July 1892. Although these engines were not wholly compression-ignition derived, later in 1892 a prototype high-pressure version was built at Hornsby’s, developed by Thomas Henry Barton OBE – later to be the founder of Nottingham’s Barton Transport, whereby ignition was achieved solely (100%) through compression; it ran continuously for six hours, being the first known diesel engine. In the town, Hornsby’s built Elsham House (the grounds became Grantham College) and the Shirley Croft. Their site on Houghton Road was bought from Lord Dysart.

In 1909, Hornsby’s showed the British Army their invention, who were bemused, but took the idea no further than that, although they subsequently bought four caterpillar tractors in 1910 to tow artillery. A short time later, Hornsbys sold the patent for the caterpillar track in 1914 to The Holt Manufacturing Company of California, USA for $8,000, having only sold one caterpillar tractor commercially. Hornsby’s design was far ahead of anything else around at the time. Thanks to the ownership of the patent, this company would become the world-dominating Caterpillar Inc. Tractor Company. Benjamin Holt even claimed to be the real inventor. In December 1914 the British Army’s Colonel Ernest Swinton saw one of Holt’s caterpillar tractors towing a piece of artillery, and realised its ground-breaking potential as an attack vehicle. One year later the tank was born (using Hornsby’s initial designs), being made in nearby Lincoln by William Foster. It first saw action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916.

In 1918 Hornsby’s amalgamated with Rustons and the company became Ruston and Hornsby. In the 1920s the company had their own orchestra in the town; the site was a diesel engine plant. Later during World War II, the company would make tanks such as the Matilda at the Grantham factory. R & H left in 1963 and most of the factory was taken over by a subsidiary, Alfred Wiseman Gears, who left in 1968.

Aveling & Porter of Rochester, Kent, would join with Barford & Perkins of Peterborough to become Aveling-Barford Ltd in 1934, largely due to financial help from Ruston & Hornsby, when both companies had entered administration. The new company took a former site of Hornsbys, naming it the ‘Invicta’ works, from the motto on the coat of arms of Kent, and translates as ‘unconquered’; all of Aveling & Porter’s machinery was brought from Kent via the train.

During the 1970s it was the town’s largest employer with around 2,000 employees. It initially prospered but with the sinking market for large dumper trucks and road rollers declined. Their agricultural division was based at Belton, which in 1947 developed the world’s smallest tractor, the Barford Atom, weighing 177 lbs.

Now as Barford Construction Equipment, it makes dumpers for construction sites, being owned by Wordsworth Holdings PLC, owned in turn by the entrepreneur Duncan Wordsworth until it went into administration. In March 2010, Wordsworth Holdings went into administration. A restructuring package resulted in ownership transferring to Bowdon Investment Group in May 2010, and is known as Invictas Engineering.

A trailer company, Crane-Fruehauf, moved into part of the factory, from its former home of Dereham, when it went into receivership in early 2005.

British Manufacture and Research Company (British Marc Ltd or BMARC), on Springfield Road, made munitions notably the Hispano cannon for the Spitfire and Hurricane from 1937 onwards. It was owned by the Swiss company Oerlikon from 1971 until 1988, becoming part of Astra Holdings plc then being bought by British Aerospace in 1992, who then closed the site. It has now been developed as a housing estate. The site’s former offices are now business units for the Springfield Business Centre. Grantham’s register office was moved there in 2007, due to the catering service being up to wedding reception standard, and Berketex Bride (a national company) is based there.

Many traditions have taken place over the years, many of which have been forgotten. There is the Grantham Parade and the Grantham Festival both of which take place every year. There used to be an annual pig drive through the centre of the town until 1962, when it was deemed too dangerous; this tradition dated back to 1755, when pig farmers from the area used to move pigs to greener pastures.

The town is known for its Gingerbread biscuits. During the old coaching days Grantham was one of the stopping places of the Royal Mail Coach and while the horses were being changed at the George Hotel, passengers would stroll down the street and invariably purchase a supply of Grantham Whetstones, which were the first form of biscuits ever offered for sale. Then in 1740, a local tradesman, named William Egglestone, made an accidental discovery. In bygone days business premises were always closely shuttered and as part of Egglestone’s business was that of a baker, he went into his shop one Sunday morning to procure the ingredients for making some cakes for his family’s consumption but in the semi darkness of the shop, he mistook one ingredient for another and it was not until the cakes were baking that he discovered his mistake. The little cakes before being placed in the oven, were cut out with a wine glass and should have remained that size when baked, but instead of which they rose up and became nearly twice the size. Anyway he ventured to taste them, as also did members of his family and they were pronounced most excellent and of a very delicate flavourn afterwards offering them for sale in his shop under the name of Grantham Gingerbreads. Their fame spread north and south of the Great North Road which soon spelt prosperity for Mr. Egglestone whose recipe was passed to his successors, the present day Catlins whose premises still occupy the original shop erected on High Street in 1560.

The food-processing industry, with Grantham Hospital, is currently the largest employer of Grantham’s population; in town this included Fenland Foods (part of Northern Foods) on the Earlesfield Industrial Estate, which was mothballed in September 2008 following the loss of business with Marks and Spencer, their sole customer; and Moypark (formerly Padleys) in Gonerby Hill Foot.

Seven miles from Grantham at Easton there are two large facilities. The first is Norbert Dentressangle who bought Christian Salvesen Plc in November 2007 and have maintained the frozen storage and distribution operation which has been at the site since the late sixties. The second is McCain Foods who purchased Potato Allied Services (PAS) in 1991 who had run a potato processing factory on site since the early seventies. This has since been extended to include a dedicated Fries-To-Go factory. There was a third large frozen vegetable processing factory owned and operated by Christian Salvesen. However this was sold to Pinguin Foods in August 2007 who closed the facility in December 2008. Brake Bros Ltd have a depot near the Gonerby Moor service station, off the B1174.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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