Grantham’s fortunes have been closely linked to those of the Great North Road. Enjoying a boom as a coaching stop then retreating into relative obscurity as the railways and bypasses have sped traffic on its way to the cities north and south.
The early North Road had followed Roman Ermine Street along the limestone edge a mile or two east of the town with traffic going to York via Lincoln and a ferry crossing the Humber. The Gough map of about 1360 shows that the North Road passed through Grantham. Traffic would have increased with the building of the bridge over the River Trent at Newark.
Place names near to Grantham (Barrowby, Gonerby and Somerby) indicate that this area started to gain significance in Viking times. The Domesday Book records Grantham as having a population of 1,100. The town developed during the medieval period as a centre for the wool trade and by the early 1300s had acquired an impressive church with a 282 foot spire.
Grantham was one of the 12 stops made by Edward I when he transported the body of Queen Eleanor from Lincoln to London for burial after her death in 1290. The Eleanor Cross that he erected at Grantham was destroyed during the civil war.
In 1686 a War Office return found 285 guest beds in the town and stabling for 351 horses. In 1725 the road north from Grantham was turnpiked and the road south to Stamford followed in 1739. In 1797 the Grantham Canal opened to navigation, linking the town with Nottingham and the Trent.
The Angel was just one of the many inns which prospered with the coaching trade. Founded in about 1203 as a hostel for the chivalrous Brotherhood of the Knights Templar the inn was extended in the mid 14th Century and again in the 15th Century. As the Angel and Royal it remains a popular hotel to this day.
By the end of the 18th century the Mail Hotel in the High Street was another leading inn with coaches to York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Scarborough, Whitby and Carlisle. The fare on the fastest stage coach to London, the York Mail, was £1 16s 0d for an inside seat, and the journey took 16 hours. The cheapest price was 14s for a seat ‘outside’ on the Highflier, which left Grantham at 6 pm and arrived in London at 12 o’clock the next day. By 1826 there were more people running hotels and taverns than were engaged in any other single trade.
Grantham has played its part in our scientific, industrial and political history.
In 1642 Isaac Newton was born in Woolsthorpe near Grantham and attended the famous King’s School in Grantham
During the 19th century local engineering business Richard Hornsby was a major innovator producing diesel engines before Rudolf Diesel and caterpillar tracked vehicles before Caterpillar.
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was born in Grantham in 1925. Her parents owned a grocers shop on North Parade on the edge of the town centre.
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