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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the October 2016 issue

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Go Grantham is the buzz phrase around the south Lincolnshire town as plans are in the pipeline to improve its prosperity, vibrancy and make it a better place to live, work and play.

It has much to be proud of with an award-winning park, a new multiplex cinema on the cards and a business club with an ambitious vision for the future.

Go Grantham Ltd is a not for profit company set up with the sole aim of developing a Business Improvement District (BID) in the town.

Led by the business community it aims to provide a catalyst, an injection of funds and lots of enthusiasm to push Grantham towards becoming an innovation growth hub, encouraging local investment and development opportunities.

Chairman of the Go Grantham team, Stuart Pigram, said the town was at a crossroads: “Having overcome the recession, our town has been through a significant amount of change. With new commercial investment in the area, the new cinema, as well as the start of the new relief road and various housing developments, Grantham is a growing town.

“As such the business community needs to develop with it and the Go Grantham BID is the opportunity to bring about significant investment to ensure that our town and our businesses become market leaders in the region.

“With Central Government reducing the amount of money available to local authorities, Grantham has found itself lagging behind other forward-thinking towns in Lincolnshire.”

A BID is a business-led and business-funded partnership formed to improve a local area. Businesses are given the opportunity to vote on collectively investing to make improvements to their trading environment. There are now more than 240 BIDs across the UK, delivering economic and environmental benefits.

“Although support and advice for businesses is readily available, it was apparent that Grantham needed more, in the way of funds and resources to develop projects led by the business community, to push Grantham further,” said Mr Pigram.

“With funding from South Kesteven District Council, a feasibility study was completed in 2015, simply asking whether Grantham businesses would support a BID and 84% of businesses in the study voted in favour.”

During the consultation process more than 130 businesses were consulted through direct contact, one-to-one meetings, group meetings or telephone conversations.

Every business was sent an informative letter to their premises inviting them to become involved in the consultation and two direct leaflet drops were carried out.

Ballot papers will be issued in November and voting closes on the 30th of that month, with the result due to be announced on 1st December.

“If Go Grantham BID reaches a successful vote, the projects will be delivered by a not for profit, limited by guarantee company, with all money being spent for the direct benefit of Grantham businesses,” said Mr Pigram.

If it is successful the BID arrangements will commence on 1st April 2017.

Plans to provide Grantham with a new multiplex cinema are a step closer with cinema companies being considered to operate the new complex. It is anticipated that a formal lease agreement could be signed in spring next year and work on the St Catherine’s Road site could begin in summer. The cinema could then be open for business twelve months later.

In May this year councillors agreed to consider the opportunity to enhance the original cinema scheme by creating an attractive pedestrian gateway.

This would involve knocking down part of the existing council buildings and creating a walkway into St Peter’s Hill. Further work is being carried out to evaluate the benefits of this ambitious development.

South Kesteven District Council Leader Councillor Bob Adams said: “Surveys and other work to prepare the site have been going on for some time to make sure we are getting the best outcome for the town and the council’s investment.

“We are committed to providing Grantham with a multiplex cinema which will provide a massive boost to the nighttime economy and be a springboard for the regeneration of the town centre.”

As well as the news about the cinema complex, Grantham’s Wyndham Park is officially one of the very best parks in the UK after earning a prestigious Green Flag Award for the fifth year running.

The award, now celebrating its twentieth year, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag flying overhead is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has a good range of facilities.

As well as the Green Flag success, SKDC and Grantham’s Wyndham Park Forum have received grant funding of £818,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund to finalise major plans to refurbish the park’s grounds and buildings.

A project will now aim to restore the park to its former glory as a First World War memorial park and build on its reputation as one of the district’s finest assets.

Development funding of £92,500 was awarded in 2014 to help the Forum and the Council progress their plans to apply for the full grant and will enable new and improved features and buildings based around the park’s heritage.

Councillor Adams, who is also SKDC’s Executive Member for Economy, said: “This is wonderful news for Wyndham Park, Grantham and South Kesteven.

“To secure this level of investment means the park will have the potential to be among the best in the East Midlands and our thanks go to forum members who gave valuable volunteer work and park users who gave us great feedback during consultations.”

Chairman of Wyndham Park Forum, John Knowles said: “This is a great reward for the time volunteers and officials have put into this effort that will truly transform parts of the park.

“It’s even more poignant that this funding has been secured a century on from the time when the park was built in memory of local people who fought during the First World War.”

Forum secretary Elizabeth Bowskill said the Heritage Lottery grant would be used for works such as repairing the leak in the model boating lake and refilling it with water, cosmetic repairs to the arched entrance and the memorial black and white shelter, repairs to the former ticket office which will house rooms for community use and a volunteer hub and repairs to some of the former changing room buildings for use as storage for equipment for various user groups within the park.

It will also be used to demolish the old former garage, to allow room to build a brand new visitor centre.

“We are trying to recapture the park as it was when it first opened. There is also a substantial element in the budget for an activity plan, which will happen over a three-year period – beyond the end of the building phase which is aimed at drawing in more volunteers and more people using the park all the year round,” said Elizabeth.

“The future for Wyndham Park should be a good one. The purpose of this investment is to make it fit for purpose for the next 100 years, to encourage more people to learn about its importance historically and to continue to provide a great place to visit.

“The programme of activities should allow for the recruitment of more volunteers and a greater range of events throughout the year.”

Wyndham Park is one of three parks in Grantham and its significance is that it was developed in the early 1920s as the Town War Memorial to those who lost their lives in World War One, being formally opened in July 1924.

“It is still an important area of open green space for everyone to use – although some of the significance of the memorial aspect is less well known,” said Elizabeth.

The Wyndham Park Forum (WPF) has been in existence since 2005 and was established with the aim of achieving Green Flag status and more.

“Work on the HLF project has been a collaboration between SKDC and the WPF and has taken many years of hard work and determination to see the project come to fruition,” said Elizabeth.

“It is very gratifying that Wyndham Park is consistently able to maintain its high standards to achieve the Green Flag.”

FINE HERITAGE FOR MONUMENTAL MASONS
There are headstones in local churchyards dated to the early part of the 1860s with GH Linnell inscribed on the back confirming that this firm has been in existence since that time. George Linnell was both an architectural and monumental mason, he built and owned several of the houses Redcross Street. He was Lord Major of Grantham in the early years of the twentieth century and a well-respected businessman throughout his later years until his death in 1912. His wife carried on the business for a short while until her death in 1920; as they had no male heirs, the business was sold. The fortunes of GH Linnell are a little hazy here, however it was taken over by B Brammer & Sons (who owned several such businesses in the surrounding market towns) in the 1930s. 

The present owner Peter Cole (B Brammer & Son’s last apprentice) acquired the business in a sadly rundown state in 1981. Together with his wife Elizabeth and latterly their son Simon have taken the business from strength to strength. Their work has included repairs to the King’s School, the Market Cross, and the Conduit. For several years we carried out work and repairs to Grimsthorpe Castle and Carlton Scroop Church.

Linnells recently undertook to add to the War Memorial at Caythorpe on behalf of the Australian Airforce and supplied a Memorial to the late comedienne Hattie Jacques’ father in Grantham Cemetery.

JOHN CUSSELL JEWELLERS
Grantham is home to one of the largest independent jewellery retailers in the county.

Established in 1979, John Cussell Jewellers in Westgate boasts an onsite workshop providing an ‘in-house’ service for commissions, repairs and remodelling.

Owner John Cussell, who is a Freeman of the Company of Goldsmiths, is one of the world’s most skilled goldsmiths and silversmiths and has been creating jewellery and silverware for more than forty years.

He has been commissioned by clients such as De Beers for the Queen Elizabeth and King George VI Diamond Stakes Cup at Ascot, Saab Motors, Lincoln Cathedral and Radley College.

A consultation area is available in the shop for customers to discuss designs and view selected stones that might be used in their chosen ring or pendant and if you have to wait to see John you will receive a free voucher for a drink at the nearby Picture Cafe.

John Cussell Jewellers also has a large and interesting selection of nine carat and eighteen carat red, yellow and white gold, platinum and diamond jewellery as well as designs in silver, including cuff links, earrings, pendants, chains, bracelets, bangles and brooches.

It stocks famous branded names such as Nomination (Italian), Edblad (Danish), Coeur de Lion (German), Jools, Banyan, Claudia Bradby (pearls) and Nick Hubbard (Birmingham).

Having a friendly, knowledgeable staff to help source that important gift, whatever the budget, is so important, and there is even an activity table and chairs with teddies and books to read for the children.

GRANTHAM MUSEUM
The local history museum in Grantham may be small in size but it has a big presence in the town.

Situated next to the impressive Victorian Guildhall Arts Centre in St Peter’s Hill, the museum attracts visitors from far and wide including Japan and America.

Visitor numbers for last year were 7,219 which meant an average of forty-six people per day passed through its doors over the three days a week it was open.

Grantham Museum was founded by local dignitary Henry Preston in the early twentieth century and is now operated by the Grantham Community Heritage Association.

Exhibitions director Christine Robbins said the museum was run by a team of dedicated volunteers: “We are a volunteer-led organisation and rely on the volunteers to keep the museum open. They are the lifeblood of the organisation and they have to work very hard to keep it going.

“It is a small museum and we can’t make it any bigger spacewise, but one of our strengths is that it is small enough for people to pop in and have a look round, whereas in the big museums you don’t have time to see everything in one visit. We want to tell the story of our town through the eyes of local people.

The museum closed in 2010 because of Lincolnshire County Council’s budget cuts but reopened in 2012 as a self-funding independent museum.

“We have a number of permanent exhibitions featuring the Dambusters, Isaac Newton and Margaret Thatcher. And we have just had a bequest of some silver from the Thatcher estate which has gone on display,” said Christine.

“There is a temporary display area where the museum features different exhibitions three times a year and we have offices to let out as well.”

The museum hosts a lot of events aimed at attracting people into the building who wouldn’t normally think about visiting.

“Interestingly enough we have seen an increase in people popping in while waiting for something in the town, who end up staying longer than they intended. The key is to get people through the door who don’t think museums have anything to offer them,” said Christine.

“Our next project is to get teenagers into the museum. Some Travel and Tourism students visited the museum and did a survey around the peer group to see who had been to the museum. It revealed that the majority of them knew where it was but most of them hadn’t been because they didn’t think there would be anything interesting for them.”

The museum underwent a refurbishment last year, which saw one of the walls removed to create more space in the building.

“That really opened the museum up and made it so much nicer to be in. We also discovered it had the most beautiful parquet flooring which tells the story of how the museum has been used.”

The museum has a big Twitter presence with 1,060 followers and also has great support from Facebook users.

“A fair proportion of those are from overseas, from very diverse places. We also have a lot of overseas visitors. They don’t come to the UK for Grantham but we have a lot of Japanese and American visitors who come to Grantham to see Margaret Thatcher’s exhibits,” said Christine.

“Harlaxtan Manor is also part of an American university whose students come over for three months at a time. A lot of the students are interested in Isaac Newton and they are sometimes in tears when they think they are in the place where Isaac Newton has been.”

The museum also works hard to encourage children to visit the museum on a regular basis.

“We have a children’s dressing-up area where they can dress as Margaret Thatcher, Isaac Newton or even a punk from the ’70s. That is very popular and we have lots of craft sessions for children, as well as loan boxes for schools to use in the classroom.

“What is interesting is that when we have had school visits in the morning, a few times children have come back in the afternoon after school with a parent to have a look round.”

At the moment the museum is just beginning to prepare for its January 2017 exhibition The Past Under our Feet, which features field archaeology, metal detecting, things hidden in plain sight, and unknown underground Grantham.

In December it will also be the venue for the giant Game of Thrones embroidery on tour exhibition which was exhibited in London earlier this year. Created by the Embroiderers Guild, Grantham is thought to be the only venue in the East Midlands hosting this exhibition.

“Museums have moved on so much, so we have to try and make it more interactive,” explained Christine.

WELCOME TO THE WELBY
The Welby Arms, Allington is a popular country pub providing good food, a well managed bar and overnight accommodation.

It is a favourite stop for travellers on the A1 and also an excellent base for a short break for those wanting to explore the delights of South Lincolnshire. Belton House and Woolsthorpe Manor, birthplace and family home of Sir Isaac Newton, (both National Trust properties) and Belvoir Castle, home of the Duke of Rutland, are all close by. Burghley House and Grimsthorpe Castle are half an hour away by car, as are the cities of Lincoln, Nottingham and Peterborough. The historic towns of Grantham and Newark are only fifteen-minute drive and the countryside around Allington is a delight for walkers and cyclists.

Christmas and New Year bookings are now being taken. Call 01400 281361 for more details.

TEASPOON TEA COMPANY
Opened in 2014 by Pamela and Lance Merryweather, this modern teashop serves loose leaf teas and espresso coffee in a cool contemporary setting. The focus of the teashop is clearly on high quality delicious loose leaf tea and beautifully baked pastries, homemade cakes and scones.

With 40 different teas to pick from there’s one to suit all tastes but whether you choose an English Breakfast or an Orange Pekoe, your tea arrives at your table with a tea timer and you are advised on the optimum brewing time.

The perfect pairing for your tea has to be one of many homemade cakes. There’s a vegan chocolate cake with chocolate teaspoons and a gingerbread cake with Grantham’s original gingerbread on each slice.

For lunch, a triangular savoury scone is an absolute must. Served with sliced apple, cheddar and local chutney they are a great alternative to a sandwich. The artichoke and spinach scone features in the Lincolnshire Cookbook.

For an extra special treat join Teaspoon Tea Company for an afternoon tea, starting with a chilled glass of Green Lady No 1. Enjoy three layers of delicious sandwiches, savoury scones, cakes and sweet fruit scones and a pot of loose leaf tea. Book by calling or online through the website or open table app.

THE WHEEL INN, BRANSTON
For any of you who have visited The Wheel Inn, Branston near Grantham, recently you may have noticed a few changes including a new owner, Matthew Marsden.

Matthew was born and grew up only a couple of miles away in the village of Eaton. Ten years ago he started working in the pub before moving away to pursue other dreams, including becoming a snowboarding instructor in Canada. He then moved back to the area to fulfil his ambition of owning a bar and restaurant when he took the opportunity to buy The Wheel Inn.

Matthew said: “My biggest passion is making people happy and interacting with them. I get a great pleasure from making sure that our customers have a great experience when they visit us.”

There is plenty to keep customers entertained, with a forthcoming beer and wine festival and wine tasting evening.

Over the next few months Matthew has plenty of ideas for changes, including extensive work to the beer garden in preparation for next summer and the renovation of an outdoor barn to make the perfect venue for any special occasion.

Visit The Wheel Inn at Main Street, Branston, NG32 1RU or visit www.thewheelinnbranston.co.uk for further details.

THE GEORGE
Grantham has a diverse range of retailers in the town offering an interesting shopping experience to visitors of all ages.

Not only does it have its high street shops and its weekly market, there are also two shopping centres both of which have been part of the fabric of the town for decades.

Situated in the heart of Grantham, The George is a ‘boutique’ shopping and business centre with a mix of both smaller independent retail outlets and High Street names such as Pizza Express and Edinburgh Woollen Mill, as well as fabulous tea and coffee shops to name but a few.

The centre stands on the site of the old George Hotel, which was once an impressive local hostelry built in 1780 and it still retains many of its fine features including the Oriel windows, carved staircase and cornices.

Although the George Hotel was built during the reign of George III – following a fire which wiped out many properties in that area – there had been a hostelry on the site for at least three centuries before that.

As a coaching inn, The George was a popular overnight stop between London and the North, endorsed by Charles Dickens who in Nicholas Nickleby described it as one of the finest inns in England.

In 1990 the site was converted into the indoor shopping centre we see today, using the architectural splendour of the former hotel, which is now a listed building.

Grantham’s market dates back even further as the original charter was granted by King Richard III in 1484 with the rights to hold a market every Wednesday.

As Grantham is situated on the Great North Road, Grantham market was a main centre of trade with no other markets located within seven miles.

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