Grantham – a town with big ideas
Glynis Fox finds out how government funding is set to change the look and appeal of this historic town.
Three words which could describe Grantham’s aspirations for the coming months are: regeneration, transformation and ambition.
These might not be the first ones that come to mind for those driving along the main road and simply passing through the town, glimpsing the sight of empty shop units – but millions of pounds in government funding are being used to drive change.
So, why not park up and go exploring on foot because this destination is still home to plenty of “bricks and mortar” retailers and service businesses, and it has a busy arts venue and historic in-town attractions and others within a few miles.
Grantham’s many gems include its variety of cafés, and shops offering a wide range of goods and services, where customers are greeted with a smile and personal service – and more are keen to join them. The town also holds its traditional market on Saturdays.
South Kesteven District Council’s (SKDC) success in winning tranches of government funding, and its approaches to partnership working, promise more good news to come.
Grantham received £5.56 million in Future High Streets funding to deliver infrastructure projects in the town, with an additional £379,000 from SKDC. A £300,000 grant for Westgate Hall will also help to bring the former Corn Exchange (which dates from 1852) back into use.
SKDC Leader, councillor, Kelham Cooke said: “Town centre regeneration is about to start in Grantham to restore the former Corn Exchange, Westgate Hall, as well as make improvements to the Market Place.”
The town is also gearing up for the transformation of Station Approach – the important access gateway to the town from the railway station – and investment in the Market will create an open space to benefit the whole community.
“These positive developments are made possible by successful bids for government grants, which we are using to make improvements that will touch so many people’s lives,” said Councillor Cooke.
WESTGATE HALL RESTAURANT
The historic Grade II-listed Westgate Hall is being transformed to create a high-end new restaurant, with work funded by the Grantham Heritage Action Zone programme, through Historic England and SKDC.
A £300,000 grant for the Hall will be used to cover urgent repairs and necessary improvements to revamp the former Corn Exchange building so that it can be occupied once more. The remaining repair costs will be funded by the property owner and its new tenant will support the changes by paying for the décor, fixtures and fittings. The former nightclub and landmark building has been empty for five years.
Restaurateur Ade Adeshina is excited about creating a new destination eatery along the lines of his successful fine dining restaurant The Chubby Castor near Peterborough. Earlier this year, jobs were advertised by an Italian gelato dessert business, Oh My! Sugar Pie, which revealed its intention to open in The George Centre, off the High Street, serving up ice creams, waffles, crêpes, sundaes and much more.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
In addition to branches of national stores, Grantham’s traders cover jewellery, fashion, hairdressing, interiors shops, and there are haunts for those who love arts and crafts.
For more than 20 years, the town has had its own Grantham Business Club, which has more than 40 members. It exists to develop connections and expand networks, build knowledge and champion change within the local community.
The club, which will be hosting its next meeting on 21st April at the Kesteven Rugby Club (NG33 5AA) at 7.30am is keen to welcome more potential new members to try its friendly meetings during 2023.
Earlier this year, chair Shaun Whiting said: “2023 may well be another year of uncertainty, which is why it’s so important for Grantham businesses to support each other. This can take many forms, from buying locally through to recommending other businesses [and] offering a friendly ear and free advice.”
During 2022 the club made donations of £250 to the Newark and Grantham Foodbank, £250 to the Grantham Poverty Centre and, alongside Newark Business Club, £1,200 to the Children’s Bereavement Centre.
OUT AND ABOUT
Grantham makes a great place to base yourself, if you want to spend a weekend discovering the town and the many attractions a short drive away. The town boasts its own museum and its increasingly popular community-centred venue, the Guildhall Arts Centre. This is based in the old town hall in St Peter’s Hill.
If you enjoy live theatre, love listening to an unmissable comedian or just want to relax to live music, then why not check out its spring programme? The centre’s theatre welcomes professional touring shows, hosts lively amateur productions and is the place to find workshops and fairs. It can also be hired for conferences, private parties and wedding celebrations.
SKDC is keen to improve and invest in local arts and cultural venues and has reported that the Guildhall Arts Centre has seen visitor numbers increase to pre-pandemic numbers and they are continuing to grow.
The Arts Centre’s Spring Guide lists a variety of events to suit wide-ranging tastes, some featuring home-grown talent and others musicians and entertainers who have performed around the UK and beyond.
Grantham is a name linked with many famous people, from Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – whose statue stands in the town – to Sir Isaac Newton, who was educated at the King’s School.
St Wulfram’s Church was once described by Simon Jenkins as having the finest steeple in England and the town’s Angel & Royal Hotel (recognised as one of the oldest coaching inns in the UK) has played host to many kings and queens down the centuries.
The town may have started life as a Saxon village, which grew into a market town in the 11th century, but it has come a long way since.
There are also lots of places of interest to explore in the locality, including Belton House; Woolsthorpe Manor (birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton); Grimsthorpe Castle, Park and Gardens, near Bourne and Belvoir Castle, which lies six miles west of Grantham.
A SHOWCASE FOR INDEPENDENTS
Many of Grantham’s independent businesses continue to fly the flag for bricks and mortar retailing – even if they also have an online presence. They believe having shop premises, where they can showcase their goods and services and offer customers personal attention, plays a powerful role in their ongoing success.
Laura Longden of Laura Longden Interiors is about to celebrate her first year in business and she is thrilled with the way her venture is growing. In addition, she is working on her website, which she is hoping to launch a little later this year.
“I am an interior designer and I fulfilled a long-held ambition when I opened my shop in Westgate,” she said.
“It had been a huge dream of mine. Basically, I had been working for a similar company and running that business for several years when I thought, why don’t I start up myself?”
Laura uses her interiors expertise to advise both residential and commercial customers. Her shop is bursting with all sorts of products, ranging from tables to clocks, mirrors, lamps and much more.
“Things are going really well and the shop has already exceeded my expectations. I’m attracting customers from Grantham and further afield, including Lincoln and Newark and gaining new shoppers through word of mouth, as well as enjoying repeat business,” said Laura.
MD Jewellers, which was originally based in Welby Street, moved into Westgate 18 months ago. The business is headed by director James Rudge and employs five members of staff.
“Our USP [unique selling point] is that I am a working goldsmith and a member of the Master Craftsmen’s Society and we have our own onsite workshop which handles lots of repairs,” said James.
“We repair anything from a broken silver necklace to handling the restoration of an antique piece and we also sell antique and modern jewellery and watches. Our bespoke work and our design ability means we can make a new piece out of broken jewellery and produce something fresh using old, sentimental jewellery.”
MD Jewellers is happy to help local customers, but its services have also attracted customers from further afield, including Birmingham and Hampshire. The business also has international customers.
People who love art and crafts, and even having a go at creating things themselves, will be irresistibly drawn to Vine Street Studios, the home of upholsterer Rose Raw-Rees and textile artist Kathleen Lloyd.
Rose, who used to work from home, spotted the distinctive centuries-old property last year and decided to snap it up and Kathleen joined her. Together they have transformed the two-storey premises to create studio and workshop space, hiring space and a downstairs shop teeming with artisan goods.
Rose, who does all sorts of work, from re-upholstering antique and vintage furniture to accepting new commissions for anything from headboards to footstools, is delighted that she now has plenty of workspace.
Apart from her own interests, Kathleen is busy running the downstairs shop, where she displays and sells an amazing range of artisan products on behalf of about 10 different makers. It could be just the place to find that unique gift for a friend, or book an upcoming workshop.
FUN PLAY AREA OPENS
Youngsters aged nine and above are making the most of a new play area which has been officially opened at the Green Flag award-winning Wyndham Park. The new facilities have been funded by a £54,000 grant from the FCC Communities Foundation – which awards grants for community projects from funds donated by FCC Environment through the Landfill Communities Fund.
A “senior play” area – one of two dedicated apparatus areas – can be found at the lower end of the open playing field, which features equipment that the community told South Kesteven District Council it would like to see.
SKDC chairman, councillor Helen Crawford told guests at the opening: “This project offers a safe space, multiple activities and health benefits for visitors to the park.
“It was made possible through partnership funding from the FCC Communities Foundation, confirming the drive and commitment of both the FCC and SKDC to provide inclusive spaces for the community to enjoy.”
She thanked the FCC for its incredible input into Wyndham Park and the wider community.
“The Council would also like to thank the teams at play area specialists Sutcliffe and EKM Ltd for completing the installation and further offer praise to the Wyndham Park Forum and SKDC staff members who have contributed to this wonderful project.”
Wyndham Park Forum volunteer group chair Ian Simmons said: “We were delighted when we were given the opportunity to be involved with the application process last year, allowing us to contribute £500 in third party match funding – an important component of the grant application. The new playground has proved to be extremely popular, which shows how much it is enjoyed.”
Potentially life-saving equipment has been installed in Queen Elizabeth Park – thanks to a donation from Grantham Lions Club.
The Lions presented a defibrillator to South Kesteven District Council and the town’s residents. The move comes after the Lions previously supported the installation of defibrillators in Wyndham Park and Dysart Park.
Club president Phil Marshall said: “Whilst we hope that there will be no need to use the defibrillator, this equipment can be vital in helping people to survive and recover following a medical emergency.”
A defibrillator is used to restart the heart when someone has a cardiac arrest. For every minute that passes without defibrillation and CPR, the chances of survival can decrease by around 10%. In an emergency, a 999 operator can direct the caller to their nearest machine and Queen Elizabeth is now part of that network. SKDC cabinet member for People and Safer Communities, councillor Annie Mason thanked the Lions Club for their generous donation of the life-saving equipment and hoped the installation would provide reassurance to everybody visiting the park.
Green-fingered residents are reminded that they can get a helping hand to make their gardens top notch throughout the spring and summer. Being green is the key for 2023 after SKDC announced its fortnightly collections under its 2023/2024 Garden Waste Collection Service will be back on Monday 3rd April. The council is ready to help people by taking their garden waste away, saving them the trouble of loading up the family car and making trips to the tip.
Last year, more than 31,000 residents joined the scheme and, as we went to press, they were due to be reminded to renew the service – or join it for the first time.
SKDC’s Cabinet Member for Waste Services & Climate Change, councillor Mark Whittington said: “It’s easy to join online or by phone and we are confident that the service represents great value for money and saves residents time and trips to their local recycling centre.”
People can renew or register to use the scheme by paying by card or direct debit online at: www.southkesteven.gov.uk/greenbin
JMP SOLICITORS CELEBRATES MOVE TO CENTRAL GRANTHAM OFFICE
Award-winning legal firm JMP Solicitors has moved to a brand new headquarters in Grantham town centre.
The Lincolnshire-based law firm has been located at its Dysart Road site for the past 10 years and prior to this, was based at Newton Chambers. The move forms part of JMP’s ambitious plans to continue the expansion of its team, sectors and client portfolio at its accessible new headquarters at 10 Guildhall Street.
JMP Solicitors’ recent expansion has seen the appointment of six employees across its conveyancing, personal injury and private client teams – including Sharon Galley, a qualified licensed conveyancer bringing 17 years’ experience to the firm and new executives, Kirsty Andrew and Jennifer Coath.
Kirsty is a member of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices – and Jennifer is a qualified CILEX lawyer.
Kerry Davey also joins the private client team as a newly qualified solicitor with more than six years’ experience within the industry, and will advise clients on probate applications, wills and lasting powers of attorney.
Ian Howard, managing director at JMP Solicitors, said: “To facilitate our ambitious growth plans, the relocation of our headquarters was a huge milestone for us and a natural step for the business.
“In a prime position in the centre of town, close to neighbouring businesses and footfall, we’re looking forward to further expanding our team and client base in our new central location.”
For specialist legal advice, contact the team: www.jmp-solicitors.com
MARCH HARE TEA ROOMS “POP UP” AT GRIMSTHORPE
Famed for its tasty breakfast and lunch menus, as well as delicious afternoon teas, coffees and cakes, the popular March Mare Tea Rooms is going on the road this summer with a “pop up” café at the historic Grimsthorpe Castle, near Bourne.
From its headquarters in the picturesque market square of Corby Glen, near Grantham, this friendly, welcoming eatery led by owner Amy Roberts and her team, is setting up camp to provide simple, but delicious refreshments during Grimsthorpe’s summer season, which runs from 30th March to 28th September, including bank holidays.
Visitors to the castle and grounds can enjoy sampling a selection of popular dishes at the March Hare’s newly refurbished and branded Airstream trailer, which can also be hired out for events.
The March Hare also caters for vegetarian, gluten free and vegan-friendly requirements.
For more information visit www.marchharecorbyglen.co.uk
Tel: 01476 550108
6A Market Place, Corby Glen NG33 4NH
Photographs: Mick Fox