The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Grantham Gingerly

The market town of Grantham in Lincolnshire with a population of around 35,000 was twice voted ‘Most boring town in Britain’ and it’s said that some locals began to take a somewhat perverse pride in the tag at that time. Since those days the town has grown in size if not necessarily reputation due to it’s commutability to London via the main London-Edinburgh railway line.

Probably the two most well-known inhabitants of Grantham were Sir Isaac Newton and Margaret Thatcher and both these figures are paid tribute to in the town, Newton with a statue and a plaque at his former school whilst Thatcher’s birthplace at her father’s grocery store is also commemorated.

Thatcher birthplace, originally the Roberts grocery store

Like many similar towns, Grantham is a mixture of ancient buildings and extremely ugly modern ones. Whilst visiting I visited three of the oldest in the town in The Angel and Royal Hotel, and pubs, The Blue Pig and The Beehive. The former had large areas of medieval architecture still viewable inside and out and was a truly atmospheric building. I and friends sat in the original Georgian courtyard, a welcome cool haven after a strenuous walk along the Grantham Canal earlier, and admired the way the building had been lovingly kept.

The Angel and Royal Hotel

The Blue Pig

Locating The Blue Pig was a real stroke of fortune. This ancient public house was an absolute gem and had a friendly welcome to match. As we ate honest and simple, value for money dinners, we had great entertainment from other nearby customers too! Firstly a group of middle-aged people trooped into the bar wearing flamboyant 1970s’ ‘gear’. We hoped that they really were heading for a fancy dress night and that Grantham hadn’t slipped that far behind the times. The indications were not clear however. Momentarily we considered whether we appeared as ‘themed drinkers’ too – themed as people who head out for a pint on an evening dressed as hikers. We quickly dismissed that thought though. Secondly a small group of drinkers who were really old enough to know better continued an angry-looking discussion which transcended into lots of finger-pointing and red faces. What regular fun that group must have on an evening out.

In the mood now, we headed to another pub/coaching house courtyard situation that almost every market town in England seems to have. Now here were the local Grantham glitterati in all their finery. There was no shortage of ‘mam and dad’ tattoos nor little inked-in swallows on (red) necks either. Women of a certain age and some indeterminate, in various stages of undress passed through the courtyard in their regular Saturday night ritual as we at passively with our drinks biting our lips.

Onward to The Beehive then. Apparently old enough to be out on its own, the building was erected in all of 1550. This was not the only notable thing about the cosy little pub though as outside resides a ‘living pub sign’ made from an actual beehive complete with bees.

The Beehive Inn’s beehive

After being bored by an over-familiar and curious local who assured us that we had probably missed out last train home to Nottingham, we drunk up and headed briskly for the train station and the 22.24 service. This was not without some potential incident however as one back street we unfortunately chose to walk along contained the local chav youth corps whiling their time away. A couple of pushy teenagers followed us mouthing some type of youth patois that was largely unintelligible. Perhaps fortunately for them we were in a hurry for the last train as there were four males with large walking boots on and a drink or two inside us, in our party of five.

My overall impressions of Grantham during this brief evenings visit were very mixed then. It had been explained to us by one of our party who had worked in the area that there were/are some truly dire areas of housing in the area and this was not difficult to believe with that little brush at the end of the evening. In fairness however, this needs to be balanced against some of the nicely kept history in the area and what was generally a nice experience. One had the feeling that perhaps a lot of the residents who ventured out socially that evening had maybe headed out to some of the pleasant villages in the area and that Grantham suffered because of that. Certainly the town of Grantham has not forgotten to live up to its former image in some respects and retains a serviceable aura rather than an exciting or even interesting one. Any visitor to the area could do far worst than visit one of two of the hostelries I mention here though – perhaps after a little history lesson seeking out the story of Sir Isaac Newton, the man who put the Lincolnshire town on the map originally.

September 21, 2007 - Posted by | On The Road | , , ,

6 Comments

  1. While on your visit you picked a couple of pubs tucked away in a back street where unfortunately you met a couple of youths probabley the worse for where on drink or drugs,
    dont let that put anyone off visiting this town we are not all bad after all you can find them in any town or city anywhere in the world.
    Next time you visit and want a drink try the Nobody Inn they got a great selection of beers and a friendly welcome they dont do food but Asda is just over the road if you get hungry.

    Comment by Trev | March 31, 2008

  2. Hello Trev, thanks for the comments.

    Where the pubs were was just fine. The trouble we encountered was in a residential area near the railway station. It was quite a large gang and it would have been easy to have felt threatened. I agree thought that unfortunately this type of thing is sadly rife everywhere these days.

    It didn’t spoil what on the whole had been a most enjoyable afternoon/evening in Grantham, after a walk that had taken us along the Grantham Canal from Bottesford. I’d encourage anyone to visit the pubs we did. Thanks for the tip re the Nobody Inn.

    Comment by Stuart | March 31, 2008

  3. I have enjoyed visiting your site and will certainly return! If you return to Grantham, I can certainly recommend The Nobody Inn. Come on 6 September 2008 when you will hear the best live music in the area – that’s if you like progressive rock, blues and jazz – from the local band SHORT NOTICE! My husband is the guitarist!
    Regards
    Debs

    Comment by Deborah Green | May 22, 2008

  4. Thanks Debs!

    Two recommendations now – seems like The Nobody Inn is the place to be! I’ll need to check it out on my next visit. Good luck to your husband with the gig!

    Stu

    Comment by Stuart | May 23, 2008

  5. Interesting write-up – it caught both the good and bad sides of my former home town. Whilst I’m not about to recommend any particular hostelries to supplement your visit, I must commend you on choosing three lovely pubs. I still like to visit the Blue Pig on my infrequent visits home, and used to frequent it regularly before I left the town.

    The mild menace from the local yoof has always been there – it’s an accident of topography and boredom, really – a combination of ill-lit market town streets and not much to do. There’s not much to these kiddies, really, but it’s a bit of a shame visitors have to put up with such crap.

    You know – Grantham’s quiet, but it ain’t such a bad place. Glad you appreciated it.

    Comment by Alan | November 20, 2008

  6. Thanks for you comments Alan.

    I agree there are many pleasant things about the town and it’s situation adjacent some lovely countryside. I particularly enjoy some of the history of the area.

    I take your point about the local youths certainly. Being a visitor to Nottingham City Centre regularly aggressive behaviour is no stranger to me but these youngsters were particularly disturbing. Something a little more potent than a pint or two had been taken by those kids that night. In fairness that’s not a problem that Grantham endures alone.

    I’ll look forward to my next visit to the town, especially if it entails a walk on the beautiful Grantham Canal.

    Comment by Stuart | November 21, 2008


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