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Brief History of a Market Town – 1086 onwards

By the time the Doomsday book was produced in 1086, Grantham had a population of over 1000 people.

During the Medieval period the local wool trade thrived and provided the wealth on which the town was built.  The size and beauty of St Wulfrum’s Church, built largely in the 13th century is testament to this wealth.

During the 16th and 17th centuries Grantham continued to be prosperous through the wool trade, but also because of the quality of the agricultural land in the area and the sale of produce at market.  The town suffered in the Civil War, fought over by both Royalist and Parliamentarian forces and was eventually taken over by Oliver Cromwell’s army.

The 18th century saw the advert of the stage coach. The Great North Road was the main coaching road from London to the north of England and passed through the centre of Grantham.  It brought huge prosperity to all of the towns on its route.

At the height of the coaching boom, 12 stage coaches a day passed through Grantham. The fastest coach to London took 16 hours. Many coaching inns opened to provide overnight accommodation, and a whole service industry grew up to meet the needs of the travellers.

In the 19th Century, Grantham joined the industrial age and the town saw huge expansion. The town was situated on the main north – south rail line which opened in 1852. The arrival of the railway encouraged the development of large scale industry in the town. Firms such as Hornsby’s Ironworks flourished and became a major employer in the town

The 20th Century saw the expansion of the town away from the confines of the early settlement area around the church and the market place. A new urban area sprang up around the Hornsby works in Spitalgate to house many of the industrial and railway workers in this area.

In 1871 after the arrival of the railway, the population of Grantham was 13,325. The cenus records of 2001 records a population of 33,918 and more recent records puts the figure at 36,800.


Brief History of a Market Town – Early Settlement

The Market Place facing east.

People have lived in the Grantham area for thousands of years. Archaeological material suggests that people were living here after the end if the last Ice Age, known as the Mesolithic period (c.10,000-4,000BC) and remained here until the Neolithic period (c. 4000-2200 BC)

However, the earliest evidence of settlement within the area now occupied by the town dates to the Bronze Age (c.2300-700BC)  In the Iron Age (c.700BC – 43 AD) a major trackway used by the local tribe, the Coritani, passed through Saltersford. It is believed that by the 1st century AD there was a settlement there.

In 43 AD the Roman army invaded Britain. They built roads and forts so towns and settlements developed around them. The famous Roman road, Ermine street, connecting London with York via Lincoln, ran past Grantham and is now know as the High Dyke. There was no Roman settlement in the town of Grantham.

As the Roman occupation of Britain was ending in the 5th century AD, the Anglo Saxons arrived and settled in eastern areas of Britain. It is from the Anglo Saxons that we get the word Grantham meaning ‘ a village on a gravel bank’. The word ‘Ham’ being the Saxon for ‘Village’ The Anglo Saxons were the first people to make a defined, permanent settlement within the area of Grantham town. They initially built small settlements between Spitalgate and Manthorpe between 400 and 600AD

Castlegate, Grantham c.1860/70s

During Saxon times the town and the surrounding area were part of the land belonging to the King’s wife, and the Queen had a Royal Hall in the town.

 St Wulfram’s Church was also founded during this period, as a small timber or stone building on the site of the present church.

The Castlegate area eventually became the main centre of the Saxon settlement, which focussed around the church and the market place. The market was originally held in front of the church and became an important local trading centre.

During the 9th century the Vikings settled in Grantham and developed the town into a regional centre. They left there mark on the street names in the town which contain the Danish word for street, ‘Gata’: Castlegate, Westgate.