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A town with plenty of surprises up its sleeve


St. Wulfram's Church
Grantham Museum
Belton House
Belvoir Castle
Grantham has lots of firsts. They made the first running diesel engine, and the UK's first tractor. It's even rumoured that a local baker invented biscuits, after accidentally mixing up his cake ingredients. According to the story, these "Grantham Gingerbreads" quickly became popular with passing travellers - of which there were many. This was a busy staging post on the Great North Road, and people - including kings and noblemen - were always coming through.
The town is dominated by the 85 metre spire of St. Wulfram's Church. Historians consider this 14th century construction to be a perfect example of medieval architecture. Its exterior is adorned with weathered, grotesque gargoyles, while the interior has Victorian stained glass.

St. Wulfram’s Church
Photo Richard Croft
There's a good view of the church from Grantham House, a medieval building on the River Witham. The wool merchants who lived there were so prestigious that they even had princesses and cardinals over for dinner. The house, and its 27 acres of gardens, is now owned by the National Trust.
Grantham's history is explored at its museum. You'll learn, for example, about the Dambusters, who planned much of their historic operation here. There are also dedicated displays to the town's most famous residents, including Isaac Newton and Margaret Thatcher. Charles Dickens must have come here too, because he mentioned one of the locals pubs - The George - in his novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

Thatcher’s birthplace
Photo Richard Croft
The George is now a shopping centre, which makes up part of Grantham's busy retail world. Every Saturday the shopping spills out onto the streets, as 70-80 stalls are set up for the weekly market. The site is marked by a traditional market cross, which was knocked down twice but brought back by popular demand.
Keep a keen eye out for Grantham's other interesting landmarks. There's the Angel & Royal Hotel, a 13th century building that has hosted no less than seven kings under its roof. There's the Guildhall Arts Centre, with its Victorian clock tower. Most unusually, there's the Beehive pub, which forgoes a proper pub sign in favour of a real, living beehive.

The Beehive's pub sign
Photo Richard Croft
Three miles away is Belton House, a country manor with 25 rooms open to the public. Craftsmen from every generation have added to its collection of art and artefacts, but nevertheless, it's the house's exterior which makes the biggest impression. The National Trust think that Belton's honey-coloured stone and near-perfect symmetry make it a flawless example of the English country manor, and maybe they're right. It has even been suggested that the road signs on British roads - the brown ones that direct drivers to stately homes - were based on Belton.

Belton House
Photo Giano
Out to the west is the similarly stunning Belvoir Castle. The name means "beautiful view", and it's not exaggerating. The name was chosen by the Normans, who built the very first fortress on this site. The Anglo-Saxons, however, couldn't pronounce the French, so they just called it "beaver" castle. This mispronunciation has continued right through to the present day.

Belvoir Castle
Photo David P Howard
The current incarnation of Belvoir is the latest of four different constructions. It's been stubbornly rebuilt after various wars and fires. For three centuries it's been home to the Dukes and Duchesses of Rutland. They still live here, but they kindly open up parts of their home for public viewing. Their collection of antiques represents the work and interests of many lifetimes. There's French furniture, Italian sculpture and classic works of art. Also within the building is a museum space, which tells the stories of the old military regiments that occupied the castle. In their memory, there are regular jousting events and historical re-enactments held on the lawns outside. Further into the ground are the gardens - carefully landscaped displays of plants, art and water features.

Belvoir Castle fireworks
Photo MrFreekie
Just as Belton is the perfect English house, so too can Belvoir be described as the quintessential English castle. Here's proof: the tradition of afternoon tea was actually developed here, in the 1840s. A snack of tea and sandwiches was found to provide an ideal stopgap between luncheon and dinner.
Visitor Information
Grantham Tourist Information Centre is open weekdays 9.30am to 4.30pm, and Saturdays 9.30 am to 1pm. Guildhall Arts Centre, St. Peter's Hill,Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6PZ. Tel: 01476 406166.
St. Wulfrum's Church is open daily from April to September, 10am to 4pm, and Monday to Saturday in winter, 9am to 12pm. Entry is free. Church Street, Grantham, NG31 6RR. Tel: 01476 561342.
Grantham House is open Wednesday and Thursdays, 2pm to 5pm. Entry costs around £7 for adults, £4 children. Castlegate, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6SS. Tel: 01476 564705.
Grantham Museum is open daily. Saint Peter's Hill, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6PY. Tel: 01476 568783.
Belton House is open March to October, 12.30pm to 4pm. The grounds and shops are open February to December, 10.30am to 4.30 pm. Entry is around £11 for adults, £7 children. Winter entry for the grounds only is around £4 for adults and £3 children. Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG32 2LS. Tel: 01476 566116.
Belvoir Castle is open on Sundays and Mondays, from May to August. The gardens are open from 11am to 5pm. Entry is around £15 for adults, £8 children. Entry to the garden only is around £8 for adults, £5 children. Grantham, Leicestershire, NG32 1PE. Tel: 01476 871002.

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