diamond geezer

 Saturday, October 02, 2021

Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first woman Prime Minister and, for better or worse, shaped the country we live in today. She was born in Grantham in 1925 and famously grew up in a grocer's shop, barely a quarter of a mile from the East Coast mainline. I've often looked down across the town and wondered where precisely this epicentre of political change might be, so on this occasion I got off the train and went to have a look.

This is Alfred Roberts' former shop on the corner of North Parade and Broad Street. It's just to the north of the town centre, and in October 1925 would have faced out onto the busy Great North Road. The family lived upstairs in cramped accommodation with no running water, making use of an outside toilet and (unplumbed) bath accessed across the yard. Margaret's father ran the grocery counter and operated the bacon slicer, her mother served customers in the sub post-office, and she and her elder sister Muriel helped out when they could. It was the epitome of a small business making its profit from sheer hard work.

It's not a grocer's shop any more. Grantham Chiropractic Clinic opened here in 1994 and have since rebranded as Living Health following a shift towards holistic natural therapies. Downstairs is now their reception, a welcoming spot where waiting customers can peruse leaflets and featured products, currently with an attractive autumnal window display featuring golden leaves and two squirrels. Upstairs has been transformed into twin treatment suites, so if you've ever fancied a massage or five point acupuncture in the Iron Lady's bedroom that fantasy can be comfortably realised. I'm not sure what she'd have made of her childhood home's shift from selling goods to selling services, but she'd no doubt be pleased that the external fabric of the building remains recognisably in place with a small black commemorative plaque above the front door.

The corner shop is one of the lowlier homes on North Parade, an attractive example of late 18th century linear ribbon development. Margaret's near neighbours lived in three storey red brick houses, some of which now sell for half a million which is exceptional for Grantham. The buildings and the pavement are kept separate from what would once have been a manure-strewn main road by means of a steep grass verge with occasional steps. Immediately across the street is the church of St Mary the Immaculate with its clocktower and cupola, which now has the '1 North Parade' address the Roberts once enjoyed.

What has changed dramatically since the 1930s is the road junction outside the shop, which now the corner of a busy gyratory. Pedestrians are not the priority so get to wait in ever increasing numbers as all the requisite vehicle sequences play out, which would be great for customer footfall if only the shop still sold drinks or sweets. Just beyond the Roberts' back yard is a single bus stop, no doubt only used by those under the age of 30 or who have been a failure in life. And immediately across Barrowby Road is the edge of an enormous Asda car park, not to mention a substantial Lidl - competitors whose joint presence helps explain why a grocers is no longer viable in this location.

When not working in the shop, life for the Roberts revolved around Finkin Street Methodist Church where Alfred was a lay preacher. As a strict Wesleyan he ensured the family attended church up to four times every Sunday, where Margaret would have sat through hundreds of her father's sermons stressing social responsibility and the Protestant work ethic. The church's stumpy twin towers dominate the backstreets off Castlegate, while a fake falcon perches above the south door to help keep pigeons at bay. Grantham's Conservative Club is located close by, in a building too modern to have been frequented by the Roberts, although I very much doubt its current social offering of snooker, musical events, Luncheon Club and bingo would have appealed.

Margaret's first school was Huntingtower Road Primary which had opened in 1914. It was by no means the nearest to home, being the other side of the town centre and on the opposite side of the railway, but was selected because of a more religious slant to its curriculum. No trace of the original building exists because it's been entirely rebuilt as a colourful jagged fortress and is now known as Huntingtower Academy. The former Education Secretary might well be pleased. Margaret went on to Kesteven and Grantham Girls' Grammar School where she was bookish, hard-working and rose to become Head Girl, if not generally liked by her peers. A scholarship to study Chemistry at Oxford followed, catapulting her out of Grantham and eventually into all our lives.

The town remembers its most famous daughter in its museum (closed 2011 due to cuts, reopened by volunteers, it's what she would have wanted). A large display at the rear of the ground floor covers her early life and rise to power in some detail, with a nod to younger visitors who might need to be reminded how important she was. Exhibits include her bed from North Parade, the Aquascutum suit she wore to Cold War talks in Moscow in 1987 and some assorted silverware donated to the museum after her death. A nice touch is the selection of three 1979 election manifestos laid out in a facsimile living room very much of the time, alongside an invitation to cast your vote again with the benefit of hindsight. The gift shop will satisfy any ardent Thatchophile in need of mugs, bags or aprons.

But Grantham isn't ostentatiously proud of its pioneering woman Prime Minister, perhaps in recognition that she very much divides opinion. Other than a few fingerposts pointing towards her birthplace and the tiny plaque above her front door there's nothing, unlike local son Sir Isaac Newton who's plastered absolutely everywhere. Plans are afoot to give a public home to a bronze statue originally intended for Parliament Square, but the unveiling has been repeatedly delayed and sparked a row earlier this year over the intended cost of the ceremony. Even when it does appear it'll be atop a 3m plinth to avoid vandalism, not that this'll stop the more determined protestor, of whom there will be many. Know the town, know the Iron Lady a little better.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards