Grantham Civic Society column: ‘Recycling was a necessity in times gone by’ explains Ruth Crook

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.

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In the 1600s, most of the houses and buildings in Grantham would have been made of stone.

Traveller Celia Fiennes, on her tour of England in the 1690s, reported that ‘Grantham which is a good town...all built with stone’. Stone was a valuable commodity, which was often reused.

Vine House. Photo: Ruth Crook, Grantham Civic Society

Vine House. Photo: Ruth Crook, Grantham Civic Society

Some of the older houses, such as 11 Vine Street, dating from the 1570s, still exist. This property has over the years had many uses, such as a bakery in the 1700s, and more recently in the 1940s, as a general shop, selling sweets, newspapers and tobacco.

In 1647, records show that Grantham Borough Court met to insist that repairs were carried out on the poor state of the pavements in the Market Place, Colemarket Hill (at the west end of Vine Street), and Vine Street itself. The stone used was obtained from the recently demolished Coneygree House in Harlaxton. The new Coneygree House, built of brick in the mid 1730s, still exists.

In the mid 1700s it became fashionable to build brick houses, which had much bigger proportions. Dimsdale House, a stone house on the site of the current rectory, was demolished and the current rectory built in 1789. Some of the stone was reused, as can still be seen on the bottom few layers of the house. This reduced the cost of rebuilding, the total bill for the rectory being £801 11s 71⁄2d.

Many of the buildings were only either re-faced in brick, or built up from street level, leaving the old stone basements. Vine House, on Vine Street, is a good example of this, where the old stone building was extended and re-faced in brick. If the current building is viewed from the back (from Watergate car park), or from the east side (from the Blue Pig’s beer garden), the old stone house can clearly be seen. There are also several bricked-up small windows in the upper storeys, still visible.

In 1759 John Coddington asked permission to demolish the front of his house, 3 Vine Street, and build a new brick frontage, projecting 13 inches further in to the street. In 1766 numbers 1 and 2 Vine Street were also rebuilt in brick. The plans by John Langwith (the elder), show that downstairs the new houses both had a parlour, kitchen, larder or scullery, with a brew-house and privies in the yard. Number 1 had the shared water pump, which was adjacent to the privies. There was also an access track on to Watergate, so that the privies could be emptied.

Stone basements and stone walls can still been along the High Street. The site of the house of William Clarke, the apothecary with whom Isaac Newton lodged, is now Pizza Express to the north of The George Centre. The basement of this building, along with several others along that frontage, have stone pillars and some walls, with stone preparation and storage slabs, and some old stone stairs that now lead to a dead-end.

Recycling in times gone by was a necessity, as materials were hard to obtain. In the throw-away consumer world that we live in today, we should be proud that in South Kesteven we recycle or compost over 50 per cent of the household waste produced in the district.

* Further reading: The History of Vine House and Vine Street, Grantham, by Ruth Crook, is available in local book shops, including WHSmith.