Grantham’s ‘oldest house’ for sale

Imogen Wall outside 11 Vine Street, Grantham.
Imogen Wall outside 11 Vine Street, Grantham.
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Grantham has always been able to boast an impressive history.

Most notably known for being the birthplace of the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for having educated Isaac Newton at The King’s School and for having the first female police officer in the United Kingdom when Edith Smith was given full power of arrest in 1915, Grantham is dripping with history.

The Priests Hole

The Priests Hole

Some of the older houses in Grantham, such as 11 Vine Street, which dates back to 1570 when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, still exist today. Originally built as two separate cottages, it has had many uses over the years, such as a bakery in the 1700s – you can still see the baker’s chimney – and more recently in the 1940s as a general shop, ‘Ye Old tuck shop,’ selling sweets and newspapers. It was listed as an English Heritage house in May 1950.

But for the past six years it has been owned and lived in by Imogen Wall, an antiques dealer with over 20 years’ experience.

Despite originally being drawn to its ‘charm and magic,’ Imogen has decided that the time has come to sell the property and has opened its doors to potential buyers.

Since moving in 2011, Imogen has worked hard to restore the property to its former glory by exposing many of the building’s original features which date back centuries.

Spread over three storeys, each floor holds lots of quirky finds, from the tudor fireplace in the bedroom and a ‘secret’ cupboard on the second floor to the tiny windows and uneven floor in the master bedroom, which are all joined together by two sets of very steep stairways, all adding to the property’s charm. There is even an outdoor loo.

Whilst working on the bathrom, Imogen unearthed a copy of the ‘London News’ newspaper dating back to 1880, with an illustration on the Cambridge Boat Race on the cover, hidden behind the bathroom wall.

Keen to keep all of the original features, Imogen did replace the dated kitchen to the back of the house, but worked hard to blend the old and the new and keeping the orignal kitchen doors and key. In the kitchen, Imogen discovered a copy of the Grantham Journal dating back to May 8, 1985, so not quite as early as the London News, but still a fascinating keepsake.

She said: “It is important to keep many of the original features. They are extremely sentimental to the house.”

The original baker’s oven, a Victorian fireplace and even what is believed to be a priest’s hole – a hiding place for a priest built into many of the principal Catholic houses of England during the period when Catholics were persecuted by law – are just some of the features that can still be seen in the house today.

Not long after moving in, Imogen and her son, James Wall, uncovered a sundial, which they discovered was a sign of having fire insurance. Fire insurance marks were metal plaques marked with the emblem of the insurance company which were affixed to the front of insured buildings as a guide to the insurance company’s fire brigade. These identification marks were used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the days before town or district fire services were formed.

Imogen is just one of two owners that the property has had in the past 100 years, which made the decision to sell even more difficult.

She added: “It became too big for me and I would like to move to the countryside, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

“It’s outstanding to think about the sheer volume of history woven into its walls. Who knows what other stories, secrets and memories, it has seen over the years. It has been a privilege to live here.”

But despite extensive research, one mystery still remains, which Imogen is keen to resolve before it is sold. The initials ‘TQ’ are engraved into the stone at the side of the front door.

Imogen added: “If anyone knows what it could stand for, I’d be thrilled to find out.”

The property is up for sale with Winkworth Grantham Estate Agents.