Grantham Journal column: Encourage great new buildings and preserve the old

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Encouraging good design for our new buildings is important but we also think it is important to preserve and study the oldest buildings we have.

Many need no more study, like our Grade 1 and 2 listed buildings of St Wulfram’s, the Angel & Royal, Grantham House and the Old King’s School, but there are many other less well-known buildings in Vine Street, Wide Westgate and the High Street that have a fantastic pedigree with secrets covered up by succeeding generations of change involving refronting, rebuilding and renovation.

On Saturday, a conference was held at the Old King’s School by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology on ‘Vernacular Buildings in Grantham’. ‘Vernacular’ merely means ordinary buildings built by or for ordinary people.

Professor David Stocker described Grantham’s little known architectural gems and Dr John Manterfield explained how probate inventories could be used to establish house types and evidence of building changes over many years to recognise some of the historic fabric we have in our town.

Over 80 people attended the conference and they were treated to a guided tour of the oldest part of the town centre so that Prof Philip Dixon could point out our ancient buildings, some of which are now disguised as shops. Prof Stocker along with Prof David Start were the editors of the book called ‘The Making of Grantham – the Medieval Town’ which wrote up and developed the papers from a conference on medieval Grantham held here in April 2009.

The day ended with a talk from Ken Hollamby explaining what is involved in building recording, mostly of very old buildings. The idea is to form an historic buildings recording group in Grantham to research and explain our architectural history. The experts said that many of our old buildings have not been properly studied. They are not well-known and it was time we did something about it, as other historic towns have done.

Several people signed up for different roles in the group and our own vice chairman, Graham Cook, will be leader. There will be a need for people to help measure and record the buildings and research their history, building techniques and materials used. CAD systems make lighter work of architectural drawings these days and so people with those skills are also needed. Students could also learn much and burnish their credentials for careers in surveying and architecture.

If you love old photos of the town and its history, find out how you might learn more in the Civic Society. Email me at chairman@granthamcivicsociety.co.uk