Peter Clawson’s Grantham Journal column: ‘It’s all gone up in smoke’

Peter Clawson.
Peter Clawson.
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A cautionary tale from the dim and distant past recently fired my interest after attending the inaugural meeting of the ambitious Grantham Area Committee at the museum.

During discussions on the town’s failing weekly market, it was revealed that this year alone SKDC had to pay £22,000 simply for the privilege of holding something the local community probably owns.

Sounds intriguing but that is where the cautionary tale comes in. A book entitled “Central Grantham’ and written in the 1930s warns that custodians of important official public documents should not allow them to inexplicably go up in smoke.

Author H.H. Quilter tells us that Richard 111 gave all market rights including tolls and stallage to the Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough; one market to be held every Wednesday so as to avoid clashing with other nearby towns.

Such charters were disregarded by William 111 and through gifts, sales, family inheritance and marriage, market rights ended up with the Earls of Dysart.

In 1888 a Royal Commission was asked by the Borough to recover the privileges granted in its charters. Unfortunately the documents had been destroyed by fire and the Commissioners declined to accept their validity.

Even if they had been held good, it was explained, a subsequent change of day to Saturday markets circa 1758 to avoid clashing with Newark would have nullified them.

Whether there was a failure of justice at this time, Quilter points out that the Earls retained their market rights including use of the Westgate Hall, so a yearly rent of £250 had to be paid. We know now this has risen over the years to its current amount of £22,000.

With inflation added, this represents a colossal amount overall, but I must leave what is to be done about it to those involved in promised negotiations over future payments involving SKDC and the present rent recipients Buckminster Estates.