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Column: ‘Jobseekers in the 1800s had plenty of options’ says Grantham Civic Society’s Courtney Finn

Warehouse in Brook Street.
Warehouse in Brook Street.

Looking through the old Grantham directories you can see what jobs we did and how we were employed.

Chapel Street was the west end of what is now Brook Street and an independent chapel is listed in 1868. In Brownlow Street, Caroline Hardy ran the Sun Inn at No. 7 in 1900 but Thomas Parkinson had been there in 1872 but also as a broker, furniture dealer and victualler.

Courtney Finn.
Courtney Finn.

Back in 1863 the infants school had been built for £800. In 1872 William Stratford is shown as Master of the British School in Brook Street and in 1885 the United Free Methodist Church is shown to be in the street.

By 1900, the famous watchmaker Charles Sexty is living at No. 4 with Henry Sexty (of 37 High Street) too. George Budd was also a watchmaker but George Budd Junior is also described as a cycle agent.

There is a whole collection of trades connected to horses, from William Rawlings, a horse clipper at 7 Brook Street in 1872, to Robert Parkinson Furniture, hay and straw dealer in 1900.

In 1885 at 2 Brownlow Street we have William Bedford, a tanner and currier, at No. 2 but gone by 1900 to be replaced at No 5. by John Gray, a horse dealer.

The lists describe cabinet makers, lots of shopkeepers, a milk dealer in Brownlow Street, a music teacher in Swinegate, a ladies hairdresser – Miss Anne Medlock at No. 3 – and a joiner and blacksmith Alfred Baxter at 8A, next to John Milner a saddler and harness maker at No. 9 in 1900. The Rose & Crown public house run by John Elvin was at No. 2.

Brook Street seems to have been quite upmarket with George Pawson at No. 3 described in 1872 as a ‘Cricketing outfitter and Burton Ales’! Miss Annie Brooksby at No. 9 is recorded merely as ‘takes boarders’. No trades were shown for Mrs Susan Clayton at No. 4 or Robert Garrett at No. 10. But many trades are listed in these crowded streets – baker and flour dealer, tobacconist, haircutters, furrier, tailor, cork cutter, confectioner, hosier, milliner, dressmaker, painter, plumber, general dealer. In 1872 it was noted John Nixon, a solicitor attended at No. 1 Chapel Street only on Saturday.

People did not seem to live very long at these addresses. The directories were published every 13 to 15 years from 1856. I stopped looking after the 1900 edition.

I can imagine these streets were busy with horses and carts and smoky chimneys in the winter. Boys would still walk along Brook Street to the grammar school and the gardens of St Wulfram’s rectory stretched down to Brook Street. The Georgian theatre, shown here in a later guise, occupied the corner of Swinegate, Brook Street and Chapel Street, where the petrol station was replaced by the new classrooms of The King’s School.

The Mowbeck stream still runs beneath Brook Street as it did then and the antiquity of the area was shown when a Saxon culvert was discovered during the building of the new classrooms.


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