Grantham Civic Society Column: ‘Problems of yesteryear still ring true today’

The graveyard at Little Gonerby.
The graveyard at Little Gonerby.
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The Mowbeck rises in Harlaxton pond.

Its journey continues across the fields from Harlaxton, behind the houses on Harlaxton Road, behind the recycling depot on Alexandra Road, until it reaches the wharf. It then continues underground, below Lidl car park, along Brook Street until it re-emerges at the white bridge in Wyndham Park.

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.

Until 1855, the stream ran mostly above ground, following a similar course, and forming the northerly border of Grantham. In July 1855, the Mowbeck was finally partially culverted in the worst parts, as a result of pressure from Little Gonerby ratepayers who worked in Grantham’s industries. Nevertheless, the Grantham Journal reported on July 21, 1855 that: ‘It is impossible for the Thames to be in a more filthy state than the Mowbeck at its terminous. Filthy drainage and other impurities are allowed to accumulate within a yard or two of one of the principal promenades of the neighbourhood of Grantham. On a hot Sunday, when the breeze has proceeded from a North-Easterly direction, the existence of the nuisance has been perceived even before reaching the British School’. There was also, adjoining the Mowbeck, a foul hog-sty underneath the straw of which hundreds of gallons of liquid manure had been exposed to view. The editor continued: ‘Verily, God made the country, but man made the town and the pig-sties.’ ‘Who are responsible for these things? Are the men in office alive to their duty? When will an Inspector of Nuisances be appointed?’

In the following month, August 1855, a new burial ground was considered, as the one at the churchyard was being closed to further burials. There was also a small burial ground in Little Gonerby. The new burial ground would accommodate people from Grantham, Little Gonerby and Spittlegate. There was furious competition between Grantham and Spittlegate and representatives of Little Gonerby were left trying to broker a peace. At a meeting of the Grantham Vestry, they were very angry to discover that during the last quarter, 35 people from Spittlegate had been buried in the churchyard and only 22 from Grantham. It was felt that Spittlegate was not being fair, and Grantham hoped that, in the next quarter, a sufficient number would die in Grantham to secure for its inhabitants, a fairer share of the churchyard!

Towards the end of 1855, local inhabitants were advocating an extension of the borough boundaries. There was a problem with disorderly people congregating in Grantham and causing a nuisance. These people only had to step over the boundary into the township of Little Gonerby to find themselves beyond the jurisdiction of the comparatively efficient Borough Police, and subject to the entirely ineffective Constables of the outlying hamlets. Lady Thorold of Syston Park wrote a letter to Alderman Langwith, complaining about the dereliction of duty on the part of the parish constables of Little Gonerby, because dogs were roaming about in the street.

Some of the problems then were similar to ones today. If we read features in he Journal found in recent years, we can see many examples of nuisance, including refuse, disorderly people and aggressive dogs.