Should Grantham do more to recognise Margaret Thatcher?
- 1 January 2012
- From the section Lincolnshire
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher divides opinion, so what do people in Grantham think of calls to promote the town's connection with its most famous daughter?
At the former grocery shop and post office where Margaret Hilda Roberts grew up, there is nothing more than a small plaque to mark its connection with the future Baroness Thatcher.
The premises on North Parade, on the edge of Grantham town centre, have been a natural health and chiropractic centre since 1994, after being a restaurant for a decade.
Staff explain that Baroness Thatcher's old bedroom is used as a hypnotherapy room.
"It is sad that there isn't more to see really," says Sandra Good, who owns the business.
"I think that one day it might be regretted that nothing was done to preserve the building as a museum.
"We have so many tourists coming to photograph the building, some brave enough to venture inside.
"They come from Japan, they come from Portugal, from America, just from all over the world really.
"We had somebody once I thought he was going to kiss the carpet in the room he was so excited.
'How marvellous she was'
"Some are coach trips, some are passing through. Sometimes we get a little gaggle of Chinese or Japanese tourists outside. Sometimes it's one or two. Somebody comes every week.
"Some people just want to see it. Some people want to talk about it and say how marvellous they think she was."
Heading towards the town centre, Grantham resident Alan Bywater, 46, is sitting on a bench next to a statue of Sir Isaac Newton, who was born near Grantham. Mr Bywater thinks the town should do more to promote its connection with Baroness Thatcher.
"Of course there should be more," he says. "They have a statue of him who dropped an apple on his head but she's got nothing, has she?
"They should probably have a statue. She's been the best prime minister since post-war, in my eyes anyway."
But Mr Bywater's friend, Yasmine Bougatef, isn't sure.
"I was reading in the paper that she was the one that caused the last recession and everybody losing their jobs, which is what Cameron is doing now," says the 27-year-old.
"I don't believe in that, but she was the first woman prime minister. It must have taken a lot of guts and strength for her in a place dominated by men.
"Maybe we should have more information when tourists do come to see her."
Baroness Thatcher, then Miss Roberts, left Grantham in 1943 to start a four-year chemistry degree at the University of Oxford, then moved to Colchester to work as a research chemist.
She visited Grantham on numerous occasions, according to local historian and retired journalist Jim Allen, who lives in the town.
"In my experience from talking to her, she always spoke of the town very fondly," says Mr Allen.
"She seemed to be proud to have come from Grantham, and more than proud of her school."
Baroness Thatcher's rise to power is charted in a film due for release on 5 January.
Ahead of this release, former Grantham mayor Ray Wooten has called for a Margaret Thatcher trail leading to a statue of her in the centre of the town.
'Didn't learn about her'
Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford Nick Boles has also called for a museum dedicated to her to be set up.
Sitting near the Isaac Newton Shopping Centre, Kerry Anne McSheffrey, 18, admits a lot of her school friends don't know much about Baroness Thatcher.
She says: "She went to my school, Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School.
"I think she opened something at the school ages ago and there's a little plaque, but we didn't learn about her."
Miss McSheffrey isn't sure if there should be more to promote Grantham's connection with her: "Obviously there's the Isaac Newton Shopping Centre and the statue of him, but she's not very popular."
Grantham's museum, which housed a display of Margaret Thatcher memorabilia, was closed due to spending cuts by Lincolnshire County Council.
A charitable trust is expected to reopen the museum in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June.
Back in North Parade where Baroness Thatcher's father ran his grocery business, a giant 24-hour supermarket now stands opposite.
Here, shoppers are undivided in their calls for more recognition.
Graham Metcalfe, 52, says: "Something had to be done. The country was going downhill.
"You wouldn't know she had lived or been born there if you didn't know it because the plaque is quite small."
Kenneth Carratt, 81, says: "She got things done that wanted doing. They are on about getting a monument. I think that's a good idea."
The Grantham and Stamford constituency has a long history of electing Conservative MPs.
"She's not popular with the Labour people," added Mr Carratt. "I don't think a lot of people want a monument now. I know the Conservatives get in every time but that's the villages around."
Brenda Bell, 53, says: "They could have something like a memorial garden or a statue to her. They've got one for Isaac Newton haven't they?
"If you were just walking or driving through the town you would never know that she had any links with the town at all."