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Should Grantham Museum be renamed after Margaret Thatcher to spark more tourism interest?





Would renaming Grantham’s museum after controversial Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attract visitors? A council leader thinks it could.

South Kesteven District Councillors discussed agenda items to improve visitors to Grantham and other areas of the district during a meeting on Tuesday (March 26).

Discussions included bringing in a consultant for a new tourism strategy, incorporating aspects such as military history, the famous first lady of Grantham, and its ecclesiastical and ancestral history.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

During the discussion, Coun Ashley Baxter, the Independent leader of South Kesteven District Council, said that in 2022, the district attracted more than 3 million visitors, an increase of 15% on the previous year. The economic impact from these visitors was £218 million - almost a third higher than pre-pandemic levels.

He believed SKDC could market like the Cotswolds and Yorkshire, telling councillors: “We’re better than Devon and Cornwall and we should be drawing some of those visitors away.”

He said more work needed to be done to join together the disparate connections that the district has and how the town might tempt visitors to the coast to stop by the town on their travels.

Grantham Museum. Photo: Google Maps
Grantham Museum. Photo: Google Maps

He then added: “Another conversation that I had, and I’m building opinion as we work with our neighbours of Grantham Museum, is that they want to present all of Grantham in the museum - it is a museum of Grantham.

“But very few people are ever going to Google ‘Grantham Museum’; far more people would Google ‘Margaret Thatcher’.

“Without doing anything to it, if you rename it the Margaret Thatcher Museum (incorporating Grantham History), you’re certainly going to get more hits and possibly more visitors.”

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

He acknowledged more work needed to be done and that not everyone would agree with him.

Responding to the suggestion, Democratic Independent Group member Councillor Charmaine Morgan pointed out that “there is far more to Grantham than Margaret Thatcher” and called for further consultation with members.

She added that there needed to be a renewed focus on Grantham’s direct links to London.

The Margaret Thatcher Statue. | Image: Daniel Jaines/LDR
The Margaret Thatcher Statue. | Image: Daniel Jaines/LDR

Councillors were also cautious about plans to hire a consultant to help develop the strategy, with some arguing that there was enough expertise in-house, while others said it would help “fill in the gaps”.

The meeting also saw councillors agree to ending the HelloSK app after two years as it failed to live up to expectations. The app got a £50,000 shot-in-the-arm from the Government and was launched with promises to help thousands of businesses.

Instead, the council will work in partnership with Destination Lincolnshire to offer similar services and promote tourism and local businesses going forward.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Defence Minister John Nott listen attentively during a floor speech at the defence debate.file pic dated 15th October, 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Defence Minister John Nott listen attentively during a floor speech at the defence debate.file pic dated 15th October, 1981

Following the meeting, Coun Graham Jeal (Con), who sits on the board of Grantham Museum, said he was “surprised” by the focus on a Margaret Thatcher-centric tourism policy by the leadership.

“From a Grantham Museum perspective, the museum has exhibits from Grantham’s rich and diverse history including Edith Smith, Isaac Newton, Henry Preston, the RAF and the rich industrial heritage of our town – as well as an extensive Margaret Thatcher exhibition,” he said.

“In spite of what Coun Baxter said, many thousands of tourists do find their way to the Grantham Museum.

A ceremony took place to officially unveil the Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham.
A ceremony took place to officially unveil the Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham.

“I think it would be wrong to focus our town's rich history around one figure – important though she was in putting Grantham on the map.

“I would be happy to show Coun Baxter around the museum and explain to him why so many people are drawn to the historic town of Grantham.”

John Manterfield, chairman of Grantham Civic Society, also called for a more comprehensive strategy for promoting Grantham's visitor economy.

The Margaret Thatcher statue with paint on it in an incidence of vandalism on May 28, 2022. Photo: Toby Roberts
The Margaret Thatcher statue with paint on it in an incidence of vandalism on May 28, 2022. Photo: Toby Roberts

“Grantham Civic Society is keen to work with other local partners to promote the Visitor Economy in and around the historic town of Grantham.

“We have many Grade I listed buildings including our magnificent medieval church with its wonderful spire and amazing Francis Trigge Chained Library, and we have the highly popular Belton House and Belvoir Castle just a few miles away.

“Grantham Museum not only has material related to Margaret Thatcher but also to Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists of all time.

The Margaret Thatcher statue with paint on it in an incidence of vandalism on May 28, 2022. Photo: Toby Roberts
The Margaret Thatcher statue with paint on it in an incidence of vandalism on May 28, 2022. Photo: Toby Roberts

“These links should be promoted not only by the museum itself but also by SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council in marketing our many attractions, working with tour companies to ensure Grantham is on their radars, and specifically providing the sort of technical IT and marketing support to boost the town's and local organisations' profiles when search engines are used by potential UK and overseas visitors.”

Thatcher’s name is no stranger to controversy in the town.

Born Margaret Hilda Roberts in 1925, she grew up at her father Alfred's grocery shop in North Parade. She attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School – where she was head girl – before studying at Oxford and later becoming MP for Finchley in London.

After becoming PM she was widely praised for her leadership style, including a steadfast, unflinching determination and a strong will earning her the name the Iron Lady.

However, her political assault against trade unions, the closure of coal mines, the introduction of the poll tax and other measures such as ending free school milk saw her come under heavy criticism.

Many reacted negatively when the previous Tory administration announced that a £300,000 statue of the former PM, created by sculptor Douglas Jennings’ would be installed on St Peter’s Hill despite threats of political vandalism.

Since the statue was unveiled, it has been targeted on several occasions, including having eggs thrown at it and slurs daubed on it in paint.

It’s not the only time a statue or memorial of the Iron Lady has caused controversy either.

In 2013, press reports suggested a marble sculpture by Neil Simmons had been offered to the museum. This was denied by organisers, however, and the museum’s general manager was later suspended following the allegations.

The statue, commissioned by the House of Commons for £150,000 in 1998, had previously been decapitated when it went on display in London.

Opinion has often been divided on how the town should commemorate its most famous daughter - could naming the museum after her follow that trend? Let us know your thoughts below.



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