Kate Chapman’s Thursday feature: More to county than meets the eye

Kate Chapman.
Kate Chapman.
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Whenever I tell people I’m from Lincolnshire, they usually nod their heads and say one of two things.

Either: “So you live on a farm?” or: “Oh yes, it’s very flat there, isn’t it?”

Sometimes they make reference to cabbages too, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Once upon a time I used to think this county of ours was a bit dull if I’m honest. But over the years I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many interesting people and I’ve learnt a lot of surprising things about it in relation to some of the most important, political, social and environmental developments in the history of Britain.

I’m sure after reading this, you’ll agree, that there’s more to Lincolnshire than meets the eye.

• The first policewoman to be granted full powers of arrest in Great Britain 100 years ago was Edith Smith who patrolled the streets of Grantham.

The former midwife worked seven days a week for two years from 1915-17, when her main duties were to deal with the frivolous girls who sold their bodies on the streets.

• Lincoln is where the story of the Magna Carta begins and ends. Stephen Langton, a young county cleric, later became the Archbishop of Canterbury and instilled in Magna Carta his ideas on just kingship – enshrining the rights, privileges and liberties of the clergy and nobles and placing limits on the power of the crown. Within weeks of agreeing to it, King John renounced the document and cut a swathe through Lincolnshire in civil war to save his throne. Illness ended his life in Newark Castle, but fighting continued until the climax was reached in a battle in Lincoln, which defeated the French prince and rebel barons, asserting the succession of John’s son Henry III to the English throne.

Lincoln Castle is home to one of only four surviving copies of the document dating back to the 13th century.

• English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton was born in a manor house at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, in 1642, where he made many of his most important discoveries about light and gravity during the plague years of 1666-7.

Visitors to the National Trust property can still see the famous apple tree that inspired his thoughts on gravity from one of the bedroom windows.

• Stamford was the first conservation area to be designated in England and Wales in 1967 – since then the whole of the old town and St Martin’s has been made an outstanding area of architectural or historic interest that is of national importance. The town has more than 600 listed buildings – more than half the total for the whole county.

• Long Sutton was home to Dick Turpin for around nine months in 1737, when the notorious highwayman sought refuge away from London. The rogue changed his name to John Palmer and used Lincolnshire as his private poaching ground, stealing horses and cattle and selling them on for profit before he was finally caught in 1739 and hanged in York.

• Pinchbeck’s Key Market store (where Morrison’s now stands) was chosen to host the historic moment when the country’s first barcode – on a packet of Melrose teabags – was scanned back in October 1979.

The technological advance featured on an episode of science program Tomorrow’s World.

• RAF officer and engineer Frank Whittle invented jet travel in the heavily-guarded secrecy of RAF Cranwell, Sleaford.

On May 15, 1941 the first British jet-powered plane took off from the base on an historic 17-minute flight – a moment which would change the way future generations would travel forever.

•Lincoln’s contribution to modern warfare was the invention of the tank. Built by William Foster & Co during World War One, the very first machines were tested on the area now occupied by Tritton Road.

• Spalding blazed a trail in the music world as host to the country’s first true rock festival back in 1967 before the likes of the Reading, Leeds or the Isle of Wight events. BBQ ’67 held in the town’s old Bulb Auction was headlined by acts including Jimi Hendrix, Cream fronted by Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd.

• In 2011 Lincolnshire was voted the country’s food capital, pipping Cornwall to the title. A public vote to tie in with British Food Fortnight helped put traditional county delicacies such as plum loaf, stuffed chine and pigs fry well and truly on the map.

• Known as Bomber County during World War Two, Lincolnshire’s air bases played a pivotal role during the conflict. The most famous mission – 617 Squadron’s Dambuster raid in 1943 – to knock out dams and disrupt industrial production in the Ruhr Valley of Germany – flew from RAF Scampton.

Of the 19 Lancasters that took part in the attacks with 133 crew, eight planes and 56 men were lost.

• RAF Scampton is also home to the world-famous RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, which has been displaying since 1965.

The team, famous for its trademark combinations of close formations and precision flying, is made up of 120 people including pilots, engineers and essential support staff.

• Immigrants who settled in the United States of America started their pilgrimage from Boston, in Lincolnshire, to Boston, Massachusetts during the early 1600s.