Last week I traveled back home to Oxfordshire to attend job interviews for positions starting this coming September, once my masters has finished. After a successful but nerve wrecking week, I spent Father’s Day driving back to Lincolnshire with my parents. As the journey back takes around 3 hours, we decided to take a break around lunchtime and visit Woolsthorpe Manor near Grantham. My parents have visited nearby Belton House before and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be good to explore another National Trust property in a similar area.
Woolsthorpe Manor is the 17th century family farmhouse home of Sir Issac Newton. Newton was born in the house on Christmas Day, 25th December 1642, to Hannah Ayscough 3 months after his father (Also named Issac Newton) died. He was born prematurely and was not expected to live very long, especially in the harsh world of Medieval England. Three years later his mother remarried and decided to leave Woolsthorpe Manor with her new husband, Reverend Barnabus Smith. Newton remained at Woolsthorpe under the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough until his mother returned in 1659 when she was widowed again. Newton attended The King’s School in Grantham from the ages of 12 to 17, leaving briefly to help his mother with farming at the family home before finishing off his education and being accepted at Trinity College in Cambridge. In 1665 Newton returned to Woolsthorpe when the Great Plague struck England and the university was closed as a precaution against further infection. During his time back home at Woolsthorpe he continued to develop his theories and conduct experiments regarding gravity, optics and calculus, until his return to Cambridge in 1667.
Gardens and orchard
As it was lunchtime when we arrived, we decided to head straight to the little cafe which is situated inside one of the many farm barns. We enjoyed our homemade carrot and coriander soup while looking at the Newton family timeline which ran around the top of the barn and the large solar system hanging from the ceiling. Once finished we headed out to explore the surrounding gardens and orchard containing Newton’s famous apple tree! Part of the orchard contained a wildflower garden and a mosaic tile human sundial which was really beautifully made and designed. Unfortunately as it wasn’t very sunny we couldn’t test it out 😦
Following the path around to the front of the farmhouse we reached the site of the famous 400 year old apple tree, which was named 1 of 50 Great British trees in 2002. Naturally over 400 years the tree has been subjected to quite a lot of damage, falling over during a storm but thankfully re rooting as can be seen today.
We began our exploration of the manor house by ducking through the small main front door which would originally only have been used for weddings and funerals. Above the door you can see the Newton family coat of arms. Once inside we headed left into the parlour which was covered with reed matting to simulate the original flooring that would have been there before the current Victorian wooden floor was laid. I really liked an old English map on the wall, which showed the ‘countrie and citie of Lyncolne’ and how the county was once divided. Moving on across the hall we headed into the dining room and kitchen, at the back of the ground floor. Throughout the house there are many drawings and carvings on the walls, made by Newton himself, which have been framed so that they can be viewed easily. It was also great to see traditional food on display in the kitchen, including pork pies (From nearby Melton Mowbry), gingerbread and knot biscuits. Speaking to one of the volunteers we also found out that the original staircase was between these two rooms, concealing a priest’s hole underneath.
Heading back into the hallway we went upstairs starting off in the left bedroom, in which Newton was born. Here we also found the house’s resident cat, sleeping next to the beautiful four poster bed. Hannah Ayscough’s spinning wheel is situated next to the fire place, which has a plaque above documenting Newton’s birth. Moving along the hall the next room is full of more information about the Newton family, life in medieval times and on the farm. The final room upstairs is another bedroom, containing several pieces of Newton’s equipment and notes from his experiments. My favourite part of this room were the papers displayed on the main desk, written on Sundays by Newton himself when he visited Woolsthorpe, confessing his weekly sins. I particularly liked one which confessed to ‘using another’s towel at university’!
The site at Woolsthorpe is much smaller than other National Trust properties I have visited, however there is still plenty to see and do, especially in the science discovery centre. From Lincoln it would take around 45 minutes to get here, heading through Newark-on-Trent and then to Water Lane, Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5PD. The manor house, grounds and farm buildings are open everyday 11-5pm, except on Tuesdays when the manor is closed. As my family are members of the National Trust we got in for free, however at £6.04 per adult and £3.04 per child to visit the whole property I think it’s fairly inexpensive. I think it would be especially interesting for children who are just learning about Sir Issac Newton 🙂
A Day in the Life…