Wanderer at Large: Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire

A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.

Sponsored by Your London Tours.

This autumn, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.

Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.

In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.

This week, the East coast including Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

Newtonian images

Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire

A small manor house but the cradle of a great mind. Woolsthorpe Manor is the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, world-famous scientist, mathematician, alchemist and Master of the Royal Mint.

Newton is regarded by many as the greatest figure in the history of science. He was the definitive ‘on the cusp’ Enlightenment figure, so to speak, with one foot in the past (magic) and one foot in the future (physics).  He was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, and alchemist. He explained a wide range of previously unrelated phenomena, the eccentric orbits of comets, tides and their variations, the motion of the Moon affected by the Sun gravity, the speed of sound, the colour spectrum, all underpinned, of course, by his theory of gravity. This work made Newton an international leader in scientific research.

It is incredible to think he was born in this modest manor farm house in 1643 and grew up in a small village south of Grantham in Lincolnshire. And it’s just as incredible to know that his birthplace still exists. Today, Woolsthorpe Manor is maintained by a trust. We may say that it’s the place where he took his first small steps as a man and made his giant leaps for mankind. Indeed, the famous apple tree, yes, the actual tree, which was the catalyst for his theory of gravity, still grows in the garden. Today you can still see the famous apple tree and explore some of Newton’s ideas for yourself in the Science Discovery Centre.

After Newton left Woolsthorpe, he studied at Cambridge University, famed as a hive of scientific knowledge. Many of history’s great thinkers have made their name here, and Newton is perhaps the pre-eminent figure. Here, he studied mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy, while designing the world’s first reflecting telescope.

During the great plague years of 1665–7, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe from Cambridge and produced some of his most important work on physics and mathematics, including his crucial experiment to split white light into a spectrum of colours. Meanwhile, as all these extraordinary scientific advances were taking place, the humdrum work on the family farm went on. Newton eventually moved to London but occasionally returned to Woolsthorpe Manor throughout his life. He died in 1727 at the age of 81, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Like one of his elusive scientific theories, Newton’s birthplace can be tricky to discover but is well worth the search. The address tries its best to help: Woolsthorpe Manor, Water Lane, Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire NG33 5PD. So there you are.

Woolsthorpe, the cradle of a giant.

Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.

For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com

*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:

  1. London
  2. Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
  3. Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
  4. Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
  5. Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
  6. South coast (Hants/Dorset)
  7. Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
  8. South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
  9. Wales (north & south)
  10. Welsh Borders (Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
  11. Western Midlands (Brum/Warks/Staffs)
  12. Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland)
  13. Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
  14. East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
  15. Yorks (all ridings)
  16. North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
  17. North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
  18. Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
  19. Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
  20. Ireland (Northern/Southern)

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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