THE COACHING AGE
The New Inn, West Street.
PUBLIC HOUSES & BEER HOUSES
In the first half of the nineteenth century there were five hostelries in the town, all belonging to the manorial estate, which can be categorised into one inn (The Greyhound), three public houses (The Five Bells, The Red Lion and The Green Man) and two beer houses (The New Inn and The Crown). During this period all businesses would have brewed their own beer on the premises - it was only later in the nineteenth century that large breweries began to centralise the victualling trade and develop tied houses.
The biggest change in the first half of the century was instigated by the 1830 Beerhouse Act. In Folkingham Matthew Sharpe set up the appropriately-named New Inn in 1831, which continued to operate as a beer house right up to the 1920 sale of the manorial estate.
A short-lived beer house, called The Crown, was established on the west side of Chapel Lane and seems to have been set up by the same family who established The New Inn around the corner - William Sharpe was the publican in 1834. Another temporary beer house was The Plough, which was probably located on the Bourne Road, and was recorded as being run by Edmund Stredder in 1841.
Maltings were buildings used for converting grain into malt which was then used in the brewing process. The maltings in Folkingham stood on the south side of West Street, between Market Place and Chapel Lane. They tended to be long low buildings which enabled the grain to be spread, germinated and dried. Thomas Mitchell of The Green Man was operating it in the nineteenth century and the site had three wells - essential for the water needed to soak the grain.
HOUSE OF CORRECTION
In the 1770s, John Howard, a Bedfordshire philanthropist, campaigned for the improvement of prisons, publishing his findings in the influential The State of the Prisons in 1777. Folkingham’s House of Correction on Market Place was among those which was found inadequate.
A solution to build a new purpose-built prison emerged when the Heathcote estate sold the site of the keep of the castle, which had been abandoned since the sixteenth century, to the Kesteven judicial authority - the estate was no doubt pleased to gain income from the redundant site. Work started in 1808. The moated inner ward lent itself perfectly to the creation of a new walled compound, but instead of using the old castle entrance, a new south-facing access was created off Billingborough Road. This involved cutting through the outer defensive bank of the bailey.
The consensus at the time was that prisons should evoke actual horror. In order to make the environment as intimidating as possible, the cells at Folkingham were completely dark and were blackened on the inside. As Philip Preasley records in Victorian Prison Lives (2012) ‘this was to create a darkness as intense as imagination can conceive’. To further instill this sentiment, a gifted local architect, Bryan Browning, was commissioned to build a severe and imposing gatehouse and turnkey’s lodge in 1825, using stone quarried from nearby Newton.
In 1813, the ongoing improvements to the town by the Heathcote estate resulted in the replacement of the old Poor House with a new brick-built Workhouse, which was erected on the north side of West Street. It continued the use of projecting keystones over the windows, but featured an unusual projecting cornice, underneath which, cut into three stone panels, was the name, employing the genteel spelling which was fashionable at this period, and the date.
THE DEVELOPING TOWN
James Creasey’s description of Folkingham, as published in 1825 in Sketches, Illustrative of the Topography and History of New and Old Sleaford, was optimistic. It championed the changes initiated under John Heathcote’s ownership of the manor, praising the modernising spirit of improvement, which was a prevalent characteristic of the age. However, other sources from the period paint a less hopeful picture.
In spite of differences of opinion, the Regency age did represent a high point in the fortunes of the town in the modern period. The improvements in property and the expansion of the coaching and carrier trades, brought a modest boom, reflected in a rising population and the expansion of trades and services - by 1848 there were eight hundred and twenty residents. The House of Correction was rebuilt on a much more ambitious scale, embedding the town as a centre of justice and associated punishment for the region. However, this golden age was short-lived. The arrival of the railway virtually obliterated the coaching trade over succeeding decades. Like Stamford, Folkingham failed to secure a railway line and so it gradually fossilised. While other places, like Grantham and even Billingborough, grew on railway trade, Folkingham shrank. Its population declined and by the twentieth century it must have seemed like a feudal anachronism - isolated and still dominated by a single aristocratic family.