History of Great Gonerby

Great Gonerby is of Viking origin, and is believed to take its name from Gunvar a Viking tribal chief who had a settlement here. Consequently it was known as Gunwarby and Gunfordebi before the current name (pronounced Gunerby) which has only been used since the Georgian era.

There is evidence of a Roman encampment to the North as well as a recently excavated Saxon settlement to the East of the present village. Oliver Cromwell lodged in a house in Pond Street and planned his campaign against Grantham from there. There was a civil war battlefield on Gonerby Moor to the North of the village.

Prior to the construction of the Grantham bypass in 1962, the Great North Road ran through the village, and Gonerby hill to the south and Newark hill to the North were the steepest hills on that road and were mentioned as such in Sir Walter Scott’s “Heart of Midlothian”. The resulting slow stage coach traffic (indeed passage was impossible in bad weather) proved irresistible to highwaymen. Their deeds were so numerous that Great Gonerby had its own court and gallows, and in a Newark inn was displayed a notice warning would be travellers to remain until the next day if they could not “traverse the Gonerby hills by nightfall.” The gradient was reduced when cuttings were made in the hills in about 1825, allegedly by Napoleonic prisoners of war.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, regularly preached in a Chapel in Gonerby which is now the Post Office; the village became a Methodist stronghold resulting in a Gonerby group introducing Methodism to Grantham and Lincoln.

The houses in High Street are mostly Georgian, although several are much earlier and built of Ancaster stone. There were 3 inns on the High Street; the Rutland Arms, the White Swan and the Recruiting Sergeant - all known locally as the “top, middle and bottom” - never by their proper names. The White Swan is now demolished and the Rutland Arms has been converted into a private residence. There is a possibility that the early 18th century Sutton Lodge in Green Street was also an inn at some time in its history.

Also in Green Street were grass meadows known as “The Wong” in which livestock were gathered prior to their journey to market. (A heritage sign has been erected containing this information.) Continuing round into Pond Street one passes by what was once the village green with a footpath known as the “Hemplands” (which always bordered village greens), and on to Spring End where springs fed the village pond at the junction with High Street.

The village clock, which was installed by the Parish Council in the church tower in 1897 has given villagers the name “Clockpelters”. This has arisen from a (supposed!) practice, earlier this century of “pelting” the clock face with either stones or clods of earth to try to stop the clock - so that no one knew the time and the workers could go home.