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Childhood and Education

Grantham’s most famous woman, formally Margaret Hilda Roberts, was born at the family home on North Parade on October 13th 1925.

Grantham’s most famous woman, formally Margaret Hilda Roberts, was born at the family home on North Parade on October 13th 1925.  She became the first woman to reach the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979 and throughout her career openly admitted that she was proud to be associated with the town and its people.

Margaret lived with her family above their grocery shop on North Parade, Grantham.  This building still stands and has had many occupants following the Roberts’, from an antiques shop in the 1970’s to the Premier Restaurant in the 1980’s, and currently a Health and Beauty Salon and Chiropractors.  There is a plaque on the wall of this building marking it as the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher.

Margaret’s early background and childhood was very similar to most 1930’s moderate-income upbringings.  The family flat over the shop had no bath and no hot running water.  Her father, Alfred Roberts, apart from running the family Grocery shop, had religious beliefs, which led him to become a Methodist preacher.  He also had political interests and joined the local council, eventually being twice elected as Mayor of Grantham.  He was a great reader and Margaret collected armfuls of books from the library for him every week, one of his main interests being the Welfare State.  Her mother, Beatrice, previously a dressmaker with her own business, became a housewife to take care of Alfred, Margaret and her older sister Muriel.

Margaret’s education began when she attended Huntingtower Road Primary School where, at the age of 10 (a year younger than normal), she passed the scholarship examination to enter into the local girls Grammar, Kesteven and Grantham Girl’s School (KGGS) on Sandon Road.  Margaret was not only good at her academic work, she was also a big participant in extra-curricular activities.  This included taking part in school theatricals, learning to play the piano, taking elocution lessons and being very talented at sports.  Outside of school Margaret helped out in the family shop, and like her father, enjoyed reading.  During her school years Margaret also experienced the impact of the Depression, the rise of Hitler and the restrictions of the Second World War. 

In 1943, towards the end of the Second World War, Margaret went to Somerville College at Oxford University to study chemistry.  This subject was of particular interest to her due to the attraction of invading and succeeding in what was considered a man’s domain.  She graduated in 1947 with a second-class honours degree.  In her book, ‘The Path to Power’ in 1995, Margaret observes, “By the time I left Oxford…I knew a great deal more about the world and particularly about the world of politics…And, by that mysterious process which leads people to every kind of prominent or obscure vocation, I had discovered what I really wanted to do with my life.”

After leaving university Margaret worked as a research chemist for Lyons and then later she studied law and became a barrister. In 1951, she married a wealthy businessman, Denis Thatcher.

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Last updated: 18 February 2011

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