Stamford

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Stamford is a town and civil parish within the South Kesteven district of the county of Lincolnshire, England. It is approximately 100 miles (160 km) to the north of London, on the east side of the A1 road to York and Edinburgh and on the River Welland. The resident population at the 2001 census was 21,800,including the adjacent parish of St Martin’s Without.

The town is best known for its medieval core of 17th-18th century stone buildings, older timber framed buildings and five medieval parish churches.

Stamford was the first conservation area to be designated in England and Wales under the Civic Amenities Act 1967. Since then the whole of the old town and St Martin’s has been made an outstanding area of architectural or historic interest that is of national importance. Therefore there is much interest in its vibrant local history.

In June 1968, a specimen of the sauropod dinosaur Cetiosaurus oxoniensis was found by Bill Boddington in the Williamson Cliffe Quarry, close to Great Casterton. It was calculated to be around 170 million years old, from the Aalenian or Bajocian part of the Jurassic period. The Rutland Dinosaur is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons found in the UK, being fifteen metres long, and since 1975 has been in the New Walk Museum in Leicester.

The Stamford Museum was in a Victorian building in Broad Street and run by the museum services of Lincolnshire County Council from 1980 to 2011.

The Romans built Ermine Street across what is now Burghley Park and through the middle of the town, where it forded the Welland, eventually reaching Lincoln; they built a town to the north at Great Casterton. In AD 61 Boudica followed the Roman 9th Legion (Legio IX Hispana) across the river. Although the Romans made Great Casterton a bigger town, the Saxons later chose Stamford as their main town, being on a more important river than the River Gwash.

In 972 King Edgar made Stamford a borough. The Anglo-Saxons and Danes faced each other across the river. The town originally grew as a Danish settlement at the lowest point that the Welland could be crossed by ford or bridge. Stamford was the only one of the Danelaw Five Burghs (“boroughs”) not to become a county town. Initially a pottery centre, producing Stamford Ware, by the Middle Ages it had become famous for its production of wool and the woollen cloth known as Stamford cloth – which “In Henry III’s reign … was well known in Venice”. There is an example of this cloth, also called haberget, in Stamford Museum. Stamford was a walled town but only a very small portion of the walls now remain. Stamford became an inland port on the Great North Road that superseded the Roman road Ermine Street, which passes near the town, where it forded the River Welland. Notable buildings in the town include the mediaeval Browne’s Hospital, several churches and the buildings of Stamford School, a public school founded in 1532.

The historian David Roffe has made a study of many aspects of the Danelaw, and his web site includes an extensive and scholarly history of Stamford Castle.

A Norman castle was built about 1075 and apparently demolished in 1484. The site stood derelict until the late twentieth century when it was built over and now includes a bus station and a modern housing development.

A small part of the curtain wall survives at the junction of Castle Dyke and Bath Row. From the doorway within it hustings were held until around 1971, the candidates speaking from a position above the crowd.

Stamford has been hosting an annual fair since the Middle Ages. Stamford fair is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 2 (act 3 scene 2). The mid-Lent fair is the largest street fair in Lincolnshire and one of the largest in the country. On 7 March 1190, crusaders at the fair led a pogrom; many Jews in the town were massacred.

For almost 700 years Stamford was host to a renowned bull-running festival on 13 November annually, until it was abandoned in 1837 after a campaign by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Stamford residents defended their ancient custom as a “traditional, manly, English sport; inspiring courage, agility and presence of mind under danger.” Its defenders argued that it was less cruel and dangerous than fox hunting, and one local newspaper asked “Who or what is this London Society that, usurping the place of constituted authorities, presumes to interfere with our ancient amusement?”

According to local tradition, the origin of the custom dated from the time of King John when, William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey, standing on the battlements of the castle, saw two bulls fighting in the meadow beneath. Some butchers came to part the combatants and one of the bulls ran into the town, causing a great uproar. The earl, mounting his horse, rode after the animal, and enjoyed the sport so much, that he gave the meadow in which the fight began, to the butchers of Stamford, on condition that they should provide a bull, to be run in the town every 13 November, for ever after. The town of Stamford acquired common rights in the meadow specified, a grassy flood plain next to the Welland, which until the last century was known as Bull-meadow, and today just as The Meadows – still a popular place of summer relaxation. In 1839, on one of the last bull runs, the bull was forced off the bridge into the river.

The last known witness of the final bull running was James Fuller Scholes who spoke of it in a newspaper interview in 1928 before his 94th birthday; “I am the only Stamford man living who can remember the bull-running in the streets of the town. I can remember my mother showing me the bull and the horses and men and dogs who chased it. She kept the St Peter’s Street – the building that was formerly the Chequers Inn at that time and she showed me the bull-running sport from a bedroom window. I was only four years old then, but I can clearly remember it all. The end of St Peter’s Street (where it was joined by Rutland Terrace) was blocked by two farm wagons, and I saw the bull come to the end of the street and return again. My mother told me not to put my head out of the window – apparently because she was afraid I should drop into the street.”

Seventeenth-century historians described how the bull was chased and tormented for the day before being driven to the Bull-meadow and slaughtered. “Its flesh [was] sold at a low rate to the people, who finished the day’s amusement with a supper of bull-beef.”

The custom was abandoned in the 19th century after a campaign by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the intervention of military and police. Stamford residents defended their ancient custom as a “traditional, manly, English sport; inspiring courage, agility and presence of mind under danger.” Its defenders argued that it was less cruel and dangerous than fox hunting, and one local newspaper asked “Who or what is this London Society that, usurping the place of constituted authorities, presumes to interfere with our ancient amusement?”

The last bull run was in 1839. The last known witness of the bull running was James Fuller Scholes who spoke of it in a newspaper interview in 1928 before his 94th birthday; “I am the only Stamford man living who can remember the bull-running in the streets of the town. I can remember my mother showing me the bull and the horses and men and dogs that chased it. She kept the St Peter’s Street – the building that was formerly the Chequers Inn at that time and she showed me the bull-running sport from a bedroom window. I was only four years old then, but I can clearly remember it all. The end of St Peter’s Street (where it was joined by Rutland Terrace) was blocked by two farm wagons, and I saw the bull come to the end of the street and return again. My mother told me not to put my head out of the window – apparently because she was afraid I should drop into the street.”

Stamford is part of the Parliamentary constituency of Grantham and Stamford. The incumbent Member of Parliament is the Conservative, Nick Boles.

Since April 1974 Stamford has been within the areas of Lincolnshire County (upper tier) and South Kesteven District Council (lower tier); previous to that it was part of Kesteven County Council. Stamford is in the East Midlands region.

Stamford has a town council. The arms of the town council are Per pale dexter side Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Or and the sinister side chequy Or and Azure. The three lions are the English royal arms, the blue and gold chequers are the arms of the de Warennes, who held the Manor in the 13th century.

It is a town and civil parish within the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire. It is situated on the River Welland, in a south-westerly protrusion of Lincolnshire, between Rutland to the north and west, and Peterborough to the south. It borders Northamptonshire to the south-west at the only point in England where four ceremonial counties meet. Stamford was declared a conservation area in 1967 (the first urban conservation area) and has over 600 listed buildings, more than half of the total for the County of Lincolnshire. In April 1991, the boundary between Lincolnshire and Rutland (then Leicestershire) in the Stamford area was re-arranged and now mostly follows the A1 to the railway line. The conjoined parish of Wothorpe is in the city of Peterborough. Barnack Road is the Lincolnshire/Peterborough boundary where it borders St Martin’s Without.

The river downstream of the town bridge, and some of the meadows fall within the drainage area of the Welland and Deepings Internal Drainage Board.

There is substantial presence of professional law and accountancy firms. Health, education and other public service employers play a role in the local economy. Notably the hospital, two large medical general practices, schools (including independent schools) and the further education college. Hospitality is provided by a large number of hotels, licensed premises and many restaurants, tea rooms and cafés. The licensed premises reflect the history and geography of the town with The Lord Burghley, The William Cecil, The Danish Invader and The Scotgate, (and previously The Daniel Lambert) together with the Easton on the Hill nearly thirty premises serve real ale. Jim’s Yard is on Ironmonger Street. The surrounding villages and Rutland Water provide additional venues and employment opportunities, as do the several annual large events at Burghley House.

The town has a significant retail and retail service sector. The town centre is home to many independents and draws people from a wide area for the pleasure of shopping. There are numerous gift shops, homewares, men’s and women’s outfitters, shoe shops,and florists, as well as hair salons, beauty therapists, and eateries.

National supermarkets Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and Morrisons are represented. Two retail parks a little way from the centre provide, on one – Homebase DIY, Curry’s electrical, Carpetright floor covering and McDonald’s fast-food; and on the other – Sainsbury’s, catalogue shop (Argos), a discounter, Lidl supermarket, Halfords car spares and bicycle shop. The town has three builders’ merchants, and a number of other specialist trade outlets. There are two large car sales showrooms (a third – a Ford show room was converted to residential in the early twenty-first century), and a number of car-related businesses. There are also local service retailers: convenience stores, post offices, newsagents and take-aways (fish and chips and others).

National jeweller F. Hinds can trace their history back to the clockmaker Joseph Hinds, who worked in Stamford in the first half of the nineteenth century and they also have a branch in the town.

South of the town is RAF Wittering, a main employer, and the Home of the Harrier. The airbase originally opened in 1916 as RFC Stamford, which closed then re-opened in 1924 under its present title.

The engineering company Cummins Generator Technologies (formerly Newage Lyon, then Newage International), a maker of electrical generators, is based on Barnack Road. C & G Concrete (now part of Breedon Aggregates) is on Uffington Road. The area is known for its limestone and slate quarries. Collyweston stone slate, the cream-coloured stone, is found on the roofs of many of Stamford’s stone buildings. Stamford Stone, in Barnack, have two quarries at Marholm and Clipsham; Clipsham stone is found on York Minster.

The Pick Motor company was located in Stamford. A number of smaller firms — welders, printers and so forth — are either located in small collections of industrial units, or more traditional premises in older mixed-use parts of the town.

Being in the midst of some of the richest farmland in England, and close to the famous “double cropping” land of parts of the fens, agriculture provides a small but steady number of jobs for the town in farming, agricultural machinery, distribution and other ancillary services.

The Stamford Mercury claims to have been published since 1695, and to be “Britain’s oldest newspaper”. Local high-profile publishers are Key Publishing (aviation) and the Bourne Publishing Group (pets). Old Glory, a specialist magazine devoted to steam power, was published in Stamford.

The Industrial Revolution largely left Stamford untouched. Much of town centre was built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in Jacobean or Georgian style. Stamford is characterised by street after street of timber-framed and stone buildings (using the local limestone that Lincoln Cathedral is built from), little shops tucked down back alleys. The main shopping area was pedestrianised in the 1980s.

Near Stamford (actually in the historic Soke of Peterborough and the parish of Barnack) is Burghley House, an Elizabethan mansion, vast and ornate, built by the First Minister of Elizabeth I, Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. The house is the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Exeter. The tomb of William Cecil is in St Martin’s Church in Stamford. The parkland of the Burghley Estate adjoins the town of Stamford on two sides. Also inside the district of Peterborough is the village of Wothorpe.

Another historic country house near Stamford is Tolethorpe Hall, now host to outdoor theatre productions by the Stamford Shakespeare Company.

Tobie Norris had a famous bell foundry in the town in the 17th century; his name is now better known as a popular pub on St Paul’s Street.

Lying as it does on the main north-south route (Ermine Street and the A1) from London, several Parliaments were held in Stamford in the Middle Ages. The George, the Bull and Swan, the Crown and the London Inn were well-known coaching inns. The town had to manage with Britain’s north-south traffic through its narrow roads until 1960, when the bypass was built to the west of the town, only a few months after the M1 opened. The old route is now the B1081. There is only one road bridge over the Welland (excluding the A1): a local bottleneck.

Until 1996, there were firm plans for the bypass to be upgraded to motorway standard, since shelved. The Carpenter’s Lodge roundabout south of the town has been replaced with a grade-separated junction. The old A16 road now A1175 (England)|A1175(Uffington Road), which heads to Market Deeping, meets the north end of the A43 (Wothorpe Road) in the south of the town.

Foot bridges cross the Welland at the Meadows, some 500 yards upstream of the Town Bridge, and with the Albert Bridge a similar distance downstream.

The Jurassic Way runs from Banbury to Stamford. The Hereward Way runs through the town from Rutland to the Peddars Way in Norfolk, along the Roman Ermine Street and then the River Nene. The Macmillan Way heads through the town, finishing at Boston and there is also Torpel Way to Peterborough, which follows the railway line, entering Peterborough at Bretton.

Closure of Stamford East railway station in 1957 saw services to Essendine handled at the town station, until the Stamford & Essendine line closed in 1959. The surviving railway station, hidden away between Wothorpe Road and the Welland, has direct services to Leicester, Birmingham and Stansted Airport (via Cambridge) on the Birmingham to Peterborough Line. Trains arriving from, or departing for Peterborough, pass through a short tunnel that runs beneath St Martins.

Although commercial shipping traffic brought cargoes along a canal from Market Deeping to warehouses in Wharf Road until the 1850s, this traffic is no longer possible because of the abandonment of the canal and the shallowness of the river above Crowland. There is a lock at the Sluice in Deeping St James but it is not in use. The river was not conventionally navigable upstream of the Town Bridge.

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