Stamford Lincolnshire

The curious visitor to Stamford may wonder how this town avoided the sprawl and squalor of the industrial period. Preserved in aspic it’s the perfect location for a Jane Austin drama.

View from The George

View from The George

Situated close to the Great North Road the town was a natural stopping point for coaches traveling between London and York. Today you can still see the great coaching inns like the George with its iconic sign which crosses the street and the Crown in Red Lion Square. Each have repurposed their old stable blocks to meet very different client groups. Football fans who like a fag can enjoy the large outdoor screen at The Crown whilst shoppers with an eye for luxury goods can visit the boutique shops at the back of The George.

The Welland centre of Stamford

The Welland centre of Stamford

 

The town dates back to the C5th, situated on a hill above meadows rising from the River Welland. The river remains an unspoilt focal point with dramatic views at dusk. The town’s development was restricted by the open field system.  What held development back more than anything was the Lammas Pasture rights – the right of the burgess to graze their cattle and sheep over the open fields after the  harvest had been taken in. The fields could be in private ownership but the burgess still had the right of Lammas over any man’s land. Towns in the midlands were particularly affected by the system.  By C19th the population and risen and the town needed to expand. It was a problem and one that the local aristocracy, down the road in Burghley House, wasn’t going to lend a hand in solving.

Stamford

The town returned two MPs and only householders had the franchise. The Cecils owned 200 houses in the town so had a huge influence which they weren’t going to relinquish by allowing open fields to be enclosed and possibly developed. Fearful of Chartists they also ensured that the town didn’t get caught up in industrialisation.  In 1846 there was a good chance that the London to York railway could pass through.

Stamford Lincolnshire

People of Stamford were anxious to get the trade because of the decline in the coaching trade. Lord Exeter (one of the Cecils) successfully prevented the railway coming and it went through Peterborough instead. Stamford’s  development was choked off and it fossilised into the stunning Georgian town we see today.  Good for today’s tourists but not for those living there at the time as from 1850 the population started to decline.

The Market

The Market

Today the town is still overshadowed by Burghley House and the public school situated in the heart of the town.  Market day on Friday is a lively affair with vendors chanting to sell their fresh produce. The townsfolks’ spiritual and social needs are well catered for as there are several churches and numerous public houses.  Sadly, not many of the pubs have survived as traditional boozers but have been modernised into restaurants or late night drinking holes with bouncers.

 

I know this has little to do with the Thames but it’s good for a visit.

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