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Southwest Lincolnshire Country Houses
by Michael Ford, Country House Editor
StamfordDay 1 - On our way to Ropsley, which would be our home for a week, we arrived at Stamford and spent the morning there.
Stamford has always been an important centre because it was the only place the River Welland could be crossed throughout the year. The Danes held it in the 9th century but it was won back by Edward the Elder in 10th century. Later the Normans built a castle here of which only three 13th century arches survive. Henry III granted Stamford its charter in 1254 and it has grown around the cloth trade and as a religious centre.
St. Leonard's Priory was founded by Benedictine monks in the early 12th century and is a fine example of Norman architecture. Only fragments of St. Michael's Nunnery, founded in 1155, survive as do fragments of Greyfriars founded in 1230, the only remains of four original friaries. Browne's Hospital, built in 1475 is considered to be the best surviving medieval hospital in England while Burghley's Almshouses established in 1597 was built on the site of another medieval hospital founded, in the 12th century, and incorporates some of its remains. A medieval tower, part of the original town walls, known as the Bastion can still be seen along with the 13th century Brazenose Gate all that remains of a hall set up by the students of Brazenose College Oxford as a rival University.
The town was sacked and burnt by the Lancastrian army in 1461 during the 'Wars of the Roses' but not all was destroyed.
The town has been a conservation area since 1967 and is proclaimed as 'the finest stone town in England'. Its streets abound with medieval remains and Georgian buildings and there are five major churches, St. George (12th century), All Saints and St. Mary (both 13th century) and St. John and St. Martin (both 15th century). All go together to make it a very beautiful town.William Stukeley the father of British archaeology was the vicar of All Saints in the mid 1700s.
Little known facts about Stamford:
Legend has it that around 800BC the seat of an ancient University was founded at Stamford by King Bladud the Trojan king of Britain according to Merlin the Wizard.
The title 'Knight of the Garter' was initiated in Stamford by Edward III while dancing, when he saved his partner from embarrassment by retrieving her garter after it slipped to the floor.
The BBC's television dramatisation of George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' was filmed at Stamford thus giving authenticity to this 19th century story of love, politics and passion. The street scenes show off the town to perfection.
There is an excellent second-hand bookshop 'Staniland Booksellers' in St George's Street.
NEXT STOP: Burghley House
Photo of St. Mary's Church Stamford reproduced by kind permission of stamford.co.uk