During his stay with Marian and Martin in Greatford, Ike enjoyed a walk around the beautiful town of Stamford, right on the southwest tip of Lincolnshire. Before his visit there Ike thought Stamford might have been a Georgian town, having seen it in films such as Middlemarch (1994) and Pride and Prejudice (2005), but he now knows it is much more ancient than that, even if the Romans didn’t use the ford at Stamford to cross the River Welland, but built Ermine Street through what is now Burghley Park. It was in Anglo Saxon times that Stamford became an important place – the name meaning stony ford.
Ike had a look at the bridge which crosses the River Welland, in Stamford. This was built in 1848-9 and has 3 arches, replacing a five-arched medieval bridge. The old Great North Road crosses the bridge, and by the river, is the George Hotel. This was already in existence as an inn by 1568, and may date back to 947, when it would have been owned by the Abbots of Crowland. The front has a sixteenth century doorway, and in the eighteenth century the hotel became famous across the country, with the building of turnpike roads and the introduction of stage coach travel.
Ike was disappointed that he could not go into the George, which is shut due to the Covid restrictions; he had heard that the food is excellent.
Opposite the George, across Water Street, is Lord Burghley’s Hospital, on the site of a twelfth century hospital built by Peterborough Abbey for the relief of pilgrims and the local poor and sick. In1595 Lord Burghley endowed it to house thirteen old men of the town, and today it is a charity run by volunteers, and occupied by men and women who have worked in Stamford for some years.
Further along the river, Ike came to The Meadows. This is where the Mid-Lent Fair is held every year, but for the rest of the year is a beautiful area for people to walk. In the Doomsday Book, Stamford is listed as having a market, a fair, and at least 4 churches.
Stamford’s Mid-Lent fair was mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2. Then Ike noticed the flood gates – and the name meadow gives the game away – the river is prone to flood here. And just as he had done on his walk around Greatford, he noticed weeping willow trees growing along the river.
The River Welland was navigable from the Wash as far as the bridge in Stamford, meaning that in medieval times, the cloth produced in the town from local wool could be exported from ports on the North Sea. Stamford is first mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle as being part of the lands given by King Wulfhere of Mercia to St Peter’s Monastery at Medeshamstede (later to be known as Peterborough) when that monastery was consecrated in AD 656. King Edmund built a fortress on the banks of the Welland in 942 when he took Stamford from the Danes, as well as a smaller settlement on the south side of the river. He also established a mint in the town. Glazed pottery was made in the town between the ninth and thirteenth centuries – the first such pottery to be made in England since Roman times. A castle was built in 1068, by order of William of Normandy, but was in ruins by 1340, and demolished by the mid-sixteenth century. Ike saw the only remaining part of the castle, which is part of the thirteenth century Great Hall.
Ike continues his tour of Stamford tomorrow.