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Stamford in 1841

STAMFORD, or STANFORD, a parliamentary borough in the wapentake of Ness, in the county of Lincoln, 80 miles from the General Post-Office, London, in a direct line north by west, or 90 miles by the road through Hatfield, Baldock, Biggleswade, and Norman Cross.

Stamford is said to have been a British town before the Roman invasion ; and it is an ancient fable that the British king Bladud established a university here which lasted till the time of Austin, the apostle of the Anglo-Saxons. Authentic history is however silent about the place till the troubled period succeeding the Roman dominion, when the Picts and Scots were defeated here by the Britons and their Saxon allies, A.D. 449. (Hen. Hunt., lib. ii.) It is again mentioned in a grant made (A.D. 656) by Wulfhere, king of Mercia, to the Abbey of Medeshamsted, or Medhamsted (now Peterborough), recorded in the Saxon Chronicle. The genuineness of this deed is however questioned by Peck. In the reign of Edward the Elder (A.D. 922) the part of Stamford south of the Welland was fortified by the Saxons, and the Danes, who occupied the northern part of the town, submitted. The town was one of the five Danish burghs which connected their Northumbrian and East Anglian possessions. It was again reduced by the Danes, or ceded to them ; and recovered by Edmund I, A.D. 942. Stamford is noticed in a charter of Edgar to Medeshamsted (Sax. Chron, A.D. 963) as a market-town. It submitted to Sweyn, king of Denmark, in his invasion, A.D. 1013, but was recovered soon after by Ethelred II. In Domesday Book, Stamford, there called Stanford, is styled a king’s borough, and is described as having six wards, five in Lincolnshire and one in Hantune or Northamptonshire.

In the reign of Stephen, the king had a meeting at Stamford, A.D. 1140, with Ranulph or Ralph, earl of Chester, with a view to conclude a peace. In 1190 the Jews of Stamford, who appear to have been tolerably numerous and wealthy, were plundered, and many of them slain by those who had enlisted for the crusade. Their synagogue at Stamford, ‘with its noble library,’ was profaned and sold at the time of their expulsion by Edward I, A.D. 1290.*

* This incident deserves notice as connected with the cultivation of Hebrew literature in England. Many of the books belonging to the libraries of the Synagogues of Stamford and Huntingdon were purchased by Gregory of Huntinjgdon, a monk of Ramsey abbey, and a diligent student of the ancient languages. The books thus purchased formed a valuable part of the library of Ramsey.

In the commencement of the civil war of John, A.D. 1215, the barons assembled here to oppose the king, and John was himself at Stamford a little before his death. In the early part of the reign of Henry III, Richard, earl of Cornwall, the king’s brother, assembled a considerable body at Stamford of discontented barons and their retainers, who required the king to restore the two charters (Magna Charta and the Charta de Foresta) : but the confederacy was dissolved by the moderation of the king and his promise to govern according to the laws of the realm. One of the crosses which marked the resting-places of Queen Eleanor’s body, was erected at Stamford : it was utterly demolished in the civil troubles of Charles I. Several parliaments and councils were held at Stamford in the middle ages. The town was at this time fortified with walls and towers in which were seven principal and two postern gates : there was also a castle, demolished in the time of Richard III. There were sixteen parish churches in the town and suburbs, and religious houses were numerous : there were priories for Carmelite, Franciscan, Dominican, and Austin friars (two in or near the town), and Benedictine monks (at St. Leonard’s, just out of the town to the east) ; also several ‘halls’ or monastic schools. On occasion of some discontent at Oxford, a number of the students retired here (A.D. 1333), and were not induced to return without great difficulty.

The town was taken by the Lancastrian army raised in the North by Queen Margaret (A.D. 1461) ; and as the townsmen were generally Yorkists, was given up to devastation. Six churches appear to have been destroyed at this time ; four others were subsequently removed, and six still remain; five in the old borough, and one in Stamford Baron, on the south side of the Welland. The battle of Lose-Coat-field was fought not far from Stamford, A.D. 1462. There were some troubles raised here by the Royalists A.D. 1648 ; and a riot was raised by the high-church party in 1714, in which the Presbyterian meeting-house was destroyed.

The town stands partly on the north side of the Welland, in the county of Lincoln, and partly on the south side, in the parish of St. Martin, Stamford Baron, in the liberty of Peterborough, in the county of Northampton. The old borough of Stamford, which did not include the latter part, has an area of 1,860 acres, with a population in 1831 of 5,837 ; the parish of St. Martin, Stamford-Baron, from which the late additions to the borough are taken, has an area of 2,170 acres, with a population of 1,274 ; together 4,030 acres, and 7,111 inhabitants. The two parts are united by an ancient stone bridge of five arches. The streets are irregularly laid out, and paved and lighted with gas : the town is well supplied with water. The houses are chiefly built of freestone from the quarries of Ketton and Barnoak, and slated. All Saints church consists of a nave with two aisles, and a chancel with one aisle, at the end of the south aisle of the nave. Most of the interior, and the lower part of the exterior of this church, are of early English architecture ; the tower, spire, and two porches are of perpendicular character : there is a fine perpendicular pannelled font. St. George’s is a large plain building, retaining, amidst many alterations, some old portions, principally perpendicular ; it consists of a nave, with side aisles, chancel, and western tower : there are some portions of ancient stained glass. St. John the Baptist’s is chiefly of perpendicular character, with a fine wooden roof and wooden screen-work ; it has a nave and chancel, each with side aisles; a neat embattled tower and pinnacles ; and a handsome south porch. St. Mary’s is one of the finest churches in the town ; it consists of a nave with two aisles, and a chancel with one ; and a western tower and spire. The tower and spire, with some other parts, are of early English architecture; but a large portion of the church is of perpendicular character : it has some rich chapels and an ancient canopied altar tomb. St. Michael’s church has been much altered and modernized. St. Martin’s church, Stamford Baron, south of the Welland, is a fine specimen of late perpendicular architecture : the piers and arches are very light and lofty, and there is a good south porch. It contains the monument of the great Lord Burghley. Part of the nave of the conventual church of the Benedictine priory of St. Leonard’s (sometimes called St. Leonard’s Hospital) is still standing, and is used as a barn : the architecture is mixed, being Norman in its form and early English in its details. The west gate of the Carmelite or White Friary is still entire, just outside the town on the north-east side ; it is a good decorated English composition, of about the time of Edward III. Near it are part of a wall and a postern or back gateway of the Grey or Franciscan Friary. The grammar-school is part of the old church of St. Paul : it is partly of Norman, partly of early English architecture, with some later windows inserted : near it is a Norman gateway, anciently belonging to Brazen-Nose College, one of the monastic schools, and now forming an entrance into a garden. There are a small Norman doorway near the bridge, and a doorway in an old wall near the river, probably belonging to the castle. Brown’s hospital has some portions of good late perpendicular character : Burghley hospital, in St. Martin’s, Stamford Baron, is of the Elizabethan period. Of more recent date are the town-hall, the gaol, the theatre, a market for butcher’s meat, butter, and fish ; and the Catholic, Wesleyan, and Independent chapels. The infirmary for Stamford and the county of Rutland is a neat modern building in the Gothic style.

The trade of the place is considerable, and consists chiefly in the supply of the surrounding agricultural district : silk-throwing was carried on a few years since, but is now given up ; considerable business in malting is done : the markets are on Monday and Friday, the latter is a considerable corn-market : there are seven yearly fairs. The Welland, or rather a lateral cut to the natural bed of the river, is navigable up to the town for boats and small barges.

The institutions for benevolent and literary purposes, and for amusement, are tolerably numerous. Besides the infirmary and Brown and Burghley’s hospitals, there are several ranges of alms-houses, or, as they are locally termed, ‘Callises;’ a Bible society, a savings’ bank, a library and reading-room, a theatre, and cold baths. Races are held : and a barbarous custom of bull-hunting, or, as it is locally termed, ‘bull-running,’ has been (unless quite lately put down) kept up yearly for several centuries. A similar custom prevailed at Tutbury [STAFFORDSHIRE], but is now suppressed. One newspaper, the ‘Stamford Mercury,’ is published in the town : it has been established considerably more than a century.

Stamford was a borough before the Conquest. By the Boundary Act a part of the parish of St. Martin, Stamford Baron, was added for parliamentary, and subsequently, by the Municipal Corporations’ Reform Act, for municipal purposes. It is divided into two wards, and has six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Quarter-sessions are held, and there is a court of record. The borough returned members as early as 23 Edward I : it sends two now : the number of voters in 1835-6 was 755 ; in 1839-40, 679.

The living of All Saints is a vicarage, united with the rectory of St. Peter’s, of the clear yearly value of £431, with a glebe-house ; the living of St. George’s (united with St. Paul’s) is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £124, with a glebe-house ; the living of St. John the Baptist’s (united with St. Clement’s) is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £167, with a glebe-house ; the living of St. Mary’s is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £87 ; the living of St. Michael’s (united with St. Andrew’s and St. Stephen’s) is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £136 ; and the living of St. Martin’s, Stamford Baron, is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £98, with a glebe-house. The last is in the archdeaconry of Northampton and diocese of Peterborough : the rest are in the archdeaconry and diocese of Lincoln.

There were, in 1833, in the old borough, and in the parish of St. Martin, a grammar-school, well endowed, with 53 boys ; an endowed day-school called ‘the Blue-coat school,’ with 80 boys ; two day and Sunday schools, endowed by what is called Wells’s Charity, with 56 boys and 46 girls ; a national school, with 118 girls; an infant-school, with about 90 or 100 children, boys and girls ; two other day-schools with small endowments, with from 44 to 54 boys and 16 girls ; 22 other day or boarding schools, with 82 boys, 203 girls, and 314 to 334 children of sex not stated ; and 3 Sunday-schools, with 156 boys and 126 girls.