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Eleanor

East Midlands Stamford - what to do and see

Stamford is an unspoilt town and with its Saxon street plan and Georgian buildings it feels as if the C20th has passed it by.

It was originally a walled town with a Norman castle but little remains. Traces of the C13th walls can be seen to the north of the town along North Street and one Bastion tower still stands.
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The remains of one of the postern gates through the wall can be seen on St Mary’s Hill.
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Shortly after the Norman Conquest, the Normans built a motte and bailey castle to control the crossing point on the River Welland. This was soon replaced by a stone building. By the C14th the castle no longer strategically important and was in a poor state. By 1600, all that was left was a small hall used as an occasional law court (Leet Court). The rest of the stone was robbed out and used as building stone.

Part of the keep survived until the 1930s when the area was flatted for the bus station and car park. Now all that remains is part of the hall wall and curtain wall at the junction of Castle Dyke and Bath Row. The three arched openings are thought to be part of the screen passage of the Great Hall and part of the curtain wall.
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At the end of the curtain wall is the site of former former public bath house built here in 1772 by local surgeons concerned about the sanitary conditions in the town. The present building was built in 1823 by the marquis of Exeter and is now a private house.

The gateways in the walls were pulled down in the C17th when the turnpikes arrived and they were creating bottlenecks for traffic wanting to enter or leave the town. St Peter’s Gate controlled entry to the town from the west. When it was demolished and a small row of almshouses were built to the south of the site, providing accommodation for poor married couples. These were named Hopkins Hospital after John Hopkins who was mayor of Stamford and provided the funding.
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Wealthy merchants funded the building of Almshouses in Stamford and many can still survive. Browne’s Hospital was founded in the late C15th by wealthy wool merchant, William Browne who was also responsible for enlarging and embellishing All Saints’ Church. This is one of the few almshouses that is open for pre-booked tours, visiting the common room, chapel, audit room and Confrator’s room.

The Town Hall was originally built on the gatehouse over the River Welland on St Mary’s Hill. It was moved to a new building further up the street in 1779, which also housed the goal.
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This is open on Fridays for guided tours which take visitors into the Courtroom, Council Chamber and the Mayor’s Parlour where the Civic Regalia are kept.

Stamford Arts Centre on St Mary’s Street is in an equally impressive C18th building. As well as the Arts Centre, it also has a theatre cinema, ballroom, gallery and coffee-shop.The theatre opened in 1768 and is one of the few C18th playhouses still functioning as a theatre. Tourist Information is also here.
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The Corn Exchange on Broad Street been restored and now houses second theatre with wide range drama and music groups.

The funeral procession of Queen Eleanor stopped in Stamford for a night on the way to London. Little remains of the original cross and there is disagreement as to its exact site. A modern cross was erected in the old sheep market as the centrepiece of the town's £1.3 million Gateway project which pedestrianised Red Lion Square and the Sheep Market. Built of local stone, the cross is topped by a bronze spike. There was a lot of local controversy when the cross was first erected but it is now accepted as a popular meeting place in the town. The Golden Fleece pub dates from the late C18th or early C19th when the area was still used as the sheep market.
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In the C18th, St Martins was lined with staging inns. The George Hotel still has the sign across the road, designed to remind stagecoaches to start slowing down, and tourists to stop and enter.

The Meadows are an attractive area of open land and trees along the River Welland. These were originally water meadows and used to flood regularly. originally common land, they were divided by the 1871 enclosure act between Burghley Estates and the town council.
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Stamford is very much a town of medieval churches and these are described separately.

Tourist Information has a free leaflet about the town with details of a walk around the centre. They also sell a range of more detailed trails.

There is a Children’s Trail as well as a river walk. You can even join a ghost walk.

Stamford is very much a place to explore on foot. There are many information boards spread around the town and all sorts of hidden delights to find, like the cottage on Wharf Street where Sir Malcolm Sargent grew up.
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