As one of Lincolnshire’s most attractive towns, Stamford ticks all the boxes for its superb mix of historic charm, contemporary shopping and friendly ambience, as Glynis Fox discovers.
A magnet for tourists and locals alike, Stamford is bursting with well-preserved Georgian and medieval properties which are admired by many visitors, especially those who are drawn to historic architecture.
If you love retail therapy, you will not be disappointed. Home to a range of national branded outlets and established and newer independent businesses, there is something for everyone. Many shops and eateries are based in heritage buildings, adding an extra dimension to the shopping experience.
In the High Street you will find well-known names such as Boots, Marks & Spencer, White Stuff, New Look, Space NK and newer arrivals such as Oliver Bonas. One of the most recent is an award-winning cheese specialist.
October got off to a great start for newcomer Rennet & Rind, and the expert cheesemongers were left catching their breath, having been given a big thumbs up by shoppers when they opened on 30th September. The business is owned by Mark and Jan Hulme – ably assisted by Perry Wakeman, who was named the first ever British Affineur of the Year in 2022 and who won the title again this year!
Cheesemonger Mark, who has chalked up 34 years in the industry, and his wife are from Cambridgeshire. They operate a busy wholesale business, but they are delighted with their expansion into retail.
“When Covid hit, the wholesale side dried up. We had £250,000 worth of stock and no customers because restaurants, pubs and bars were closed, so we created a retail business online,” said Mark.
Today Rennet & Rind continues to have a busy wholesale arm, but when they learned that a former cheese shop and deli in Stamford was closing, Mark realised it presented a golden opportunity.
“We were thrilled to open in those same High Street premises and delighted that our first day of trading wildly exceeded our expectations,” he said.
While Perry is obviously a long-standing expert when it comes to the business of maturing cheeses, both he and Mark have been judges at the World Cheese Awards for many years.
Ironmonger Street, which takes you from the High Street to Broad Street, is also home to more shops and the unmissable Friday market, whose stalls stretch down both streets.
St Mary’s Street is another good area in which to find more independent shops and they are definitely worth more than a passing glance. Fashionistas will be drawn to dip into Rapport, which sells ladies’ clothing, jewellery, bags and gifts. A few doors up you’ll find Black Orchid and Seven Fashions, along with the family shoe business Marcia May.
If you are a passionate collector of top-branded china and crystal, searching for something special for your home or a gift for a friend, you are likely to find it in the town’s long-standing “department-style” store Sinclairs of Stamford.
As we went to press, we discovered a new arrival in St Mary’s Street, Stork of Stamford, which is the brainchild of a former contestant on The Apprentice, Marianne Rawlins.
Marianne, who has two children, has always loved the town and realised there was a gap to be filled when it came to finding the essentials needed by expectant and new mums and their children.
After looking at various premises she has put her stamp on an impressive double-fronted, two-storey building in St Mary’s Street.
“I love Stamford and I know that this is an area in which independent businesses thrive and where I can cater for the ‘conception to reception’ market, with products to suit youngsters from birth to the age of five,” said Marianne.
“We have two floors, giving us plenty of room to display and sell clothing for everyone from mums-to-be, to babies and toddlers, as well as all sorts of other essentials.”
Stork of Stamford has also invested in an embroidery machine and is able to add personal touches to baby quilts and items of clothing. The shop also stocks nursery furniture and a fabulous range of gifts, including items which can be engraved.
Marianne, who has taken on manager Ellie Demagalshi and assistants Evie Ellson and Amelia Robbins, added that Stork has received an “absolutely fantastic” welcome from customers.
MUSIC AND LITERATURE
If your hobby includes collecting rare books, playing music or collecting British-made watches, turn the corner and check out the businesses on St Mary’s Hill.
Look out for Stamford Music Shop, which stocks a huge range of sheet music and a variety of musical instruments, which can be bought or rented. The store’s customers include schools, orchestras and individual shoppers.
St Mary’s Books, which sits in the shadow of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, is a quaint store which provides plenty of temptation for readers and collectors, boasting more than 40,000 books. It is irresistible to those after antiquarian collectibles, modern first editions and manuscripts, and a place to get a wealth of advice and information.
A few doors down you will find Robert Loomes, a watchmaker and repairer of antique clocks, watches and dials.
Take time to explore many of Stamford’s little alleys for more shopping surprises. You can also enjoy morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea at one of the town’s many cafés and eateries.
If you fancy staying overnight, Stamford offers a choice of accommodation, with The George probably being the best-known hotel.
SEEING AND DOING
Stamford is both pleasant and easy to explore on foot and you can choose how to do it.
Pop into the town’s Tourist Information Centre, based in the Stamford Arts Centre in St Mary’s Street, and pick up a copy of the town map – a fascinating guide to 67 points of interest spread across four different areas.
These are clearly signposted on the mini street maps featured in the leaflet. If you’re feeling energetic, why not discover them all, perhaps with coffee stops along the way, or visit different areas on separate days.
Guided Walking Tours, which bring the past to life for visitors of all ages, are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from March to October. At other times it is possible to book a private tour – tel: 07534 308928 for more information.
Burghley House – which was built between 1555 and 1587 by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I and which sits in fabulous parkland – is a popular film location, so put it on your list of places to visit when it reopens in March 2024.
However, you could enjoy a sneak view of this landmark property before then by visiting from 23rd to 26th November and soaking up the festive spirit at the Burghley Christmas Fair.
Searching for entertainment? Then check out Stamford Arts Centre in St Mary’s Street, a thriving multi-arts venue which dates back to the 18th-century. It offers people the chance to experience and take part in everything from theatre to cinema, music, poetry, sculpture, dance, painting and drawing.
Open from Monday to Saturday from 8.30am, the centre features a 166-seat theatre. Its ballroom hosts a range of concerts, dances and workshops and also acts as a wedding venue. There is also a light and airy gallery and a coffee shop.
Alternatively, why not see what is on offer at Stamford Corn Exchange in Broad Street, which has a theatre capable of seating 399 people.
TREAT SOMEONE ELSE!
Stamford Arts Centre is among South Kesteven District venues which are encouraging people to open up live entertainment to a wider audience.
The introduction of a ‘Pay It Forward’ initiative aims to promote inclusivity by inviting audiences and supporters of the centre to contribute towards the price of a ticket for children, families and groups who may otherwise not have the opportunity to attend.
South Kesteven District Council Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Paul Stokes said: “Our arts centres mean a great deal to many of us. They help to bring the delight and inspiration of live theatre and other events to our district.
“However, not everyone is afforded the opportunity to attend these events, so it is very important that we find ways to make the arts as accessible as possible and open up the magic of live entertainment to a broader audience.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far into our venues, helping to break down financial barriers and shape a more inclusive theatre community.”
Donations to the scheme can be made online via the art centres’ websites, over the telephone or in person at box offices during opening hours.
The council said it will work with local partners, including schools, social prescribers and third-sector organisations to identify people across the district (which also covers Grantham’s Guildhall Arts Centre and Bourne Corn Exchange) to identify those who would benefit from the free tickets.
For more information about upcoming performances at Stamford Art Centre, visit stamfordartscentre.com
BESPOKE SERVICE AT THE RUG STUDIO
Hidden away at The Courtyard on Brownlow Street you will find The Rug Studio. The unbeaten knowledge of Sales, Cleaning, Restoration and Design/Production of Oriental, Traditional and Contemporary Rugs makes The Rug Studio unique.
With over 30 years of experience in the industry and a trained weaver, Rachel and her team help tailor a client’s brief in the finer subtleties of achieving their ideal environment and desired atmosphere while considering traffic level, colour, size, and budget. Questioning the quality of materials used, the size, weave and dyes for the space required are all factors that the studio staff will discuss with you, ensuring you are achieving the best piece possible for the space intended.
As well as a vast collection held in-house, The Rug Studio also taps into a network of suppliers nationally and internationally to source the perfect rug for your space.
You will also find a snippet of the antique collection in The Guardroom at The Hemswell Antique Centre, open 7 days a week. In Situ viewing available, to see a selection of rugs in your home.
Studio open Tues to Fri 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5.30pm, Sat from 10am to 4pm or by appointment. Free parking available.
Established in 1987, premier independent retailer Colin Bell Menswear, which is located on Sheep Market in Stamford, offers premium men’s fashion alongside a friendly personal shopping service.
The shop stocks high-quality men’s clothing from renowned European brands such as Fynch-Hatton, Bugatti, Meyer, Olymp, Giordano and more, available both as part of its in-store collection, as well as online.
The expert team at Colin Bell pride themselves on delivering the best personalised customer experience in a relaxed atmosphere, helping you to not only look sharp, but also feel comfortable throughout the seasons.
Whether you’re shopping for a special formal occasion, a casual outing, or looking to refresh your wardrobe, these style gurus have got you covered!
Colin Bell Menswear is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm.
For more information visit www.colinbell.uk
OAKHAM SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS SPORTING PATHWAYS
Young athletes and their parents enjoyed a special evening at Oakham School’s exciting, inaugural Sporting Futures event with talks from leading figures from the sporting world.
Oakham School welcomed 25 very special guests from the sporting world to its inaugural Sporting Futures event, an evening of talks and networking for young people involved in talent pathways and academies.
More than 100 young athletes aged between 14 and 16, and their parents, attended from Oakham School and other schools across the country.
This unique and exciting event was designed to provide genuine insight and advice to young people involved in sports talent pathways, by leveraging Oakham School’s considerable experience in the field, as well as that of the visiting speakers.
After a warm welcome from Oakham School’s headmaster, Henry Price, director of sport, Dr Iain Simpson, outlined what athletes should expect from a talent development environment.
Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Loughborough University, Dr Ed Cope – a renowned expert in the field of coaching, who has worked with the Football Association – delivered a compelling talk about the necessity of learning how to overcome adversity in successful talent development. Dr Cope explained the importance of young athletes being constantly challenged as part of their learning journey.
James Bateman, head of men’s performance hockey at University of Nottingham, outlined the environment that students can expect at sports focused universities. He also emphasised the importance of balancing both academic and sporting ambitions when selecting a university, and talked about opportunities for sports scholarships.
Careers and recruitment
The audience then enjoyed an insightful presentation from former Leicester Tigers and England rugby player Leon Lloyd, a leading authority on transitioning to life outside of sport. Leon – who works with Premier League football clubs, ‘blue chip’ companies and the MoD – discussed the importance of keeping options open and highlighted the multitude of career options.
Leicester Tigers head coach, Dan McKellar, then took to the stage to give a view on what professional sports clubs are looking for when recruiting athletes. He outlined key attributes that he deems essential in his players, based on his 15-year professional rugby coaching career with, amongst others, Leicester Tigers, ACT Brumbies and the Australian national team. Mr McKellar identified talent, character, work ethic, sacrifice and resilience as the essential attributes for professional athletes.
Dr Simpson closed the talks by considering the talent pathway journey from a parent’s perspective.
Among the group of special guests were two class of ’19 Old Oakhamians: Leicester Tigers and England rugby star Jack van Poortvliet and freelance sports journalist Imogen Ainsworth.
If you are interested in finding out more, please contact the Admissions Department on 01572 758758 or email@example.com
FABULOUS FEET FOR KIDS
As specialists in stylish children’s footwear, Marcia May Mini is part of the family-run Marcia May Stamford group of shops on St Mary’s Street.
In this popular shop you will find the best selection of quality children’s shoes around, stocking StartRite, Ricosta and Bobux, among many other great brands.
If you’re looking for professional fitting of children’s shoes by qualified staff, this is the town’s number one choice. School shoes go up to adult size 11 for boys and size 9 for girls. Marcia May also stocks a great range of organic clothing from birth up to age 12 and specialises in quirky, unusual and traditional toys and gifts for children. It’s the ideal place to shop for special gifts, from beautiful baby gifts and wooden toys to party-priced presents, jigsaws and craft sets for older children.
Open Monday to Friday 9.30am-5pm, Sat 9.30am-5.30pm and Sun 11am-4pm.
Tel: 01780 755144 or visit www.marciamaystamford.co.uk
WELL-HEELED AND STYLISH
Established in 2010 by owner Samantha Drewery, Marcia May Shoes is one of a pair of family-run shops on St Mary’s Street in the Marcia May Stamford group.
This is one of those rare independent shoe retailers and the biggest independent shoe shop for both men and women in the area, which specialises in high-quality European comfort brands with style.
Enjoy a warm welcome from the experienced staff who select from the fashion ranges of their brands, bringing you a wealth of styles not often found in the average shoe store.
German brands, including Gabor, Josef Seibel and Rieker, all known for their quality and fit, and the shop is the largest Gabor stockist in the East Midlands. There are also elegant shoes from Spain and Portugal, such as Paula Urban and Pikolinos, and great styles from Ecco of Denmark.
This wonderfully stocked independent shop is well worth a visit! Open Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5pm, Saturday 9.30am-5.30pm, Sunday 11am-4pm. Customer loyalty card and Click & Collect available. Dog friendly.
Tel: 01780 762699, visit marciamaystamford.co.uk, @marciamay
Photographs: Mick Fox