Stamford – a Georgian gem

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
February 2024

With its rich history, shopping opportunities and great hospitality, this popular market town is a brilliant destination to visit in any season, says Glynis Fox.

Picturesque after a heavy fall of snow but equally wonderful in summertime, the Georgian town of Stamford offers all the ingredients for a wonderful day out.

You can enjoy various walks, plenty of shopping, try a choice of eateries and, if you get your timing right, round off the day with a spot of entertainment.

Of course, you might not get everything you want done in one day, in which case why not book yourself in overnight at one of the town’s hotels and guest houses?

Stamford offers some smart choices. One of the best known is The George Hotel, which is located just off the Great North Road and which stands on the site of a medieval inn dating back 1,000 years. Others include The Crown Hotel and the William Cecil.

If you’re a real shopaholic, you’ll love the fact that Stamford has many long-standing independent stores, trading alongside the likes of Marks & Spencer, Boots and White Stuff, and some specialist shops too.

On the High Street, you will find firm favourites, such as Seasalt and more recent arrival Oliver Bonas, plus beauty store Space NK, as well as the popular cheese vendor Rennet & Rind.

There’s also a lively mix on St Mary’s Street, which is home to the baby shop Stork of Stamford, gift and clothing shop Rapport, shoe specialist Marcia May, Level 7 ladieswear, lifestyle and gift shop Katie Cardew and, of course, the long-standing department store Sinclair’s.

If you are a musician or avid collector of first edition and antiquarian books, you could find just what you need in St Mary’s Hill. But don’t forget to check out the “hidden” retailers based in the town’s quaint passageways.

Stamford plays host to colourful markets every Friday, when a wide variety of traders set up their stalls in Broad Street. Turn off this road into Ironmonger Street and you will find plenty more.

There are all sorts of goods on offer, including clothing, fabric, jewellery, knitwear, collectables, fruit and vegetables.

When you are ready to take a break, the town has an ample choice of tea and coffee shops, or you might decide to tuck into fish and chips! Of course, as you would expect, there are plenty of other options, from independent restaurants and chain eateries.

TAKE A TOUR
If you are visiting Stamford from March through to late October, you might want to experience Stamford’s Sights & Secrets Tour which sets off from the town’s Arts Centre at 11am on Wednesdays and Saturdays (check dates at www.stamfordsightsandsecretstours.com).

However, during the winter months, private tours for groups of four or more people can be booked by emailing stamford.sightsandsecrets@gmail.com or calling 07534 308928.

Just to whet your appetite, you should take a look at Browne’s Hospital in Broad Street, Stamford Town Hall in St Mary’s Hill (free tours on Friday) and the visible remains of the town’s medieval castle near Bath Row.

Browne’s Hospital Almshouses were built in 1474. The late medieval almshouse and guildhall was founded by the rich wool merchant William Browne and his wife Margaret and was granted various charters over the years, making it a Royal Hospital.

It was originally founded to provide accommodation for 10 poor men and two poor women. Today, the Hospital is still home to 12 men and women – but gender-wise the proportion of male and female has changed over time.

Stamford Town Hall was built in 1728. Its Mayor’s Parlour houses the town’s charters, civic plate and regalia, some of which date back to the 15th century. There is a courtroom and old jail cells too, as well as the Malcolm Sargent Room.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
If you are a movie fan, you will be interested to know that Stamford is also a winner with filmmakers. The town has provided the perfect backdrop for major productions, including Pride & Prejudice; Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Bleak House and Middlemarch, to name just a few.

When looking for entertainment, check out what’s coming up at Stamford Arts Centre or the Corn Exchange Theatre (and shopping arcade).

Stamford Arts Centre is a multi-arts venue whose theatre hosts touring shows and performers. It also promotes a lively cinema scene, showing world cinema and art-house films. If you love workshops, ongoing or one-off sessions in leisure subjects ranging from singing sessions to yoga are also on offer.

Entertainments-wise, there’s a varied programme of events planned for 2024 whether you love jazz, theatre, concerts, talks or workshops.

February attractions include 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 8th February: Priscilla (film); 10th February: As She Likes It (theatre) and 23rd February: Pennyless – music from violinist Penny Stevens and Les Woods on Guitar (in the cellar bar).

The Corn Exchange Theatre also offers a wide range of entertainment. Early in the month people can enjoy music from tribute bands. On 3rd February, it’s the turn of T-Rextasy and on 9th February, Forever Jackson. The mood changes on 10th February with the “laugh-out-loud comedy” Dirty Dusting.

Stamford Showstoppers are performing Frozen Jr on 14th to 18th February. This time it is local children aged between 8 and 18 who will be taking part.

A spokesperson said: “After a very successful Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2023, with over 32 children, it was a very easy decision to bring people Frozen Jr.”

HUBS OFFER A HELPING HAND
Stamford shoppers are now benefitting from a new “affordable food hub”, which is working to help families looking for a helping hand to reduce their grocery bills.

In the run-up to Christmas, award-winning charity The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) – which is working with South Kesteven District Council (SKDC), launched its first food club in the town. It now welcomes shoppers on Tuesdays at 2pm at Christ Church in Green Lane.

This is the first of five hubs funded by SKDC with £152,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. It is hoped four further hubs in Grantham, Bourne and The Deepings will soon follow. People using the Stamford hub typically get £35 worth of food for £8.50.

TBBT was founded in Manchester in 2016 and operates mobile affordable food clubs, which aim to take quality, nutritious food to the heart of some of the UK’s most deprived communities. It is currently working in more than 110 locations across the country.

People visiting its weekly hubs are able to access three bags of fruit and veg, chilled food and cupboard staples at deeply discounted prices, helping them to feed their families, improving diets and saving them money for other household priorities. Healthy Start cards are accepted and low-cost period products are also available.

TBBT extends the benefits of its hubs further by collaborating with partners to provide expert advice and practical solutions in income maximisation, energy, digital exclusion and mental health support.

TBBT chief executive, Mark Game said: “We aim to unleash the power of affordable food and use it to ignite long-lasting change in struggling neighbourhoods.

“Our members tell us that over 80 per cent of them have previously had to skip meals to feed their families. By using us most save pounds on their food budgets, money which they can then use for other household priorities.

“We are delighted to be working with SKDC to bring the benefits of our mobile food clubs to Stamford with more to come across the South Kesteven area.”

TBBT works in partnership with supermarkets, factories and farms to redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste.

SKDC cabinet member for People and Communities, Councillor Rhea Rayside said: “Sadly, many people across our district are struggling to make ends meet, but this is a great initiative that will make life a little easier for some.

“As a council, we are proud to be supporting the work of The Bread and Butter Thing and to be providing additional support to those residents who need it most, improving local access to healthy food and reducing financial strain for them.”

SKDC and TBBT are interested to hear from community centres, sports centres, schools and other venues across the district that may have space to host a weekly hub on their premises.

People interested in using TBBT’s food club in Stamford simply need to register as members. They can do this by texting their name, postcode and name of the hub they want to join, i.e. Stamford to 07860 063304.

PLAY AREA REVITALISED
Children are now hopefully making the most of a play area in Stamford, which has benefitted from the installation of new equipment following an arson attack at the site last summer.

As we prepared to go to press, South Kesteven District Council revealed that youngsters visiting College Close are now able to have fun using a multi-play climbing frame tower, rocking log, springy bike and a single step log.

A rubber mulch safety surface and wooden fencing, destroyed in the attack, have also been replaced.
SKDC cabinet member for Leisure and Culture, Councillor Paul Stokes said: “We are pleased to have been able to get the repairs done and replacement equipment in place. The Council provides assets like this for the benefit of local communities and to help the younger generation to be active, enjoying their outdoor play.”

Councillor Stokes said it was a shame that someone had chosen to disrupt the play area, including nearby conifers, but the council had decided to take positive action at the time by increasing anti-social patrols, something which would continue. He asked members of the public to remain vigilant and report any future issues.

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 is available, to see a selection of rugs in your home.

Stamford Studio open Tue to Fri 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5.30pm, Sat from 10am to 4pm or by appointment. Free parking available.

SHOES WITH STYLE
If you’re looking for gorgeous footwear to suit every occasion, Marcia May Shoes on St Mary’s Street offers a stylish selection of brands from leading European manufacturers.

As a well established independent family run store, customers enjoy a warm welcome from experienced staff that are on hand to advise and help you select the perfect shoe to suit every budget and individual style.

Marcia May stocks great German brands, including Josef Seibel and Rieker, all known for their quality and fit, and is also 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; Click & Collect; dog friendly.

Tel: 01780 762699 or visit www.marciamay stamford.co.uk

IF THE SHOE FITS…
Specialist in children’s footwear and fit, Marcia May Mini offers a professional fitting service by qualified staff for children of all ages.

Owner Samantha Drewery says it’s important that children’s feet are regularly measured to avoid problems.

“A shoe needs to fit the whole foot to support its healthy development, not only provide room for growth, which is why a professional fitter can help advise.

“While most parents recognise the need for correctly fitting shoes during a child’s early years, few realise that children’s feet remain vulnerable to ill-fitting shoes right through their school days, up to the age of 18 years or so.”

Situated in St Mary’s Street, in this popular shop you will find the best selection of quality children’s shoes for both school and leisure, including StartRite, Ricosta and Bobux, as well as other great brands.

Open Monday to Friday from 9.30am-5pm, Sat 9.30am-5.30pm, Sun 11am-4pm.

Tel: 01780 755144 or visit www.marciamaystamford.co.uk

Photographs: Mick Fox



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