Mellow beauty of first protected town

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
July 2017

Described by Sir Walter Scott as “the finest sight on the road between Edinburgh and London”, the south Lincolnshire town of Stamford is set to commemorate a golden year in 2017.
With 600 listed buildings, uniquely unspoilt Georgian streets and mellow picture postcard limestone architecture, the town this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of its award as Britain’s first urban Conservation Area.
Heritage groups, architectural specialists and community organisations have joined forces under the banner of Stamford50 to organise new town trails, talks, events, a heritage skills fair and even a themed beer.

As the country’s first entire town to be protected, Stamford offers a glimpse of Old England – something that has made it a period drama location hotspot for both television and filmmakers. The mix of history, heritage and architecture also lies behind Stamford’s designation as the first Conservation Area in 1967, helping to protect what many regard as the most perfectly preserved Georgian stone town in the country.

The result is a growing programme of branded events throughout the summer, culminating in the town’s biennial Stamford Georgian Festival which runs from 21st to 24th September.

This year the festival has more events than ever before, with a major focus on activities on the riverside Meadows on Saturday and Sunday. A special performance area will host galloping acrobats, celebrating the birth of the circus in the Georgian period, militiamen drills and a skirmish with the enemy, a Punch & Judy Show and a Regency dance demo. Military encampments and period stallholders complete the picture.

Stamford’s ancient streets will again buzz with evocative Georgian costumed figures, themed markets and street entertainment and Saturday evening sees a glittering event in Red Lion Square with the ancient Stamford Bull Run re-enacted in street theatre.

Celebrated historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank makes a welcome return to launch the festival on Thursday, 21st September and there is a high-profile finale on Sunday with ‘An Evening with Austen’.

The Stamford Arts Centre ballroom event features top actors Caroline Langrishe (Lovejoy and Judge John Deed) and Adrian Lukis (George Wickham in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice). They will be playing some of Austen’s most memorable characters and helping to conclude the festival’s colourful programme of talks, music, drama and fun.

It’s the third time that South Kesteven District Council has organised and funded the biennial festival as a celebration of the town’s Georgian heritage and September sees the return of popular highlights from 2015.

Back by public demand is the sell-out Georgian Costume Ball and historic venues such as the Town Hall will once again open their doors. Horses and a vintage carriage are back to deliver unforgettable rides through the town’s ancient streets and into Burghley Park.

The last festival in 2015 was a big success, attracting huge crowds, an estimated £1 million economic benefit for local businesses and accommodation providers, a boost to civic pride and an ever-higher profile for Stamford, as England’s finest stone town.

Stamford Arts Centre ballroom hosts a variety of concerts including a classical music season that runs from October through to May, as well as dances and workshops. It’s fitting then, that it should be hosting the An Evening with Austen event for the festival.

Audience development and participation officer Gareth Whitley said: “Stamford Arts Centre offers an amazing mixture of live music, theatre, films, satellite screenings, poetry and workshops for adults and children.”

Throughout the year professional touring theatre companies visit the 166-seat theatre as well as five weeks of drama from resident Shoestring Theatre Company. The theatre also doubles up as a cinema which, over the past twenty years, has become a film hub for Stamford showing a wide range of genres including Hollywood blockbusters, British, European and arthouse to name a few.

The main gallery accommodates a varied programme of contemporary exhibitions from local and international artists including photography, painting, textile, drawing and sculpture. Pieces are also displayed in the foyer coffee shop, which generally exhibits work by artists in residence, as well as the anteroom, where works by the Welland Valley Art Society are displayed.

Poetry plays a big part in the arts in Stamford and proof of the town’s commitment to poetry has just been unveiled in the form of the Stamford Poetry Stone carved by artist and former Lincoln Cathedral stonemason Beatrice Searle.

Positioned in the natural amphitheatre of St Michael’s Church square, it will be available to all as a platform to recite their own words and verse.

Camilla McLean, Stamford’s 2016/17 poet laureate said: “We hope this beautiful stone will inspire generations of poets to step into the shoes of Stamford’s poet laureates. Poetry and beautiful crafted words are even more important in this age of throwaway and confusing communication.

“We hope that everyone will be inspired to take a stand and speak their truth from the stone, whether it be in the form of a lyric, a limerick, rap or rhyme, spoken word or sonnet.”

The idea for the stone was conceived by Ms Searle, Stamford poets and Karen Burrows of Stamford Arts Centre and it was made possible by the kind donations of the Harry Skells Estate Trust, Stamford Arts Centre and Ketton Stone.

Beatrice said: “The carving of footprints into stone has a rich historical precedent in Pictish, medieval and Roman history. Standing in rock has the great ability to anchor and empower a person, and those for whom the landscape of Stamford is beloved can draw an ancient strength from their connection with this local, Jurassic limestone.”

Seasonal readings will now take place from the stone and members of the public will be encouraged to share videos or images of their readings.

The Arts Centre’s Karen Burrows said: “This is a golden age of poetry and we are delighted that the town is at the forefront of this. This remarkable poetry stone marks Stamford Arts Centre’s ongoing commitment to spreading the word about this most creative and inspiring of art forms.”

There are other reasons for Stamford to celebrate in 2017 with improvements made to both the town’s railway station and also its hospital.

Network Rail has just completed a number of improvements to Stamford as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan. The upgrade to the Grade II listed building was a six-month project and was completed earlier this year. During the project, Network Rail has refurbished the station roof using traditional Collyweston stone, and installed a new canopy and resurfaced the platform.

Network Rail worked closely with East Midlands Trains and the Railway Heritage Trust on the work, which cost more than £1million. The Railway Heritage Trust provided a grant of £150,000, which was used to install the canopy.

Gary Walsh, area director for Network Rail, said he was delighted that they had been able to provide the people of Stamford with the station that they deserve.

“It’s a beautiful building and the work we have carried out retains the station’s unique architectural character,” he said.

Stamford Hospital has undergone a £2million redevelopment programme so it can expand services and deliver more modern standards of clinical care for patients.

Phase two of the project, completed at the beginning of June, together with phase three sees a complete refurbishment of the old health clinic, an enlarged purpose-built phlebotomy area, a new chemotherapy and lymphoedema suite, a new administration suite, a new imaging booking office and the refurbishment and redecoration of existing corridors and reception area.

The redevelopment programme will be completed by the end of July.

“We have tried to develop it and make it much more modern and create more space for clinical services,” explained matron and site manager Sue Brooks who is leading the project.

“It shows the commitment from the Trust to continue and develop services at Stamford Hospital, which locals will want to see continued in Stamford and it reassures residents and the public as well.”

Entertainment is very much a big part of Stamford life and locals have plenty of events to look forward to throughout the summer.

Residents have the Georgian Festival to come in September, but first on the horizon is this month’s Stamford Music Festival. It is back on The Meadows following the success of its launch last year and already the event is growing.

Now with two stages and five sessions it features a line-up that will cross a range of musical genres.

Applications from artists that want to play at this year’s festival have been overwhelming. Some of the most popular acts from 2016 will take to the main stage, together with some new bands providing offerings that will include, jazz, blues, soul, funk, Celtic roots and country and some really top pop. There’s even room for some vintage 1940s, and some ska and reggae too.

On the acoustic stage some of the best of the region’s singer-songwriters and bands have been invited to take to the spotlight.

“This is a family friendly event that will be high on energy and crammed full of good music,” said Mark Pearson from the Market Square Group which has organised the event.

“Throughout the weekend there will also be stalls selling crafts, clothing and accessories as well as festival street food and drink selections, craft beer and cider, seating area and children’s activities to keep the little ones entertained.”

Among the acts taking part are Top Banana Band (Friday) and Austin Gold.

The festival takes place from Friday 14th July to Sunday 16th July.

Long-awaited improvements at Stamford Hospital are almost complete, much to the delight of a small charity group which has worked tirelessly for more than fifty years to ensure patients get the comforts they need.

The Friends of Stamford Hospital (FOSH) was set up in 1963 to provide comfort items for the patients that were not paid for by the health service at that time. But as time passed by, the group became more prominent in the town and the items got bigger and bigger.

FOSH secretary Kay Hircock said: “What started out as little bits and bobs for the patients turned into the provision of bigger things such as equipment for different departments of the hospital.

“We have just bought the ophthalmology department equipment to measure people’s eyes before they have cataract surgery. That cost £30,000 but it saves people having to travel to Peterborough to have it done.

“We have also bought lots of equipment for the outpatients’ department and for the children’s play area.

“The improvements at the hospital have been a long time coming but patients will notice a huge difference and the services that have been carried out up until now in Peterborough will move to Stamford.”

The charity runs itself and is left items in people’s wills.

“We have a committee of fifteen people who get together regularly to go through the requests from the staff. The staff come and bring information to us of the equipment they would like and I don’t think we have ever said no,” said Kay.

“Our job is to support the hospital as much as we can and we have a very good working relationship with the matron Sue Brooks who is very enthusiastic about the hospital. There is also a volunteering side to the Friends group, who go to the outpatients’ department daily.

“They direct patients to where they want to be and take patients in wheelchairs to their appointments.They are there to assist the staff and we work very well with the hospital staff.”

FOSH also raises funds by selling books in the outpatients’ department, managing to bring in £3,500 a year from the book sales.

The group holds two events a year – the annual general meeting and the Bill Packer Lectures.

“At the annual general meeting we always have a clinical speaker from the hospital,” said Kay.

“Bill Packer was the original secretary of the Friends and was in position for twenty-five years. When he died, the money from his funeral was donated to the Friends so we launched these lectures.

“We have a non-clinical speaker for the lectures, normally someone connected to Stamford School where Bill taught, so previous speakers have included professional cricketers and professional judges.”

The Friends are now looking to encourage younger members of the community to join the group to ensure that its support continues into the future.

Kay added: “We want to try and reach out to younger people, so we are looking to set up a social media site and upgrade our website so we can add a blog. Possibly [of interest to] mums who use the antenatal clinics or children’s department.”

A town centre pub in Stamford has stood the test of time year in, year out since the seventeenth century and 2017 has proved to be no exception.

The Grade I listed Millstone Inn in All Saints Street suffered £250,000 worth of damage when it felt the full force of Storm Doris, which hit the UK in February bringing winds of more than 90mph. The ferocity of the storm caused a 30ft-high brick chimney to collapse through its cellar ceiling, leaving the pub unable to trade for three months, as falling debris destroyed gas and water pipes as well as beer coolers. But it has now reopened and its customers have returned.

Landlady Carole Frith, who runs the pub with her partner Malcolm Brown and business partner Paul Frith, was on holiday in Lanzarote when it happened, but she said things could have been far worse.

“There are two chimneys and if the other one had come down it would have come through the main bar and the pub was open at the time,” she said.

“My son was staying in the pub at the time and he had passed the area of the cellar just moments before. And a member of staff had gone down the passage just five minutes before, so if it had been five minutes earlier, it would have killed one of them. We are very glad that everyone was safe and not hurt.”

Though she had seen photographs of the damage, it wasn’t until she got home that she realised the extent.

“You don’t appreciate the damage until you get back,” said Carole. “We took it in our stride. It was done and we couldn’t do anything about it.

“But we did think it would only be a couple of weeks before it was sorted and we could reopen. However, because it is a Grade 1 listed building it has to be repaired like-for-like and they had use as many of the original bricks as possible.”

In all, it took twelve weeks to carry out the extensive repairs and other works, including a pre-planned refurbishment of the beer garden was which has seen it increase its capacity, making it the biggest beer garden in the town centre.

“We have had a massive refurbishment of the beer garden while the pub has been out of action because the old decking was too dangerous,” said Carole.

“Before it looked very derelict so if that hadn’t been done we might have struggled to get the customers back. We are the only pub in the centre of town that has an outside area and having that has made a big difference.”

Carole has been in charge at the Millstone Inn since 2005.

“It was quite run down and it had gained a bad reputation so we had all that to contend with to start with,” she said.

The Millstone Inn was first recorded as a public house in 1858 but before that was an old coaching inn as far back as 1740.

Chattertons is one of the leading providers of legal and wealth management services in Lincolnshire. Established in 1856, they are considered to be one of the oldest law firms in the UK and as such, have forged strong ties with the local people, communities and businesses they serve.

It’s these strong local ties that encouraged Chattertons to get involved in charitable work in the community. Each year at Chattertons, the staff select a worthy cause to make their ‘Charity of the Year’. In the past, they have supported the Air Ambulance, Lincolnshire Emergency Blood Bikes Service, St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice and The Brain Tumour Charity. This year, staff voted for The Alzheimer’s Society and have spent the past six months holding fundraising events across eight branches in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, to great success. They have already raised almost £4,000.

Staff from all branches in Boston, Grantham, Horncastle, Lincoln, Newark, Sleaford, Spalding and Stamford have been involved in the fundraising. Richard Ludlow, of the Stamford branch, is deputy CEO of Chattertons Legal Services and CEO of Chattertons Wealth Management. He said: “Our staff members always get behind our charity of the year and enjoy coming up with ways to fundraise. As a company we are very proud of the fundraising work we do and our efforts will continue throughout 2017, and beyond.”

The heart of the business revolves around a commitment to finding the right solutions for all clients. Chattertons take the time to understand the unique personal and professional challenges you face, exercising an efficient approach and providing support through their experienced team of advisors. They will always work hard to make a difference to you and your business.

Need Chattertons to be there for you? Visit their website at to arrange a chat with one of the friendly team.

Rob Pontefract (BVMS, Cert V Ophthal, MRCVS) is a vet with over 25 years’ experience in ophthalmology. He has a passion for veterinary medicine in general, and ophthalmology in particular. He graduated from Glasow university, following this with an internship in Philadelphia, and later studying for shorter periods in Utrecht and Gainsville, Florida.

Vet Vision and Clear Ridge Veterinary Surgery treat several species of animal, including all breeds of dog of all ages. Rob has a background of dealing with working dogs, including cataract surgery and eye injuries. So your pet’s eye problem can be dealt with carefully and confidently.

Rob, an RCVS advanced practitioner, is helped by Christina his veterinary assistant, in their aim to steer your animal, young or old, to a comfortable and stable state. They are keen to look at new and different approaches to old problems. So why not get your pet referred to Rob and his team?

Tel: 01780 764333.

With two premier galleries in Stamford and Lincoln, Spencer Coleman Fine Art has been providing fine paintings as well as a superb collection of modern sculpture and exquisite glass for thirty years.

To celebrate their anniversary the Stamford gallery has had a full refurbishment and reopened earlier this year. The galleries are home to many leading British and European artists including Edward Hersey, Rob Hefferan, Roz Bell, Nigel Cooke, John Haskins, Amanda Jackson, Ian Mastin, Alfredo Navarro and Lawrie Williamson. You will also find international and critically acclaimed artists including Jorge Aguilar-Agon, Geoffrey Humphries, Talantbak Chekirov, Zoltan Preiner, Gyula Boros and Mattin-Laurent Partarrieu.

Jordan Coleman, the gallery director, said: “We source individual works and over the years have forged many friendships with some of the great living artists from around the world. We are also supplied by leading art traders in Europe, which allows us to offer outstanding value for money and high quality pieces.

“We offer an at home approval service where we allow our customers to live with the work and see how it fits into their lifestyles, with no obligation to buy. We also offer a personal delivery and worldwide postage service. A warm welcome awaits our customers.”

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Calling all UK young artists!Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition Doddington Hall and Gardens, Lincolnshire invites submissions from UK-based sculptors and 3D artists, aged under 30, for an exciting new open exhibition to be held this summer. Doddington is looking for pieces to be exhibited in the historic working Kitchen Garden, which complement the Garden and its surroundings. The Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition will run alongside the main bi-annual Sculpture at Doddington exhibition and is an opportunity to exhibit alongside some of the finest contemporary sculptors selected from across the country and further afield. Prizes: 1st prize – £750, 2nd prize – £250Submission deadline: Sunday April 21st 2024Further details about eligibility, terms and conditions can be found at: apply, please email your submission as a PDF document to ... See MoreSee Less