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March, 2019

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Stamford is a town of medieval churches and their towers and spires still dominate the town. Only five of the Medieval churches survive. One of those is now deconsecrated and in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

ST PETER’S CHURCH was possibly the first church in Stamford and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Set on the top of a hill above the river, this was once the focal point of the town with the newly built Norman Castle. By the C14th the church was in a state of disrepair The parish was amalgamated with All Saints’ in the C16th and the church demolished. Now all that remains of the church is an attractive grassy area near the bus station surrounded by C18th housing.

“ALL SAINT’S CHURCH “: WITH ITS TALL CROCKETED SPIRE, dominates Stamford. This is also mentioned in Domesday Book although the present church was rebuilt in the C13th. Two wealthy wool merchants, John and William Browne, paid for it to be restored and extended in the C15th, and are buried here. The inside is fairly simple and doesn’t live up to the flamboyant exterior, but it does have rather a nice angel ceiling in the chancel.

“ST MARY’S CHURCH”: was in existence by the end of the C12th and had close connections with the borough corporation and the town guilds. Most of the building dates from the C13th although the rather unusual broach spire was added in the C14th.

This is a much smaller church than All Saints’ and is an Anglo-Catholic church with a strong smell of incense when you enter the church. The interior reflects the Arts and Crafts refurbishment in the late C19th and early C20th. Between the chancel and Corpus Christie chapel on its north side is the massive stone tomb of Sir David Phelps who fought alongside Henry VII at Bosworth Field and was steward to Lady Margaret Beaufort.

“ST JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH”: is another C12th church and this is the third church to be built on this site. It was completely rebuilt in the C15th and is a good example of the perpendicular style of architecture. It is a large church fronting onto St John Street in the centre of Stamford.

The church is no longer used and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It has the remains of Medieval glass in some of the windows as well as an angel roof. Sir Malcolm Sargent played the organ here.

“ST GEORGE’S CHURCH”: to the east of the town centre dates from the C13th but was completely rebuilt in the C15th The tower was rebuilt in the C17th and is unusual as the tower is rectangular, not square. It is surrounded by C18th buildings.

This is now an evangelical church and the C19th furnishings have been stripped out and replaced by chairs. The chancel with its angel roof seems almost an irrelevance.

“ST MARTIN’S CHURCH”: is the only Medieval church outside the town walls to survive. dating from the C12th this was completely rebuilt in the late C15th. It is tucked away between housing on and only the front and south porch can be seen from the road.

The inside is an unspoilt Perpendicular style of architecture. A small doorway and spiral staircase lead to what was probably a priest’s room above the south porch, but is now the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. The north chapel is the burial vault of the Cecil family of Burghley House with their splendid memorial tombs.

ST PAUL’S CHURCH was deconsecrated during the Reformation and part of it became a school room and is now the chapel of Stamford School.

ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH, the large and impressive building on High Street is C19th and replaces an earlier medieval building which collapsed following ill advised structural alternations to the nave involving the removal of arcade pillars. The church was made redundant in 1962 and later sold to a developer who gutted the building. The building now houses shops, building society and an insurance company.

As well as churches, there were two priories in Stamford. “ST LEONARD’S PRIORY”: to the east of the town may have been built on the site of a Saxon monastery which was destroyed during Danish raids and was rebuilt in the C11th. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the church became a barn and the rest of the buildings were pulled down. Now all that remains is part of the Norman nave with an arcade of round pillars and arches.

All that is left of AUSTIN FRIARY to the west of the town are a few bumps in the ground. This was founded in the C14th but little is known about it. It was only a small friary with six friars when it was Dissolved by Henry VIII and the buildings were dismantled for building stone.


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