Sectional Preface: Sources for Stamford History

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An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the Town of Stamford. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1977.

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Sources for Stamford History

The earliest historical account of Stamford was written by Richard Butcher, a town clerk, and published in 1646 as A Survey and Antiquity of the Town of Stamford. Frances Howgrave, printer of the Stamford Mercury, published An Essay on the Ancient and Present State of Stamford in 1726, allegedly to annoy Peck; it derived much from Butcher. Francis Peck (1692–1743) was a serious historian and in 1727 he published the first volume of a projected history of the town called Academia Tertia Anglicana. Arranged as a series of Annals up to 1461, it includes much useful material such as the lost medieval conveyances formerly at Browne's Hospital and has as appendices Butcher's Survey of 1646 and two letters from the Reverend W. Forster, vicar of St. Michael's, to Mr. Tanner and John Stevens, concerning antiquarian topics. Peck's two volumes of miscellanea, Desiderata Curiosa, published in 1732 and 1735, contain little of relevance to Stamford. His friend and contemporary William Stukeley (1687–1765), vicar of All Saints' from 1730 to 1747, did not publish any of his work on Stamford. 'Designs of Stanford Antiquitys' is a collection of plates from Peck and drawings by Stukeley compiled in 1735; this is complemented by 'Stanfordia Illustrata', an attempted history of the town written in 1735–6. In his 'Designs' Stukeley drew reconstructions of several medieval buildings which he believed had been academic halls. He based these reconstructions partly on memory but mainly on visible evidence, observing that 'a discerning eye, that is a little conversant with our Stamford manner of building, will not find it very difficult' (Stanfordia Illustrata II, 73). Further notes on these houses are included in Stanfordia Illustrata where, on the fifth day of their conversation, Palaephatus (Stukeley) takes his friend Panagius on a tour of the town. Much of the value of the descriptions lies in their reference to features which have not survived. Among the buildings described, the following are of particular importance:

(1) Black Hall (Plate 70; Designs, 78; Stanfordia Illustrata II, 88). This building lay on the site of 1 Barn Hill, but faced S. towards All Saints' Place.

(2) Peterborough Hall (Plate 70; Designs, 73; Stanfordia Illustrata II, 86) was immediately W. of monument (281) at the E. end of All Saints' Street, on the site of the present G.P.O. William White, who died c. 1720, had altered the front which Stukeley restored partly from memory. The window at the upper end of the 'large and elegant hall' had painted glass including quarries depicting cocks; the cross wing on the W. had a parlour and a lodging room over. Behind was a small courtyard with ancient but altered buildings.

(3) Sempringham Hall (Plate 70; Designs, 75; Stanfordia Illustrata II, 73) was a farmhouse in 1736 and remains as 31–32 St. Peter's Street (412). Stukeley's drawing is a reconstruction based on visible evidence. His notes are incomplete but mention four stone staircases.

(4) Thurney Hall (Plate 70; Designs, 20; Stanfordia Illustrata II, 115). Part of this house remains in St. Mary's Street (349). The hall was 'handsomely coved at the upper end', and the kitchen, originally the parlour, had painted glass, golden portcullisses recurring frequently. There was a stone staircase, and 'a necessary closet in every room'.

(5) All Saints' Vicarage (Plate 71; Designs, 28; Stanfordia Illustrata II, 91) survives as 16 Barn Hill (103). 'The front of the house was originally of this form. A hall with a cove at the upper end . . . many old latin verses still visible painted on the timber. By a stone staircase we go up to his lodging room, handsomely coved, the wainscot ledge along the cornish for tapestry hangings'.

Later historians relied heavily on Butcher and Peck, adding later material from their own experience. William Harrod published The Antiquities of Stamford and St. Martins in 1785, and John Drakard, printer of the shortlived Stamford News, published a History of Stamford in 1822; both books consist largely of borrowed material. In 1813 Thomas Blore, a lawyer, published An Account of the Public Schools, Hospitals and other Charitable Foundations of the Borough of Stamford as part of an attack on the corrupt way the Town Council ran its charities; it provides much valuable information. George Burton's Chronology of Stamford, arranged alphabetically by topics, was published in 1846 and contains much useful material relating to the 19th century. Later histories, such as M. E. C. Walcott's Memorials of Stamford (1867), are generally short and derivative. One of the most important printed sources for the 18th and 19th centuries in Stamford is the Stamford Mercury which began in 1695 and became the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury after 1783. Copies before c. 1720 are rare.

The first attempt at a modern history of Stamford is the series of short essays edited by A. Rogers in The Making of Stamford (1965). The chapter on the 19th century must be qualified by the work of S. Elliott, for instance in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 1, No. 4 (1969). Recently, the Stamford Survey Group has produced two reports, on medieval buildings and religious institutions respectively. Since 1966 excavations have been carried out on many sites in the town by the Stamford Archaeological Research Committee; interim reports have been published in Medieval Archaeology.

The diocesan records of Lincoln are in the Lincoln Archives Office and cover Stamford N. of the Welland; St. Martin's is in the diocese of Peterborough and the archives are in the Northamptonshire Record Office. In Stamford Town Hall are the municipal records including court rolls, and the Chamberlains' Accounts which record briefly corporate expenditure between 1697 and 1835. The Hall Books contain the minutes of the council and record decisions and admissions to freedom from 1465 until they were superseded by council and committee minute books in 1835. The Marquess of Exeter's manuscripts at Burghley House include maps, conveyances and court rolls. The Day Books of the estate, recording expenditure between 1770 and 1800, are in the Burghley Estate Office.

There are very few maps of Stamford. Speed's map was drawn c. 1600 and was reprinted several times with slight amendments. James Knipe made a survey of the whole town in 1833, which was published early the following year (Plate 56). In Burghley House are maps of St. Martins made in 1773 by W. Murray (Plate 3), and in 1799 by J. Baxter.

Of the topographical artists who visited Stamford in the early 19th century, W. Twopeny is the most important. He was particularly interested in medieval buildings and recorded many features which have not survived. J. C. Nattes made some drawings in 1804 and J. C. Buckler and E. Blore drew a few outstanding buildings during the first half of the 19th century.