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Martin Smith's
History of Stamford


Stamford is a town which has always encouraged superlatives. Celia Fiennes, the late 17th-century traveller, said Stamford is 'as fine a built town all of stone as may be seen'. Sir Walter Scott apparently doffed his hat to the view up to St Mary's Church, claiming it was the finest sight on the road between London and Edinburgh. John Betjeman called Stamford 'England's most attractive town'. Lady Wedgewood, writing in 1936, said 'Among stone-built towns there may be some that equal, none I think that surpass Stamford and, since here the Welland leaves the freestone country to enter on the vagaries of a Fen river, it certainly chooses the supreme, architectural moment.' Pevsner says 'The climax [of Lincolnshire] in terms of historical as well as architectural significance, is... the town of Stamford, the English country market town par excellence'.

W. G. Hoskins, the famous 1950s historian, said:
If there is a more beautiful town in the whole of England I have yet to see it. The view of Stamford from the water-meadows on a fine June evening, about a quarter to half a mile upstream, is one of the finest sights that England has to show. The western sunlight catches the grey limestone walls and turns them to gold. It falls on towers and spires and flowing water, on the warm brown roofs of Collyweston slates, and on the dark mass of the Burghley woods behind. The hipped and mansard roofs of the town rise from the edge of the river above the flashing willows, tier upon tier, to the spire of All Saints, and the towers of St Martin's, St John's, and St Michael's, and, above them all, to the noble tower and spire of St Mary's, the central jewel in the crown of Stamford...
[ East Midlands and the Peak, ed. G. Grigson (London, 1951) ]

In 1993, BBC television used Stamford as the setting for George Eliot's Middlemarch drama.

The producer, Louis Marks, said:
When we were planning the programme we presumed we would have to film all over the country - a street here, a square there, a house somewhere else. But then our researchers came back and told us they had found this marvellous town that had everything. So I went up to Lincolnshire, took one look and I knew they were right. Stamford is beautiful, extraordinary; it is absolutely stunning.

Stamford is set in gently rolling countryside just west of the fen edge. This is a landscape of woods and agricultural land punctuated by delightful stone villages and aristocratic estates.

To again quote W. G. Hoskins:
In the country, the villages of the Stone Belt - built in the golden ironstone or the sheep-grey oolitic limestone - are some of them superb, not to be outdone anywhere in England. Such are Collyweston and Duddington, in northern Northamptonshire, and Clipsham, Caldecott, and Preston, to name only three in Rutland, where nearly every village is worth exploring...

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