. . . At Stamford we patronised the ancient and historic ‘George Inn,’ that still stands where it did of yore—an inn which has entertained generations of wayfarers of various degrees from king to highwayman. . . In 1645, Charles I. slept a night here on his way south from Newark . . . We eventually came upon Browne’s Hospital, Bede House, or Callis; a most interesting old building..
JAMES JOHN HISSEY in 1898
Ten old men and two old women are boarded and cared for here, we learnt; the women having to act as nurses if required. Outside the building away from the road is a very picturesque and quiet courtyard with cloisters; these seem verily to enclose an old-world atmosphere, a calm that is of another century. The wall-girt stillness, the profound peace of the place made so great an impression on us that for the moment the throbbing and excited nineteenth century seemed ages removed . . .
GEOFFREY GRIGSON in 1961
CELEBRATING five centuries since its mediaeval charter of 1461, Stamford this year at last enjoys a hush it hasn’t known since the development of lorries. Till lately, when the new by-pass opened half-a-mile to the west, the centre of mediaeval Stamford, the centre in fact of the old market area of this best of Midland towns, was nothing less than Al, nothing less than the Great North Road, from London up to Scotland.
Black-tarpaulined lorry succeeded lorry, insistently and dully pounding north or south, under the church spires, round corners, jamming Stamford people onto the narrowest pavements, jogging the glass stems in the antique shops, jogging the dust or the bones of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, beneath his grandiose memorial inside St Martin’s Church, across the Town Bridge. The thump continued seven days, seven nights a week. To come down Broad Street (the old corn and hay markets) or narrow High Street to All Saints’ Church or Red Lion Square, to stop—nothing else was possible—on the edge of the roar of the traffic river, then to try to cross, to snatch at a gap, was really a fantastic ironic lesson in the making of towns. Al, or Ermine Street, has been much of the making of Stamford, and had now killed its comfort, the traffic going through as if the town had become only an awkward constriction.
The curious thing is to guess what Stamford is going to do in the next twenty years with its recovered peace and quiet. W. G. Hoskins, most informed of topographers, has described this unique town as a fossilized survival, a beautiful `museum piece from a pre-industrial England’. Essentially it was made in its livelier days by two things—by that position on a great artery, and by its function as a country servitor. Here was the town at the steanford, the stony ford, the one safe ford over the Welland (down which small goods-carrying boats could penetrate to the Wash). Roads came in from Lincolnshire, the Fens, Huntingdonshire, Rutland, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire.