The town has 17th and 18th-century stone buildings, older timber-framed buildings and five medieval parish churches. In 2013, Stamford was rated the best place to live by The Sunday Times.
The Romans built Ermine Street across what is now Burghley Park and forded the river Welland to the west of Stamford, eventually reaching Lincoln; they built a town to the north at Great Casterton on the River Gwash. In AD 61 Boudica followed the Roman 9th Legion (Legio IX Hispana) across the river. The Anglo-Saxons later chose Stamford as their main town, being on a more important river than the Gwash.
In 972 King Edgar made Stamford a borough. The Anglo-Saxons and Danes faced each other across the river. The town originally grew as a Danish settlement at the lowest point that the Welland could be crossed by ford or bridge. Stamford was the only one of the Danelaw Five Burghs ("boroughs") not to become a county town. Initially a pottery centre, producing Stamford Ware, by the Middle Ages it had become famous for its production of wool and the woollen cloth known as Stamford cloth or haberget - which "In Henry III's reign... was well known in Venice".
Stamford was a walled town but only a very small portion of the walls now remains. Stamford became an inland port on the Great North Road, the latter superseding Ermine Street in importance. Notable buildings in the town include the mediaeval Browne's Hospital, several churches and the buildings of Stamford School, a public school founded in 1532.
A Norman castle was built about 1075 and apparently demolished in 1484. The site stood derelict until the late twentieth century when it was built over and now includes a bus station and a modern housing development. A small part of the curtain wall survives at the junction of Castle Dyke and Bath Row.
Stamford has been hosting an annual fair since the Middle Ages. Stamford fair is mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV part 2 (act 3 scene 2). The mid-Lent fair is the largest street fair in Lincolnshire and one of the largest in the country. On 7 March 1190, crusaders at the fair led a pogrom; many Jews in the town were massacred.
For over 600 years Stamford was the site of the Stamford Bull Run festival, held annually on 13 November, St Brice's day, until 1839. According to local tradition, the custom was started by William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey, after he saw two bulls fighting in the meadow beneath his castle viewpoint. Some butchers came to part the combatants and one of the bulls ran into the town. The earl mounted his horse and rode after the animal; he enjoyed the sport so much that he gave the meadow in which the fight began to the butchers of Stamford on condition that they should provide a bull, to be run in the town every 13 November, for ever after.
Stamford Museum was in a Victorian building in Broad Street from 1980 to 2011. In June 2011 it closed because of Lincolnshire County Council budget cuts. Some of the former exhibits have been relocated to the Discover Stamford area at the town's library.
Stamford is part of the Parliamentary constituency of Grantham and Stamford. The incumbent Member of Parliament is the Conservative, Nick Boles.
Since April 1974 Stamford has been within the areas of Lincolnshire County (upper tier) and South Kesteven District Council (lower tier); previous to that it was part of Kesteven County Council. Stamford is in the East Midlands region.
Stamford has a town council. The arms of the town council are Per pale dexter side Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Or and the sinister side chequy Or and Azure. The three lions are the English royal arms, the blue and gold chequers are the arms of the De Warenne family, who held the Manor in the 13th century.
Stamford is a town and civil parish in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, on the River Welland in a southwesterly protrusion of Lincolnshire, between Rutland to the north and west, and Peterborough to the south. It borders Northamptonshire to the southwest. There have been mistaken claims of a quadripoint where four ceremonial counties, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire seem to meet at a point (52°38′25″N 0°29′40″W / 52.64028°N 0.49444°W / 52.64028; -0.49444). However, the location actually consists of two tripoints around 66 ft (20 metres) apart.
In 1991, the boundary between Lincolnshire and Rutland (then Leicestershire) in the Stamford area was rearranged and now mostly follows the A1 to the railway line. The conjoined parish of Wothorpe is in the city of Peterborough. Barnack Road is the Lincolnshire/Peterborough boundary where it borders St Martin's Without.
The river downstream of the town bridge, and some of the meadows, fall within the drainage area of the Welland and Deepings Internal Drainage Board.
In 1968, a specimen of the sauropod dinosaur Cetiosaurus oxoniensis was found in the Williamson Cliffe Quarry, close to nearby Great Casterton in adjacent Rutland. It is about 170 million years old, from the Aalenian or Bajocian part of the Jurassic period. It is 15 metres (49 ft) long and one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons found in the UK. In 1975, it was installed in the New Walk Museum in Leicester.
Tourism plays an important part and there is substantial presence of professional law and accountancy firms. Health, education and other public service employers also play a role in the local economy, notably the hospital, two large medical general practices, schools (including independent schools) and the further education college. Hospitality is provided by a large number of hotels, licensed premises and many restaurants, tearooms and cafés.
The licensed premises reflect the history of the town with the George Hotel, The Lord Burghley, The William Cecil, The Danish Invader, The Scotgate (and previously The Daniel Lambert) together with the Easton on the Hill, nearly thirty premises serve real ale. Jim's Yard is on Ironmonger Street. The surrounding villages and Rutland Water provide additional venues and employment opportunities, as do the several annual large events at Burghley House.
The town has a significant retail and retail service sector. The town centre is home to many independents and draws people from a wide area for the pleasure of shopping, often in traffic-free streets. There are numerous gift shops, men's and women's outfitters, shoe shops and florists, as well as hair salons, beauty therapists and eateries.
National supermarkets Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Morrisons are represented. There are two retail parks a little way from the centre: on one, Homebase DIY, Curry's electrical, Carpetright floor covering and McDonald's fast-food; on the other Sainsbury's, Argos, Lidl supermarket, and Halfords car spares and bicycle shop. The town has three builders' merchants, and a number of other specialist trade outlets. There are two large car sales showrooms, and a number of car-related businesses. There are also local service retailers: convenience stores, post offices, newsagents and take-aways (fish and chips and others).
National jeweller F. Hinds can trace their history back to the clockmaker Joseph Hinds, who worked in Stamford in the first half of the nineteenth century; they also have a branch in the town.
South of the town is RAF Wittering, a main employer which was until recently the home of the Harrier. The base originally opened in 1916 as RFC Stamford, which closed then reopened in 1924 under its present title.
The engineering company Cummins Generator Technologies (formerly Newage Lyon, then Newage International), a maker of electrical generators, is based on Barnack Road. C & G Concrete (now part of Breedon Aggregates) is on Uffington Road. The area is known for its limestone and slate quarries. Collyweston stone slate, the cream-coloured stone, is found on the roofs of many of Stamford's stone buildings. Stamford Stone, in Barnack, have two quarries at Marholm and Holywell; Clipsham Stone have two quarries in Clipsham - Clipsham stone is found on York Minster.
The Pick Motor Company was in Stamford. A number of smaller firms — welders, printers and so forth — are either in small collections of industrial units, or more traditional premises in older mixed-use parts of the town.
Blackstone & Co in Stamford was a farm implement and diesel engine manufacturing company.
Being in the midst of some of the richest farmland in England, and close to the famous "double cropping" land of parts of the fens, agriculture provides a small but steady number of jobs for the town in farming, agricultural machinery, distribution and other ancillary services.
The Stamford Mercury claims to have been published since 1695, and to be "Britain's oldest newspaper". The London Gazette also claims this honour, having been published since the 1660s; however, it is not now a newspaper in the usual sense.
Local radio provision is shared between Peterborough's Heart Cambridgeshire (102.7 - Heart Peterborough closed in July 2010) and the smaller Rutland Radio (the 97.4 transmitter is on Little Casterton Road) from Oakham. Also the BBC's Radio Cambridgeshire (95.7 from Peterborough), Radio Northampton (103.6 from Corby) and Radio Lincolnshire (94.9). NOW Digital broadcasts from the East Casterton transmitter covering the town and Spalding, which provides the Peterborough 12D multiplex (BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Hereward FM). Stamford has its own lower-power television relay transmitter, due to the town being in a valley which takes the transmission from Waltham, and not Belmont.
Local high-profile publishers are Key Publishing (aviation) and the Bourne Publishing Group (pets). Old Glory, a specialist magazine devoted to steam power and traction engines, was published in Stamford.
Stamford was the first conservation area to be designated in England and Wales under the Civic Amenities Act 1967. Since then the whole of the old town and St Martin's has been made an outstanding area of architectural or historic interest that is of national importance. The town has over 600 listed buildings, more than half of the total for the County of Lincolnshire.
The Industrial Revolution largely left Stamford untouched. Much of the town centre was built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in Jacobean or Georgian style. Stamford is characterised by streets of timber-framed and stone buildings (using the local limestone that Lincoln Cathedral is built from), and little shops tucked down back alleys. A significant number of the old coaching inns survive, their large doorways being a feature of the town. The main shopping area was pedestrianised in the 1980s.
Near Stamford (actually in the historic Soke of Peterborough) is Burghley House, an Elizabethan mansion, vast and ornate, built by the First Minister of Elizabeth I, Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. The house is the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Exeter. The tomb of William Cecil is in St Martin's Church in Stamford. The parkland of the Burghley Estate adjoins the town of Stamford on two sides. Also inside the district of Peterborough is the village of Wothorpe.
Another historic country house near Stamford is Tolethorpe Hall, now host to outdoor theatre productions by the Stamford Shakespeare Company.
Tobie Norris had a famous bell foundry in the town in the 17th century; his name is now better known as a popular pub on St Paul's Street.
Lying as it does on the main north-south route (Ermine Street, the Great North Road and now the A1) from London to York and Edinburgh, several Parliaments were held in Stamford in the Middle Ages. The George, the Bull and Swan, the Crown and the London Inn were well-known coaching inns. The town had to manage with Britain's north-south traffic through its narrow roads until 1960, when the bypass was built to the west of the town, only a few months after the M1 opened. The old route is now the B1081. There is only one road bridge over the Welland (excluding the A1): a local bottleneck.
Until 1996, there were firm plans for the bypass to be upgraded to motorway standard, since shelved. The Carpenter's Lodge roundabout south of the town has been replaced with a grade-separated junction. The old A16 road, now A1175 (Uffington Road), which heads to Market Deeping, meets the north end of the A43 (Wothorpe Road) in the south of the town.
Foot bridges cross the Welland at the Meadows, some 500 yards upstream of the Town Bridge, and with the Albert Bridge a similar distance downstream.
The Jurassic Way runs from Banbury to Stamford. The Hereward Way runs through the town from Rutland to the Peddars Way in Norfolk, along the Roman Ermine Street and then the River Nene. The Macmillan Way heads through the town, finishing at Boston and there is also Torpel Way to Peterborough, which follows the railway line, entering Peterborough at Bretton.
The town is served by Stamford railway station, formerly known as Stamford Town to distinguish it from the now closed Stamford East station in Water Street. The station building is a fine stone structure in Mock Tudor style, influenced by the nearby Burghley House, and designed by Sancton Wood.
The station has direct services to Leicester, Birmingham and Stansted Airport (via Cambridge) on the Birmingham to Peterborough Line. CrossCountry operate the majority of services as part of their Birmingham to Stansted Airport route. Trains arriving from, or departing for Peterborough, pass through a short tunnel that runs beneath St Martin's.
The town has a bus station on part of the old Castle site in St Peter's Hill. The main bus routes are two routes to Peterborough, via Helpston or via Wansford, and to Oakham, Grantham, Uppingham and Bourne. There are also less frequent services to Peterborough by other routes. Delaine services terminate at their old depot in North Street. Other operators active include CentreBus, Blands and Peterborough Council.
On Sundays and Bank Holidays from 16 May 2010, there are five journeys to Peterborough operated by Peterborough City Council, on routes via Wittering/Wansford, Duddington/Wansford, Burghley House/Barnack/Helpston and Uffington/Barnack/Helpston. There is also a National Express coach service between London and Nottingham each day including Sundays. Route maps and timetables are on Lincolnshire County Council's website, as responsibility for overseeing transport lies with that level of government.
Although commercial shipping traffic brought cargoes along a canal from Market Deeping to warehouses in Wharf Road until the 1850s, this traffic is no longer possible because of the abandonment of the canal and the shallowness of the river above Crowland. There is a lock at the Sluice in Deeping St James but it is not in use. The river was not conventionally navigable upstream of the Town Bridge.
Stamford has five state primary schools – Bluecoat, St Augustine's (RC), St George's, St Gilbert's and Malcolm Sargent, and the independent Stamford Endowed Schools Junior School, a co-educational school for children from ages two to eleven.
There is one state secondary school in the town itself: Stamford Welland Academy (formerly Stamford Queen Eleanor School). This was formed in the late 1980s after the dissolution of the town's two comprehensive schools – Fane and Exeter. It became an academy in 2011. In April 2013, a group of parents announced their intention to establish a Free School in the town but their proposal did not receive government backing. Instead, the multi-academy trust which had submitted the Free School bid was invited to take over the running of the existing school.
Stamford School and Stamford High School are long established independent schools with approximately 1,500 pupils combined. Stamford School (boys) was founded in 1532, with the High School (girls) founded in 1877. The schools have taught co-educational classes in the sixth form since 2000.
Most of Lincolnshire still has grammar schools. In Stamford, the place of grammar schools was long filled by a form of the Assisted Places Scheme that provided state funding to send children to one of the two independent schools in the town that were formerly direct-grant grammars. The national scheme was abolished by the 1997 Labour government. The Stamford arrangements remained in place as an increasingly protracted transitional arrangement. In 2008, the council decided no new places could be funded and the arrangement finally ended in 2012. The rest of South Kesteven, apart from Market Deeping, has the selective system.
Other secondary pupils travel to nearby Casterton College or further afield to other schools such as The Deepings School or Bourne Grammar School.
New College Stamford offers post-16 further education: work-based, vocational and academic; and higher education courses including BA degrees in art and design awarded by the University of Lincoln and teaching related courses awarded by Bishop Grosseteste University. The college also offers a range of informal adult learning.
In 1333–4, a group of students and tutors from Merton and Brasenose Colleges, dissatisfied with conditions at their university, left Oxford to establish a rival college at Stamford. Oxford and Cambridge universities petitioned Edward III, and the King ordered the closure of the college and the return of the students to Oxford. Oxford MA students were obliged to swear the following: "You shall also swear that you will not read lectures, or hear them read, at Stamford, as in a University study, or college general", an oath which remained in place until 1827. The site, and limited remains, of the former 'Brazenose College, Stamford' where the Oxford secessionists lived and studied, now forms part of the Stamford School premises.
In the 2001 Census, over 80% of the population of Stamford identified themselves as Christian, while under 13% identified themselves as of "no religion".
Stamford has many current or former churches:
Stamford and nearby villages have their own substantial entertainment sector, as well as being able to access what is on offer in Peterborough, Leicester and other nearby cities. The local sector includes:
In 2012 the Olympic torchbearer passed through Stamford.
There are a number of junior teams in each age group as well as school teams.