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Church Post Code PE9 2LF

Open to visitors


It was a clear, sunny February morning in 2023, and I had popped back to Stamford to revisit the four town centre churches that I thought would be open. The church of St Martin was my first of the day’ and I had to cross the bridge over the River Welland to get there; just a few minute walk from the bus station, but as I crossed the bridge it put me in to Stamford Baron, the area south of the Welland, which was part of Northamptonshire.

St Martin was the final resting place for Daniel Lambert, Britain’s heaviest man at the time; more of him later, apart from saying though that the town football club is nicknamed the Daniels with his image at one point appearing on the club lapel badge.

It is suggested that there was possibly a church here as far back as 1133 with the present building that we see today coming from a complete 15th century rebuilding. A little research in compiling these pages for Stamford has suggested that there was damage in the town by Lancastrian forces in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, with churches lost or damaged during that time.

The church guide here though is more along the lines of thinking that the previous church had been neglected and it was pretty much a case of starting again from scratch! The church was rebuilt between 1482 and 1485, on the same site; consisting of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, chancel with north and south chapels. There was some Victorian reordering in 1845 and the Cecil (north) chapel was extended to the north in 1865.


The west tower stands close to the main road which runs through the town; the west door is flanked by two empty image niches. The tower is perpendicular, buttressed, and battlemented with crocketed pinnacles. Finely carved gargoyles look out from the intricate stonework around the frieze and parapet.

The south porch is of two storeys, with a holy water stoup to be seen alongside the south door. The upper storey was used as a chapel since 1935.

The nave, clerestories, chancel and chapels are battlemented throughout; with the east end of the church structurally impressive.  Given how hemmed in this church is by neighbouring buildings, this is not the easiest church to shoot externally; however, as with all of the churches in this delightful town, there are all sorts of lanes and alleys where a decent shot can be obtained from distance.

At a first glance, the bells here don’t seems all that inspiring; a ring of six all cast in 1850 by Mears of London. However, the outstanding thorough work by Thomas North in his late Victorian studies of church bells had helped to preserve some of the history.

North notes that prior to 1850 there was a ring of three bells here. These were melted down to help create this new ring of six.  North didn’t find out the founders of these bells but notes that the first was inscribed ‘Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum’ ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’. The second read ‘Intonat e celis vox campane Micaelis’ ‘The Voice of Michael’s bell thunders from Heaven’ and the third was inscribed ‘Sum Rosa Pulsata mundi Maria Vocata’ ‘I am the rose of the world called Mary’.

North goes on to note that the scrap value for those ancient bells was a little over £146 with the new bells and frames costing just under £389; with the balance owing raised by subscription.


It was good to see the ‘church open’ sign out and moving inside, my only company was a man polishing some brass. There are four bay arcades to north and south, with these, along with the chancel arch and the bays from the chancel leading in to the north and south chapels, all being of similar design; which is logical given that they all date from the same time. However, an arch between the north aisle and chapel was inserted in the 19th century when the north chapel was extended,

Moving in to the chancel, the altar front is decorated with a depiction of Jesus central, flanked by the disciples, with reredos of gold curtain. The two bay arcades on the north side of the chancel are blocked to the east by William Cecil’s tomb and to the west by Burghley’s pews.

A 15th century piscina is set in to the south wall of the chancel, with what may be an altered sedilia alongside. There is also a piscina in the south chapel.


There is some fine medieval stained glass to be seen here, both in the east window of the chancel and in the south chapel. Some of the glass is contemporary to the rebuilding of the church here, but some came from the church of Holy Trinity Tattershall, Lincolnshire; with the church there having one of the most fabulous collections of medieval glass in England.

A lot of the glass there was removed. I was told by someone at Tattershall when I visited there, that it was removed due to the fact that the sheer volume of glass meant that the natural light level was very low and people couldn’t see their Bibles!

Starting off with the east window of the chancel, it is suggested that the glass here dates back to the 1480’s rebuilding. There are lots of fragments here, due to the destruction wrought on ‘idolatrous’ items such as stained glass during the reformation.

In amongst the more substantial panels, there are galleries of small heads, all beautifully mounted; many with crowns, others with nimbus, both male and female. Other panels have small patterned fragments, again put together beautifully; nothing wasted. Angels stand guard at the top, with coats of arms and shield at the bottom.

The medieval glass in the south chapel has been re-set alongside some more modern glass of bright colours. Again, these are mainly fragments but are of great interest. Two Bishops in one design, stand either side of a depiction of Mary the Mother of Jesus. The blue cloak suggests that it is Mary, the head appears to be from a different window, but is female with a radiant flaming nimbus, so that still be might be Mary. In truth though, does it matter? These are surviving fragments from a time when many items of great beauty were lost to us forever. Let’s just enjoy them; there is plenty of other glass that we can do our own personal Bible study from should we wish.


Not all of the glass here is medieval. Two three light windows illustrate Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 & 36, the sheep and the goats ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Also depicted is the scene of Easter morning when the three Mary’s arrive at Jesus’ tomb, finding it empty but meeting two angels of the Lord ‘He is not here He is risen’.

There is a striking three light illustration of the ascension. The risen Christ ascends, surrounded by radiant, flaming aureole, arms spread and wounds visible, flanked by angels.  The eleven disciples are below with one, which I suspect is Peter, grabbing hold of the hem of Christ’s gilded cloak. Intricate details!

Also we have the risen Christ throned in glory with hand raised in blessing, holding a globe and sceptre; angels gathered at his feet. This central panel is flanked by Peter holding a goblet out of which a serpent is emerging. This is not Biblical but comes from a biography of John. This tells the story of when he was given poison in wine whilst in Ephesus. He prayed over the wine and the poison came out in the form of a serpent.

The other panel shows Paul, an unusual depiction this one, as he is normally shown as an older figure with receding hairline. This is a younger portrayal, with full head of hair; but as usual his sword, and a very ornamental sword at that, is pointing downwards between his feet.


In the north chapel, there are some fine monuments to the Cecil family, the Lords of Burghley and the Lords of Exeter from nearby Burghley House. Against the east wall is a fine marble monument to Richard Cecil who died in 1552, and his wife Jane who died in 1578.

They face each other across a prayer desk with hands raised in prayer; he dressed in amour and she with fine Elizabethan ruff. They are under the cover of an elaborately carved canopy, part of the decoration being a winged skull, symbolising the safe escorting of the soul to Heaven. Their three daughters kneel at prayer below.

This monument is attributed to Cornelius Cure, one of the most important sculptors of his day; who was Master Mason to Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Another of Cure’s works is a free standing monument to Willian Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, which stands under the north arch which leads in to the north chapel.

This fully coloured marble monument see Cecil recumbent, head propped up on a pillow, dressed in full armour, with feet resting on a lion. The quality and detail on this is breathtaking with even the individual fibres on the rolled up carpet on which he lays being individually crafted. As befitted the status of Burghley House, this is seen as one of the finest of Elizabethan funerary monuments.

Over against the north wall is a monument to John Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter and his wife Anne. As was sometimes the fashion of the day, they are depicted dressed in Roman attire.  This was sculpted by Pierre-Etienne Monnot, a Frenchman who was working in Rome; again this is considered to be one of the finest monuments of its day to be found in this country.

The couple were well travelled and well versed in art and literature and this is symbolised by the books included on the monument, which have the pages gilded. Three books have pages marked under the cushion on which John in resting, with Anne marking the page of a book open with one finger. It is said that the two flanking figures represent victory and art.


There are some interesting gravestone here, both in the grounds immediately to the east of the church, and across the road in an additional burial site; which is where the visitor can find the final resting place of Daniel Lambert.

Lambert died in Stamford, whilst attending Stamford races, in 1809; weighing 52 stone 11lb at the time of his death. It took a team of 20 men an hour to get the coffin from the church to burial site; despite the coffin being fitted with wheels.

The gravestone is in slate. With the wording at the top describing Lambert as ‘That Prodigy in Nature’ and detailing that ‘He measured three feet one inch around the leg and nine feet four inches around the body’.

This is a church full of interest, and as with the other pages on this site detailing the churches in Stamford, there is so much to see that I acknowledge that I am only scratching the surface. As always, I enjoyed my time spent here; it was time to hit the road again, but only for a short distance, re-crossing the Welland and aiming for the church of St Mary, a five minute walk to the north.

Well worth taking a look at if you are in the area, St Martin, along with St Mary, All Saints and St John the Baptist, are generally all open to visitors; with an impressive number of tea rooms close by for those wishing to combine churchcrawling with food!

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