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Church Post Code  PE9 2DS

Open to visitors

It was a sunny, cloudless day in February 2023; with a return visit to Stamford, to revisit the four town centre churches that are normally open to visitors. As mentioned on another page on this site, Stamford is a rewarding place for the churchcrawler to visit, with six town centre churches close together; four of these being generally open to visitors, one further converted in to shops, with only St George usually having the doors closed.

Added to that the large number of tea rooms and other historic buildings and the interested visitor is nicely set up for a few hours in what Sir Walter Scott described as being the ‘finest stone town in England’.

The church of St Mary was the second church of the morning; and I headed in from the south by foot, across the bridge which crosses the Welland. A photograph of the exterior from the south from distance shows the fine spire behind the George of Stamford sign which stretches across the main road. I wonder how many thousands of people have taken that shot over the years!

 There are some fine churches in Stamford and sometimes I change my mind about which is my favourite; what never changes though is that St Mary is my favourite of the Stamford churches externally.


The church that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, north and south chapels, south vestry and chancel.

The church of St Mary dates back to the 12th century, but the fine perpendicular west tower dates back to the early 13th century. The broach spire was built in the 14th century. The tower is 78 feet high, with the impressive broach spire rising up another 90 feet.

The five stage tower is highly decorated and as with nearby All Saints, there is much blind arcading in the decoration. The ornate church clock faces out from the south; tall treble lancet windows can be seen at the belfry stage. The tower was deemed unstable during the 18th century, with work undertaken to strengthen it in 1788. Further work to strengthen the tower came about in 1913.

The west door, which basically leads straight out on to the main road through the town, dates to the 13th century and has decorated orders and a tympanum.

 The north side of the church is also tight up against a road; with an attractive courtyard facing the church on the south and eastern sides.

The fine broach spire has lucarne windows with crocketed gables. Stone heads in a variety of grotesque styles look out from all directions. Inbetween the lower lucarne windows are smaller gabled niches, which contain images of saints.


The north chapel dates originally from the 13th century and was rebuilt around 1380. It is thought that the guilds of St Mary which was founded in 1310 and the guild of Corpus Christie which was formed by 1350, made use of this north chapel.

Much of the exterior dates from the 15th century, with the south porch, south aisle and south chapel all dating from that time. The south porch, aisles and chapels are battlemented; with the church being heavily buttressed throughout.

The 15th century rebuilding may have something to do with the destruction in the town in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, but the impressive structure also reflects as to the wealth of the medieval wool merchants in the town at that time.

The church was restored in 1859/60 and again in 1890 when much of the chancel and chapels were refurnished; with this latter being undertaken by John Dando Sedding, a noted Victorian architect who was influential in the Arts and Crafts movement.


There are eight bells in the ring here, with these being looked at in some depth by Thomas North in his study of the church bells of Lincolnshire, which was published in 1882.

The first two of the ring were cast by Mears of London in 1802. Prior to that time there were six bells in the ring here, with two being added and one existing bell being re-cast at the time.

The first is inscribed with the name Robert West, who was the Mayor and reads ‘Peace to all the world’. The second also has the name of West and is inscribed ‘Not in word not in tongue but in deed and in truth’

The third was cast very locally by Tobias Norris I of the Stamford bellfoundry. This one dates from 1625, towards the end of his career, with his final bell cast the following year. This bell is inscribed ‘SUM ROSA PULSATE MUNDA MARIA VOCATA’ which translates as ‘I am, when rung, called Mary the Rose of the World’.

The fourth was cast by Peterborough founder Henry Penn in 1727, and has inscribed on to it the name of the Mayor John Seaton and church wardens Edward Peake and Matthew Newark.

The fifth is another from Tobias Norris I, again dated 1625. This one has the inscription ‘OMNIA FIANT AD GLORIAM DEI’ ‘Let all things be done for the glory of God’.

The sixth of the ring is another from Mears of London, again dated 1802. This one reads ‘Peace and love be multiplied’.

The seventh is a third from Tobias Norris I, with this one dated 1626. It reads ‘IESUS SPEDE US STANFORDI ENSIBUS INSERVIENS IPSA CONTEROR’. I had a challenging time with Google’s Latin translator on this one; hence no translation!

The final of the ring is another from the Stamford bellfoundry, this one courtesy of Thomas Norris, who was to be an active founder for more than 50 years. This one dates from 1628 and is inscribed ‘Gear God and honour the King’.


Despite there being a south porch the visitor enters through the north door. The ‘Church Open’ sign was out and we were good to go. The church here is open and welcoming but the screen which separates the nave and aisles from the chancel and chapels was locked so photographs from the east end were taken from distance and some things were out of bounds so to speak.

This Victorian screen runs the length of the chapels and chancel. Over the screen there is a fine carving of the crucifixion; with the tunic and dice, scourge and nail, all items of Christ’s passion, included on the horizontal. The Agnus Dei , the Lamb of God, can be seen part way up the cross shaft with a crown and communion chalice at the foot of the cross.

Mary and John are in their traditional places at the side of the cross, with Mary on the left as we look at it, on Jesus right hand side as looked at from his viewpoint. This is where Mary will almost always be situated as in Jewish custom the place of honour was always on the right hand side.

As mentioned earlier, there was much Victorian restoration in the chancel and north chapel, but there are medieval survivals, with an example being an elaborate tomb which dates to one David Phillips who died in 1506, which occupies the most easterly bay which connects chancel to north chapel.

Peering through the screen, there appears to be a piscina against the east wall of the north chapel, and the chapel roof itself dates from around 1480. The altar in the chancel is of marble, with a carved front which depicts Jesus at the centre in a roundel, surrounded by his disciples.

The east window of the chancel is of four lights, with vibrantly coloured stained glass by Wailes & Co, dated 1860. There are depictions of the four Evangelists, with a smaller panel below each of the evangelists, detailing part of their life. Under Matthew is a depiction of him compiling his gospel. Under Mark is a scene from one of his missionary journeys. The panel for Luke shows him as a doctor tending a sick man. John is shown with Mary the mother of Jesus, walking her away from the crucifixion; with Mary holding the crown of thorns.


The east window of the north chapel dates to 1891, and was created by Christopher Wall. The Virgin and child is at the centre of the five lights, with a small panel detailing the annunciation immediately below. This central panel is flanked by Archangels Gabriel and Michael, with these in turn flanked by depictions of Adam and Eve on the outer lights. Mary is shown at a higher level than the other four characters.

Up in the tracery on this window are small scenes, for the most part in muted shades, grisaille fashion, which includes Jesus being presented to Simeon in the temple; Mary is shown without Joseph and she holds a dove, the sacrifice offering for those of limited means who could not afford a lamb. There is also a hauntingly beautiful depiction of the crucifixion and the nativity, with the baby Jesus in the manger with light radiating out from him.


Other glass includes two depiction involving David. In one he is easily recognisable, with David playing the harp. If it hadn’t been for the chapter and verse included at the foot of the second window, this one would have remained a mystery to me. It covers 2 Samuel Chapter 18 verse 4. King David has sent out his troops to battle and wants to go out and fight himself. He is persuaded to stay away from the fight as he was too important to lose.

In the tracery at the top of this window is a celestial band of angel musicians, whilst at the bottom vibrantly coloured angels kneel, wings unfurled.

Standing at the chancel and looking back to the west, there is the outline of the previous roofline, in pre clerestory days. Several stone heads look out across the nave, including one with tongue stuck out in medieval gesture of insult.

Close by, a wall tablet to the Right Hon Lady Georgina Ramsey shows the fragility of human life in those days of low life expectancy; even for the well to do, as she passed away in May 1794 at the age of 15 years.


Moving outside, there are a few gravestones worth noting. A small weathered carving of a human skull, along with a scythe can be seen on one stone. These are both symbols of mortality, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. Therefore, do not be caught short, and be a peace with God when your own time comes. And in days of low life expectancy, that could be sooner than you think.

And on the topic of the fragility of human life we have a gravestone in slate to Mary Charlesforth who died in 1767 aged 28 years. The script underneath reads ‘ O death that would no longer spare/ a loving wife and tender mother dear/ Great is the loss to those left behind/ But she we hope eternal joy will find’.

Another slate stone, this time from the 19th century, is exquisite in its simplicity, a cello carved in to the top of the stone, along with ‘O Praise Ye the Lord’ written on a sheet of music below.

Close by are the cross and anchor, both often used symbols of the Christian faith; with these proclaiming the faith pf the deceased.


Before heading off the short distance to St John the Baptist I took a tour around the town. The churches here are sometimes not the easiest to photograph from the exterior due to them being hemmed in by buildings. However, some good long distance shots can be found in various streets and alleys and from the Meadows by the side of the Welland, where the spire of St Mary stands proud above the riverside buildings.

A couple of swans glided by gracefully, looking at me briefly to see if I had any food; waited for them to get to the spot that I wanted then headed off back in to town; my desire to continue this mini churchcrawl being tempered a little by the lure of the Cornish Bakery a short distance away!

As with the other Stamford town churches, there is so much to see here; and I have hardly scratched the surface with a single page available. Well worth taking a look at if you are around.

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