Stamford Castle: history


1. The Pre-Conquest Period

Almost all of the historical evidence for Stamford in the pre-Conquest period comes from Wessex sources, whose testimony is coloured by ignorance and lack of interest on the one hand, and political bias on the other. Nevertheless, it is possible to perceive some of the complex political processes that may have lain behind the construction of the ditch system on the castle site (p.000), whether it was Danish or Mercian, and the subsequent development of the pre-Conquest borough.

The castle site was probably an administrative and political centre in the mid-ninth century. Parochial structure indicates that St Peter's church was the primary foundation in the town, and historical and topographical evidence suggests that the estate to which it belonged was a manor within the ancient royal holding of Rutland. The twin centres of the whole complex were Oakham and Hambleton, to which the church of St Peter belonged in the in the 11th century, but it cannot be doubted that Stamford was an important local nucleus (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 201-6).

There is no explicit evidence to illuminate the social and political role of Rutland and its satellites, of which Stamford was one, within Mercia, but there are indications that, contrary to popular belief, the Danish invasion was not an irresistable force that impinged on a united and peaceful kingdom. For example, in connection with the circumstances surrounding the Danish conquest of Northumbria, the role of English politics is made clear in the northern annals preserved in the history ascribed to Simeon of Durham. There was factional discord in York, and the invaders were invited in to support one of the parties (Symeon Mon i, 54-5). Much the same may have happened in Mercia. In 872-3 and 873-4 the great army overwintered at Torksey and Repton, which were in the heartland of a dynasty founded by Ceolwulf I which had been deposed by the family of Burgred, King of Mercia (Hart 1977). It is likely that representatives of Ceolwulf I conspired with the Danes against Burgred, for, 'the foolish king's thegn' that the Danes set up as his successor was also called Ceolwulf and was almost certainly a kinsman of Ceolwulf I (Roffe 1987a, 218). Within this context, the stand-off at Nottingham in 868 when Burgred and Alfred agreed not to fight the invaders may be evidence as much of local opposition to the ruling regime as of the strong defences reported by Asser (Asser ?). This would suggest that the East Midlands generally tried to use the Danes to further their own interests from the time when they first appeared in the area.

Such an analysis may suggest that the ditch system was less likely to have been built against the Danes. Nevertheless, a Mercian origin is not thereby precluded. In the event the site was soon taken over by the newcomers. In 875 the Great Army was divided into two and in 877 Mercia was partitioned and the Danes assumed authority over the East Midlands (ASC, 48). The initiative was apparently taken by the northern army, and two chronicle references indicate that the area, including Stamford, remained under the hegemony of York until at least 909 (Roffe 1987a, 220; Chron Aethelweard, 51; ASC, 61). The importance of the settlement at Stamford was considerable. In addition to the tradition of authority which was associated with the castle site, it was a vital strategic centre; with the forest of Rutland two miles to the west, and fastnesses of the fens five miles to the east, it controlled access to and from Kesteven and commanded the route to the North, while providing rapid communication with the North Sea via the River Welland.

From the earliest period of Scandinavian settlement these characteristics fostered an explosion in economic activity. As at Lincoln and York, access to the Viking world opened up unprecedented opportunities for trade, and, with the aid of innovative technology, led to the industrial production of commodities on a considerable scale. The kilns on the castle site produced pottery of a type with a wide distribution in the East Midlands and beyond, and the discovery of smelting hearths and deposits of iron slag throughout the eastern half of the town attest to metal-working on a large scale (Mahany and Roffe 1983). However, there is no evidence that a burghal system was set up at this time. The distinctive Danelaw characteristics of the carucate and wapentake are derived from late tenth-century legal principles and cannot therefore be used as evidence of a Danish system of administration (Roffe 1987a, 224-6; Roffe 1987b, 7-11; Roffe 1986, 111-6). On the contrary, such contemporary sources as exist suggest that the emergence of the Danelaw boroughs as both institutions and defended settlements was a protracted process spanning the hundred years following the Danish settlement.

Until 913 the Chronicle only speaks of the armies of Northumbria and East Anglia, and it would seem that separate and autonomous forces were attached to individual boroughs after the slaughter of the northern Danish aristocracy by the armies of Wessex and Mercia at Tettenhall in 910 and the subsequent eclipse of the power of York south of the Humber (ASC, 61-2; Smyth 1975- 9, i, 75, 102). The immediate stimulus was the accelerating pace of Edward the Elder and Aethelflaeda's campaign of reconquest, and it is from this period that the 'Danish borough' (fig. 000) was probably fortified for the first time (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 209-11). Nevertheless, the relationship between stronghold and lords who defended it was still essentially personal and, as the desertion of Huntingdon for Tempsford in 917 indicates, often ad hoc (ASC, 65). It was not until after the reconquest that a formal administration was set up in the area by Athelstan with the establishment of markets, mints, and toll boundaries (Roffe 1986, 111-116). Stamford's role in this system is not known. Unlike Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, but in common with Northampton and Huntingdon, it does not appear to have had a mint, but the division known as Kesteven may have been assigned to it.

Edward the Elder had built a second borough in Stamford to the south of the Welland, but, as with similar foundations elsewhere, it was probably nothing more than a bridgehead fortification, and it would appear that the river, the northern limits of Northampton's territory in 918, was already established as a boundary (ASC, 66). Rutland to the west formed a discrete unit and Holland to the east may have been attached to East Anglia, while Lincoln and Lindsey, an integral part of the as yet unconquered Northumbria until at least 927 and probably as late as 942, defined a northern limit (Phythian-Adams 1977, 64; Hart 1974, 139-43; Roffe 1987a, 236-7).

However, despite this burghal system and concomitant structures for the maintenance of peace, the East Midlands retained an affinity with the North and appear to have rebelled enthusiastically against the Wessex regime when Olaf Guthrifson overran the Northern Danelaw in 939 (Smyth 1975-9, ii, 91-4; Roffe 1987a, 237-8). Following Edmund's reconquest in 942 and the final absorpsion of the kingdom of York in 954, a more radical solution to the Danish problem was sought. Stamford, along with Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, were constituted as a military confederacy with an integrated network of twelve- carucate hundreds (a territorial tithing, the local equivalent of the vill), and wapentakes to maintain the peace (Roffe 1986, 111- 116). Stamford would seem to have been the administrative centre of Kesteven and Holland (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 213-215), but, like the other boroughs, it was subordinate to the ealderman of the Five Boroughs who was responsible for the loyalty and defence of the area as a whole (Roffe 1986, 115-6).

Measures were also taken at the same tuime to separate Lindsey from the see of York, and it would seem that there was a conscious policy to create a national locus of patronage and therby divorce the Danes of the East Midlands from those of a still unstable and unreliable Northumbria (Roffe 1987a, 242-5). In the event it failed its first concerted test. When King Swein of Denmark and his son Cnut invaded England in the early eleventh century, the Five Boroughs again sided with the North against Ethelred the Unready (Roffe 1987a, 253-6). The confederacy dissolved, a dismal failure in its central aim, and was replaced by a network of separate shires. it was in this context that Stamford and its territory were attached to Lincoln to form the historic county of Lincoln (Roffe 1986, 116; Mahany and Roffe 1983, 215). The town ceased to be a primary administrative nucleus, but its strategic importance remained as prominent as ever, and it was this factor, along with residual proto-shrieval functions, which dictated its choice as the site of a royal castle in 1068.


2. The Post-Conquest Period


a) Introduction

There are unfortunately few historical sources for the study of Stamford castle. Although royal in the 11th and early 12th centuries, it was alienated by the crown early in the reign of Henry II, and, with the exception of a few years in the mid-13th century, it remained a seigneurial castle for the rest of its history. There are therefore few references in the public records to the structure or the institution, and no extensive seigneurial records have come to light to fill the gap. Consequently, apart from a few significant entries relating to the domestic buildings, very little can be said about the fabric. Any attempt to identify phases of construction must be conjectural, and based upon the chronology of succeeding national crises which impinged upon the castle through the political involvements of its lords. More evidence survives to illustrate its role within the town, but the data are still limited, the borough records having been destroyed in 1461.


b) The construction of the castle

The existence of a castle at Stamford is first noted in 1086 in Domesday Book (Lincs DB, p.9/2), but probably its construction was part of a concerted policy of castle building by William I in connection with his conquest of the North in the early years of his reign. After the Battle of Hastings government was maintained through the apparatus of the Anglo-Saxon administration, but by late 1067 the policy had proved ineffective and, with the outbreak of rebellion, King William determined upon a policy of direct Norman rule. Orderic Vitalis reports that the campaign started in the Spring of 1068. The king built castles at Warwick and Nottingham, and at York, the centre of resistance. Returning south he built castles at Lincoln, Huntingdon and Cambridge (Orderic, ii, 218), and additionally, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 'everywhere in that district'. No mention is made of Stamford, but in the context of his strategy to secure the routes to the north and hold important centres of population, we might expect the town to have been fortified as part of this programme. Certainly by 1070 the Normans considered the town safe, for in that year Thorold, the new Abbot of Peterborough, took refuge in Stamford with 160 knights while Hereward the Saxon plundered his abbey (ASC, 148, 151-2).

The site of the castle, to the west of the pre-Conquest borough on a small knoll overlooking the meadows and the River Welland, was not without strategic importance, for it commanded the approaches to the town from the west, what was probably an early crossing of the river on the line of Castle Dyke, and the borough to the east (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 207). Nevertheless, it was relatively remote from the bridge and the main north-south lines of communication through the town, and it seems likely that the choice of site reflected a conscious desire to perpetuate an existing centre of authority. In 1066 Edith, Edward the Confessor's queen, had held as parcel of the royal liberty of Rutland, an extensive manor centred on the church of St Peter (Lincs DB, p.11/9; Roffe and Mahany 1986, 7-8). The relationship of this estate to the borough at the time is unclear, but, as with similar sites elsewhere, it was probably a royal or comital administrative centre which represented the king's interests within the borough and its territory. The construction of the castle immediately to the south and east of, if not within, the nucleus of this estate probably facilitated the rapid transfer of local administration and presumably legitimized the exercise of the power with which it was associated.

The immediate physical impact of the castle is difficult to assess but may have been minimal. In many towns and cities, like Lincoln (Lincs DB, p.7/25), hundreds of houses were demolished to make way for the new structures with little regard for existing rights. The Domesday description of Stamford merely records that five customary messuages, that is urban properties that contributed to the borough farm, were waste 'on account of the work of the castle' (Lincs DB, p.9/2), but it is not possible to determine how many houses they represent or the number of non- customary tenements that were similarly destroyed (Roffe and Mahany 1986, 6). Likewise, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that a new market was built at the same time as the castle, as at Nottingham and Norwich: the market church of All Saints was apparently a pre-Conquest foundation and the castle seems to have fitted into an existing town plan, the nucleus of which had already largely assumed the shape exhibited in the later Middle Ages (Rogers 1972, 60; Roffe and Mahany 1986, 6-7).

However, a major reorganisation in administrative and tenurial arrangements can be perceived. Shortly after the Conquest, the whole of Queen Edith's estate, apart from its fields, known as Portland in Domesday Book and later as Sundersoken, which were appended to royal manors to the west of Stamford, was incorporated into the borough (Roffe and Mahany 1986, 6-8). The move was no doubt prompted by a desire to bring the castle under the control of the county of Lincoln to which it commanded access - Rutland was then administered from Nottingham (DB Rut, R1) - and it was from this time that the administrative boundaries of the modern town were defined. Equally signficantly, however, it brought into the lordship of Stamford a large demesne estate which, unlike the borough itself, was in the immediate control of the king. It was subsequently known as the fee of the castle or the manor of Stamford, and, subject to a manorial as opposed to burghal court, was one of the most valuable appurtenances of the lordship of Stamford (Roffe 1988, 44).

Apart from increased royal demands, the administration of the borough itself was probably little affected. It is clear from Domesday Book that Stamford was a settlement with extensive liberties. It was what Ballard called 'a county borough', that is a shire type town - it had lost its dependent territory in the late tenth or early eleventh century - and was administratively, economically, and socially distinct from the surrounding countryside (Ballard 1904, 5, 43). Its court evidently had an elevated status. The assessment of the town was twelve and a half hundreds - the hundred was a the Lincolnshire term for the vill, the fundamental unit of local government at the level of the community - and its division into six wards with functions similar to the hundred, suggests that it was equivalent to the court of a wapentake (Roffe 1981, 27-36). Indeed, from time to time it may even have served as something like a shire court, if, as has been suggested, the royal dues of South Lincolnshire were rendered there (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 214). Moreover, the town's social structure was entirely urban in character. Despite tenurial heterogeneity - at least seven tenants-in-chief, in addition to the king, held land in the town - burgage tenure was almost certainly the common datum of title; the same basic landgable or quit rent was paid, sometimes to the king, sometimes to a private lord, and services were attached to land as opposed to the person (Tait 1936, 169). Overall the king was lord as sovereign rather than landlord, and the townsmen were free to conduct their business without the constraints imposed by the servile tenures of the countryside.


c) The King's Castle, 1068-1156

The first hundred years of the castle's history are obscure. No reference to it occurs between 1086 and 1153, and its importance and function can only be conjectured. The borough, and presumably the castle, were evidently in the royal demesne in the reign of Henry I [1]. As a royal institution, it is likely that castle guard was performed there by knights of the surrounding area. However no evidence has survived, for by 1156, when the town was granted to Richard Humet, such services would probably have been transferred to another royal castle, possibly Rockingham, Northants.(RH i, 260 [2}).

The situation which obtained in the Anarchy is unclear. The town was evidently held by Stephen for a time, for between 1139 and 1154 he made grants of land of his demesne in the town to the local hospitals of St. Giles and the Holy Sepulchre and to the churches of St. Mary and the Holy Trinity(BF, 197; Regesta, iii, nos 37, 385). Stamford cannot, however, have been a royal stronghold throughout the reign, for in the Northern Danelaw the political scene was dominated by Ranulf, Earl of Chester who, with the aid of his half-brother William de Roumara, wished to link his Lincolnshire estates with the Palatinate of Chester and create a powerful territorial base. In 1140 he had declared for the Empress Matilda and was besieged by the king at Lincoln. Escaping with the aid of Robert, Earl of Gloucester, he relieved the castle and captured the king, but later the empress lost the initiative and the king was restored. Ranulf, submitting at Stamford in 1146, came to quite advantageous terms with Stephen, for both he and his party maintained their power base in Lincolnshire (Davis 1960, 655-8; ASC, 201). It is not known whether the castle and town of Stamford were under Ranulf's sway at this time, but within a few years of this agreement Stephen had probably lost effective control. Between 1149 and 1153, Ranulf and Robert, Earl of Leicester, signed a pact whereby neither was to build castles or act aggressively towards the other between their castles of Rockingham and Coventry (Stenton 1932, 249-55). The document is remarkable for making no reference to the king, and it appears that the East Midlands was controlled by the two barons. But in 1153 there was a royal garrison in the town, for in the third siege of his campaign in that year, Henry of Anjou invested the borough. The town submitted immediately, which may imply an inadequacy of defences but is more likely to indicate sympathy with Henry's cause, perhaps influenced by the fact that Ranulf had already declared for him. The castle, however, was firmly royalist and resisted, implying at least that it was in an adequate state of preparedness and defensibility and capable of withstanding a possibly prolonged siege. In the account of the siege, a 'turris' is referred to, perhaps implying that the shell-keep had by then been erected, though this could possibly refer to a timber tower. The castle finally surrendered when all hope of relief was lost, for the king was detained at Ipswich (Hist Anglorum, 288; Regesta, iii, no. 81 [3]).


d) A seigneurial castle, 1156-1240.

In c. 1155/56 Henry II alienated Stamford, granting it to Richard Humet, Constable of Normandy and Sheriff of Rutland, with all the appurtenances of the castle and borough saving the services of William de Lanvalei and the Abbot of Peterborough (Baronage i, 631a; PR 2 Henry II, 24). The grant, in consideration of Humet's services, was made hereditary by 1173/4 (Cal. Doc. France, i, 530 [4}). Henceforward for some two hundred years, with the exception of seventeen years in the mid thirteenth century, it was alienated from the crown. Almost immediately the terms used to describe Stamford took on a feudal aspect: 'borough' gave way to 'township', 'burgess' to 'lord's goodman'. and it would seem that free borough had developed into seigneurial town (CPR 1313-1317, 414; 1324-1327, 270; 1334-1338, 417; 1338-1340, 100, 460; 1350-1354, 268; 1413-1416, 350 etc). The liberties of the lord of Stamford were indeed extensive; his seneschal acted as sheriff, assuming almost all the functions of the king's officers of the shire (RH i, 351), and the apparatus of shrieval administration was duplicated in the town (Rot Litt Claus ii, 196b; QW 429-30; RH i, 355). However, these were liberties which were burghal rather than seigneurial: they extended to all fees within the town and were exercised through the borough court at which the burgesses were suitors. Stamford was less privatized than mediatized, that is, its lords received its issues, but by and large it otherwise continued to function as a free and privileged community. With the possible exception of a few years after the civil war in the 1250s and 60s, the lords of Stamford were content to allow the customary regulation of the borough through the body of the burgesses (Roffe 1988, 43- 6).

The reign of Henry II (1154-89) was relatively peaceful, and there is little documentary evidence to illustrate the history of the castle. The physical remains, by contrast, are more illuminating. It was probably the experience of the Anarchy, coupled with new concepts of castle design, which resulted in a programme of refurbishment and modernisation. The first phase of the hall dates from this period, and was presumably built by Richard Humet or his son William who succeeded him in 1173 (Mahany 1978, 24). It may be to this structure that a charter refers in 1170 when it recorded a transaction witnessed in 'the hall at Stamford' (Peck, v, 10; Monasticon iv, 261). In 1189 the castle was used as a sanctuary by the Jews of the town after many from their community had been killed by crusaders who had gathered at Stamford fair (Peck, vi, 2; VCH Lincs, ii, 257). Again, the shell-keep may have played a part in this incident. Ten years later the first reference to a chapel is made (Rot. Chart i, 36), but nothing further is known about it.

In 1204 King John lost Normandy, and William Humet forfeited his English lands in favour of his interests in France. Stamford was briefly farmed out to Peter de Stokes, but a year later the king granted it to William de Warenne, along with the town of Grantham, and all appurtenances (PR 1204, 62, 64;PR 1205, 196, 198, 199; Rott Litt Pat 52). This was meant to be a provisional arrangement for Warenne was only to hold it until he recovered his Norman lands, or a suitable exchange could be made. The king was intent upon retaining a tight hold on the town, for provision was made that the men of Stamford should not be tallaged except with the king's consent, and escheats, that is, forfeitures of land, were retained by the Crown. Clearly the town was still regarded as royal demesne. However, in 1220, the grant was confirmed, and in 1228 made more permanent, when Stamford and Grantham, inter alia, were to be held for life with all escheats and appurtenances if Humet did not make peace or Warenne did not recover his lands in Normandy (Peck viii, 4; Baronage i, 76a; CPR 1225-1232, 190).

William de Warenne's staunch support for the crown profoundly affected the castle and town. In the decade after the signing of Magna Carta, Lincolnshire witnessed some of the more disturbing consequences of the discord. Stamford was hardly a royalist stronghold in a rebellious area, for in 1215 the barons met in the town before proceeding to Runnymede [5]. The castle, however, evidently remained loyal and was actively supported by the king. Thus, when William de Albini, the lord of Belvoir and a leader of the baronial party, forfeited his estates, his manor of Uffington (Lincs.), east of Stamford, was given to William de Warenne `for the sustenance of his castle at Stamford' (Rot Litt Claus, 246). Later, in 1216, John issued a writ of protection with full powers and an exhortation to maintain loyalty in the castle and town (Rot Litt Claus, 197). William was one of the last to abandon the king and declare his support for Prince Louis, by now the figurehead of the opposition, only doing so when John's position became quite untenable .

After the accession of Henry III the area remained unstable, but in the siege of Lincoln of 1217 William de Warenne was one of the first to declare for the new king, and the muster for the siege of Newark could therefore be held at Stamford in 1218 (Powicke 1962, 21-2; Saunders 1956, 108-14). The last violent expression of discontent was in 1221 when William de Forz raised a rebellion at Castle Bytham (Powicke 1962, 40). Rebellious barons, uncluding William de Warenne and the Earl of Cornwall met at Stamford in 1227, but they were soon reconciled with the king.

The uncertainties of these years were reflected in the town by the construction or repair of defensive works. In 1218 and 1226 the king granted wood from his park at King's Cliffe (Northants.) to `enclose the town of Stamford' (Rot Litt Claus i, 370; ii, 26). The line of these defences is not known for certain, but it clearly encompassed a much larger area than the Anglo-Danish borough (Mahany and Roffe 1983, 209) (see fig.00). Evidence only exists for the town bridge and for the defences at the west end of St. Peter's Street. In the case of the former, it was reported in 1275 that Walter de Bourne, the keeper of the murage, (a toll used to finance the construction of the town walls), had in 1261 illicitly profited from the sale of timber from the old broken gate on the bridge which was being newly rebuilt (RH i, 357a). This old structure therefore pre- dates the murage grant of 1261 and indicates that defences extended down to the river by the mid-13th century (CPR 1258-1266 , 155). The evidence for defences to the west of the town is derived from the name Bynnewerk, distinguishing the church of St. Mary within Petergate from that of St. Mary at the bridge. The name means `within the works' and first occurs before 1219, probably in 1216 (Hug Welles, 72). It must refer to an earthwork or other defence in the St. Peter's gate area and provides evidence that the works of 1218, and possibly an earlier circuit, extended this far west [6]. With so much energy devoted to the town defences, it is unlikely that the castle was not in an equally defensible state. There is, however, only one reference to building work, and that is domestic, probably suggesting that the castle was already secure. In 1224 the king granted 20 oaks for the construction of a camera (Rot Litt Claus i, 590). This is likely to be associated with the solar block found in excavation, phase IV of which is dated early 13th century. Unfortunately, however, there is no way of positively identifying a particular record with a particular structure or period.


e) Wardship, grant, and regrant, 1240-1280

In 1240 William de Warenne died and the town and castle reverted to the king. Although William had apparently only held Stamford for life, some further grant had clearly been made, for his wife Matilda was entitled to two parts of the town in dowage. She subsequently exchanged this for the whole of the town and soke of Grantham, holding this until her death in 1248 (CCR 1242- 47, 215; RH i, 288.c.f. RH i, 351, 355), and until 1248, Stamford was held by the king as the guardian of William's heir, John de Warenne (CPR 1232-1247, 269, 270; CLR 1245-1251, 190). But Henry III apparently resumed title after that date, for in 1254 Stamford and its castle, with Grantham, were granted to the Lord Edward who assigned them to his wife in dowage (CPR 1247-1256, 270, 351). According to Peck, the 18th century Stamford antiquary, the town was subsequently mortgaged, first to William de Valence in 1255 (Peck viii, 35, citing Sir R Baker, Chron Lond, 1684, 85), and then to the king in 1260/1 (CPR 1258-1266 103, 170). At this time the town was, apart from two short periods, farmed by the burgesses; indeed, in 1256 they received a charter from the Lord Edward granting the right to elect a mayor (Peck viii, 35; CPR 1247-1259, 663).

The castle was separately administered from the town, by a constable (CPR 1247-1259, 365). In 1256/7 the bailiffs of the lord Edward carried out repairs to the chamber by the hall, perhaps that for which his father had provided oaks over thirty years previously, and in 1262 we first hear of the king's prison in the castle (PRO, SC6/1094/11). In August 1263, while in France, Edward enfeoffed his loyal friend John de Warenne in the castle and town (QW, 429-30), but in 1264, after the Battle of Lewes and the capture of the king by the barons, Edward lost all his lands and Warenne fled abroad. The barons put keepers into Stamford; in 1265 Nicholas de Hastings was entrusted with the issues, but in the same year was captured by malefactors and replaced by Thomas Blund (CCR 1264-68, 4). Although there is no evidence that the castle saw any action, it was clearly in a state of preparedness, for after Lewes the men of the castle at Stamford were ordered to pledge loyalty to Henry III and to cease hostilities, since the king had been `reconciled' with the barons (CPR 1258-1266, 302, 318).

In March 1265 the Lord Edward agreed to baronial government and received, under close supervision, Bristol, and the castles of Dover, Scarborough, Bamburgh and Cork. On May 15th he was granted the town of Stamford, and the burgesses were ordered to be intendant to him (CPR 1258-1266, 424). However, on May 28, Edward escaped from the barons and two days later was deprived of the town, which was again entrusted to Thomas Blund. The bailiffs and good men of Stamford were ordered to help him in guarding it (CCR 1264-1268, 62-3). After the victory at Evesham, which saw the final defeat of the barons in August 1265, the initiative passed to the royal party, and by October we find John de Warenne as lord of Stamford (CPR 1258-1266, 469). The grant was confirmed in February 1266 and by 1275 the town was held in chief of the king, Edward I (QW, 429-30; RH i, 351). In the same year Queen Eleanor was given lands in exchange for the castle in Stamford which she had held in dowage. All previous charters were annulled (CChR 1257-1300, 190).

The impact of the Barons' War upon the town was great. Urban communities were generally favourable to the barons' party since they were given a greater say in the raising of taxation, but many men of Stamford may have supported their lord and adhered to the royalist cause. There seems to have been no confiscation of lands after the battle of Evesham (Rot Selecti, 105-265; CIM i, nos 773-805), and in 1267 a murage grant was made to the town with additions for madder and teasles `on account of the loyalty of the bailiffs and good men in the recent troubles' (CPR 1255-1272, 121). Nevertheless, political divisions and tensions may be discerned, some deriving from ancient rivalries. The Abbot of Peterborough who held most of Stamford south of the Welland was a staunch supporter and sometime treasurer of the baronial party (Powicke 1962, 162). It is thus not surprising that John de Warenne's bailiffs made free of his estates in 1264. They levied 40 marks of the land of the abbot to redeem the Nesse of Peterborough [7], and when Warenne brought his army to Stamford at Easter in the same year the stock of some of the abbot's manors was taken. After Evesham the abbot paid the earl 100 pounds to recover Castor, (Soke of Peterborough), Tinwell (near Stamford, in Rutland), and Thurlby, Lincs.(Peck, viii, 43). There was a long history of discord between Stamford north and south of the Welland and some of the abbot's men in Stamford appear to have suffered the same fate [8]. Thus, in 1260 Peter de Wakelegh and five others of Stamford were attached to answer the abbot's representatives for overcharging tallages (Madox 1726, 95 [9]), and we learn from the Hundred Rolls, the record of inquisitions taken in 1275 to identify encroachments on the king's rights and official abuses of power, that the men of the abbot were frequently and unlawfully distrained during the civil war (RH i, 354a, 355b).

In the aftermath John de Warenne and his supporters in the town gained the upper hand with a vengeance. In the Hundred Rolls, numerous complaints were made by the abbot's men against the lord of Stamford. Discontent, however, was also more generalised, and it would appear that after 1267 the rights of the burgesses were overruled and seigneurial administration was introduced into the town. The castle and its manorial court now became the centre of power. Its staff of at least eight or nine officials, who were directly appointed by John de Warenne, presided over sessions, imprisoned townsmen, and stored distrained goods there. As never before the castle became the hub of activity within the town (Roffe 1988, 43-6).

Again, the political uncertainties of this period were reflected in the measures taken to defend the town. In May 1261 the good men and bailiffs of the lord Edward in Stamford were granted a murage for five years to build walls around the town (CPR 1258-1266, 155). The grant was possibly intended to be aggressive, for throughout the spring of that year Henry was asserting his independence of the barons, who were temporarily in disarray, and was marshalling his forces to wrest back the initiative (Powicke 1962, 162-3). With the success of the king's party at Evesham, two further grants were made in 1265 and 1267 (CPR 1258-1266, 166;CPR 1266-1273 121). The line of this defensive circuit is illustrated in fig.000. Whether this period also saw work on the defences of the castle we cannot say, but if Stamford was considered to be a royalist stronghold it seems likely that the castle was at least defensible.


f) Changing roles and dereliction, 1276-1347.

Stability and order slowly returned to the town in the 1270's. The burgesses of Stamford may have been granted limited self-government in 1276 (Peck ix, 2; QW, 429-30 [10]), that is, their customary administration of the town was restored, but John de Warenne still derived an income from its issues, for in 1293 his bailiffs successfully maintained the earl's right to take over all the shops and stalls in Stamford during the fair (Peck ix, 17-18). Nevertheless, the administrative importance of the castle was in decline, for, in the Quo Warranto proceedings of 1281, John de Warenne had lost important privileges such as the return and estreat of writs, that is the right to act as sheriff within the town, and the custody of the royal prison (QW, 429- 30 [11]). He died in 1304 and since his grandson and heir, John II de Warenne, was not of age the town was taken into the custody of the king (CFR 1272-1307, 510). John II attained his majority in 1308 and is first mentioned as lord of Stamford in 1312 (CPR 1307-1313, 493). On 7th July 1313 he granted self-government, confirmed in 1330, to the burgesses (CPR 1330-1334, 23). Henceforward, the Guild Hall, probably initially sited in Red Lion Square but soon moved to a site over the north end of the town bridge, became the main, and then the only, focus of administration (RCHM 1977, ref to Central cafe and Town Hall).

In 1315 John de Warenne failed in his attempt to divorce his wife, Joan de Bar, on the grounds of a pre-contract with Maud de Neresford. Although the couple had no issue, Joan had a claim to dower, and in order to defeat it and provide for his mistress and their sons, the earl surrendered his lands to the king (Leadom and Baldwin 1918, lxvi-lxix, 27-32). Geoffrey le Scrope was ordered to take seisin of the castles (sic) of Stamford and Grantham (where no castle has ever existed), and to take fealty of the men of each (CPR 1313-1317, 483). In return John was granted the same lands with the remainder to his mistress and their sons, John and Thomas de Warenne, with the exception of Stamford and Grantham which were regranted to John II, but with reversion to the king (CPR 1313-1317, 529). In 1317 the earl was granted a licence to demise Stamford and Grantham to farm, but in the same year he granted the two towns to the king who on the 31st of October gave them to Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, in satisfaction of 4,000 pounds which Aylmer had paid for John de Warenne beyond the seas until the debt had been discharged. John was to recover the towns if the debt was otherwise paid in the meantime, notwithstanding his surrender to the king (CPR 1317-1321, 13; CCR 1313-1318, 569; CPR 1317-1321, 40, 48). In 1324 the Earl of Pembroke died and Edmund Ashby was entrusted with the custody of the town (CFR 1319-1327, 290). In the following year Aylmers's widow, Mary, surrendered Stamford and Grantham, inter alia, to the king in settlement of various debts which her husband owed to the Exchequer (CPR 1324-1327, 165). Complex negotiations then followed between the king and the Earl of Warenne, but finally in September 1327 Stamford and Grantham were granted to the earl for his life (CCW 1244-1326, 577; CCR 1323-1327, 479;CPR 1324-1327, 270; CPR 1327-?, 160). In 1337 the reversion of the castle, manor and town of Stamford were granted to William Bohun, Earl of Northampton (CPR 1334-1338, 417; CPR 1338-1340, 100; CChR 1337-1341, 401). The whole estate valued at 94 7s. 5d. was given on condition that the earl or his heirs did not inherit the lands of the earls of Essex and Hereford (CChR 1327-1341, 484).

John de Warenne died in 1347, when the manor included the castle, a plot of pasture called Swynsleys, and other rents (CI ix, no 54 [12]). During this period the records suggest that the castle lapsed increasingly into decay. There is architectural evidence (see above p.000) for a substantial and high quality rebuilding of the hall between c. 1290 and 1310, but in 1312 the castle was probably unoccupied; in 1337 the sheriff of Lincoln was ordered `to cause bars and other things necessary for the sessions of Geoffrey le Scrope and his fellows', (justices appointed to hold pleas before the king),'to be constructed and newly made for their sessions at Stamford Castle' (CCR 1337-1339, 75). In 1339 the cost of this work was said to be 4 8s.10d. and was thus clearly not of great structural importance (CCR 1339- 1341, 140). But the importance of the castle as a law court was still apparent, although the castle as a whole was apparently in a bad state of repair. In 1340 an inquest jury, enrolled in consequence of the grant of the reversion of the town to William Bohun reported that ` the castle is old, the walls decayed, within are an old tower, a great hall, a chamber with solar, a chapel, a turret and a house for a prison, all of no value beyond outgoings, the site of the castle contains two acres and is called the manor' (CIM 1307-1349, no 1703). Again on Warenne's death in 1347 the castle was said to be ruinous (CI ix, no 54).

The decline of the castle not only reflected the loss of town government to the burgesses, and administrative privileges to the crown, but also wider economic changes which affected the whole of the town. In the late 13th and early 14th centuries Stamford, like many of the older established towns, was suffering from economic difficulties. Its traditional economy, based upon local and national trade and manufacture, was under pressure. The foreign wars of the 1290s disrupted trade and attempts were made to protect existing mercantile centres. Thus in 1292 John de Warenne complained to the king that the Earl of Lincoln prevented merchants from trading in Stamford and forced them to resort to the market at Lincoln. Such attempts to create monopolies became more of a threat in the 14th century when wool staples were established in the county. To add to the town's difficulties its communications with the ports at Boston and King's Lynn became more difficult as the silting of the Welland prevented ships from coming up as far as the town (MS, 47-57; Dayles 1938, 123).

Stamford's industries were also under pressure. By 1300 its potteries had disappeared. The large Saxo-Norman production centres with their extensive regional markets had not been able to complete with the new rural potteries with local distribution patterns. They had generally ceased production by the middle of the 13th century, though Stamford had been fortunate in maintaining some of its market by producing luxury goods in the Developed Stamford Ware type, but by 1300 Bourne and 'Lyveden/Stanion' wares were dominant (Kilmurry 1980). The cloth industry had likewise declined. There are remarkably few references to its manufacture in the town despite the fame of its products (Carus-Wilson 1969, ??), and it is impossible to ascertain how much wool was worked into cloth. Neverthless, it seems likely that the industry was greatly affected by the introduction of new technology like water-powered fulling mills by the rural clothiers of East Anglia and the Cotswolds (Carus- Wilson 1954, 183-210). A licence granted in 1283 to relax standards in the manufacture of cloth was probably an attempt to protect the industry (CPR 1281-1292, 73). By the 14th century, however, we hear even less of the manufacture of cloth in the town for merchants were apparently only engaged in the export of wool.

Such changes in the economy, accompanied by a fall in population, inevitably led to a decline in the value of urban property. Accordingly, the assized rents, that is, fixed renders, of the manor of Stamford, probably became increasingly less lucrative. As elsewhere, feudal interests in the town thus became less important and the initiative passed to the townspeople. It is not surprising that the activities of the lord of Stamford became increasingly less relevant to the history of the town in the 14th century and the castle sank into decay.


g) The final years.

William Bohun became lord of Stamford in 1347, but in 1352 one third was given to Joan de Bar, Warenne's widow in dowage (CCR 1346-1349, 313; CPR 1350-1354, 268). Both died in 1360 and apparently the town escheated to the crown (CI x, no 639; Peck xi, 60). In 1363 it was granted in fee to Edmund Langley who held it until his death in 1401 (Baronage ii, 154a; CChR 1341- 1417, 178). Possibly work was carried out on the castle during this period, for in 1369 Edmund mortgaged Stamford to the king, and the town was granted to Simon Warde as keeper on condition that repairs were made to the castle (CCR 1369-1374, 77; CFR 1369-1377, 3, 4). But generally the lord of Stamford was exerting less and less influence on the town. In 1379 Edmund Langley complained of a long list of affronts to his rights and liberties by the burgesses, especially one John Broun who was Alderman of Stamford in 1374, 1375, and 1377 (CPR 1377-1381, 357[13]). Although the complaint is a general one, the implication is that the community of Stamford had assumed all the privileges of its lord.

Edmund Langley was succeeded by his son Edward in 1401 (Peck xiii, 5). In 1415, Henry, Bishop of Winchester, and others, were enfeoffed in the castle, manor, and town of Stamford and Grantham by Edward in order to finance the construction of his college at Fotheringhay (CPR 1413-1415, 350). On his death in the same year, the town was taken into the king's hands since Edward's heir, Richard, Duke of York, his nephew, was a minor (Peck xiii, 11, 13). Finally, in 1460, the town was inherited by Edward, Duke of York, who became Edward IV in 1461 (Peck xiv, 49, 57).

Despite the depression in Stamford's fortunes, because of its geographical position the town was host to a number of Parliaments and Great Councils in the 14th century (Foedera ii, 78-84, 703-4, 738, 797, 836, 973, 1181 etc; Parl. Writs ii, 37-8; Rot Parl i, 444). In the 15th century its Yorkist connections again brought it into national politics. In 1452, the Duke of York rebelled and Stamford became a local centre of resistance against the king. In 1461, as a Yorkist stronghold like Grantham, the town was sacked by a Lancastrian army of Northerners and Scotsmen (MS, 39). The political tensions of these years are reflected in the concern and interest expressed in the town defences. On a number of occasions the Corporation tried to stop the townspeople from piercing the town walls to make postern gates from their own properties, while in the town charter of 1481, Edward IV granted property to the Corporation which, under the supervision of the alderman, was to finance the building and fortification of the town walls (Hall Book i, f. 16d, 18d, 19d, 27;CChR 1427-1516, 253-4).

We learn little about the castle at this time. Apparently the manorial court was still held there, for in 1443 a deed was enrolled in Stamford castle and 8d. was paid in the court for so doing (Peck xiv, 16). In the reign of Richard III, however, most of the castle was dismantled and its stone is said to have been used to repair the White Friary (Drakard 1822, 36, 37). Nevertheless, the manorial court survived - its continuing role accounts for the preservation of the east end of the Great Hall where it met - and it would appear that it retained leet jurisdiction over the tenants of the manor (Drakard 1822, 67-8, 152). The fee and its associated court remained in the hands of the crown until it was granted to William Cecil by Queen Elizabeth I. In 1640 it passed to the earls of Stamford, but in 1747 it was purchased by the Burghley family, the earls, and subsequently marquesses of Exeter, and thereafter was so held until the consolidation of manorial rights in the nineteenth century. By this time the court had long been extinct, and the site of the castle, which continued in the tenure of the lord of the manor, had been subject to a degree of encroachment on its periphery, probably from as early as the sixteenth century. But, as in many sites of its kind, it was the long tradition of seigneurial authority which prevented extensive development and substantially preserved the site of the castle as an open space, latterly used for gardens, in the centre of town until the present day. The sale of the Stamford castle site by the Burghley Estate and the construction on it in 1977 of a housing estate called Warrenne [sic] Keep finally ended a phase in the history of the town which goes back in an unbroken line to the pre- Conquest period. The development marks the final and irredeemable victory of the burghers of Stamford.



1. They do not appear in the terris datis section of the 1130 Pipe Roll.

2. There is little evidence for castle guard in South Lincolnshire. However, a handful of fees in the wapentake of Beltisloe, to the north and west of Stamford, owed service to Rockingham in the 13th century. See RH i.260

3. The reference to the siege of Stamford in Henry of Huntingdon has caused much confusion. Peck misconstrued the reference and interpreted tertiam obsidionem as indicating that Stamford had been besieged twice before (Peck IV, 24). there is no authority for this r eading, for all chronicles agree that there was only one siege. It is clear that Henry meant the third siege of Henry of Anjou's campaign. The first two were at Malmesbury and Crowmarsh. Thus, the reference cannot be used as evidence for refurbished Danish defences. (MS, 37).

4. Ketton and Duddington were granted to the constable at the same time, but there is no reason to believe that these settlements were considered to form a whole, despite the fact that Ketton is said to have pertained to Stamford in 1275 (RH i, 351)

5. This may, however, have been due as much to its geographical position as to its political allegiance (MS, 38-9).

6. It has been argued that earlier references to the church as St.Mary extra burgum in 1156 and 1194 prove that the defences did not extend to that point in the 12th century, but this interpretation is based upon a misreading of the relevant charters. (W. Holtzman, Papsturkunden in England, Berlin and Gottingen, 1930-52, ii, 275-6; A. Rogers, J. Hartley, The Religious Foundations of Stamford, Nottingham 197?, 36).The whole passage in the 1157 charter reads `.... Stamford, the church of St. Mary by the bridge with 14 messuages and half a carucate of land with appurtenant meadow, outside the borough the monastery of St. Leonard with its appurtenances and half a carucate of land in Rippingale, and the church of St. Mary the lesser with its appurtenances....' In the 1194 charter, there is a similar phraseology. It is likely that in both cases the words extra burgum only refer to the site of St. Leonard's Priory, which indeed was outside the borough defences. If the first use of the term bynnewerk is earlier than 1218, as seems likely, then a defensive line at this point must pre-date the grant of wood for defences recorded in the Close Rolls. Thus this grant may have been made to repair existing defences enclosing a large area of the town. Indeed, it is not impossible that the line was similar to that of the later town wall which was built with the aid of a succession of murage grants between 1261 and c1350. There was apparently no need to acquire land to build these defences and in 1275 it is stated that they were being repaired rather than newly built, (Abbrevatio Placitorum, London, 1811,264).

7. Upton Green hundred in the soke of Peterborough.Peck viii,41.

8. William Humet had found it necessary to protect the abbot's interests after a dispute, and grant that 'Peterborough could have their tenure this side of the bridge in Northamptonshire and within the town of Stamford, with soc and sac, toll and team, infangthef utfangthef, tictors textors, butchers, fishermen and fullers, and agents of every trade to sell in their houses and courts'(Peck v, 17).

9. Final Concords of the County of Lincoln, 1244-72, LRS 17, ed. C. W. Foster, Lincoln 1920,230.`for that the defendants caused the plaintiffs to contribute with them and others who were the men of the Prince Edward in that town, in tallages and other burdens payable by the said town beyond the sixth part of the said tallages and burdens contrary to a concorde made before the barons of the exchequer about that affair in the 27th year of King Henry III'

10. These were his liberties of return and estreat of writs.

11. Thus, in 1283 the justices appointed to deliver the gaol at Stamford were ordered to supercede the delivery which ought to have been made at Lincoln; all prisoners in the gaol at Stamford were to be transferred to Lincoln (CCW, 10).

12. These were 'rent of a pair of gilt spurs, a pair of white spurs, 10 barbed arrows, a custom called Buchellyeld and Wyndoweyeld, a several fishery in the river under the castle, a market on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, a fair for three weeks from mid-Lent to Easter, out of which were paid 13s. 4d. per annum to the master of the hospital of St. Lazarus, Burton, a custom called Bexteryeld levied on all the bakers of the said town and another custom called Breusteryeld levied on the brewers, held for the life of the king in chief by the service of a knight's fee. He also held in Bradcroft (see below p.000), a watermill belonging to the castle.

13. He complained that whereas ` he and all other lords....from time immemorial, had held their courts and leets, view of frankpledge, markets, fairs, fines for the breach of the assize of bread and ale, assay of weights and measures, punishment of hostellers, regrators, forestallers and other delinquents, yet Adam de Eyleston of Grantham..... and John Broun of Stamford and others had prevented his stewards and ministers holding their courts at these places and have usurped the jurisdiction and by heavy fines compelled certain of the tenants either to obey them or abjure the said places, besides breaking his closes and houses there, entering and hunting in his warren there, felling his trees, digging in his several soil, fishing in his several fisheries and carrying away fish, earth, stone, sand, trees, hares, rabbits, pheasants and partridges.


(c)David Roffe, October 2002.