Having been to Stamford on a number of occasions, it’s a shame that for some reason I haven’t got the photographs to show for it. However, forgetting the ground for just a moment, the best piece of advice to give anyone visiting Stamford for the first time, particularly if it also happens to be a pleasant Saturday afternoon, is to get there early and explore the town.
A picturesque market town, and steeped in history, Stamford boasts seven church spires. The churchyard of St. Martin’s contains the remains of Daniel Lambert, the heaviest British man ever, who gives Stamford their nickname: “The Daniels”.
Lambert weighed a mighty 52st 11lb and was a huge 9ft 4ins around his waist (yes, that’s him at the top of the page). He died at 36 of a heart attack in a Stamford hotel whilst on a trip to the races.
In death his weight proved more of a problem than it had in life - a wall had to be demolished to get him out of the room. His coffin was made from 112 square feet of elm and measured 4ft 4ins wide. An enormous ramp was laid into his grave plot, and it took more than 20 men to lower him in. “Fat Dan”, as he was called, was born in Leicester in 1770. He was so huge he couldn't sink - and he used to float along the River Soar with children on his stomach. Lambert worked in the town jail but by the time he was 30 he was too large to carry on. He ended his days adored by the rich and dandy and rented London apartments where people would pay a shilling just to come and see him.
The River Welland runs through the town, and ultimately empties into The Wash. As one wanders through the attractive streets, and across the river, one frequently encounters reminders of the town’s most famous resident: Lambert mews, Lambert close, and so on.
To be honest, the shops themselves aren’t much of an attraction ... unless you happen to be an antiques collector. There are however, plenty of pubs! The most famous of these is arguably The George, just five minutes walk from the ground. You probably won’t find too many locals in there, particularly in the pricey a la carte restaurant, but I enjoyed a nice pint in the bar and a good plate of sausage and mash!
Anyway, that’s enough fuel for the Stamford Tourist Office, what about the ground itself, which until the name of the road was changed, could be found in Wothorne Road, just inside the town. Owned by Lord Burghley (Burghley House is just outside Stamford), the ground was re-christened “The Newflame Stadium” in the late 1990s as a result of a sponsorship deal with a local fire equipment company. The new title is however, rather incongruous as the ground cannot really be described as a “stadium”. One can also imagine the embarrassment were it to catch fire!
Stamford have been based at the ground for over 100 years, and the obvious focal point is the main stand. This provides an adequate, if low level view of the action. It is older than it appears, dating from the early 1900s, and is one of the oldest stands in the country. With its uneven roof, and red & white wooden dogtooth fascia, it has a certain charm about it. It was extended in the mid-1970s but one cannot really see the join. The original dressing rooms are situated behind the stand. A little further along the touchline is the clubhouse and one of two tea bars, selling the usual football ground fare. The clubhouse is relatively small but welcoming, as well as being neat and tidy.
Opposite, on the railway side of the ground, is a rather basic covered enclosure, stretching from the rather neat red-painted dug-outs to the goal-line at the high street end of the ground. This is evidently a popular vantage point for home fans, and they are catered for by the second of the ground’s tea bars. The enclosure once extended the entire length of the touchline, but one half was taken down as a safety precaution. In its place is an expanse of ugly unpainted corrugated iron. This extends round behind the far goal to enclose the ground. One hopes that Stamford will eventually be able to do something about what is frankly an eyesore, and seriously detracts from the overall appearance of the ground.
The high street end of the ground has an open grassed area backing onto gardens of adjacent houses. Before kick-off, children were using this area to kick a ball about, rather like one might find at a number of County League grounds.
For those interested in such things (and who isn’t?!) the floodlights are well worth a mention. These were erected in 1981 with the proceeds from Stamford’s 1980 FA Vase triumph over Guisborough and are probably unique in that the ‘pylons’ are constructed from the same stone as the majority of the town. Presumably, this was a stipulation for planning permission being granted: ironic in view of the aforementioned corrugated iron!
Travelling north on the A1, take the exit signposted Stamford (B1081), and take the first left into Kettering Road after entering the town.
Stamford (BR) 3 minutes walk