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Britain's oldest continuously published newspaper has an amazing archive managed by the Stamford Mercury Archive Trust. Here, they look back over some of the stories from Christmas week in years gone by...

10 years ago

December 23, 2011

A couple’s decision not to cut down a tree probably saved the life of a driver after her car crashed into their home.

Anita and Kevin Russell were asleep in their home in Bath Row, Stamford, at about 7.45am on Monday when they heard a deafening crash.

Mrs Russell looked out of her bathroom to see what had happened. Instead of her usual view she was faced with the bonnet of the car that had crashed through her fence and smashed through the roof of the couple’s outhouse.

The car had ploughed through a hedge and fence before sliding down the hill and hitting the glass roof.

Twelve panes of glass were shattered and the car’s descent was only stopped by a small tree.

Luckily the tree prevented the car from dropping the remaining 10 feet to the concrete floor below. The female driver, believed to be in her mid 20s, was unhurt, but it could have been much worse.

Mrs Russell said: “The tree stopped her coming any further. It saved her life.

“We were going to cut it down yesterday because it overshadows the kitchen, but we decided to leave it. It was fate.”

25 years ago: December 20, 1996 – Who will fit this golden slipper? The Ugly Sisters (Richard Field and Michael Fibbons) muscle in on Cinders (Lydia Forman)
25 years ago: December 20, 1996 – Who will fit this golden slipper? The Ugly Sisters (Richard Field and Michael Fibbons) muscle in on Cinders (Lydia Forman)

A woman will have an extra reason to celebrate Christmas when the charity single she took part in hits number one.

Angela Eames, who grew up in Stamford but now lives in Plymouth, is a member of the Military Wives Choir which has recorded Wherever You Are.

The song will be officially announced as this year’s Christmas number one on Sunday, after becoming the fastest selling single for six years. The single sold 242,000 copies in its first two days.

Proceeds go to the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families’ Association. Every penny will go to the charities after the Government agreed to waive the VAT.

50 years ago: Thursday, December 23, 1971 – Elderly folk from King's Cliffe and district enjoyed a Christmas lunch at the Cross Keys, King's Cliffe on Thursday. Some of the 84 guests are pictured here before the start of their meal
50 years ago: Thursday, December 23, 1971 – Elderly folk from King's Cliffe and district enjoyed a Christmas lunch at the Cross Keys, King's Cliffe on Thursday. Some of the 84 guests are pictured here before the start of their meal

Christmas can be a very emotional time – and it affects us all in different ways.

For one little Stamford girl it has been about deeply heartfelt concern for children less well off than herself.

Lucy Turley, who will celebrate her seventh birthday on New Year’s Eve, came home from St Gilbert’s School one day recently full of pride in the fundraising and shoebox filling that she and her fellow pupils were doing to help others this Christmas.

Her proud mum Lyndsay says: “She begged me to let her knock on the neighbours’ doors and share how she felt about it.

“I told her it wouldn’t be appropriate to bother the neighbours with it and she was reduced to tears. ‘It’s important’, she cried. So I asked her to write her thoughts down and we would find a way to share them. Now I am the one reduced to tears.”

A man who left Stamford to live in the Philippines had to spend hours in his loft after climbing to safety when floods hit.

Jason Russell, who grew up in Deeping St James before moving to Stamford, now lives in Mindanao, the worst hit area of the weekend’s flooding, which has left more than 1,000 people dead or missing.

Jason, 40, and his wife Ruth Love, 37, were forced to take cover in the loft space of their home and their children Andrew, six, and Sophia, five, who were staying with Ruth’s parents in the next street, climbed through the roof to escape the rising water.

25 years ago

December 20, 1996

Police have assured Oundle councillors at a recent meeting that the town’s police station would remain fully operational.

Superintendent David Osborne said the police station provides an important link to the community in Oundle and the surrounding district, and an important base for officers to police the area.

Supt Osborne supported Oundle Town Council’s decision to wait before introducing Closed Circuit Television to deter crime in the town centre.

He also acknowledged the difficulties in introducing CCTV in the town, in relation to the tight timescale set by the Home Office, and in attracting cash through Government bidding process.

He was still a keen supporter of CCTV and believes it to be a valuable tool in preventing and detecting crime, and supported the council’s decision not to pursue the project at the present time.

Traffic in Bourne was brought to a standstill on Tuesday following a series of accidents on the A1.

Motorists travelling to Bourne were caught up in jams stretching past Toft as hundreds of vehicles were diverted off the closed A1 through Bourne to Peterborough.

Both the north and south-bound carriageways of the fog-bound A1 were closed from 8.50am until 6.25pm between the Carpenters Lodge roundabout and the A47 Wansford flyover after the first accident outside RAF Wittering.

A second incident at 10.35am on the north and south bound carriageway near the Tickencote junction caused further chaos as police closed the road and diverted traffic on to the A151.

One woman said: “It was horrific. I remember thinking that those lorries were never going to get through Bourne. One nice chap actually got off his bike and started waving his bicycle lamp and slowing down the traffic. It was a great help.”

The first accident involved 50 vehicles, including a tanker containing Butyl Ethoxol which was spilt over the south-bound carriageway. The spill happened when the tanker was in collision with another lorry.

Emergency services from Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire worked throughout the day, along with personnel from the RAF base, to clear the road and get the 30 casualties to hospital. None have been reported as being seriously injured.

Eleven vehicles were in collision in the second accident.

His Scottish forebears would have been proud of Gretton’s John Taylor at the weekend.

Mr Taylor, a splendid, bearded figure wearing traditional dress from north of the border, became the first person to be locked in the village’s stocks for 149 years.

His 24-hour stint began at midday on Saturday when Jack Irwin (2), with his parents Amanda and Darren snapped the locks shut and then on Sunday gave John back his freedom.

Jack has Lymphatic type-B cancer and John’s Christmas “stock-in” was to raise money for him and his family.

John was wrapped up warmly against the cold, including wearing a thilipeg or one-piece kilt. “I was never alone and had good company with me, even some visitors from Bedford.”

Around £2,000 is expected to be raised for Amanda and Darren who gave up their jobs to look after Jack.

50 years ago

Thursday, December 23, 1971

New proposals which would radically change the secondary education system in Stamford will be considered next month by Kesteven Education Committee.

If accepted they will mean the conversion of the Fane and Exeter secondary school to comprehensives for pupils from 11 to 16 years only. It is estimated that by the time any change can take effect, 360 children will be completing primary school education each year.

Of these, 60 would attend Stamford School and Stamford High School as state pupils after taking a selection examination.

The remaining 300 would be divided between the Fane and Exeter schools.

Children at the two comprehensives who wished to take further education after the age of 16 would attend Stamford College for Further Education.

This would apply to pupils who wanted to sit for further ‘O’ levels or take ‘A’ levels, as well as other examinations.

The present sixth form at the Fame School, which has been in existence for 14 years would be ended.

The size of the Fane School would be increased from 540 to 900 places and the Exeter from 300 to 600 places.

Bourne Urban Council’s application for an order compelling J. C. Firth (Refrigeration) Limited, of Tunnel Bank, Bourne, to comply with a prohibition notice, was dismissed by Bourne magistrates, at a resumed hearing on Tuesday.

The notice, issued on October 8, required Firth’s to stop creating a nuisance of smells.

“We are of the opinion that the complaint should be dismissed,” said Mr J. W. E. Banks, the chairman. “No order is appropriate. The respondents have established their defence under Section 95 of the Public Health Act, 1936.”

The bench awarded mandatory costs of £100 against J. C. Firth.

The town of Bourne and agriculture were interdependent, Mr John Lyon, secretary of Bourne and district National Farmers Union, told guests at Bourne Christmas fat stock show dinner, on Thursday.

“It can be said without fear of contradiction that Bourne is a small but forward thinking, friendly and prosperous farming town,” he said. “When agriculture prospers, Bourne prospers with it.”

While prosperity in agriculture was not so great as it had been in the last 15 years, Mr Lyon believed that better times were ahead. Farmers should receive more from their markets – especially in the livestock sector.

He paid tribute to the show’s officers and committee, to Mr Harry Lyall and to Mr Jack Gelsthorpe.

“Jack Gelsthorpe has been secretary for 35 years, I believe. He is always cheerful, very helpful, and nothing is too much trouble for him.

“You have a splendid team and we hope that Bourne market and the prize fatstock show go on for generations to come.”

In selling, during this year, 1,556 cattle, 1,228 pigs, and 3,877 lambs, Bourne cattle market had a turnover of some £¼ million, Mr Lyon pointed out.

“It would be a greatpity to see Bourne’s market decay.”

100 years ago

December 23, 1921

Martin Tractor Again Scores – At the Tynemouth, North Mason, and Dinnington tractor ploughing competition, at Bank Top, Holywell, Monkseaton, Northumberland, on the 15th inst, the first prize was won by a Martin 2-furrow self-lift tractor plough.

Property Sale – At a sale of property conducted by Messrs. Richardson at the Crown Hotel, Stamford, on Friday, Mr. Harry Dick purchased Nos. 17 and 18, Scotgate, two houses, butcher’s shop, slaughter-house, etc., for £550, and Mr. Rollings paid £235 for Nos. 15 and 16, Scotgate.

Christmas Dividends – Numerous Stamford area Sick and Dividing Clubs have shared out their surplus funds during the past week. The 64 members of the Sawyers’ Arms Club received 18s. 8½d. each last Friday night. Among dividends paid by other clubs are the following: Great Northern Hotel, 19s. 6d.to each of 77 members; Crown and Anchor, 18s. 2d. each to 78 members; O’Brien Arms, £1 0s. 9d. to each of 41 members; the Rising Sun, £1 3s. 8½d. each to 40 members; Carpenters’ Arms, £1 1s.8d. each to 112 members; General Gordon, £1 18s. 6d. per head to 49 members; Balloon, £1 0s. 3d. each to 33 members; Cross Keys, 17s 9d. to each of 82 members; Wheatsheaf, £1 2s. 3d. each to 157 members; Chequers, 17s. 9d. each to 57 members; Sun and Railway,19s. 4½d each to 26 members; the members of the Greyhound club received 22s. 9d. each; the Burghley Arms club members each received the fine sum of 24s.3d.; the Queen’s Head share-out amounted to 16s 10d. each.

Fire Alarms – A system has now been installed for the prompt calling out of the Fire Brigade. Outside the police-station a bell has been fixed which rings automatically should a call be put through and no one present in the station. This will give the alarm to any police officer on his beat, who will immediately enter the station and ring the alarm. Inspector Sindall’s house has also been connected, so that he is enabled to ring the alarm.

Charles II. Halfpenny Unearthed – A few days ago John Green, one of those employed in widening Pinfold-lane, turned up a Charles II. Halfpenny, dated 1673.

Mr. Sandall informs us that these halfpennies, and farthings of the same reign, were the first real English copper coins issued.

The obverse has a laureated bust of the King,with the words “Carolus a Carolo,” that is, “Charles from Charles” or Charles II. The reverse has the figure of Britannia holding a shield, bearing the united crosses of St. George and St. Andrew and the date 1673.

Septuagenarian’s Tragic End – the death occurred on Wednesday, with tragic suddenness, of Mr. Richard Bellairs Jackson, of Red Lion-street. About mid-day, Mr. Jackson, who was 72 years of age, was walking up Cheyne-lane, when he fell to the ground, and death ensued almost immediately. The body was removed to the mortuary, and as the deceased had been previously attended by Dr. Greenwood, the coroner did not deem an inquest necessary.

150 years ago

December 22, 1871

The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby is entertaining a large number of visitors at Grimsthorpe Castle.

After a long period occupied in its restoration, All Saints’ church, Stamford, is to be re-opened for the usual services on Thursday the 4th of January. The Bishop of Lincoln has undertaken to preach in the morning, and the Rev. George Venables, Vicar of St. Matthew’s, Leicester, in the evening.

The Rev. Horace Noel has just presented a crocodile and a case of fossils to the museum of the Stamford Institution.

Captain Orme’s bequest to the three poor widows living in the parish of St. George, Stamford, has this year been given to Mrs. Bishop, Mrs. Palmer, and Mrs. Bailey.

In “Johnson’s Household Almanack” for 1872, which contains the usual amount of local and general information, there is a list of the Mayors of Stamford for 100 years; from which we learn that one gentleman served the office three times and 17 served the office twice during that period, the present Mayor being one of those taking a second term.

Stamford Union – Ordinarily in the week before Christmas there is an influx of paupers to the house, but this year the number remains at a low figure, the statistical return at the Board meeting on Wednesday showing 155 men, women, and children, or 53 less than in the corresponding week of last year. The recipients of out-relief are 76 in excess, the cost being £96 2s. 5¼d; and the vagrants relieved last week numbered 39, or about an average. It was determined to appoint the inspector of vaccination, with an increase of £5 in his salary. A notice relative to the establishment of an “Independent Labourers’ Self-aiding Medical Club” was approved. The club extends over all the parishes in the Union. It is supported by public subscriptions and by fixed payments from the members themselves. It is open to labourers in agriculture and trade, journeymen and servants (male and female), all strictly belonging to the working classes, and in no case earning more than 21s. each weekly. Domestic servants (male and female) getting less than £12 wages yearly can also be members. The advantages the club offers are, that members can choose a medical attendant for themselves during illness, who may reside within 5 miles of their respective homes; and that they will so obtain, in case of illness, on moderate terms, that care and attention then so much wanted. The club is practically an insurance against illness, by small payments made when in health.

Committal for Highway Robbery – A young man named Rowland Bunning, bill-poster, of Stamford, was taken before W. Ostler, Esq., at Grantham, on the 12th inst., charged with robbing a man named James Laing of 25s, several periodicals, &c. Bunning, seems, was at Grantham, on the 11th, and made the acquintance of a youth named Atkinson, and during the day they met Laing, who comes from Newcastle-on-Tyne, and who had been engaged in a suit at the County Court. In company with Bunning prosecutor proceeded up Station-road towards the railway station, when at a favourable moment he was knocked down and robbed of 25s. and several periodicals. These latter were found upon Bunning when apprehended, and were identified by prosecutor. Bunning was committed for trial at the Bourn sessions.

200 years ago

December 21, 1821

The violent gale of wind from the South-west on Tuesday morning last, did considerable damage in the neighbourhood of Oundle. At Warmington particularly, a waggon-hovel on the premises of Mr. Matthew Cooper, which was 27 yards long, and erected only about four years ago, was completely thrown down and levelled with the ground, leaving not a stick standing. Several houses, barns, and other buildings, were stripped and considerably injured; and many large trees were also torn up by the roots. The damage done on Mr. Cooper’s farm alone exceeds £40.

At the Earl of Pomfret’s rent audit held on Saturday the 15th inst. for Casterton Parva and Tolthorp, in Rutland, his Lordship ordered a donation of £10 per cent. on the rents to be returned, not only to each of the farmers who are yearly tenants, but also to those who hold on leases, in addition to an abatement of £10 per cent. made at an early period of the present depression in the price of agricultural produce.

The Rev. R. Carey, Rector of Barrowden, Rutland, has returned, for the year ending at Michaelmas last, 15 per cent. on the amount of the composition paid by his parishioners for their tithes.

The Rev. Kingsman Foster, of Dowsby, abated 20 per cent. on his tithes due at Michaelmas last.

George Eldred, aged 11, and Richard Eldred, aged only 13, both of Deeping-gate, near Market Deeping, have been committed to Falkingham gaol for trial at the ensuing sessions, on a charge of breaking into the shop of Mr. Fox, and stealing therefrom two sides of beef.

Caution to Vagrants – We had hoped (says the Boston Gazette of Tuesday) that the hint which we lately gave to this profligate and numerous class of our fellow creatures, in publishing the conviction and punishment of John Hardcastle, would have deterred any others from the commission of the same crime, in this town at least, for a considerable time to come: as we understand it is a part of their system at their several places of rendezvous to communicate and speedily circulate the mode of treatment they experience in the principal towns and districts through which they travel. We did not therefore expect so soon to have to record that Francis Duval, a foreigner, was last week convicted as a rogue and vagabond and a reputed thief, before the Magistrates of this borough, and that he was in consequence ordered to be whipped and sent out of the town, which sentence was put in execution on Friday last. It is greatly to be wished that individuals would not relieve vagrants or common beggars, but send them to the chief constable, that they may be dealt with according to law. To give to such persons is a mistaken charity, and an encouragement to idleness and profligacy.

On Wednesday evening the 13th inst. A man who calls himself William Terroll was found in a field near Spalding with his throat cut.

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