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A Stamford medieval mystery explored in new history book - Grey Friars or White Friars

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A medieval mystery is at the heart of a new book which chronicles a major chapter of Stamford’s religious heritage.

'Grey Friars or White Friars - In Search of Stamford’s Friaries' is the culmination of a 10-year project for retired academic Linda Ball.

Linda, who now lives in Sussex, grew up in St Paul’s Street, Stamford in a house built by her grandfather, the renowned engineer Frank Carter, on the site of what was either Greyfriars or Whitefriars.

Linda Ball taught and researched in creative art and design in higher education until retirement in 2011
Linda Ball taught and researched in creative art and design in higher education until retirement in 2011

Old family stories and a lifelong interest in history inspired the book, which she believes is the first written on Stamford’s medieval history in about 50 years.

“There was a lot of family folklore surrounding this," Linda said.

“There has been controversy over whether this site was Grey Friars or White Friars so I wanted to take a look into that.

“My approach to the book was to dig out the evidence, present it and treat the reader as co-researcher.

“A lot of people have contributed to this. People heard I was doing it and would contact me.

“Boys from Stamford School did excavations on the friary sites in the 1960s and 1970s and I managed to track them down and have published their findings for the first time."

The St Paul’s Street site had been acknowledged as Grey Friars since the 1700s, but recent studies suggested White Friars were the more likely settlers.

The book is more broadly a history of all four friars along with some interesting asides.

Stamford was a religious centre from around 900 years ago, attracting all four orders - also including Black Friars and Austin Friars.

They arrived between the early 1200s to its peak in the mid-1300s when more than 100 friars called Stamford home.

Their heyday ended with the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 under Henry VIII’s rule.

"Stamford became a centre for religious study and it was one of only 12 towns in England to have all four orders of friars settle there," Linda explained.

"Stamford was also going to be the third university town after Oxford and Cambridge, but Edward III said no.

"There are a lot of stories in the book that are offshoots, it's not just about the Friars."

The disputed site has many historical claims to fame.

Edward III held a Great Council there in 1337 to prepare for war with France, while the first Princess of Wales, Joan ‘the Fair Maid of Kent’, mother of Richard II, was buried in the friary church in 1386.

“I'd like to do a follow-up,” Linda added.

“I think there is more to come out and hopefully this book will trigger that.”

* The 312-page book is available from Collyweston Community Shop, and in Walkers in Stamford from Friday (May 28).

For more details, visit www.stamfordfriars.co.uk

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