Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter among trio honoured with Stamford blue plaques
Relatives of late great Stamfordians have seen blue plaques unveiled in their ancestors’ honour.
The unveiling of three blue plaques for Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter, photographer Harry Burton, and motoring pioneer Jack Pick was the culmination of many months of planning by Stamford Civic Society.
The project came courtesy of funding from the Skells Trust, and the support of Stamford Town Council and South Kesteven District Council, while Yvonne Pini of the society’s urban group oversaw the lengthy process.
Blue plaques for individuals are rarely given - just three had previously been put up in the town - for conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent (Wharf Road), antiquarian and physician William Stukeley (Barn Hill), and artist Nelson Dawson (St Mary’s Street).
The society invited descendants of the three latest incumbents to a series of special ceremonies, which took place on Saturday.
They then explored the town’s historic sites using the society’s new app, before ending the day at the society’s annual summer party at St Leonard’s Priory.
“The relatives were thrilled with the blue plaques,” said civic society chairman Jim Mason.
“We don’t just give them away to anyone. They really had to be famous sons of the town and make a significant contribution to their field.
“They are a pretty elite group of Stamfordians.”
The blue plaque to Morse author Colin, who died in 2017, is located at his birthplace in Scotgate, now home to Flawless Faces beauty salon.
Born in 1930, the son of taxi driver, garage owner and store owner, Alf Dexter, Colin found fame when his series of Morse novels were adapted for the long-running ITV series, starring John Thaw.
Despite settling in Oxford, Colin retained his links with Stamford, including as a patron of Campaign for Stamford, and the Stamford Endowed Schools’ fundraising campaign.
Harry’s plaque is on the site of his Burghley Lane birthplace where he grew up before his family moved to Church Lane.
While in Italy, Harry found work photographing excavations in Egypt with New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He rose to fame in 1922 on Howard Carter’s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, taking images which remain some of the most iconic in archaeology.
Harry was great-uncle to Lesley Earl and elder brother to Lesley’s grandmother Rose.
Lesley has spent most of her life in Stamford as did her father Bill Savage.
“When my father was a boy he knew Harry,” she said.
“He would have been absolutely thrilled about the blue plaque because he was very proud of the family connection.
“I knew of the interest, but it wasn’t until recent years I realised how famous Harry was.
“It’s amazing what he achieved with those cameras in those dry, dusty tombs. His pictures are so clear and beautiful.”
Lesley has passed on Harry’s remarkable life story - from an ordinary street in Stamford to a life in Italy, fame in Egypt and celebrity in Hollywood - to her own grandchildren.
“I wish I could have met him because he had such an interesting life considering his humble origins - it was amazing,” she added.
“He made the most of his opportunities. When he was given a chance he flew with it and I’m very proud of that.”
Jack’s plaque is in High Street St Martin’s at St Martins Antiques, the former headquarters of his car business during its heyday.
Lynne Donovan contacted Stamford Civic Society to nominate her great-grandfather Jack for the honour.
She travelled from her Grimsby home to last weekend’s ceremony, and was joined by family from across the country and Spain.
Lynne began researching Jack’s achievements during lockdown.
The son of a Gas Lane publican, Jack made his name in the early years of the British car industry, but also left his mark on the town as a former mayor, and seconded his workforce to build Stamford a football ground.
“I’m proud of what he did and it’s really nice for him to get some recognition,” she said.
“He lived virtually his whole life in Stamford and employed quite a lot of people in his most prolific period.
“I would love to have met the chap. By all accounts he didn’t suffer fools gladly.”
A former Blackstone’s engineer, he formed the Pick Motor Company in 1899 and made Stamford an important early motoring hub, employing more than 100 workers.
But the arrival of smaller cars, combined with post-war recession, saw his business declined.
“He was an inventor by heart and probably not the best of businessmen,” Lynne added.
“He ended up back where he started in the old fruit and veg shop selling groceries, probably watching the little Fords and Austins go by.”