top of page

The Bridge Gate at Stamford and John Frammesley 

Chris Hunt 2023 


The date of the establishment of the final line of Stamford’s town walls is not known, so far archaeology has not provided us with an answer. And although surviving murage grants for the building or repair of a defensive wall exist between 1261 and 1352. Such grants do not provide us with the line of the town wall. Further uncertainty is raised as to the date of the completion of the first bridge over the River Welland on the St Martin’s High Street – St Mary’s Hill axis. A date post 1086 seemingly most likely, and even then the dog legged route of the Great North Road could have skirted the Danish Burg before the construction of the Town Wall and thus even after this road alignment would have not needed a Bridge Gate. 

The river with the bridge and its gate at Stamford provided a defensive pinch point on the main road through Stamford. The gate also served other purposes, for by the late Middle Ages a room above it was used as a meeting place almost certainly linked to a Guild and where the town’s Alderman and Burgesses met in a Common Hall. Also, by this date the town’s gaol adjoined it on the west side. The Bridge Gate carried on these functions until its demolition in the late 1770’s and the construction of the present Town Hall on St Mary’s Hill. 


It could be said that the most famous English bridge from the medieval period was London Bridge over the River Thames, with its gate, drawbridge, chapel and shops. This was the site where the heads of traitors were displayed to remind the populace and visitors to the City that they should remain loyal to the monarch. 


Such judicial executions were finally formulated through the Treason Act of 1351/52. A person was guilty of high treason under the Act if they: Planned or imagined, the death of the king, his wife or his eldest son and heir. Violate the king's companion, the king's eldest daughter if she was unmarried or the wife of the king's eldest son and heir. Commit war against the king in his realm. Adhered to the king's enemies in his realm, giving them aid and comfort in his realm or elsewhere. 

Counterfeiting the Great Seal, or the Privy Seal. Counterfeiting English coinage or imported counterfeit English coinage. Killing the Chancellor, Treasurer, one of the king's justices, a justice in eyre, an assize judge, and Justices, while performing their offices.  The convicted traitor was fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where he was then hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, quartered (chopped into four pieces). His remains would then often be displayed in prominent places across the country, very much serving as a warning to others. 

It was common for the “quarters” to be sent to either major cities or towns which were seen as perhaps not totally loyal to the monarch. 


In March 1450 rebellion was in the English air and to defuse the situation King Henry VIth banished the Duke of Suffolk for five years. This was seen by some as a signal that this would herald the end of Henry’s regime and was an impetus for the London mob to take to the streets. As a result on March 21st 1450 there was an abortive rising, John Frammesley, a London vintner’s servant, was accused of sedition and treason and was arrested for chanting in the streets a rhyme picked up by the populace:- 

“By this town, by this town, 

For this array, the king shall lose his crown.” 


This was enough for Frammesley to be hung, drawn and quartered. His head was placed on London Bridge along with other traitors. The King’s Council in June 1451 sent one of his “quarters” to Stamford to be placed on the Bridge Gate, which quarter is not recorded. 


So why Stamford? 


The reason of course has not survived. It might just simple be that the town being on the Great North Road was a place where plenty of travellers would have seen John Frammesley’s remains and been reminded of the danger of rebellion. Another reason could be that Stamford was a seen as a potential source of trouble. After all it was part of the estate of Richard Duke of York whose death later propelled his son Edward to the Battle of Towton and the Crown. Of course we shall never know. 


So when you next cross the town bridge remember that the remains of a traitor were displayed above the entrance to the town. 


Chris Hunt, February 2023 

A print version can be downloaded HERE


bottom of page