top of page

The formation and first home of the Stamford Institution (1838-1842)

John Daffurn 2023

On 22 March 1842, a large crowd gathered in the sunshine outside of the Stamford Institution in Broad Street. Together with the great and good of the town they eagerly awaited the arrival of the Marquess of Exeter accompanied by his sons, the Lords Burghley and Brownlow.

The Stamford Institution had been formed four years earlier and the Marquess, as patron of the Institution, was due to lay the foundation stone for a new purposely designed building on St Peter’s Hill. A procession lined up, headed by a banner and a band, and followed by; the architect (Bryan Browning) and the builder (Moses Peal); the Marquess and the mayor (Joseph Phillips); the president of the Institution (Dr W L Hopkinson) and the vicar of All Saints church (Rev N Walters); followed by a group of clergy, magistrates, aldermen, burgesses, councillors and members of the Institution (Lincolnshire Chronicle, 25.3.1842 [LC]). Amongst the latter assortment were Councillor Richard Newcomb and Alderman Thomas Mills, who feature below.

The foundation-laying party left Broad Street and processed down Ironmonger Street, along the High Street, across Red Lion Square and up All Saint’s Street to St Peter’s Hill. On arrival the band played, and a local choir sang, the National Anthem before the proceedings were opened with prayers from Rev Walters. The foundation stone was duly laid by the Marquess, during which the bronze trowel snapped, and Dr Hopkinson spoke to the assembled crowd. It is not reported how many speeches took place, but the only two reported were those of Dr Hopkinson and Richard Newcomb, the latter of which was unplanned by the organising committee.

Newcomb, by 1842, was firmly in the Radical camp and an adversary of the Cecil family and this was alluded to in his speech which hijacked the occasion. In it he mentioned that “although it [Stamford Institution] had secured very high patronage it was originally projected and established by those who did not occupy the highest stations in life — by two or three individuals whom it would be perhaps invidious to name” (LC, 25.3.1842). A following column in the Lincolnshire Chronicle of the same date commented that the event had passed off satisfactorily “…except the tainted address of an orator whose speech seemed combined of a desire to avail himself of the opportunity to show off…”; an obvious dig at Newcomb.

The idea to create a new society began in 1837, or possibly earlier, and would have involved the two or three gentlemen alluded to by Newcomb, and may have included Newcomb himself. The idea was to provide a library, museum, and reading and lecture rooms, in order to disseminate literature, science and the arts to a wide audience. The Newcomb family had previous in this regard, as Richard’s father had set up a subscription library in his bookshop on the High Steet in January 1787, and remained its librarian until 1807.

However, there appears to have been tensions leading up to the Institution’s formation in 1838 as it was reported, in May of that year, that “Almost every difficulty which naturally presented itself to the formation of this very desirable society has, we are happy to say, been overcome…” (LC, 23.5.1838). During that month, the provisional committee convinced Dr W L Hopkinson, previously mayor of Stamford, to become President, and pressure was applied on the Town Council to call a public meeting at the Town Hall. It was at that meeting on 5 June that resolutions were passed, and officers and members of the provisional committee were named. The committee included Richard Newcomb, Alderman Mills and John Bentley, a bank cashier who was named at the meeting as one of the originators (Stamford Mercury, 8.5.1838 [SM]).

In the following months, the development of the nascent Institution was reported in every detail in the Lincolnshire Chronicle, but not in Newcomb’s Stamford Mercury, and later, in 1838, Newcomb’s name no longer featured as a member of the committee. Furthermore, Newcomb’s name was conspicuously absent on the published list of donations, suggesting a falling out over the way forward. At the beginning of November 1838, the committee proudly announced that they had taken over a property in Broad Street which would shortly be ready as the home of the Stamford Institution (LC, 2.11.1838).

The address of this property can now be revealed as 49 Broad Street (currently part of Barclays Bank). The 1841 census named Thomas Blades as caretaker, a position he continued after the move to St Peter’s Hill. Also residing in the building in 1841 was John Bentley, the committee member mentioned above. Nevertheless, the identity of the building remained elusive, until its use or occupants were traced backwards and forwards from 1838, the detail of which is included in the Appendix below.

49 Broad Street (far right)

The building was built in 1770 by John Truman (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, The Town of Stamford, [148]) and it is through the Truman family that the trail in the appendix begins. However, within the one-hundred-year search for the occupants of the Broad Street building other information has been uncovered.

The property had been used as a school for many years, but in 1829 the property became empty when Mr Gilbert failed to take over the school from Mr Wragge, despite an advertisement to the contrary (Appendix, 1828). By 1830, the property had been taken over by a new, Tory leaning newspaper, the Bee, which some say was financed by the Marquess of Exeter. Its editor was Thomas Fernandez Clarke, previously with Farley’s Bristol Journal, who took up residence in the building, which also housed the printing presses. Although the editor’s name was known and published, the identity of the proprietor/publisher was more circumspect. However, hidden in one of the endnotes of Newton and Smith’s history of the Stamford Mercury (Newton, 153) is a reference to an article which provides a clue.

The article describes Mr Mills of the Town Council as “a principal proprietor of the late newspaper called the Bee” (SM, 14.10.1836), but the subject matter of the piece is also important as it refers to a major disagreement, and turmoil, at an earlier Town Council meeting. This throws some light on Newcomb’s later antipathy for the Institution and his unplanned speech at the laying of the foundation stone. The opening sentences of the piece highlight the indignation of the Mercury and therefore Newcomb:

The rancour and desperation of the Tories have rarely been more exemplified than in the following paragraph, which appeared in the English Chronicle (London paper) of Tuesday last: “The Town Council of Stamford have passed a vote of censure on the conduct of Mr. Newcomb, a Councillor, and most ultra Radical, for his factious conduct at their meetings; and they have designated its general tenour as ‘ungentlemanly and unbecoming.’— Lincolnshire Chronicle.”

No such false statement, we believe, has appeared in the Lincolnshire Chronicle…

The so-called vote of censure relates to the Town Council meeting of 1 October (SM, 7.10.1836) which was reported in detail. In short, it involved the inability of the mayor, Dr Hopkinson, to control the meeting called to elect Aldermen for each ward. The meeting descended into farce when Newcomb referred to the mayor as Dr Hopkinson instead of His Worship, to which Hopkinson took offence and eventually stated “I throw my gown from my shoulders, and cease to be mayor”. Hopkinson then resumed the chair without his gown and was immediately baited by Newcomb who referred to him as “Dr Hopkinson or Mr late Mayor” which caused uproar. This in turn led to a motion from Alderman Mills, a Tory, that Newcomb’s comments were uncourteous and unbecoming of a member of the Council. However, in contrast to the piece allegedly in the Lincolnshire Chronicle above, no vote was taken as Mills withdrew his motion. The protagonists in this spat, Hopkinson and Mills, later became key players in the formation of the Stamford Institution.

Also in 1836, the Stamford Borough Rate Books, showed that Thomas Mills owned a property on Broad Street which was in the possession of Mr Secker (Appendix, 1836), who was running a school in the building. Mills was the same Alderman Mills who became a founding committee member of the Stamford Institution and when the new society needed accommodation his building, following the departure of Secker, was empty and available.

Once the Institution had moved to its permanent home in 1842 the property reverted to its former use as a school, until eventually it became part of the Stamford, Spalding and Boston Banking Company, latterly Barclays Bank, which closed permanently in April 2023.

49 Broad Street in 2023


The occupants and uses of 49 Broad Street

1798.  Approximate date of school run by the Misses Atkins and Winter, from Atkins death announcement (SM, 19.12.1823). See also 1811 ii), below.

1799.  Advertisement for the freehold sale of “a house in the Beast Market, well situated for a boarding house for young ladies” (SM, 5.4.1799). It states to enquire of Mr Truman [Thomas, the son of John Truman], St Martin’s.

1801.  Advertisement for a school to be opened in January by C Bibbing (SM, 26.12.1800). No address given. See 1806 ii) below.

1806.    i)  Several advertisements throughout 1806 for the sale of a freehold house in the Beast Market, stating reply to Mr Truman, St Martin’s. The last being in September (SM, 5.9.1806). This suggests property not sold in 1799.

ii)  Advertisement for Wm Meadow’s school in the Beast Market mentioning Bibbing as previous tenant (SM, 12.12.1806).

1809.  Property still for sale by Truman.

1811.    i)  Advertisement for the freehold sale of house in the Beast Market, formerly a boarding school. Reply to Mrs Burns, St Martin’s (SM, 18.10.1811). This relates to Ann Burns née Truman, the daughter of John Truman who bequeathed a property in the parish of St Michael’s to her and her sister.

    ii)  Advertisement for an auction to be held at the house of the late Thomas Truman, of a freehold property in the Beast Market “formerly used as a boarding-school for young ladies; late in the tenure of Misses Atkin(sic) and Winter” (SM, 27.12.1811). It is assumed that the property was finally sold at this auction, probably to Thomas Mills as an investment.

1812.  Advertisement for a Classical and Commercial Academy to be opened in the Beast Market by T A Jones (SM, 3.4.1812).

1814.  Advertisement stating that the Classical and Commercial Academy previously run by T A Jones has been taken over by the Rev W Lancaster (SM, 23.5.1814).

1819.  Advertisement stating that the Classical and Commercial Academy previously run by the Rev W lancaster has been taken over by J Russell (SM, 23.4.1819)

1825.  Advertisement stating that the Classical and Commercial Academy previously run by J Russell has been taken over by Mr Wragge (SM, 2.7.1825).

1828.  Advertisement stating that the Classical and Commercial Academy previously run by Mr Wragge has been taken over by Mr Gilbert (SM, 24.10.1828).

1829.  It appears that Mr Gilbert did not take up the running of the academy.

1830.  The Bee is using the house as an office, for printing and as accommodation for Mr Clarke, editor (see 1833 below).

1833.  The Bee closes down, Clarke’s furniture is auctioned, the printing equipment is sold and the building is advertised as a property “well adapted for a boarding school” (SM, 3.5.1833).

1835.  Secker takes over school (SM, 8.5.1835).

1836.  Thos. Mills is listed in 1836 Stamford Rate Assessment as owning a house in Broad Street with Secker as a tenant ( ).

1837.  Secker leaves (SM, 7.4.1837).

1838.  Becomes the home of Stamford Institution (see 1843 below).

1842.  Stamford Institution moves to St Peter’s Hill.

1843.  Advertisement for Classical and Commercial School opened by J Bartram in building ”lately occupied by the Stamford Institution” (LC, 13.1.1843).

1845.  Advertisement for Broad Street Academy run by Samuel Weddell “lately conducted by Mr Bartram” (SM, 7.2.1845).

1850.  Advertisement to inform that Mr Thacker will take over the Broad Street Academy from Samuel Weddell (SM, 20.12.1850).

1853.  Thacker retires through ill health. Broad Street property to be let.

1860.  Joseph Smith reopens Broad Street Academy (SM, 20.7.1860).

1864.  People’s Institute was opened on site previously used as an academy (LC, 5.11.1864).

1875.  By this time the People’s Institute is closed (SM, 11.6.1875).

1881.  The 1881 census includes 49 Broad Street as part of a bank. However, the building must have been let in later years, in particular to Kelham & Son, solicitors, who occupied at least part of the building for much of the first half of the twentieth century.

© 2023 John Daffurn

A print version can be downloaded HERE

Other articles about Stamford Institution:

      John Flowers Bentley (1810-1884): Stamford Polymath

     The Stamford Institution

bottom of page