Mercury Memories: Singing festive songs brings everyone together at Christmas

50 years ago: Pupils at the top class of St Gilbert of Sempringham School presented the story of the nativity at All Saints Church in Stamford
50 years ago: Pupils at the top class of St Gilbert of Sempringham School presented the story of the nativity at All Saints Church in Stamford

The Stamford Mercury is proud to be Britain’s oldest continuously-published newspaper and has an amazing archive at our offices in Stamford, managed by volunteers from the Stamford Mercury Archive Trust.

10 years ago

Two families were left homeless at Christmas after their houses were badly damaged by fire.

Four people escaped with their lives when a Christmas decoration caught light and started a blaze at the Old Vicarage in West Road, Pointon, on Saturday morning.

And a couple returned to their home in Bourne Road, Morton, from a shopping trip to find it in flames last Friday night.

The Pointon fire started after a smouldering candle ignited dry foliage in a homemade Christmas wreath on the ground floor of the 12-bedroom house.

Owner Peter Savill, his wife Annette, their son Allen and his fiancée Christy were woken at 7am on Saturday by noises from downstairs.

Mr Savill, 50, said: “Christy woke up and heard popping which turned out to be the sound of alcohol bottles exploding. Straight away, three of us went down the stairs and my wife was seconds behind us.”

But Mrs Savill was cut off on the first floor as the flames intensified.

“As soon as we opened the door to get out, there was a backdraft and Annette couldn’t get down because of the heat,” Mr Savill said.

The fire service arrived at the scene less than 10 minutes after Mr Savill raised the alarm, and firefighters rescued his wife from an upstairs balcony.

In Morton, an electrical fault was blamed for the fire which destroyed the ground floor of the semi-detached house. The owners discovered the fire shortly before 10pm on Friday.

A neighbour said: “We called the emergency services after getting a knock on the door from the couple next door. They had been out shopping and came back to find their house on fire.”

The neighbour said he did not know where the couple spent Christmas, but the house had been boarded up by Saturday morning.

25 years ago

Oakham’s Lord of the Manor Mr Joss Hanbury has scored a major financial coup - by buying back the family mansion at Burley-on-the-Hill.

Mr Hanbury sold the house for £7 million two years ago to a trust company run by now fallen financier Asil Nadir.

And this week it was announced that Mr Hanbury and an associate have bought the property back - “considerably under” the guideline price of £3 million asked for by the receivers called in following the collapse of the Nadir empire.

At the end of the day, the deal leaves Mr Hanbury with 750 acres of land and a rather splendid “Christmas present of around £4.5 million”.

“Actually, it’s a bit less than that, but I’m pretty pleased,” Mr Hanbury told the Mercury this week.

Mr Hanbury’s partner in the deal, Kit Martin, is a nationally-renowned expert in preserving and restoring great country houses.

He will be restoring the mansion, one of the finest examples of early Palladian architecture, and converting it into a complex of “spectacular” houses, cottages and flats.

The deal looks like putting the stops on ambitious schemes to make Burley the centrepiece of the super-posh golf course complex envisaged by Mr Nadir.

n A long-awaited traffic scheme for Oakham’s back streets has already fallen foul of district planners - but local residents and traders are giving the thumbs-up.

The project, thought up by county council highways chiefs, involves a new one-way system for Penn Street and massive extra no-parking regulations for neighbouring South Street.

The Penn Street one-way - with a No Entry sign at the Brooke Road end - seems to be meeting with local approval.

But there are fears that cutting congestion in South Street by banning parking could involve complications.

Rutland District Council’s planning committee has officially “expressed concern” about the loss of on-street parking involved.

And members now say they will not approve the scheme until the restrictions on South Street are looked at again. Meanwhile, residents and traders in the area recognise that something must be done.

n Disgruntled parents were turned away from a school carol service after a last minute visit by a fire safety inspector.

Over 300 people were expected to crowd into the hall at the Westfield primary school in Bourne on Friday.

But a parent complained to the fire brigade who sent an inspector around to the premises on the morning of the concert.

He recommended that numbers should be limited to 156 people - and that meant that over a hundred other people had to be turned away.

50 years ago

Mr Frank Atkins spent Christmas in his Stamford cottage where demolition workers have torn down the front wall.

Although he has the key to a new home, he refuses to move until his claims for compensation for the loss of his cottage and belongings are satisfied.

The cottage, 14 Foundry Road, is a desolate sight. Polythene bags, nailed to rough timber frames are the only protestation for Mr Atkins and his large number of cats against the winter weather.

As the cottage is in a clearance area, the Borough Council have ordered its demolition, together with several other buildings.

When Mr Atkins was away in August, the front wall was pulled down, rubble strewn across the garden and his furniture piled up outside.

But he refused to go into the house offered by the council, and moved back in putting up the bags as weather protection.

n Children who travel to school at Stamford from Morcott have to wait in the cold at a dangerous cross roads for the school bus, say their parents. And the parents are annoyed that their protests about this have met with no response.

Spokesman for the parents, Mr. J. G. Pridmore, of Holly House, Morcott, said: “There are at present about seven children affected. They attend either Stamford School or the High School.

“Every morning they have to wait on the corner where the A47 trunk road and the Ketton-Stamford road form a T-junction.

“This is a dangerous crossroads, where there have been numerous accidents, including a fatal one when two women were killed this year.”

Mr. Pridmore said that they had made a number of efforts to have the bus, which is run by Barton Transport Ltd., re-routed through the village.

“We were told that it would cost more money to run it through the village and this was not justified,” Mr. Pridmore said.

100 years ago

Horrors of the Trenches - Private R. Thompson, youngest son of Mr. Thompson, stud groom at Burghley House, is in the Newport (Mon.) hospital in a very serious condition, suffering from trench fever, Gangrene has set in, and he has lost several toes. Prior to the war he was an assistant master at a Cleethorpes school. He joined the East Yorks. Cycling Corps, and after a time was transferred to the West Yorks. Infantry.

n Drunk - A respectable young man named Edward Robert Agger, farm foreman, Thornhaugh, was charged at the petty sessions on Saturday with being drunk in High- Street the previous Saturday night. Supt. DeCann said he found defendant lying on the floor in Mr. Pinney’s shop, apparently unconscious.

He could not stand, and had to be carried to the police-station. He had two bottles of whiskey in his possession, and two-thirds had gone from one of the bottles.

Defendant, who had nothing to say, was ordered to pay a fine of 10s and 3s. 6d., the fee of the doctors who was called to examine him.

n An Old Offender - At the petty sessions on Saturday, William Holmes, labourer, Peterborough, was charged with stealing five kippers, the property of Mr. A. E. Smedley, fishmonger, High-Street, the previous Monday.

A young woman named Olive Hare and Mrs. Smedley deposed to seeing prisoner take the kippers from the window board. Prisoner, in reply to the Mayor, said he was a farm labourer.

The Mayor: “You ought to be at work. There is plenty of work about.” Supt. DeCann read a list of 24 previous convictions, and said a prisoner told him he had been in the Army, but had been medically rejected. Prisoner was sent to gaol for a month with hard labour.

150 years ago

Bourn - A facetious correspondent sends us the following account of a fatal accident upon the Bourn and Essendine railway: - On Wednesday last a rumour was circulated in this town that a person had met with his death upon the line.

This of course caused serious reflections in the minds of the sympathising public, and numerous questions were asked as to name and native place of the deceased: Fox was given as the name, but place could not be defined. It afterwards transpired that the victim was not a biped but a quadruped, frequently known as Reynard the Fox: it is supposed he had been out to a Christmas party, indulged too much, stooped too late, and that in crossing the line he was knocked down and killed by the engine.

His head and “brush” were forwarded to a well-known bird-stuffer in Bourn, to be preserved as a memento.

n After the morning service on Christmas day at the parish church of Lenton, near Falkingham, a collection was made for the widows and orphans of the miners who lost their lives at the late disastrous colliery accident at Barnsley, which amounted to £2.

n A serious accident occurred on Wednesday morning to Thos. Stevens, aged 21, in the employ of Mr. Syson, of Empingham. He was engaged feeding a thrashing machine, when his right hand was drawn into the machinery, by which it was frightfully lacerated, the injury extending to above the wrist.

Mr. Scott, surgeon, was soon in attendance, but seeing amputation of the limb was necessary he advised the removal of the unfortunate man to the Stamford Infirmary, where amputation was performed the same day. He is going on favourably.

n An instance of the danger of playing with firearms occurred at Stamford on Friday last. Some lads were scampering about the fields with a pistol during the afternoon, and on getting into the town they met companions named Mitchell and Redmile.

The owner of the weapon, named Mountain, gave it to the lad Mitchell and asked him to fire it off, telling him, in answer to an inquiry, that it was not charged with anything. Thereupon Mitchell pointed the pistol at Redmile, and pulled the trigger.

To his dismay he discovered that the pistol was charged with powder and small pieces of stone, which struck Redmile full in the face. The lad was at once taken to the Infirmary, where it was ascertained that the injury inflicted was not very serious.

n A fine dog, the property of Mr. B. Baston, Adelaide-street, Stamford, has been maliciously poisoned this week.

200 years ago

Ran away from his family, and left it chargeable to the parish of Leake, William Smith, a Labourer. He is about forty-five years of age, five feet eight or nine inches high, very stout made, florid complexion, black eyes, hair , and beard, has a scar on his right cheek; had on, when he went away, a light-colored jacket and breeches, old striped waistcoat, plaid shirt, dark darn stockings , and highlows.

Whoever will apprehend the said William Smith, and lodge him in any of his Majesty’s gaols, and give notice thereof to John Jacklin, Overseer of the Poor of Leake aforesaid, shall receive One Guinea Reward. Leake, Dec. 12th, 1816

n On Monday last, the Right Hon. the ladies Noel kindly gave amongst 68 poor families of North Luffenham, a fat ox weighing 80 stone, 12 quarters of potatoes and 151 yards of flannel. The usual distribution of coals, the bounty of the Rev. W. Hardyman, the Rector, was made on the same day.

n On Wednesday, the prisoners in the gaol and house of correction at Oakham were regaled with an excellent dinner of roast beef and plum pudding, and a jug of ale each, the gift of Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Bart.; for which they desire to return him sincere thanks.

n The poor of Uffington and Tallington were made happy on Wednesday with the Earl of Lindsey’s usual donation of a fat ox and several chaldron of coals.

The poor of Edenham and Swinstead had at the same time to felicitate themselves on their neighbourhood to Lord Gwydir. And those road Caswick and Greatford, were thankful for the bounty of Sir John Trollope and Dr. Willis.