The old market town of Stafford, built around an ancient market place, still retains much of its original medieval street plan. Sadly most of the original Tudor half-timbered buildings have now disappeared. However, a few good examples remain, such as the 16/17th century gabled 'High House' in Greengate, which once sheltered Charles I for three nights at the start of the Civil War. At 4 storeys high, it is the tallest timber-framed building in England (shown on the left below).
The impressive earthworks of a Norman castle built around 1070, includes some evidence of the original town. The Noel's Almshouses in Mill Street, dating from 1660, are a fine complex of stone houses built around a spacious courtyard. The William Salt Library, in Eastgate Street, is a another fine l8th century building, which contains a grand collection of historic books and manuscripts amassed by W. Salt during his lifetime.
There are a number of fine churches in the town. St Chad's is an old Norman church with intricate carvings, thought to have been the work of Saracens, brought back to Britain after the Crusades by Lord Biddulph. The parish church of St Mary was restored in the 19th century, but still retains its 13th century nave and tower. The locally born Izaak Walton (1593-1683), author of The Compleat Angler, was baptised in the church's fine Norman font. His bust can be found in the north aisle. A thatched cottage at Shallowford (5 miles north-west of Stafford), where Walton once lived, is now a museum dedicated to his life and works.
Just south-east of Stafford lie the ancient royal hunting grounds of Cannock Chase, one of the most extensive leisure retreats in the Midlands area.
Tourist Information Centre:
|Gatehouse Theatre, Eastgate Street, Stafford ST16 2LT - Tel: 01785 619619|
Housed in Stafford's fabulous 18th century Shire Hall. Provides changing exhibitions of mainly contemporary art. The building also contains historic courtrooms and a craft shop.
Opening times: all year, Mon~Sat 10am - 5pm, Sun 1pm - 4pm. Closed BHs. Admission Free
Location: Market Square, Stafford, ST16 2LD - Tel: 01785 278345
The library dedicated to William Salt (1808-1863), is maintained in this period l8th century house. Administered by an independent trust, it hosts a remarkable collection of old photographs, maps, ancient manuscripts, deeds, books and other memorabilia illustrating the history of the borough and county.
Opening times: Tue~Thur 9am-5pm,
Friday 9.30am-4.30pm, Sat (1st month) 9am-1pm.
Location: Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ
Built by Robert de Toeni (Robert of Stafford) around 1070, the castle has commanded a defensive outlook at the western edge of the town for over 900 years. The partial ruins now provide a detailed example of a typical Norman motte and bailey structure. The castle's visitor centre has an audio-visual display that portrays the long history of the fortress. There are several hands-on and interactive exhibits, including weapons, armour and costumes, coin minting and brass rubbing. A changing programme of exhibits and special event days are provided, such as the 'Stafford Festival Shakespeare' production, held in the castle grounds each summer.