Hot Spot: Stamford, Lincolnshire; An abundance of historic buildings means there are special problems for housebuyers in this beautiful old town.
The moment Henry III granted a charter for Stamford in 1254, all the local brickies immediately started work on ecclesiastical buildings. Apparently, no one told them when to stop, not even when construction threatened to leave the town with more churches than people. Five centuries later, homebuilders exhibited similar gusto.

Today, five medieval churches, a 12th century priory and a 15th century hospital form a city-centre core adorned by some 600 listed build-ings in this historic, architecturally resplendent market town. Stamford, 91 miles from London and 14 miles from Peterborough, is popular with commuters, tourists and film and TV producers.

"Many homebuyers here work in Peterborough, Corby or Spalding," says estate agent Paul Johnson. "We also attract people from the London area who commute, or who buy a house with an extra room and work from home."

The relatively flat surrounding countryside plays a part in Stamford's demographics. "It attracts younger professionals and personnel from RAF Wittering, RAF Cottesmore, and the old RAF Luffenham, which is now an Army base," says Mr Johnson. "For families, a high school and two state schools, one for boys, are very good. And Oundle, Uppingham and Oakham are near, with good nurseries for working mothers.

"The market is very active. There's a shortage of good properties so prices have increased 10 to 15 per cent in a year. There are many old stone houses in the centre, selling at pounds 250,000 to pounds 400,000."

The smaller of these old stone houses can be small indeed, with bedrooms that are really box rooms. As these buildings are invariably listed, what you get is what you are stuck with. But some old houses are large and others have become so, thanks usually to incorporation with part or all of an adjacent property.

Although the stone facades may suggest uniformity and sameness, homes can vary considerably. A long stretch on Rutland Terrace mostly contains Identikit three-storey Regency terraces, except that number 8 is double- width and number 20 is L-shaped, with a walled courtyard. Compared to its neighbours, this end-terrace house is substantially larger inside and out.

"These houses come on the market now and again, and number 20 is under offer," says Charlotte Gervis of FPDSavills. "But the Burghley estate owns many houses in Stamford which they rent, and they will never come on the market. Burghley tends to buy rather than sell."

Construction opposite the George Hotel and on nearby St George's Place shows Lincolnshire's builders are once more gainfully employed, but as Knight Goodwin partner Mike Ingrey says: "There are no really major developments. All these new builds are on the smallish side."

The Low-Down

Transport: Stamford and Peterborough are linked by train but, says Mr Johnson, this service is infrequent and commuters tend to prefer the 20-minute drive to Peterborough for the 50-minute train journey into Kings Cross.

Prices: the 12 new stone town-houses at St George's Place are priced between pounds 185,000 and pounds 400,000. "They are pretty costly to build because they are natural stone, and in a conservation area," remarks Paul Johnson, a local estate agent.

"Two are already reserved. Our buyers are mainly owner-occupiers. There is an increasing buy-to-let market in Stamford, especially for smaller properties selling for pounds 35,000 to pounds 40,000 and two- and three-bedroom houses for pounds 60,000 to pounds 70,000."

Properties: A city-centre period detached home that, until six years ago, was a brewery house is being sold by Knight Goodwin, which also handles country properties, including a riverside barn conversion. Three adjacent city-centre properties are on the books of Paul Johnson.

Warning - Low-Flying Freeholds Overhead: Properties cobbled together over the centuries from bits here and bobs there might result in a less than neat title, says Mike Ingrey, partner at Knight Goodwin.

"A flying freehold may occur, for example, where a bedroom was built over a common access passageway. These flying freeholds can cause you difficulties when you're trying to get a mortgage. At worst, a home lender may not be prepared to lend to you."

Burghley House: This magnificent 16th-century pile one mile outside Stamford was built by Elizabeth I's adviser and favourite, William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley, and landscaped by Capability Brown. The estate hosts special events, including a crafts fair, concerts, and the annual three-day Burghley Horse Trials in September. The Cecils are buried and memorialised in St Martin's.

Make that a Diet Cola, please: Daniel Lambert died and was buried in Stamford in 1809, all 52 stones, 11 pounds of him. To allow his body to be removed, the side of the inn where he passed on had to be razed. He was buried in St Martin's Churchyard, and his clothes are displayed in the local museum, which also contains the raiments of General Tom Thumb, the American midget who toured the world with the Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The River Stam? The local river is the Welland. Stamford derives from "stone" or "stony" ford. The local authority is South Kesteven District Council, which is based in Grantham.

Contacts and Estate Agents: Knight Goodwin 01780 765060; Paul Johnson 01780 482121; FPDSavills 01780 750200

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