Owner of former Stamford Hotel in St Mary’s Street reveals what’s been happening
Behind the doors of the former Stamford Hotel is an army of people hard at work to transform the historic building.
The neo-classical hotel in St Mary’s Street was the place to be in the 1800s, attracting rich travellers and wealthy politicians.
It was built for £40,000 by Sir Herald Noel of Exton Hall, who was the MP of Rutland for more than 40 years, as a headquarters against the political opposition, the Cecils of Burghley House who met in The George Hotel.
The lavish building later was used solely as a hotel, boasting a billiards room, ballroom and a banqueting hall with a balcony.
It fetched just £4,450 - a fraction of its original cost - at auction in 1919 and has been used for retail space and offices for forty years.
The Abbey Group Development Company, based in Stamford and headed up by the Duce family, have owned the hotel for the past three decades. They have embarked on a mammoth project to restore the Grade II* listed building and turn it into luxury accommodation at a cost of more than £3 million.
Alex Duce, director of the property company, was keen to ‘bring the building back to life’.
“It is such a good building which is worth people living in, after all it was a hotel,” he said.
Once the refurbishment is complete the former hotel will be seven new flats and a town house.
Residents will enter through the traditional wooden doors in St Mary’s Street and access their homes by travelling up a winding spiral staircase beneath the domed roof.
While the flats will look modern they will reflect a glimpse into the hotel’s past with exposed beams, a central spiral staircase and restored palmettes.
Alex, 43, said: “It has been an iterative vision.
“We weren’t sure we were going to do the whole building to start with.
“There was successful retail below so originally we were just going to do the offices above.”
However, with Roland Duce, Alex’s dad and chief executive of the company, it was decided the building should be lived in.
“We realised the best thing to do for the building was to redo it all,” Alex, who lives in Rutland, said.
Artefacts and momentoes found during building work have uncovered a tantalising glimpse into the hotel’s history while old stonework and building techniques have kept workers fascinated.
The project now incorporates not only the hotel but adjoining buildings which were previously shops.
The property titans - who own dozens of buildings across the town in Ironmonger Street, St Mary’s Street and Stamford Walk - were able to relocate the tenants to new homes. Some business owners turned down the offer as they had retirement plans, according to Alex.
Since starting work there have been plenty of hidden challenges to overcome - as with most old buildings.
New building regulations and the height of the former hotel meant sprinklers needed to be installed throughout.
The main delays however have been caused by ‘big structural difficulties’.
Alex also believes a lack of funding, short-staffed teams and too much political involvement has left the planning system ‘broken’.
He says it has wasted months of time and tens of thousands of pounds.
“We have been frustrated with stuff that is preposterous,” he said.
According to Alex the refurbishment should have been finished nine months to a year ago.
Now he is aiming for a pre-Christmas completion date.
Alex said: “You have to be very brave. It would have been much safer to let someone else take the risk.
“Both me and my dad are really passionate about Stamford.
“We own a lot of properties but this is really a labour of love.”
He describes the refurbishment of the historic building as a ‘big responsibility’, particularly because of its interest to people of Stamford.
Part of the hotel which generates a lot of chatter among residents and tourists is the statue of Lady Justice which sat atop the building watching over the street.
The concept of Lady Justice dates back to ancient Greek times and represents law and order.
However in January 2022, for the first time, Lady Justice was removed from her podium on the hotel ahead of work taking place on the building.
Alex said: “Underneath it was standing on rotten timbers - 200-year-old wooden timbers.
“It was very dangerous so we took her down as an emergency and we are not going to put her back until the last minute.”
Alex admits he is nervous to see her lifted by crane back to the top of the building ‘in case something goes wrong’ but has been impressed by her refurbishment.
It was a long and intricate process restoring Lady Justice which, despite surviving all sorts of weather and two wars, age was catching up with.
The restoration of the stone statue added a hefty £160,000 extra to the project - but the Lady Justice will be safe for the next 200 years.
Alex remains tight-lipped about the official day of her return but says it will be late August to early September.
Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed that part of St Mary’s Street will be closed from August 21 to 25 for scaffolding works.
Already a few of the properties are under offer - despite no formal advertising being done yet.
Despite these being the same or more than the asking price Alex doesn’t believe it will make a ‘normal profit’.
He instead said it was more about creating ‘longevity for the building’.
“We love it. It has definitely been a labour of love,” he added.
“It is not one we have done as a profit making commercial exercise.
“It has taken so long and so much of our time and money but it is about bringing it back for the town and future generations.”
For Alex using local companies who ‘go above and beyond’ is key to a high-quality refurbishment.
Market Deeping-based Burmor construction has been heading up the project, Gemma Homer is in charge of interior design and Eddisons estate agency is the property manager.
“It really has been a team effort,” said Alex.
“Without them it would have been impossible.”