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Stamford’s eminence as a centre for education in the Middle Ages prompted Edmund Spencer, in his 16th century epic poem the Faerie Queene, to predict that it would one day have a university to rival those of Oxford and Cambridge. That it has not yet fulfilled this prophecy is not for want of trying. It almost succeeded in 1333-35 when waves of disaffected students and masters abandoned Oxford to pursue their academic activities in Stamford until they were driven out by royal order.
Several centuries later, Stamford came agonisingly close to being awarded a University during a period of rapid expansion of higher education in 1960s. Meanwhile, it has had to content itself with the myth that Britain’s first university was founded in the Lincolnshire town by King Bladud in 863BC and flourished for almost 1500 years until it was dissolved by Augustine in 605 AD.
The charming mythology of Bladud’s university, the glorious defiance of the scholastic settlers in the 1300s and the town’s ambitious and valiant endeavours in the 20th century have all previously been documented to varying degrees. This book brings these stories together in a summary of Stamford’s pursuit of its academic birthright and speculates as to what could yet be.
N J Sheehan