Stafford is the County Town, distant from London one hundred and thirty-five miles, nine from Stone, sixteen from Newcastle-under-Line, and twenty-five from Birmingham, by the new road. This place has a bridge over the Sow; it is situated on a plain, bounded by rising grounds at a very little distance; as an ancient borough, governed by a mayor, recorder, ten aldermen, twenty common-council-men, a town clerk, and two serjeants at mace.
King John made it a corporation, and Edward VI both confirmed and enlarged its charter. This town acknowledges no patron; but, how far it may stand clear of corruption, we do not take upon us to determine. The family of Lord Viscount Chetwynd, of Ingestre, in this county, had formerly a considerable interest in this town; but that has ceased since the estates became the property of Earl Talbot, the present possessor. The sons of burgesses, and those who have served apprentices seven years in the borough, have a right, (upon demand thereof) to be made burgesses of the said borough; and the right of election is in the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses, resident within the said borough. They are now about four hundred; the returning officer is the mayor.
In Domesday-book Stafford is termed a city; but, though it is more commodious for transacting the business of the county, it is much inferior to Litchfield ; yet it is greatly increased of late, both in people and wealth, by their manufacture of cloth.
William the Conqueror built a castle here, since demolished ; it stood on a little insulated hill, a mile south of the town, surrounded with a deep fosse. It was garrisoned by the king in the civil wars, and taken and demolished by the parliament in 1664.
There are two churches in Stafford, St Mary’s and St Chad’s, though but one parish. St Mary’s has an octagon tower with eight bells, and chimes ; also an organ. The font in this church is a singular piece of antiquity. The church has been collegiate. The dean’s house is now converted to a school. – St Chad’s is an old structure, with only one bell, though it formerly had five, the rest being sold to repair the church.
The county assizes are held in the church, as the town-hall is at present very much out of repair. A new town-hall is now about to be built, and several houses are taken down at the back of the old hall. It is intended to build the new hall further back, so as to form a square, which will add much to the appearance of the town.
This place also contains an hospital, built in the last century ; a free-school, and a spacious market-place. – Here are also twelve alms-houses for women, who are allowed two pounds twelve shillings per year, and ten shillings for coals.
Here is a market on Saturday ; fairs, February 10, May 14, June 27, September 16, 17 and 18, October 2, and December 4.
The town in general is well built and paved, the houses covered with slate ; and the custom of Borough-English is still kept up here. The county infirmary, finished in 1772, situated a little distance from the town, is supported by subscriptions, &c., of between eight and nine hundred pounds per ann. The town had formerly four gates, two of which are now existing ; and it was in part surrounded with a wall, but never able to resist a siege. It is noted for good ale, as well as Burton-on-Trent, and Newcastle-under-Line. By the late inland navigation, it has communication with the rivers Mersey, Dee, Ribble, Ouse, Trent, Darwent, Severn, Humber, Thames, Avon, &c., which navigation, including its windings, extends above five hundred miles in the counties of Lincoln, Nottingham, York, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Chester, Warwick, Leicester, Oxford, Worcester, &c.
BANKERS: - John Wright, draws on Thornton, Free, and Cornwall, London.
Stevenson and Webb, draw on Samuel Smith, Sons & Co.
POST-OFFICE: - The London mail arrives about five in the evening, and the north mail about six in the morning ; dispatched for London soon after six in the morning, and for the north, soon after five in the evening. The cross post sets out every day between eight and nine in the morning, and returns about half past three in the afternoon : Arthur Morgan, Post Master.
COACHES: - A coach from the Bear, Stafford, to London, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, at four o’clock in the afternoon ; and for Chester Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at eleven in the morning : Padmore, proprietor. – A coach from the Swan Inn, to Birmingham and Manchester, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday ; returns the same days. – A coach from the George, to Birmingham and Manchester Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at three in the morning. – A mail-coach, from the Star Inn, sets out every morning about six. – A ditto to Chester, about five every afternoon. – A coach from the above Inn, to Liverpool, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday ; and for Birmingham, the same days. – Dixon & Co., proprietors.