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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

Tom Sandall's Journal: 1839 - 1853


'My father was born in the small village of Rippingale of respectable parents, his father being a small farmer, but showing great perseverance and industry, his father bestowed upon him a little better Education than his brothers & sisters & when he left school not wishing to spend his life in agricultural pursuits he was apprenticed to a firm of Bankers in my native place, Messrs Eaton, Cayley & Lovejoy[1]. This practice is not so much in vogue as it used to be in Banks. My father was five years bound during which time he did not receive any salary.

After having served there he obtained a situation at Messrs Praed & Co, London[2] and left after some years. He left and came back to his former town though in a different position, he now was made manager of the Northamptonshire Banking Co’s[3] Branch at Stamford and having now a home he married my mother, Sophia daughter of Edward and Ann Sharp of Baston, Lincolnshire in the year 1837. In the November of the following year my dear brother was born and on the 29th April 1839 I came into this wide world. When I was three years old I was first sent to school and like most children made my debut to a governess, one Miss Horden.

About this age one day when at dinner I managed by some way or other to fall asleep with a knife in my hand and drooping my head stuck the point of it into my cheek, the scar of which I have to this day and in all probability shall carry it to my grave.

Time then rapidly flew past until I was seven years old, when, having gained the prize as being the best general scholar in the school, I was sent to a Mr Weddels[4], also of Stamford as a day scholar, where I remained for two years and a half.

Affliction now entered our family, which for more than ten years before had not been in mourning, for my Aunt Whitehead, with whom in the first few years of my life I passed a great deal of my time, came to stay with us, but it pleased the Almighty that she should not remain long and she was taken with a bad leg, which turning to mortification she died.

On the 30th June 1847 my younger brother William was born.

A little time before this on 1st Feb 1847 another bereavement occurred in the person of my Grandfather Sharp and also about this time or in the autumn of 1847 my elder brother Robert Edward accidentally while at play fell against a tree and was carried home insensible but after a time recovered. Nevertheless God had ordained that he should not stay long with us for after six months had elapsed he was taken ill again from the concussion then received which eventually turned to water on the Brain and although every thing in the power of man was done he died on the 19th of April 1848 aged 11 years.

Receipt signed by Tom Sandall's father, Robert, in 1848.

But to continue regarding my education, at Mr Weddels I came off with many prizes until I had worked my way up the school into all the first classes, when my parents thought fit for me to go to the Stamford Grammar School where I continued for about 3 years.

In the summer of 1850 I went with my parents to see the county of York, where we spent a very pleasant fortnight, both at Bridlington and Scarborough.

I was at the Stamford Grammar School from August 1849 to August 1853. When leaving Rev Dr Gretton the Head Master[5] gave me the following Certificate:

Stamford 5 Nov 1853

I hereby certify that Thomas Sandall has been mine since August 1849, that he is generally well informed for his age and is very fond of and more than usually advanced in arithmetic and that he is a very docile and well conducted youth.

F E Gretton

Headmaster of the Stamford Free Grammar School

In the spring of 1853 I had a terrible attack of ague[6] which lasted for 2 months. When I was a little better I went to stay with some of my friends and relations a while at a Mrs North’s of Finedon, Northamptonshire & received a letter from home enclosing one of Mr Cuerton’s to say I was to go to Aylesbury at once to see about a situation which was vacant by a clerk leaving at the Aylesbury Old Bank.

I shall never forget the feelings of that day when I set off to walk to the station to start by myself amongst people I had never seen before with the exception of Mr Cuerton who I had only seen but once, this was the 16th April 1853 on which said day I reached Aylesbury in the evening.

I was sent home by the Manager, Mr Cuerton, with whom I stayed a fortnight, as I had on alternate days a return of the ague. On leaving, Mr Hunt, the resident director, with much kind feeling advised me wisely to pay great attention to my studies during the ensuing year, at the same time recommending by letter to my father my return to school for another twelve months, being then but little over 14 years of age. So he gave me a pound for my fortnight’s services. I felt of no little importance at having thus earned something for myself


[1] Eaton, Cayley and Lovejoy was established in Stamford around 1800. It was taken over by the Stamford, Spalding and Boston Bank in 1891 and eventually subsumed into Barclays Bank.

[2] Praeds & Co was formed in London in 1802. Robert Sandall worked in the bank's first premises at 189 Fleet Street (pictured), which were designed by the renowned architect Sir John Soane.

[3] Robert Sandall was involved in the 1836 establishment of this joint-stock bank, originally formed as the Northamptonshire Central Banking Co out of the business of the private bank of Watkins & Co of Daventry and Northampton. It was renamed the Northamptonshire Banking Co in 1838. Branches were opened or acquired at Daventry, Northampton, Stamford and Wellingborough in 1836 and Kettering in 1876

[4] Samuel Weddell (who was one of our earliest Waterfurlong gardeners). ran a small private academy for day pupils and boarders in Stamford’s Broad Street. In 1854 the school relocated to High Street.

[5] The Rev Dr Frederick Edward Gretton, MA, (1804 – 1890) headmaster of Stamford Grammar School 1833 - 1874.

[6] A feverish illness. What would probably now be diagnosed as Epstein Barr virus or glandular fever.


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