Stafford is a town that is constantly growing. This is unsurprising as it is bang in the middle of the country, right next to a major motorway and has a train station with access to most parts of the United Kingdom. As a place to live, Stafford is quite charming. I am biased as it is my hometown, but overall, I got lucky. I could have been forced to grow up in Cannock (there is a long rivalry between the two towns, and Cannock is pretty chill as well).
Now, Stafford is a place only some people visiting the U.K. or British folk would consider a top tourist destination. Still, there are some interesting sights and attractions in this county town in the countryside, wedged into the middle of the west midlands. Now, let’s name a few things to do!
Okay, so first things first, Stafford has a castle. We have to start here because castles are cool, and that is a fact that is recognised universally, so it makes sense, right?
Stafford Castle has a lot of history. The first iteration of the castle was constructed in 1100 by Norman lord Robert de Toeni (Robert of Stafford). Construction was requested by William the Conquerer to keep out those pesky rebellious natives in the aftermath of the Norman conquest. That’s just the start of this castle’s rich history as well. A visitor centre is located at the castle’s base, and you can learn all about this landmark’s history. Elizabeth the First even paid the castle a visit in 1575, so there are plenty of fun facts for all the history buffs out there.
Today, the castle is used for a variety of activities by local Staffordians. It’s a popular place for dog walkers. In the summer, the castle is used as a backdrop for performances of Shakespear’s classic plays, as well as a yearly music festival which features pop-up tents from local restaurants and music from local bands from the surrounding area and some from further afield.
Riverside Shopping Mall
The Riverside Shopping Mall is one of Stafford’s newer additions. Opened to the public in 2016, it has provided a much-needed revamp to the high street and Stafford’s retail sector. The open-air mall has many outstanding options from well-known high-street clothing brands such as Primark, H&M, River Island J.D Sport and more!
Several restaurants are also available. If you fancy an Italian, you can hit up Zizi’s; a Nandos is also located here (you’ve got to go for the extra hot piri prir sauce, right?). If you need a quick bite, a Costa Coffee is also on-site, and a Greggs is available if you want to get your hands on a steak bake or a sausage roll. Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are something a lot of us like to indulge in and to alleviate these needs, Bar Revolution is located right by the side of the waterfront, and it also boasts a Marks & Spencers as well as an Odeon Delux cinema complex, which, for me, is one of the town’s best additions in years as I love going to the cinema.
Home to the Earl of Lichfield (a private apartment was constructed on-site; the actual hall is just for tourists now), Shugborugh Hall holds great historical significance in Staffordshire. The location is beautiful, right on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, a vast woodland known to be one of England’s areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The grand state rooms are why people tend to flock here. Shugborough Hall comprises The State Dining Room, The Red Drawing Room, The Library, The Saloon, The Verandah Room, The Anson Room, and The State Bedroom. These rooms are lavish and exquisitely decorated; I don’t use the word exquisitely often, so I hope you understand how decadent these rooms are.
In particular, The Verandah Room showcases a 208-piece porcelain dinner service, specially commissioned to commemorate Admiral Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe aboard HMS Centurion. This unique dinner service was presented to Admiral Anson as a token of gratitude for his assistance in combating the devastating fires ravaging the Canton merchant district (as recounted by a Shugborough guide in October 2015). Meanwhile, with its terrace view, The State Bedroom holds historical significance as the quarters Queen Victoria occupied during her childhood visit.
The estate also features a tea room, farm cafe, and stunning gardens. As mentioned previously, this is a historical landmark as well, and you can learn about the rich history of this estate via a self-guided tour or by speaking to one of the many knowledgeable volunteers ready to share fascinating facts and engaging stories with you.
The Ancient High House
This timber-framed townhouse is an absolute stunner. It stood on Stafford main street since 1595, so that’s over four hundred years of history packed into this quirky little building.
Back in 1643, Charles I swung by Stafford and stayed at the Ancient High House for a night or two on September 17 and 18. This was right after he raised the flag at Nottingham to call his loyal subject to arms, kicking off the English Civil War. You can visit the room where Charles and Prince Rupert stayed.
The Ancient High House is like stepping into Tudor history; the attic floor is where you’ll find the Staffordshire Yeomanry Regiment Museum, dating back to 1794. These local heroes served for over 200 years, and the museum reflects their incredible history. There is much more to discover here, but I want to keep some things secret as, ideally, I’d like my readers to go and explore these places and themselves and enjoy some British history.
I have a soft spot for the Gatehouse Theater; my grandparents used to take me here every Christmas for the pantomime, so I have many happy childhood memories here. It’s more than just the panto that The Gatehouse has to offer for patrons. The comedy night here is fantastic; it’s not held in the main theatre but in a more intimate setting, which suits this performance style more fittingly. It also features many up-and-coming comedians trying to break onto the scene. I have attended this more than a few times, and it’s a personal recommendation of mine. Bigger, more established comedians do perform in the main theatre as they try out new material for upcoming comedy specials and tours, so if you keep an eye on the billing, you may get the chance to catch a glimpse of some famous acts.
The usual theatre productions are performed here and to a high standard as well; over the years, shows such as The King and I and one year, a production named “A Night at the Musicals” featured all the classic songs from shows such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. Live music is also on offer, so keep an eye out for a fun night out. After the show, there are plenty of local bars to pop into if you also fancy a tipple.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the fantastical and fun things to do in my home town of Stafford, and I hope my wonderful readers take the time to explore the locations I’ve suggested today. There are plenty more things to do in Stafford than mentioned here ( I will cover these in a later article), so it’s well worth visiting our quaint market town. Come and have a look.