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Stratford on Avon or Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

Historical Description

Stratford-on-Avon or Stratford-upon-Avon, a market-town, a municipal borough, and the head of a poor law union, petty sessional division, and county court district in Warwickshire. The town stands on the river Avon, at an intersection of railways, 8 miles SW of Warwick, 92¼ by road and 101 by railway from London. Stratford-on-Avon, which is in the parish of Old Stratford, has a world-wide renown as the birthplace of Shakespeare. It is an ancient town and had a monastery, founded in the 7th century. It was given by the Saxon Æthelard to the Bishops of Worcester; passed by exchange, in the time of Edward VI., to the Dudleys; was greatly desolated by fire in the time of Elizabeth, and again in the time of James I.; was taken from the Royalists in 1642; was occupied in the following year by Queen Henrietta; went in the tune of Charles II. to the Sackvilles; and was the birthplace of Archbishop John de . Stratford, who died in 1348, of Bishop Ralph de Stratford, who died in 1354, and of Bishop Robert de Stratford, who died in 1362. The town has a head post office and a station on the G.W.R. and East and West Junction railways. It stands on the W bank of the Avon, sloping gently towards the river, which is crossed by a large stone bridge of fourteen arches, built by Sir Hugh Clopton in the reign of Henry VII. It is a pleasant, well-built town, consisting of wide streets. These intersect each other at various angles, and the town is well drained.

The house in which Shakespeare was born stands in Henley Street. It has been isolated by surrounding houses having been pulled down, and has become the property of the nation, under the guardianship of trustees. The house has been preserved as far as possible in its ancient condition, and includes a museum, containing relics of the great poet and the Stratford portrait, as well as a collection of books, manuscripts, &c. At the corner of Chapel Lane is the site of New Place, the house which was purchased by Shakespeare in 1597, where he spent the greater part of his latter years, and where he died in 1616. This house, after undergoing various alterations, was pulled down in 1759. The grounds connected with it were purchased in 1861, and were handed over in 1876 to the corporation in trust for the birthplace trustees. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, on the banks of the Avon, is a red brick building in the Elizabethan style, erected in 1877 and following years, and comprises a theatre, a library, a picture gallery, and a central tower. In the theatre, which will hold about 1000 persons, representations of Shakespeare's plays are given every year in celebration of the poet's birthday. The Shakespeare Memorial Statue, executed and presented by Lord Ronald Gower, was placed in the grounds of the theatre in 1888. The Child's Fountain and Clock Tower was given by an American citizen in 1887, both as a memorial of Shakespeare and in celebration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Church of Holy Trinity, the parish church of Old Stratford, stands on the banks of the Avon, and is approached by an avenue of lime trees. It is a large cruciform edifice, ranging from Early English to Perpendicular, was formerly collegiate, and consists of chancel, transepts, nave with aisles and clerestory, and a central tower surmounted by a beautiful lofty spire. The chancel, which was rebuilt between 1465 and 1491 by Dean Balsall, contains the grave and monument of Shakespeare. The flat stone covering the grave bears the well-known inscription attributed to the poet himself, and the bust on the N wall is considered one of the best portraits of Shakespeare, having been executed shortly after his death. The church also contains the graves of Anne Hathaway and of Shakespeare's daughters-Susanna and Judith-and monuments of the Clopton family, the Earl of Totnes, John Combe, Dean Balsall, and others. There are a number of beautiful windows, among which may be mentioned one filled with stained glass, representing the Seven Ages of Man, the gift of American visitors. The Church of St James the Great, built in 1855 and enlarged in 1875 and 1891, is a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity. Guild Chapel, or the Chapel of the Holy Cross, was founded in 1269 by Robert de Stratford, and rebuilt by Sir Hugh Clopton in the time of Henry VII. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, places of worship for the Plymouth Brethren, and a cemetery.

The town-hall, in Chapel Street, was originally erected in 1633, was rebuilt in 1768, and was altered and enlarged in 1863 and 1876. On the north front is a statue of Shakespeare presented by Garrick in 1769, and the chief room contains a portrait of Shakespeare by Wilson and of Garrick by Gainsborough. The borough petty sessions and county courts are held in the town-hall. The county petty sessions are held in the Sessions House in Guild Street. The Corn Exchange, in High Street, was built in 1855, and has a large hall used for concerts, &c. The market-house was built in 1821, and stands near the site of the old market cross. The grammar school, at which Shakespeare was educated, was founded in 1482 by Thomas Jolyffe, and refounded by Edward VI. in 1553, and is held in the old guildhall. There are two banks, an hospital, a convalescent home, almshouses, a police station, and a workhouse. A weekly newspaper is published. Markets are held on Fridays and stock sales on Tuesdays; fairs are held on the day after Old Michaelmas Day and on the second Friday after 12 Oct., and there are other fairs which are becoming obsolete. There is an extensive brewery. The municipal borough comprises 4012 acres; population, 8318. It was incorporated by Edward VI., and its boundaries were extended in 1879. It is divided into three wards-Guild, Market Hall, and New Town; is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, and has a commission of the peace.

Stratford-on-Avon or South Western Division of Warwickshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 46,463. The division includes the following:-Alcester-Alcester, Arrow, Bidford, Coughton, Exhall, Great Alne, Haselor, Ipsley, Kinwarton, Moreton Baggott, Oversley, Salford, Sambourn, Spernall, Studley, Weethley, Wixford; Brailes - Barcheston, Barton-on-the Heath, Brailes, Burmington, Cherington, Compton Wyniates, Great Wolford, Halford, Honington, Idlicote, Ilmington, Little Compton, Little Wolford, Long Compton, Stourton, Stretton-upon-Fosse, Sutton-under-Brailes, Whatcote, Whichford; Henley-Bearley, Beaudesert, Bushwood, Claverdon, Langley, Lapworth, Nuthurst, Packwood, Pinley, Preston Bagot, Rowington, Tanworth, Wootton Wawen; Stratford and Snitterfield-Aston Cantlow, Atherstone-upon-Stour, Billesley, Binton, Eatington, Luddington, Stratford-on-Avon, Temple Grafton, Welford (part-Bickmarsh), Western-on-Avon (part-Milcote), Whitchurch, Alveston, Fulbrook, Hampton Lucy, Loxley, Snitterfield, Wolverton; Warwick (including the whole of the parish of Bishops Tachbrook)-Barford, Beausale, Bishops Tachbrook, Budbrooke, Charlecote, Chesterton, Haseley, Hatton, Honiley, Moreton, Morrell, Newbold Pacey, Norton Lindsey, Sherbourne, Shrewley, Wasperton, Wellesbourne Hastings, Wellesbourne Moantford, Wroxall; Leamington, municipal borough; Stratford-on-Avon, municipal borough; Warwick, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWarwickshire 
Civil parishOld Stratford 
Poor Law unionStratford-upon-Avon 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Archives and Libraries

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office,
Shakespeare Centre,
Henley Street,
Stratford upon Avon,
CB37 6QW.
Tel. + 44 (0)1789 204016

Church Records

The Warwickshire County Record Office hold the following registers for Stratford Upon Avon:

Holy Trinity1558-19011558-19021558-1900
St James1856-1906  

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Stratford on Avon or Stratford upon Avon from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Warwickshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Warwickshire papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Warwickshire 1619 is available on the Heraldry page.