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Stratford-upon-Avon ( ) is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshiremarker, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birminghammarker and south west of the county town, Warwickmarker. It is the main town of the District of Stratford-on-Avonmarker, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers a much larger area than the town itself. In 2001, the town's population was 23,676.

The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, receiving about three million visitors a year from all over the world.

The administrative body for the town is the Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, which is based at the Civic Hall in Rother Street (not to be confused with the Stratford-on-Avon District Council, which is based at Elizabeth House, Church Street). The Town Council is responsible for crime prevention, cemeteries, public conveniences, litter, river moorings, parks, and grants via the Town Trust, plus the selection of the town's mayor. Locally, the town is known simply as Stratford, and as such can be confused with the Stratfordmarker in the London Borough of Newhammarker.


Clock Tower
Historic map from 1908
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Apart from tourism, which is a major employer locally, especially in the hotel, hospitality industry and catering sectors, other industries in the town (which included Flowers Brewery, canning, and the manufacture of aluminium ware until these closed in the 1960s and the early 21st century) are boat building and maintenance, bicycles, mechanical and electrical engineering, food manufacture, Information Technology, and call centre and service sector activities (both of which are growing sectors), a large motor sales sector, industrial plant hire, building suppliers, market gardening, farming, storage and transport logistics, finance and insurance, and a large retail sector.

Major employers in the town include the NFU Mutual Insurance Company (and Avon Insurance), AMEC, Tescomarker, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, B & Q and Pashley Cycles. There are, nominally, three theatres run by the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, which attract large audiences and income for the town.

History and geography

Stratford has Anglo-Saxon origins, and grew up as a market town in medieval times. The name is a fusion of the Old English strǣt, meaning "street", and ford, meaning that a Roman road forded the River Avon at the site of the town.

Stratford is also close to the Cotswoldsmarker, with Chipping Campdenmarker to the south. As a major sheep-producing area (William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, bought and sold sheep's wool illegally) the Cotswolds, up until the latter part of the 19th century, regarded Stratford as one of its main centres for the slaughter, marketing, and distribution of sheep and wool. As a consequence Stratford also became a centre for tanning during the 15th–17th centuries. Both the river and the Roman road served as trade routes for the town.

Had a mass German invasion occurred during World War II, the town would have become the temporary seat of Parliamentmarker, and hosted many state servants.


The first real theatre in Stratford was a temporary wooden affair built in 1769 by the actor David Garrick for his Jubilee celebrations of that year to mark Shakespeare's birthday. The theatre, built not far from the site of the present Royal Shakespeare Theatremarker, was almost washed away in two days of torrential rain that resulted in terrible flooding.

A small theatre known as The Royal Shakespeare Rooms was built in the gardens of Shakespeare's New Placemarker home in the early 19th century but became derelict by the 1860s.

To celebrate Shakespeare's 300th birthday in 1864 the brewer, Charles Edward Flower, instigated the building of a temporary wooden theatre, known as the Tercentenary Theatre, which was built in a part of the brewer's large gardens on what is today the site of the new, and temporary, Courtyard Theatremarker. After three months the Tercentenary Theatre was dismantled, with the timber used for house-building purposes.

In the early 1870s Charles Flower gave several acres of riverside land to the local council on the understanding that a permanent theatre be built in honour of Shakespeare's memory, and by 1879 the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatremarker had been completed. It proved to be a huge success, and by the early 20th century was effectively being run by the actor/manager Frank Benson, later Sir Frank Benson.

The theatre burned down in 1926, with the then artistic director, William Bridges-Adams, moving all productions to the local cinema.

An architectural competition was arranged to elicit designs for a new theatre, with the winner, English architect Elisabeth Scott, creating what we see on the riverside today. The new theatre, adjoining what was left of the old theatre, was opened by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, in 1932.

The new theatre had many illustrious artistic directors, including the actor Anthony Quayle.

Sir Peter Hall was appointed artistic director (designate) in 1959 and formed the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1961.

Swan Theatremarker was created in the 1980s out of the shell of the remains of the original Memorial Theatre, quickly becoming one of the finest acting spaces in the UK.

In 1986 Stratford-upon-Avon became home to the legendary but ill-fated Carrie

The Waterside Theatremarker (which is not part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre complex) re-opened in December 2004, then closed again in September 2008. During this span, the theatre housed the Shakespearience visitor attraction.


Stratford is close to the UK's second largest city, Birminghammarker, and is easily accessible from junction 15 of the M40 motorway. The £12 million Stratford Northern Bypass opened in June 1987 as the A422.

Stratford-upon-Avon railway stationmarker has good rail links from Birmingham (Snow Hill stationmarker, Moor Street stationmarker) (hourly trains, until approximately 8:30 p.m.) and from London, with up to seven direct trains a day from London Marylebonemarker.

There are plans for a new railway station north of the town, adjacent to the A46 bypass. It will be called Stratford Parkway railway stationmarker.

The Stratford on Avon and Broadway Railwaymarker Society aims to re-open the closed railway line from Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybournemarker, with a later extension to Broadway, Worcestershiremarker.

The Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway connected Stratford with the main line of the London and North Western Railway at Blisworth until its closure in 1952.

The town has numerous cycle paths, and is the terminus of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canalmarker where it meets the Avon. A park and ride scheme was launched in 2006. The Stratford Greenway is a traffic free cycle path, which used to be part of the rail network until the early 1960s and is now part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network (routes NCN5 and NCN41). Starting from town it heads along the river and racecourse towards Welford-on-Avonmarker and Long Marstonmarker with cycle hire available locally.

Coventrymarker is to the north-east, with its airport an important European link for business travel, although schedule flights no longer operate.

Tourist attractions

The town is located on the River Avon (afon or avon being a Celtic synonym of "river"), on a bank of which stands the Royal Shakespeare Theatremarker (RST) designed by the English architect Elisabeth Scott and completed in 1932, which is the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Until recently the RSC also ran two smaller theatres, the Swanmarker, which is modelled on an Elizabethan theatre (closed in August 2007 as part of plans for refurbishment) and The Other Placemarker theatre, a Black box theatre which closed in 2005 to make room for the temporary RSC Courtyard Theatre, which opened in July 2006. This theatre is now the home of the RSC while the RST is being refurbished; its interior is similar to the planned interior of the refurbished RST. The site of The Other Place has now become the foyer, bars, cloakroom, dressing rooms, and rehearsal space of the Courtyard Theatre. The Other Place will be reinstated after the RST and Swan refurbishment is complete in 2010 and the Courtyard Theatre is dismantled, although many in the town would retain the Courtyard so that it can used by local theatre companies.

Other tourist attractions within the town include five houses relating to Shakespeare's life, which are owned and cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. These include Hall's Croftmarker (the one-time home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, and her husband Dr. John Hall) and Nash's Housemarker, which stands alongside the site of another property, New Placemarker, owned by Shakespeare himself, wherein he died. Near to the town are Anne Hathaway's Cottagemarker at Shotterymarker, the home of Shakespeare's wife's family prior to her marriage, and Mary Arden's House (Palmer's Farm), the family home of his mother. Elsewhere in the district are farms and buildings at Snitterfieldmarker, that belonged to the family of Shakespeare's father.

At the top end of Waterside is Holy Trinity Churchmarker, where Shakespeare was baptised and is buried.

Non-Shakespearean attractions include the Stratford Butterfly Farmmarker, which is on the eastern side of the river and the Bancroft Gardens.

The influx of tourists into Stratford (3.5 million a year) has caused tension with residents for decades, and there are perennial complaints about numerous tour buses clogging certain roads in the town.

Each year on 12 October (unless this is a Sunday, in which case 11 October) Stratford hosts one of the largest Mop Fairs in the country. Then, on the second Saturday following, the smaller Runaway Mop fair is held.

Henley Street

Although Henley Street is one of the oldest streets in Stratford-upon-Avon, much of its architecture dates from the Victorian period. The building that in 1576 John Shakespeare bought a half-timbered which was a Victorian pub called the Swan and Maidenhead until the end of the 19th century when Edward Gibbs 'renovated' the building to represent the farm house that was typical of the Tudor style of architecture of its day, which, in 1564 became the birthplace of his son William Shakespeare. Adjacent to Shakespeare's Birthplacemarker stands the Shakespeare Centre, completed in 1964 and not far from the Carnegie Library, which was completed in 1905.

The large half-timbered building, now nos. 19, 20 and 21, was formerly the White Lion Inn. It is first mentioned in 1603 (Book of Orders (Misc. Corporation Rec. unbound, xli, no. 2).From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.) and was adjoined on the east by a smaller inn called the 'Swan'. In 1745 the latter was purchased by John Payton, who also acquired the 'Lion' five years later and rebuilt the whole premises on a greatly enlarged scale. (Cal. of Trust Title Deeds, no. 147. In 1746 Payton contracted with Richard Salmon to sink a vault beneath the 'Swan' From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.) The work was completed by James Collins of Birmingham, builder, in 1753. (Contract, Trust Title Deeds, no. 167.From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.) Payton 'brought the house into great vogue' (Graves, The Spiritual Quixote, bk. xii, ch. 10. Byng, however, in 1792 complains that 'at the noted White Lion, I met with nothing but incivility': Torrington Diaries (ed. Andrews), iii, 152.From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.) which continued under his son John; and its reputation as one of the best inns on the Holyhead road must have contributed not a little to the prosperity of the town. Garrick stayed at the 'White Lion' during the Jubilee of 1769 (Saunders MSS. 82, fol. 20From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.) and George IV, as Prince Regent, visited it when he came to Stratford in 1806. (G. 586–7) Its great days came to an end after John Payton the younger sold it to Thomas Arkell in 1823.

From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.

Henley Street is now a major tourist and shopping area for the town, with many pavement cafes and street entertainers.

Sheep Street

Sheep Street runs from Ely Street eastwards to the Waterside. It was a residential quarter in the 16th century, but none of its buildings is earlier than the fire of 1595. Number 40, formerly a two storey building that was extended in the early twentieth century has a lower story of substantial close-set studding on modern high stone foundations: the upper is of more widely spaced thin vertical timbers, and was rebuilt after the fire of 1614. From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 23 August 2009.From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 12 June 2009.

As the name suggests Sheep Street, which leads down from the Town Hall to Waterside and the RST, was from early times and until the late 19th century, the area where sheep, brought from the neighbouring Cotswold Hillsmarker, were slaughtered and butchered. Today it is the restaurant centre of the town. Sheep Street also has some long established ladies 'gown' shops.

The Shrieves House is one of the oldest still lived in houses in the town and Shakespeare is said to have based his character of Sir John Falstaff on one of the residents, his godson's uncle. Oliver Cromwell is thought to have stayed here in 1651, before the second battle of Worcestermarker, but there is little supporting evidence.From: 'The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945), pp. 221-234. URL: Date accessed: 12 June 2009.

Behind The Shrieves House is a museum called "Tudor World" with recreations of 16th century life in theatrical settings.

Waterside & Southern Lane

This area of Stratford, which runs from the foot of Bridge Street to Holy Trinity Church (and leads directly off Sheep Street and Scholars Lane) runs alongside the River Avon and offers access to the Waterside Theatremarker and all areas of the RST. The RST is currently undergoing great renovation works, including work to the Bancroft Gardens at the front of the main RST building.

The Bancroft Gardens run from Waterside to the River Avon and include a canal basin. During the summer months there are often street performers performing to the public on the lawns.


Stratford is also home to several institutions set up for the study of Shakespeare, including the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which holds books and documents related to the playwright, and the Shakespeare Institute.

A notable school in Stratford is King Edward VI schoolmarker, which is where William Shakespeare is believed to have studied. It is an all-boys school, and one of the few remaining grammar schools in England, selecting its pupils exclusively using the Eleven plus examination. There is also an all-girls grammar school, Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girlsmarker, colloquially known as 'Shottery School' after its location in the village of Shotterymarker, a short distance from the town centre. Finally, there is a non-selective secondary school, Stratford-upon-Avon High Schoolmarker, formerly known as the Hugh Clopton Secondary Modern School, which was demolished to make way for the new high school. There are no independent secondary schools in the town. There are numerous primary schools in the town, both state and independent, as well as Stratford-upon-Avon Collegemarker.


Notable people

With the RSC in the town many famous actors have at some point lived or stayed in the town or surround villages. Some of these include,

Other notable residents include,

  • J. B. Priestley died here.
  • Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, served with the RAF at Stratford-upon-Avon during the 1940s. Clarke later wrote the short story "The Curse", which takes place in a post-apocalyptic Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • Former Secretary of State for War John Profumo was the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1950s.
  • From 1901 to 1924, the romantic novelist Marie Corelli, real name Minnie Mackay, daughter of Charles Mackay, made her home, with her companion Miss Vyver, at Mason's Croft, Church Street, Stratford.
  • English footballer Dion Dublin, who has played for both Manchester United and Aston Villa, and his national team, lives with his wife and family in Stratford.
  • Members of indie bands Klaxons and Pull Tiger Tail all grew up and went to schools in Stratford before they moved to New Crossmarker, London.
  • W. W. Quatremain, local landscape painter.
  • Gordon Ramsay, noted celebrity chef, and star of several cooking related shows, moved to Stratford-Upon-Avon with his family in 1976 when he was ten years old.


Town twinning


  1. Stratford-on-Avon District Council: Living in the District

External links

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