STRATFORD-ON-AVON - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868
"STRATFORD-ON-AVON, a borough in the parish of Old Stratford, Stratford division of Barlichway hundred, county Warwick, 8 miles S.W. of Warwick, and 94 from London by road. It is a station on the junction line of the Great Western with the West Midland railways, and there is a goods line from the termination of the canal to near Morton-in-the-Marsh, in Gloucestershire, and is favourably situated for trade on the right bank of the Avon, which here becomes navigable, and at the junction of the Stratford-on-Avon canal. The Roman Fosse Way passed in the vicinity, whence a branch road to Alcester struck across the river by the town. In the 7th century it was the site of a monastery, and was presented by Æthelard the Saxon to the bishops of Worcester, who, after the Norman Conquest, obtained several charters from the earlier Plantagenet kings, conferring on the town the privilege of a weekly market and five annual fairs. In the reign of Edward VI. the then Bishop of Worcester exchanged the manor away to the Dudley's. Shakspeare was born herein 1564, and died in 1616. In the reign of Elizabeth the town was twice much ravaged by fire. During the civil war of Charles I. the town was taken from the Royalists by Lord Brooke in 1642, but was recovered by Queen Henrietta Maria in the following year, when she was received at New Place by Shakespeare's daughter Susannah, then Mrs. Hall. In the reign of Charles II. the manor was granted to the Sackvilles, and New Place having reverted to the Cloptons, was by them rebuilt; but in 1756, the property having been purchased by one Francis Gastrell, a clergyman, he cut down the famous mulberry-tree planted by Shakspeare, under which Sir Hugh Clopton in 1742 had entertained Garrick, Delany, and Macklin, and in 1759 razed the house. In 1769 a festival termed "the Jubilee" was celebrated at Stratford in honour of Shakspeare, under the direction of Garrick; and in 1864, being the tri-centenary anniversary of the poet's birth, another jubilee was held. The London road crosses the Avon by a stone bridge 1,128 feet long, built on pointed arches in the reign of Henry VII., at the sole charge of Sir Hugh Clopton, Lord Mayor of London, and recently widened. A little below it is the rail-road bridge, and at the S. end of the town is a wooden bridge for foot-passengers only. The streets are irregularly laid out, but in general clean, well paved, and lighted with gas. The houses are of various dates, including specimens of domestic architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries. The public buildings are the townhall, erected in 1768, with the statue of Shakspeare, presented by Garrick, in a niche on the northern front, and in the principal hall, which is 60 feet by 30, are portraits of Shakspeare by Benjamin Wilson and one of Garrick by Gainsborough; and the guildhall, which anciently belonged to the guild of the Holy Cross, founded in 1269 by Robert de Stratford, but was forfeited to the crown on the Dissolution, and given to the town by Edward VI., has an oak roof; the lower part is used for the business of the corporation, and the upper part is occupied by the grammar school. Adjoining the hall are the residence of the vicar, who also officiates as chaplain, and the ancient chapel of the guild, still used as a chapel-of-ease, having been founded by Sir Hugh Clopton in the reign of Henry VII. Next in point of interest are the Shakspeare Rooms, built within the precincts of Shakespeare's garden, where the county court is held, and theatrical performances take place. There are also a market-house, erected in 1821 on the site of the old market-cross, a public library and reading-rooms, a savings-bank, two branch banks, a dispensary and infirmary containing 16 beds, and Shakespeare's House in Henley-street, bought in 1849 by the Shakspeare Club. Among the other noteworthy objects in Stratford and its vicinity is a curious old half-timber house in the High-street; and the old thatched cottage of the Hathaways, in the adjoining parish of Shottery, about 1 mile to the W. of the town of Stratford, is yet shown as the place where Anne Hathaway lived before she married Shakspeare. A few miles higher up the Avon is Charlecote House, the seat of the Lucys; and about 3 miles S.W. of the town is the hamlet of Luddington, where are the ruins of a chapel. The Spa, a mineral spring, is in the township of Bishopton, about 2¼ miles from the town. Malting is carried on and tarpaulins are made. The town was first chartered by Edward VI., and under the Municipal Corporation Act is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 town councillors, assisted by a chamberlain, with the style of "mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of the borough of Stratford-on-Avon". The municipal revenue is about £2,100. The sanitary arrangements are under a local board of health. Stratford is a polling-place for the southern division of the county of Warwick, and seat of a Poor-law Union embracing 36 parishes and townships. Petty sessions are held for the borough at the townhall, and by the county magistrates at the new county petty sessions house. It is also the seat of a new County Court and superintendent registry. The living is a vicarage* with the curacy of St. James the Great annexed, in the diocese of Worcester, value £239. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, old and once collegiate, is situated at the south-eastern corner of the town, close to the bank of the Avon. There are several carved stalls, a piscina, two carved stone pulpits, and tombs, including that of the great poet, whose remains are buried in the chancel on the N. side, and are covered with a slab bearing the well-known lines. The monument against the wall is surmounted by a half-length bust of Shakspeare, by G. Johnson, originally coloured. Here also are the tombs of his wife Anne Hathaway, of his daughter Susannah, and of his friend John Combe, with an effigy; also several monuments of the Cloptons, which were originally in Becket's Chapel, afterwards Combe's House, and which was taken down in 1800. The other churches are Holy Trinity, once the chapel of the "Holie Crosse", and which has, under the plaster, 11 curious frescoes of the legend of the Cross; the church of St. James the Great, erected in 1855 at the N. end of the town; and the district church of Bishopton, about 2 miles W. of the town, recently rebuilt in place of the old chapel of St. Peter. The benefice of St. Peter's is a perpetual curacy, value £25, in the patronage of the vicar. The Roman Catholics have a chapel recently erected, and there are chapels for Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Independents, and Baptists. The free grammar school, at which Shakspeare is supposed to have been educated, was founded in 1482 by Thomas Jolliffe or Jolyfe, a native of the town, was refounded by Edward VI., and was remodelled by order of the Court of Chancery in 1843, when a second master was appointed; the school is now attended by about 50 boys, being free to children of residents in the borough. There are spacious National schools erected in 1846, also British and Sunday schools. The town charities produce about £900 per annum, of which £700 is the endowment of the grammar school and almshouses for 24 poor men and women, and are managed by 12 trustees. Archbishop John de Stratford, who died in 1348, his brother Bishop Robert, and his nephew Bishop Ralph, were born here. Market day is on Friday, chiefly for corn and cattle. Fairs are held on fixed days in each month, except August and November, for horses, cattle, and cheese, and statute fairs on the day after Old Michaelmas and the second Friday after 12th October."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of
Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]