Powerflush nearby to Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon, also known simply as Stratford, is a market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district, county of Warwickshire, West Midlands, England. It is located on the River Avon, 91 miles (146 kilometres) north of London, 22 miles (35 kilometres) south of Birmingham, and 8 miles (13 kilometres) south of Warwick. In 2020, the population is expected to be 30,824. This is an increase from 27,894 in the 2011 census and 22,338 in the 2001 census.
The town is located in south-central Warwickshire and is the southernmost point of the Arden area on the outskirts of the Cotswolds. Stratford was originally inhabited by Britons prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and remained a village until 1196, when the lord of the manor, John of Coutances, laid out plans to develop it into a town. In the same year, King Richard I granted Stratford a charter to hold a weekly market, establishing the town’s status as a market town. As a result, Stratford saw an increase in trade and commerce, as well as urban growth.
The town is a popular tourist destination because it is the birthplace and final resting place of playwright and poet William Shakespeare, and it receives about 2.7 million visitors each year. The Royal Shakespeare Company is housed in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.
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The origin of the name
The name is a combination of the Old English strt (from Latin stratum), which means’street,’ ford, which indicates a shallow part of a river or stream that can be crossed by walking or driving, and avon, which is the Celtic word for river. The’street’ was a Roman road that connected Alcester’s Icknield Street to the Fosse Way. Clopton Bridge was built on the site of a ford that had been used as a crossing since Roman times. In 1251–52, a survey uses the name Stratford for the first time to distinguish between Old Stratford and the newer manors. Following that, the name was used to describe the area specifically surrounding the Holy Trinity Church and the street of Old Town.
The Stratford area was settled during the Roman period: archaeological remains of three possible Roman settlements, including one at Tiddington, have been discovered within a few miles of modern-day Stratford (now a part of Stratford).
The settlement that became Stratford was first inhabited by Anglo-Saxons after their 7th-century invasion of what would become Warwickshire, but it was then part of the Kingdom of Mercia. It is likely that an Anglo-Saxon monastery existed on the site of what is now Holy Trinity Church, which was built after Egwin, the third Bishop of Worcester, purchased the land (693-714). In 1015, Danish (Viking) invaders most likely destroyed the monastery. Until the 16th century, the land was owned by the Bishops of Worcester. The area around Holy Trinity Church is still referred to as Old Town because it was most likely the original settlement area surrounding the monastery. Later, the settlement’s focus was shifted north, closer to the river crossing, where it was better positioned for trade.
Stratford remained a village until the late 12th century, when the lord of the manor, Bishop John of Coutances, transformed it into a town. In 1196, John laid out a new town plan half a mile (0.8 km) north of the original settlement, based on a grid system, to expand Stratford and allow people to rent property to trade within the town. In addition, King Richard I granted Stratford a charter in 1196 that allowed a weekly market to be held in the town, establishing it as a market town. These two charters, which laid the groundwork for Stratford’s transformation from a village to a town, give the town of Stratford a history of over 800 years.
Stratford became a place of employment for tradesmen and merchants as a result of John’s plans to develop it into a town. By 1252, the town had 240 burgages (town rental properties owned by a king or lord), as well as shops, stalls, and other structures. For their business and religious requirements, Stratford’s new workers formed the Guild of the Holy Cross. The guild grew to be the town’s main institution of local government, and it included the most powerful citizens, who elected officials to oversee local affairs. They built a Guild Chapel in the 13th century, and a Guildhall and almshouses on Church Street around 1417. In the late 13th century, the guild also established an educational institution.
Many of the town’s earliest and most significant structures can be found along Stratford’s Historic Spine, which was once the main route from the town centre to the parish church. The Historic Spine begins in Henley Street at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. It continues through Henley Street to the top of Bridge Street and into High Street, where many Elizabethan structures, including Harvard House, can be found. The path continues down Chapel Street, where Nash’s House and New Place are located. The Historic Spine continues along Church Street, where Guild buildings from the 15th century, as well as 18th- and 19th-century properties, can be found. The route concludes in Old Town, which includes Hall’s Croft and Holy Trinity Church.
During Stratford’s early development as a town, the only way in and out of town was via a wooden bridge, which was first mentioned in 1235. However, due to the rising river, the bridge could not be crossed at times, and antiquarian John Leland described it as “a poor bridge of timber and no causey to it, whereby many poor folks and other refused to come to Stratford when Avon was up, or coming thither stood in jeopardy of life.” Clopton Bridge, named after Hugh Clopton, a wealthy local man who later became Lord Mayor of London, who paid for its construction, was built to replace it in 1484. The new bridge made it easier for people to trade within Stratford and for passing tourists to stay in town.
The Tudor era
During the Tudor period, the mediaeval structures of local governance underwent significant changes: the Guild of the Holy Cross was abolished in 1547 as part of King Edward VI’s suppression of religious guilds, and the people of Stratford petitioned the Crown for a charter of incorporation as a borough, which they received in 1553. This enabled the formation of a new Town Council, which took over the property and responsibilities of the defunct guild. The King Edward VI School was refounded as a result of the Charter of Incorporation.
The Cotswolds, which are close to Stratford, were a major sheep-producing area until the late 1800s, with Stratford serving as one of its main centres for the processing, marketing, and distribution of sheep and wool. As a result, during the 15th–17th centuries, Stratford became a centre for tanning. Stratford was also known for its glove manufacturing industry, which peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries. John Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s father, worked in this trade.
Originally a farmer, John Shakespeare moved to Stratford in 1551 and became a successful glove maker and businessman, as well as a member of the Town Council. In around 1557, he met and married Mary Arden, a member of the local gentry, and they had eight children, including Stratford’s most famous son William Shakespeare in 1564, who is thought to have been born in the house now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
From the 17th century to the present, Stratford was a hub of activity and some fighting during the English Civil War. It was strategically important for both the Royalist and Parliamentarian armies due to its location at the crossroads of several major roads. Because of its proximity to the Parliamentarian stronghold of Warwick, Stratford remained under Parliamentarian control for the majority of the conflict, albeit only at sporadic intervals. Stratford was occupied by Royalist forces led by Colonel Wagstaffe in February 1643, but was recaptured by Parliamentarians led by Lord Brooke on 25 February after an engagement on the nearby road to Warwick. Brooke returned to Warwick after securing the town. In one notable incident, in February 1643, Stratford’s Market Hall (on the current site of the Town Hall) was destroyed when three barrels of gunpowder stored there blew up. Stratford appears to have been continuously occupied by Parliamentarian troops from March 1644 until part of the following year. However, there was one more Royalist raid in April 1645. Stratford was visited by a number of famous people during the war, including: In April 1643, Prince Rupert passed through, and in July, he met Queen Henrietta Maria, who was passing through the Midlands, and she was the honorary guest of Susanna Hall, Shakespeare’s granddaughter, at New Place. Oliver Cromwell visited Stratford twice, once in December 1646 and again in 1651, just before the Battle of Worcester.
Despite its increased trade, Stratford grew slowly between the middle of the 13th century and the end of the 16th century, with a survey of the town in 1590 showing 217 houses belonged to the lord of the manor. Growth remained slow throughout the 17th century, with hearth tax returns indicating that the town had a maximum of 429 houses by 1670. However, more substantial development began after several enclosure acts in the late 18th century, with the first and largest development by John Payton, who developed land on the north side of the old town, creating several streets including John Street and Payton Street.
In 1769, the actor David Garrick staged a three-day Shakespeare Jubilee, which included the construction of a large rotunda and a large influx of visitors. This contributed to the growing phenomenon of Bardolatry, which turned Stratford into a tourist attraction.
Stratford was an important gateway to the network of British canals prior to the dominance of road and rail. In 1639, the River Avon was made navigable through Stratford by the construction of locks and weirs, providing Stratford with a navigable link to the River Severn to the south-west and to near Warwick to the north-east. This allowed, in the words of Daniel Defoe, “a very great Trade for Sugar, Oil, Wine, Tobacco, Iron, Lead, and in a word, all heavy goods which are carried by water almost as far as Warwick; The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was built between 1793 and 1816, connecting the Avon at Stratford with Birmingham. By the early nineteenth century, Stratford was a thriving inland port and important trade centre, with numerous canal and river wharves along what is now Bancroft Gardens.
Stratford did not become a major industrial centre during the industrial revolution, but some industries did emerge locally: in 1831, Edward Fordham Flower opened a large canal-side brewery in Stratford; the Flower & Sons Brewery, on Clopton Road, lasted until 1967, when it was purchased by Whitbread. Several lime kilns were built in the area, and the production of tarpaulin and oilcloth flourished. The introduction of rail transport in the middle of the century resulted in a significant decline in river and canal transport, and the Avon navigation through Stratford was abandoned in 1875. Almost a century later, in 1974, it was restored as a navigation by volunteers.
The Stratford and Moreton Tramway opened in Stratford in 1826: it was a horse-drawn wagonway 16 miles (26 km) long, intended to transport goods between the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, the rural districts of south Warwickshire, and Moreton-in-Marsh. By the early 1900s, the tramway had fallen out of use, and the tracks were removed in 1918. The Tramway Bridge over the Avon, a brick arch bridge that now carries pedestrians, is a surviving remnant of this.
The first steam railway to reach Stratford was an extension of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway from Honeybourne to the south, which opened on July 12, 1859. This was quickly followed by the Stratford on Avon Railway’s northern branch from Hatton, which opened on October 9, 1860. Both branches had separate termini at first, but they quickly agreed to join the two branches and open the current railway station, which opened on July 24, 1861. Both branches were later taken over by the Great Western Railway (GWR). Stratford’s connection to the expanding national railway network aided in the development of the modern tourism industry.
Edward Fordham Flower and his son Charles Edward Flower, owners of a local brewery and important figures in local affairs, contributed to Victorian Stratford’s growth as a tourist destination: In 1879, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened on the banks of the Avon thanks to their campaigning and fundraising efforts. The original theatre was destroyed by fire in 1926, and its replacement was completed in 1932 to the designs of Elisabeth Scott, making it the first significant building in the United Kingdom to be built from the designs of a woman architect.
The old borough of Stratford was abolished in 1974 and merged into the much larger Stratford-on-Avon District, with the borough’s area becoming a successor parish with a Town Council.
Stratford is located 22 miles (35 kilometres) south-east of Birmingham. It is near the northern edge of the Cotswolds, with Chipping Campden ten miles (16 kilometres) to the south. Stratford is about 6 miles (9.7 km) north-east of the Worcestershire and Gloucestershire borders. Other notable towns and villages in the area include Alcester, Wellesbourne, Evesham, Reddich, and Henley-in-Arden.
Because of its proximity to the River Avon, Stratford is vulnerable to flooding, including flash floods.
Stratford has several suburbs: the town’s urban area includes the contiguous sub-villages of Alveston, Shottery, and Tiddington, which were formerly independent but now form part of the civil parish of Stratford, as well as Bishopton, Bridge Town, Clopton, and Old Town.