Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stratford upon Avon

Executive summary by darmansjah

Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, 22 miles (35 km) south east of Birmingham and 8 miles (13 km) south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the non-metropolitan district Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" rather than "upon" to distinguish it from the town itself. Four electoral wards make up the urban town of Stratford; Alveston, Avenue and New Town, Mount Pleasant and Guild and Hathaway. The estimated total population for those wards in 2007 was 25,505.

The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, receiving about 3 million visitors a year from all over the world.The Royal Shakespeare Company resides in Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Theatre, one of Britain's most important cultural venues.

The regular large influx of tourists is the major source of the town's prosperity. In 2010 the District Council spent £298,000 on tourism promotion and supports an official open-top tour bus service. In 2010 Stratford-on-Avon District Council launched a re-branded official tourism website for the Stratford area called Discover Stratford after opening a new tourist information centre on Henley Street in May 2010, which has since moved back to the original location on Bridgefoot.

The first real theatre in Stratford was a temporary wooden affair built in 1769 by the actor David Garrick for his Shakespeare Jubilee celebrations of that year to mark Shakespeare's birthday. The theatre, built not far from the site of the present Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 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 Place home in the early 19th century but became derelict by the 1860s.

To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth 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 Theatre. 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 Theatre 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 then 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 Theatre 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 Theatre (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. This has now been turned into the Clore Learning Centre, the Royal Shakespeare Company's education and events venue.

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 Theatre (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 Swan, which is modelled on an Elizabethan theatre (closed in August 2007 as part of plans for refurbishment) and The Other Place theatre, a Black box theatre which was extended to become the temporary RSC Courtyard Theatre, which opened in July 2006. This theatre was the home of the RSC while the RST was being refurbished; its interior is similar to the interior of the refurbished RST. The RST and Swan refurbishment has been completed and the RST and Swan theatres re-opened in November 2010. It is anticipated that the Courtyard Theatre extension may be 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 Croft (the one-time home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, and her husband Dr. John Hall) and Nash's House, which stands alongside the site of another property, New Place, owned by Shakespeare himself, wherein he died. Near to the town are Anne Hathaway's Cottage at Shottery, 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 Snitterfield, that belonged to the family of Shakespeare's father.

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

Non-Shakespearean attractions include the Stratford Butterfly Farm, which is on the eastern side of the river and the Bancroft Gardens and Stratford Armouries located three miles (4.8 km) from the centre of Stratford on Gospel Oak Lane.

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

Henley Street, one of the town's oldest streets, underwent substantial architectural change between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. John Shakespeare's large half-timbered dwelling, purchased by him in 1556, was in 1564 the birthplace of his son William. According to a descriptive placard provided for tourists there,

"The property remained in the ownership of Shakespeare's direct descendants until 1670, when his granddaughter, Elizabeth Barnard, died. As she had no children, Elizabeth left the estate to her relative Thomas Hart, Shakespeare's great-nephew. The main house became a tenanted inn called the Maidenhead (later the Swan and Maidenhead) following the death of John Shakespeare in 1601. Members of the Hart family continued living in the small adjoining cottage throughout the century."

At the end of the 19th century, Edward Gibbs "renovated" the building to more closely represent the original Tudor farmhouse. Adjacent to Shakespeare's Birthplace stands the Shakespeare Centre, completed in 1964 and not far from the Carnegie Library, opened in 1905.

The large half-timbered building which now comprises numbers 19, 20 and 21 was formerly the White Lion Inn. It is first mentioned in 1603. 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.) The work was completed by James Collins of Birmingham, builder, in 1753. (Contract, Trust Title Deeds, no. 167.) Payton "brought the house into great vogue" though Byng in 1792 complained that "at the noted White Lion, I met with nothing but incivility" (cited from Torrington Diaries (ed. Andrews), iii, 152). Payton was succeeded as innkeeper by 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. 20) and George IV, as Prince Regent, visited it when he came to Stratford in 1806. Its great days came to an end after John Payton the younger sold it to Thomas Arkell in 1823.[11] The building is now home to the Enchanted Manor Museum at the Creaky Cauldron and Magic Alley; the Box Brownie Café; Doug Brown's Really Good Gift Company; and the Not Just Shakespeare Tourist Information Centre.

Henley Street is now a major tourist and shopping precinct with many al fresco cafés and street entertainers.

Sheep Street

Sheep Street runs from Ely Street eastwards to the Waterside. It was a residential quarter in the 16th century, some of the buildings were rebuilt following the fire of 1595, although many, such as Number 40, date from 1480. Formerly a two storey building that was extended in the early twentieth century has a lower story of substantial close-set studding: the upper is of more widely spaced thin vertical timbers.

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 Hills, were slaughtered and butchered. Today it is the restaurant centre of the town.

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. He wrote a letter from the town to Lord Wharton on 27 August 1651,[16] before the Battle of Worcester.

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

Just off Sheep Street is Shrieves walk, a very quaint walkway with several small independent stores, including a Vintage Clothing shop.

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 Chapel Lane) runs alongside the River Avon and offers access to the Waterside Theatre and all areas of the RST.

The Bancroft Gardens and river area is a very popular place for people watching, enjoying picnics and river activities. In the summer the River Avon is busy with rowing boats, motor boats and river cruises. The Birmingham to Stratford Canal is busy with colourful narrowboats passing through or mooring up in the canal basin Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. There are often jugglers, fire-eaters and magicians entertaining the public on the lawns. On the edge of the gardens is a water fountain, known as the Swan Fountain. Unveiled in 1996 by the Queen, to recognise that Stratford has been a market town since 1996. It is from here the Stratford Town Walk meet every day (even Christmas Day), to offer a guided walking tour of the town. The tour passes the Shakespeare houses, Royal Shakespeare Theatres, 15th century timber-framed buildings, William Shakespeare's school and visits Holy Trinity Church.


Stratford is 22 miles (35 km) from the UK's second largest city, Birmingham, and is easily accessible from junction 15 of the M40 motorway. The 7 miles (11 km) £12 million Stratford Northern Bypass opened in June 1987 as the A422.

Stratford-upon-Avon railway station has good rail links from Birmingham (Snow Hill station, Moor Street station) and from London, with up to seven direct trains a day from London Marylebone.

Stratford Parkway railway station opened on May 19, 2013 to the north of the town.

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

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

The town has numerous cycle paths, and is the terminus of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal where it meets the Avon. A park and ride scheme was launched in 2006. The Stratford Greenway is a 5 miles (8.0 km) 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 NCR 5 and NCR 41). Starting from town it heads along the river and racecourse towards Welford-on-Avon and Long Marston with a cycle hire and cafe available at the start of the Greenway at Seven Meadows Road.

Birmingham airport is 18 miles (29 km) to the north-west, with scheduled flights to many national and international destinations.

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.

William Shakespeare is believed to have studied at King Edward VI school. 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 Girls, colloquially known as 'Shottery School' after its location in the village of Shottery, a short distance from the town centre. Finally, there is a non-selective secondary school, Stratford-upon-Avon High School, 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, but there are many primary schools, both state and independent, as well as Stratford-upon-Avon College.

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