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Holy Trinity Church

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Location Guide

The burial place of William Shakespeare, its said to be Britons most visited Parrish church. More than 200,000 tourists visit the church each year.

It is said that Shakespeare's body is buried 20 feet (approx. 7 metres) deep to prevent its theft. Above the grave, a badly eroded stone slab displays his epitaph:


On the closure of the College by Henry VIII the tithe (tax) income privileges were sold off. The duty of employing a Priest and looking after the Chancel went with the privileges. A share in them was purchased in 1605 for £440 by the son of a local glove-maker, one William Shakespeare. This, and not his ability as a poet and playwright, gave him the right of burial in the chancel. Until the 1790`s there stood a charnel house to the south of the chancel. Here the bones of those dug up to make room for new graves were laid to rest. Shakespeare obviously didn't like this idea and had a curse put on his grave slab - not at all uncommon at the time.

He was baptised in Holy Trinity on 26 April 1564 and was buried there on 25 April 1616. The church still possesses the original Elizabethan register giving details of his baptism and burial, though it is kept by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for safekeeping. He is buried in the beautiful 15th-century chancel built by Thomas Balsall, Dean of the Collegiate Church, who was buried within it in 1491.


Shakespeare would have come to Holy Trinity every week when he was in town, i.e. all through his childhood and on his return to live at New Place. His wife Anne Hathaway is buried next to him along with his eldest daughter Susanna. The church witnessed a sad episode shortly before Shakespeare's death.


The day after Shakespeare signed his Last Will and Testament on 25 March 1616 in a 'shaky hand', William's son-in-law, Thomas Quiney was found guilty in the church court of fathering an illegitimate son by a Margaret Wheler who had recently died in childbirth. Quiney was ordered to do public penance within the church. The distress and shame for the Shakespeare family must have been immense. Within a month Shakespeare was dead and his funeral and burial being held at Holy Trinity on 25 April 1616.

He was 52 when he died.

Photo by Lindsay Dearing

Its history

Prior to the current church there was a Saxon monastery on this site, that I haven't yet found anything about. The present building dates from 1210. It is the towns oldest building, in a striking position on the banks of the River Avon.

Holy Trinity contains many interesting features, including:

  • A 14th-century sanctuary knocker in the church's porch (built c. 1500)
  • Twenty-six misericord seats in the chancel, with religious, secular and mythical carvings
  • Several large stained glass windows featuring major English and Biblical saints at the church's east and west ends.
The church is laid out like many others pointing east'ish, but its design shows the switch at some point, from  the dedication of one saint to another or some other change in dates, that has resulted in a change of angle, facing the rising sun on a different date. This is likely to show inside as a different period of architecture.

With many rebuilds, for example both Winchester and Wells cathedral, remains of the foundations of older cathedrals show the change of angle on a new rebuild, where funds did not allow the whole building to be pulled down and rebuilt, many have just changed the angle as new sections have been added, or by redeveloping one part as in this case. As this occurred earlier rather than later, this may indicate an older history than we know about for this site.

From Wikipedia, click on the plan to
see larger version, there is no key.

The Birthday Weekend

Each year, on the Saturday closest to St. George's Day, Holy Trinity plays host to a marvellous pageant as thousands process through the town to lay flowers on Shakespeare's grave. The procession is led by the boys of the King Edward VI Grammar School (where he was educated). It includes children from the other local schools, representatives from just about every other organisation in the town, members of the company of the RSC, ambassadors from dozens of countries and perplexed tourists who have just stumbled upon it! All file through the church with their floral tributes, to the ringing of the bells and music from the organ. The following day, many of them re-assemble to remember William Shakespeare and to give thanks to God for his life and work at the annual Shakespeare Service.

The second church

Stratford upon Avon has another medieval church building near the town centre. This is the Chapel of the Guild of the Holy Cross, founded in 1269 and rebuilt by Sir Hugh Clopton at the turn of the sixteenth century. The Guild was suppressed in 1547 and the entire estates, chapel included, were vested in the town. The tower contains two bells. The larger (27-3-2) was cast by Hugh Watts as a curfew bell on July 10th 1633. This we know because two councillors were dispatched to Leicester to see it done! There are a large number of initials inscribed upon it, said to be those of members of the Corporation of that year. The smaller (3-0-0) was cast by Robert Wells in 1782, a fire bell (part of the present school was once used as a fire station). Both were re-hung by Taylors in 1992. The smaller is electrically chimed as a service bell. The larger is struck by the clock and still sounds the curfew each night at eight o’clock by electric swing chiming.

Location: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Grid Reference: SP201542 Ceremonial County: Warwickshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo: Google   Multimap

Getting there: near river, in centre of town, see map. Don't confuse with second church in town centre.

Access: Park and walk. Parking is quite pricey in Stratford on Avon. Tour buses take people around the area and you can get on and off at each location.

Website: Own         information page of the church history and contents now

Page on William Shakespeare

Other Useful Websites: wiKi     friends of the church

Tourism in Stratford on Avon 

Email: office@stratford-upon-avon.org
Address: Holy Trinity Church Parish office, Old Town, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire,
Postcode: CV37 6BG

Telephone: 01789 266316.

Office Hours: Mon - Fri 10am-1pm except public holidays

Opening Times:

Spring/Autumn Opening Hours (March and October)

Monday-Saturday: 9am - 5pm   and  Sunday: 12.30pm - 5pm

Summer opening hours (April-September)

Monday-Saturday: 8.30am - 6pm   and   Sunday: 12.30 pm - 5 pm

Winter opening hours (November-February)
Monday-Saturday: 9 am - 4pm  and   Sunday: 12.30 pm - 5 pm

Events list that may relate to services and closures for special events can be seen by clicking here, guided tours are also listed. £2 adults, £1 students.

Charges: Admission to the church is usually free, except for advertised concerts and exhibitions.

Nearby Locations: Shakespeare properties and RS theatre

Stratford on Avon Butterfly Farm, Warwickshire

Other Location Pages:

List of all Anglican cathedrals and other major Anglican churches in the UK

Abbey section, including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and history.


Can be photographed from other side of river.

Stratford upon Avon has many attractions, river, canal, scenic setting, boat rides, so make a day of longer and get to see far more.

Page Ref: Holy_Trinity_Stratford-upon-Avon

Classification: Abbeys (incl. all Christian buildings)

Date Updated: 09/2008

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