Holy Trinity Church
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:
GOOD FREND FOR IESUS SAKE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE.
BLESTE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES,
AND CVRST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.
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.
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
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
From Wikipedia, click on the plan to
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
Location: Holy Trinity Church,
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.
page of the church history and contents now
Page on William Shakespeare
Other Useful Websites:
friends of the
Stratford on Avon
Address: Holy Trinity Church Parish
Stratford upon Avon,
Telephone: 01789 266316.
Hours: Mon - Fri 10am-1pm except public holidays
Spring/Autumn Opening Hours (March and
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
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
Stratford on Avon
Butterfly Farm, Warwickshire
Other Location Pages:
List of all Anglican
cathedrals and other major Anglican churches in the UK
including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and
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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