Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire – Holy Trinity church

february c 178Stratford-upon-Avon – Holy Trinity church – SP202544. Excellent website. I have been moaning about the lack of guidebooks. This church has a shop, guides galore, and the above book – £25. I didn’t pay £25 for it – it was a lot cheaper at the Bloxham Festival. So I now have to summarise 160 pages of book into one blog! Val Horsley, et al, Shakespeare’s Church: a parish for the world, London: Third Millennium Publishing, 2010

3-d_shakespeare_web_res_largeThe first mention of a church on this site next to the Avon is in a Charter of 845 signed by Beorthwulf, King of Mercia. A wooden church would have been replaced by Norman stone. By 1196, in the reign of Richard I, the bishop granted permission for a weekly market and the town began to develop. John de Stratford was Archbishop of Canterbury 1333-1348 and Chancellor of England. In 1331 he had founded and endowed a chantry chapel dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury – work for a warden, sub-warden and three priests. A century later boy choristers were added. At the Reformation it was worth £123 11s 9d, and the church went back to simply being the parish church of the town. It is fascinating to think about the changes the Reformation made in the fabric of our churches and the fabric of people’s lives – and how a Stratford playwright lived with, and wrote about, it. A plug for Julie’s talk on “Exploring Spirituality: William Shakespeare” in Ponteland on Wednesday 20 April 2016. We’ll combine this with an Evening of Railway Films, a Choral Evensong with words and music from his time, and an Evening’s Entertainment. Details here.

february c 237They are currently working to build new toilets on the south side, so disabled access isn’t easy. They were helpful as we entered through the porch, admiring the christening in the window, and were welcomed inside.

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Dressing up clothes for the children. A lot of Victorian glass. Impressive organ pipes over the west end, and carved angels high in the roof.

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february c 232On the south are various military memorials and a rather nice sedilia (a Victorian replica).

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This monument tells the story of Lieut Duncan Flower Cunningham Reid. “He served in the Great European War from August 1914. In Oct. 1915 he attached to the R.F.C. and on Dec. 19th 1915 was killed in an aerial battle over Oostcamp, Belgium, 60 miles beyond our lines fighting alone. For half an hour surrounded by German aeroplanes one of which he brought down thereby saving the lives of the 2 men in the machine he was guarding, thus enabling them to get back with their information. The enemy sent words of admiration for his “most gallant fight” and buried him with military honours.” There is more information about him here.

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Although I like the pulpit fall, the pulpit does not do much for me. It was the gift of Sir Theodore Martin in honour of his wife, the Shakespearean actress Helen Faucit, who died in 1898 – website. It cost him £1,000 but the vicar, George Arbthnot, disapproved of the design and refused to attend the service when it was dedicated. Apparently the face of St Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is the face of Helen. One church authority wrote the pulpit “not such as the canons of good taste would have selected, which is the more to be deplored since the offering was a costly one and a memorial to a distinguished lady” (quoted in Horsley).

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They ask you to pay £3 to go into the Quire, which is quite reasonable since that is what most people come to see. The stewards were very pleasant. Here is the view back into the Nave. Some very good banners linking Shakespeare to present day life and faith.

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The Misericords are lovely, and I have only photoed some of them. They are probably mid-C15 and each was carved out of a solid block of oak. “The graphic carvings on the misericords would have been among the most vivid images witnessed by the young William Shakespeare as he wandered around his parish church. In a provincial town where all wall paintings and religious statuary had been removed they would have made a strong impression on any imaginative young boy. Did the lolling tongue of the scold and the vivid picture of a scold’s bridle set up a chain of wondering that led to The Taming of the Shrew? Did the faces appearing out of flowers emerge in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? They certainly would have formed part of Shakespeare’s experience of worshipping in Holy Trinity, and their robust and fanciful imagery may well have played its part in fuelling the ideas that were forming in his head” (Horsler, page 68).

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So now let us do the real touristy bit. William was probably buried here because he could afford to be. He died in 1616 and it is known that both gravestone and monument were in place seven years later. It is supposed to have been the work of Gheerart Janssen, whose workshop was in Southwark near the Globe Theatre. The lines on his gravestone were first transcribed in 1634.

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare

To dig the dust encloased heare

Bleste be ye man yt spares these stones,

And curst be he yt moves my bones.

This year they are about to use ground-penetrating radar – bbc website.

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Next to William is the memorial to Richard and Judith Combe. “She tooke her last leave of this life, the 17th day of August 1649, in ye arms of him, who most entirely loved and was beloved of her even to ye very death.” The tomb below them is that of Thomas Balsall. He rebuilt the Chancel is the 1480s. In the SE corner a memorial to J. Kendall. In any other church I would have nipped over the altar rail and got a closer photo, but I didn’t think I could do that here!

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The original font that Shakespeare was baptised in is here. It was removed in 1747 and ended up being used as a water cistern and cattle trough, until reinstalled in the 1860s.

february c 217The sedilia here is medieval, and one of them contains a face of Christ in the canopy. This was obviously missed by those chiselling away such pre-Reformation work.

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Victorian stained glass and a rather nice arch over the old door.

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On the north east side of the church is the Clopton Chapel. Sadly it was not open – which is a shame as I would have loved a better chance to photo these wonderful tombs. The tomb on the left of the chapel is of William Clopton (died 1592) and his wife Anne (died 1596). They lie together – he is a gentleman in armour, with his sword at his right and his resting on a helmet, she wears a ruff and long gown with a pomander ball on her chest. On the wall above it is a memorial to their seven children, three of whom died in infancy (+) and are depicted in their swaddling clothes. Their names are Elizabeth+, Ludowicke+, Joyce, Margaret, William+, Anne and William. Their final child, William, also died young, as did Margaret, so the estate passed to Joyce and Anne.

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Joyce is buried with her husband in the huge tomb behind. He was George Carew who had a distinguished career under three monarchs, becoming Baron Clopton and Earl of Totnes. He was King James I’s Master of the Ordnance, and died in London on 27 March 1629 aged 73. More about him at here. Joyce lived to the age of 78 and died in 1637. She was “the most sorrowful widow of the dearest and best meriting man.”

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A church with so many wonderful memories, and a marvellous ministry.

february c 238The book ends with a note “Many people come to Holy Trinity looking for Shakespeare. We hope that they leave having found something of God.” We did!

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2 Responses to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire – Holy Trinity church

  1. Mike Thomas says:


    May I use one of your images for a Youtube video please?

    The image in question is the one of the chancel showing the old charnel door. This is set in the north wall I believe.


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