Stratford-upon-Avon Birthplace of Shakespeare
Stratford-upon-Avon is a town on the River Avon in south Warwickshire, England. In 2001 the town had a population of 23,676.
The town is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and because of its Shakespearean connections the area is a popular tourist destination, receiving about three million visitors a year from all over the world.
The local district is named after the town, but the district is called Stratford-on-Avon, whereas the town is officially called Stratford-upon-Avon. Locally, the town is known as Stratford for short, and as such can be confused with the Stratford in the London Borough of Newham.
The town is located on the Avon, on the banks of which stands the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC also runs two smaller theatres, the Swan, which is modelled on an Elizabethan theatre, and The Other Place, a black box theatre. There is currently also the temporary Courtyard Theatre, opened in July 2006, which will become the home of the RSC while the RST is being refurbished, beginning in mid-2007. Early in 2006 The Other Place temporarily ceased to exist because the space it occupied is being used as the Courtyard Theatre’s foyer space, cloakroom, bar areas, dressing room and rehearsal space. The Other Place will be reinstated after the RST refurbishment is complete and the Courtyard Theatre is dismantled.
Other tourist attractions within the town include the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and two contemporary buildings, Hall’s Croft (the one-time home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susannah) and New Place, which stands on the site of an earlier house originally owned by the playwright himself. Also within the town is Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptised and is buried.
Near to the town are several other properties associated with Shakespeare: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage at Shottery, the former home of Shakespeare’s wife, Mary Arden’s House, the former home of his mother, and farms and buildings at Snitterfield, the former home of his father.
Non-Shakespearean attractions include a Teddy Bear Museum, a Butterfly Farm, a Witchcraft Exhibition, the Bancroft Gardens, and The Black Swan (locally known as the ‘Dirty Duck’), a pub said to be frequented by actors ‘fresh from the stage’.
A great way to see all that Stratford has to offer is by taking the award winning Stratford Town Walk. A daily guided walk around the historic streets that is entertaining and informative. The walk passes the 3 Shakespeare Houses, Theatres, Holy Trinity Church and much more. Hear stories of fires, flooding, the plague, medieval cures and the origins of old fashioned sayings.
Also, the award winning Stratford Town Ghost Walk is a walk around the historic streets in Stratford – guided by members of Equity the professional entertainers association, and professional magicians. You will hear grisly tales of ghosts, witches, murder and mayhem. Be afraid, very afraid. Every Mon, Thur and Frid at 7.30pm from the Swan Fountain in Waterside. Due to the popularity, places must be booked in advance by telephone on 01789 292478.
An attraction with a difference. A Ghost Cruise on the River Avon with the Man in Black. As you cruise along the River enjoy stories of rats, ghosts, witches and murder from Stratford and further afield. Mini bar on board. Cruises operate monthly during the summer and close to Halloween. Run by Stratford Town Ghost Walk and Bancroft Cruises.
For evening entertainment, the Original Ghost Walk of Stratford . This walk takes place every Friday evening – whatever the weather and starts outside the Witchcraft Exhibition in Henley Street.
Six kilometers away is Charlecote Park, an historic house set in a deer park, from where Shakespeare reputedly poached deer.
Eight miles away is Ragley Hall, one of England’s finest stately homes and home to the Jerwood Sculpture Park.
The town had a publicly-funded art gallery, The Gallery, but this was closed in 2004.
The influx of tourists into Stratford has caused tension with residents for decades, and there are perennial complaints about numerous tour buses clogging certain roads in the town.
There are plans to refurbish the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and to build offices and flats on the defunct cattle market next to the railway station.
Each year on or about Michaelmas Day Stratford hosts one of the largest Mop Fairs in the country.
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