Since its foundation in 2003, the Friends of Shakespeare’s Church has raised over £1.2 million towards the conservation of the church and we have committed to raise a further £1 million over the next 5 years.
Projects which have been successfully funded to date include (click on the project and find our more):
Repairs made to the Chancel parapet and new grotesques erected
Repairs to the chancel have had an exciting history. Four hundred years ago Shakespeare, as a Lay Rector, was responsible for maintaining the roof of the chancel. History does not reveal whether he did a good job. But the first major project of the Friends was on the chancel; perhaps to put right some aspects that Shakespeare missed!
In 2003 the newly formed Friends received their charity status. It was an enormous challenge to raise funds for the crumbling and dangerous chancel parapet. The Trustees felt humbled as they witnessed a cascade of generous donations. Work began, with a £70,000 grant from the Friends, and then stopped as death watch beetle and dry rot were discovered. A further grant of £45,000 followed. Then in December 2004, we had a rainproof chancel for the first time in many years. As an added bonus there were four new grotesques carved from Woodkirk stone on the south chancel parapet. It was a glorious start.
Church Tower and Spire
Christmas 2007 saw the stunning and essential restoration of the Stratford landmark that is the tower and spire of Holy Trinity Church. For almost a year the tower had been shrouded in scaffolding while skilled conservationists repaired or replaced crumbling stonework. For a time, it seemed there would not be sufficient funds to complete the work. It was described as a time of crisis. Could funds be found to finish all the restoration before the scaffolding had to be removed?
Energetic fundraising followed. This and a grant from Stratford-upon-Avon Town Trust enabled the Friends to deliver the £320,000 needed for the work to be completed on time. The yellow Hornton ashlar masonry was repaired or replaced and a consolidating weather coat was applied to all the stonework. “The tower and spire “seem to have a new magnificence,” said then Friends’ Chairman, Dr Philip Cheshire. The cross and weathervane on top of the spire were also repaired and the golden orb regilded thanks to a generous donation to the Friends from Bill Hicks, a trustee of FOSC.
Cross, orb and weathervane on top of the Church spire repaired
For 400 years the 6ft high cross on the outside the chancel had stood overlooking the river Avon as a testament to the Christianity in Stratford-upon-Avon. Forty years ago, the original cross was considered unsafe and was taken down. Somehow the eastern end of the chancel seemed incomplete without the cross. But that all changed thanks to a generous legacy from the late Mrs Beryl Winter.
Thus, it was on Tuesday 3rd February 2004 that we were able to mark an important stage in the restoration work. A new cross, a copy of the original, was fixed into place. We were determined that this time, it would remain in place for the next four hundred years. Modern building technology was there to help. A two-meter long stainless steel rod was drilled one metre deep into the historic plinth and secured with epoxy resin. Of course, traditional technology played a part too. The cross was hoisted 60 ft into position by an old fashioned winch and blessed by the vicar the Revd. Martin Gorick. The placement of the new cross not only restored the historic view from across the River Avon.
North Clerestory windows repaired and major clean undertaken
Muniment room refurbishment
In 2011 the Friends were delighted to fund the restoration of the North Transept. One of the oldest parts of the Church the transept has latterly been used as both the Choir Vestry and a storeroom.
The restoration has revealed some of the old church artefacts, some beautiful memorials and allows light to flood in from the stained-glass windows. It also included a new chandelier – one that has now been mirrored by the restoration in the South Transept. While the North transept remains closed to the public, it is planned those funds raised by the Friends will allow this to be opened again.
Clopton Chapel Restoration
In 2012, the Friends funded a major conservation project in the Clopton Chapel, which had last been worked on in the 1890s.
The wax applied to the alabaster surface had discoloured and darkened, so the main job of the conservators was to remove this and to clean the dirt from the marble and the painted surfaces. This required the use of a number of different techniques all applied with great care and concentration. The results have transformed the Chapel's appearance so that the full glory of the monuments is now visible again.
South Side Windows
During 2014, major repair work was carried out to the south side of Holy Trinity, with the Friends providing funding for remedial work that related to the church’s treasured stained glass windows. Much of the glass dates from the 19th century and includes windows by the great Victorian stained glass artist Charles Kempe.
Many of the panels were faded, cracked, or broken altogether, and all required expert cleaning. It was during this restoration that a glorious stained glass image – unseen for more than 100 years – was rediscovered. Once part of the Becket Chapel, the window had been boarded up with a steel sheet in 1898 to accommodate pipework for the newly installed organ. Thereafter only a tantalising glimpse of colour was visible from the outside wall and some pieces of the glass had clearly been broken or fallen out. The “lost” image The Mocking of Christ, contained in a lower panel, is deeply moving, showing tears and the depth of pain on Christ’s face. The restored window is now a prominent feature of the church’s new South-side extension.