Explore Shakespeare's Church
The Timeline for Holy Trinity Church845 to 1616: from beginnings to the death of Shakespeare
Saxon monastery on site with wooden buildings. Beorthwulf, King of Mercia, grants Bishop Heaberht of Worcester privileges to the ‘monks of Ufera Stret Ford on the banks of the Eafene.’
Stratford mentioned in Domesday Book: ‘in demesne two carucates with twenty-one villains and a priest’. Norman church built in stone over earlier Saxon foundation.
Charter granted by Richard I to the lord of the manor, John de Coutances, Bishop of Worcester, giving the right to hold a weekly market with defined burgage plots for the new town.
Transepts and tower of church constructed as we see them today.
Pillars supporting tower strengthened and tower increased in height (or rebuilt). North aisle of nave widened to make space for Lady Chapel. Processional arches closed on west and east sides of north transept, leaving ‘squint’ openings to view high altar in old chancel.
New south aisle of nave built by John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, to accommodate St Thomas Becket chantry chapel. John de Stratford became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1333 and later Chancellor of England.
College building constructed near the church by Ralph de Stratford, Bishop of London, to house the priests serving the chantry.
Henry V added to endowments of the College, granting the title of Collegiate Church.
Construction of new chancel by Thomas Balsall, Dean of the College. Stained glass windows paid for by Hugh Clopton.
Construction of north porch. New oak inner doors, incorporating old sanctuary knocker from 1270.
Building of clerestory with lantern windows above nave and great west window by Ralph Collingwood, Dean of the College.
Royal Injunctions instructed the clergy to take down images 'abused' by superstitious rites and to preach against pilgrimages. No candles except on rood, high altar and Easter sepulchre. No veneration permitted of images or relics. No more lights burning before the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Lady Chapel.
Henry VIII died and Edward VI became King. Royal Injunctions required destruction of ‘abused’ images and pictures, prohibition of processions around the church at Mass and recitation of the rosary. The College was disbanded and all College property reverted to the Crown.
Edward VI died. Mary Tudor became Queen. 2,000 married clergy evicted. All religious laws of Edward’s reign repealed and the Latin Mass restored. Widespread execution of Protestants.
Mary Tudor died and Elizabeth I became Queen. Set of five bells brought from Hailes Abbey and fitted in tower.
Stained glass removed and images defaced at Holy Trinity. Medieval rood screen moved from nave arch to block off chancel. Wall paintings covered by limewash.
Birth and baptism of William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, perhaps at Temple Grafton. Their daughter Susannah baptised on Trinity Sunday.
William Shakespeare purchased a lease of a moiety of church tithes, by which he became ‘Lay Rector’.
King James Bible published (Holy Trinity receives second printing, 1613)
Death of William Shakespeare and burial in chancel. Shakespeare monument installed on wall above his grave.
The Timeline for Holy Trinity Church1616 to 2016
First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays published in London.
English Civil War in progress. Parliament ordered the destruction of all ‘vestments, organs, fonts, lofts and images’. Probably when the ancient font and King James Bible were damaged. Musket ball holes in stonework of porch. Bells taken and melted down for armaments.
Spire added to tower, with lead covering a squat wooden frame.
King James Bible rebound in board covers.
Damaged ancient font removed from south aisle and taken to garden of the Parish Clerk. Replaced by blue marble vase of classical design.
Avenue from gate to north porch paved by donation of Alderman John Hunt.
New organ built by Thomas Swarebrick over the arch of the tower, later moved to east end of nave.
Joseph Greene, curate of Holy Trinity, began raising funds for ‘repairing and beautifying’ the Shakespeare Monument, which had become ‘much impaired and decayed’. The repairs were carried out by a local craftsman, John Hall, a ‘limner’ or painter.
Old spire replaced by new taller stone spire.
Garrick’s Jubilee in Stratford awakened worldwide interest in Shakespeare. First floral tributes organised by Mrs Garrick, beginning the tradition of floral birthday tributes.
Shakespeare bust, and the figures on either side, painted white by ‘meddling’ Malone.
College building demolished by its owner, Edmund Battersbee, because it spoiled his view of the church.
Charnel house demolished and door to chancel walled up.
Old broken font returned to the church from garden in the town.
Restoration of the chancel, including removal of plaster ceiling and laying of new floor, new altar rail, and cross mounted on east gable. Ugly brick vestry demolished. Roofline of transepts restored to original pitch. (Funds raised by the Shakespeare Club).
Bier house constructed on south side of churchyard, close to the south door of church, used for coffins en route to funeral services.
Shakespeare monument restored, including removal of the white paint applied by Malone.
Iron clamps and rods fitted to stabilise the masonry of the tower.
Churchyard closed to burials (new town cemetery in Evesham Road). Avenue planted with lime trees (12 on each side).
Report by Society for Preserving Ancient Buildings (SPAB) expressed concern about ‘over-restoration’ and made a series of recommendations.
Organ moved from north transept, enlarged, and divided, with the ‘choir, swell and pedal’ ranks at end of south aisle and the ‘great organ’ above the central nave arch.
The ‘Shakespeare Window’ installed on the north side of the chancel, depicting the seven ages of Man, paid by American donations.
High Altar reconstructed with mensa of Purbeck marble from Becket chantry chapel (found in 1889, hidden beneath floor in south aisle). Restoration of misericord stalls and oak wall panelling in chancel.
American Window in south transept unveiled by the American Ambassador. Shortfall in funding paid by Marie Corelli.
Gas light fittings removed and electric light fittings installed throughout church.
Reredos made from teak and copper sheathing of HMS Britannia placed in St Peter’s Chapel as memorial to parishioners who died in the Great War (now in Becket Chapel).
West front found to have no foundations and underpinned with reinforced concrete.
Complete restoration of clerestory windows on south side.
All ten bells re-cast and re-hung in tower.
Rood screen moved from middle of north transept to present position in tower arch. Organ rebuilt with a new electro-pneumatic console and electric action transmissions.
Lime trees along avenue replanted (12 on each side).
Friends of Shakespeare’s Church founded as a charitable trust.
Major repair programme, funded by the Friends: (1) chancel roof, which had been damaged by dry rot and death watch beetle; (2) tower and spire, which were in danger of collapse; (3) restoration of clerestory windows on north side.
Refurbishment of St Peter’s Chapel in South Transept and of muniment room above north porch.
Completed extension on south side of church with new clergy vestry and toilets, in time for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.