Stratford Town

  • A. L. Rowse


Stratford too is very recognisable, strangely unspoiled, in spite of the horror of the age we live in. The layout of the town has hardly changed since the Middle Ages : three streets running parallel with the River Avon, one of them open to the river, where in Elizabeth’s days there were archery butts by the bridge — now laid out as grounds, presided over by the Genius Loci — three streets at right angles to the others, running roughly east and west. The boundaries of the little borough remained the same from 1591 to three hundred years later ; at the earlier date it had just over two hundred houses and it grew hardly at all till 1800.1 This meant that within the town boundaries there was a good deal of open space unbuilt on, orchards and groves of trees. In 1582 there were nearly a thousand elms in and about the town, so it was bowered in trees, full of birdsong and the sound of water, for two brooks flowed through the streets to the Avon. An Elizabethan town would be no less full of smells, pungent and acrid, or pleasant and sweet. One characteristic of Shakespeare’s we can detect for ourselves : he had a very sensitive nose and ear. Let us perambulate.


High Street Grammar School Bridge Street Stained Glass Window Town Boundary 
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© A. L. Rowse 1963

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  • A. L. Rowse

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