CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

PUBLISHED: 16:24 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013

Sam the ferryman, in action on Stratford's Original Old Chain Ferry

Sam the ferryman, in action on Stratford's Original Old Chain Ferry

But it's not just Shakespeare bringing people to stratford-upon-Avon. You might even get to have a coffee with The Doctor! Pictures by Kate Brown

IT WOULD be unforgivably misleading to suggest that being a trader in Stratford-upon-Avon makes you more likely to produce a world-famous playwright as son and heir. But John Shakespeare certainly didn't do badly in that department. He started life humbly enough - raised on a farm in a nearby village - before coming to Stratford to make his fortune. He went into business as a glover and a whittawer - a white leather worker - both considered agreeable and respectable trades indeed; and a measure of the respect his fellow citizens accorded him was demonstrated when he was elected to the first of many eminent positions in the town, in 1556: as borough ale taster (a post that sadly no longer exists).


"There's a lot of talk about Shakespeare coming from a poor background, but in fact his father ran a shop in Henley Street and did very well for himself," explains Stratford's Mayor, Joyce Taylor. "John Shakespeare was very prolific and became rather wealthy - before losing a fortune as a money-lender, which was his downfall. He made wonderful leather goods for the upper echelons of society, and William received a free education while his father was on the town council."


There's a rare opportunity this month to see the schoolroom where Shakespeare is thought to have been taught, as part of Heritage Open Days (HODs). Now the King Edward VI School, it's still in Guild Hall, Church Street, where Shakespeare would have had to sit on a hard wooden bench from six in the morning for up to 12 hours a day.


There are other HODs events too - the historic Georgian town hall is open, as well as the old town jail (now a solicitor's) in Sheep Street.


You might not find 'John Shakespeare Whittawer' on the shop signs nowadays, but you will still find traders who show the same level of individuality, skill and dedication. Antiques, luxury and artisan food and drink, clothes and gifts, and more besides - the boutiques are plentiful. As well as the main streets, there's Cox's Yard. Once owned by timber merchant James Cox who supplied materials for many historic buildings, it's now a family entertainment complex - a great place to eat and look at the world going by.


"There are so many excellent shops and so much to see and do," Joyce Taylor says. "It's not a snooty place, and nor is it just for Shakespeare lovers; it's a family town. And you can enjoy yourself without spending a fortune, whether it's window shopping, or brass rubbing at the brass centre, or talking a walking or a bus tour.


"In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to people-watch. There's a lovely little caf area at the Courtyard Theatre where you know you're going to see actors - possibly even David Tennant or Patrick Stewart!"


And there aren't many Cotswold towns where you can get a cup of coffee with the Doctor thrown in for free.


Heritage Open days, where historic and unusual properties are open to the public for free, run from September 11-14. For more information, visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk


For information on shops and other attractions, see www.visitstratforduponavon.co.uk

0 comments

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search