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STRATFORD UPON AVON Holy Trinity 10, 19-0-2 in E

Grid Reference 151/210543 Stratford Church - Source: M Chester
Postcode CV37 6BQ
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 0945-1025
Practice Tuesday 1930-2100
Other Information Bells Website


A magnificent church with a central tower and spire near the river. Easy to see from a distance, but difficult to park near as the town gets busy with tourists. The most obvious connection is with William Shakespeare, whose remarkably simple gravestone is near to the high altar. During the day you enter through the main church door, after closing in the side of the transept to the left of it, and the way up to the bells is in the centre of the church. The tower door is in the North-West pier.

The church has no definite evidence of the 12th century, unless the roundheaded windows in the tower be accepted as such, but the influence of the earliest structure may explain why the nave is deflected considerably to the north of the axial line of the other parts of the church. The earliest features are the early-13th-century transepts and the upper part of the tower. In the east and west walls of the north transept are remains of narrow arches which apparently opened into 12th- or 13th-century aisles north of the nave and former chancel. Presumably the pre-existing nave had narrow aisles, and the transepts and tower and a chancel with aisles were the first important enlargements of the plan.

The second great work of enlargement was in the early years of the 14th century. It is recorded that John de Stratford, then Bishop of Winchester, founded a chantry on 8 Oct. 1331 in the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr in the south aisle of the parish church, which he had recently rebuilt.  The sequence was, therefore, as follows:

  1. the reconstruction of the tower, at least in the lower part, c. 1310;
  2. the widening of the nave, with new arcades, and the rebuilding and widening of the north aisle, c. 1320; and finally
  3. the south aisle.

The tower arches cannot be earlier than the 14th century and were probably widenings of the original archways. The upper stages of the tower have some early-13th-century details. The circular windows are of the 14th century, but above them are traces of earlier windows.

The two nave-arcades are of one date and detail, except that the southern was spaced with regard to the projecting stair-turret of the tower, which was probably built at the same time; The three eastern windows in the north aisle are probably contemporary and are certainly earlier than those in the south aisle. The fourth window in the north wall was evidently re-used from one of the earlier walls and this, combined with the later style of the windows west of it, suggests that the widening of the aisle extended over a period, up to near the middle of the century at the west end. 

The next period of extensive alteration was late in the 15th century. The chancel was entirely rebuilt by Dean Thomas Balshall, who died in 1491 and was buried in a tomb made in his lifetime. The clearstory of the nave was rebuilt and heightened, probably by Ralph Collingwood, the successor of Thomas Balshall. The whole of the walling above the actual arches was replaced with panelled ashlar below the windows. The west end of the nave was provided with a wider doorway, and the wall above it entirely rebuilt with the fine great window. The north doorway had perhaps been replaced by a wider one earlier in the century, but the north porch was added probably by Collingwood, as it impinges on the fifth window of the aisle owing to the pre-existence of the doorway. There seems to have been some intention to rebuild the transepts, as Hugh Clopton (1496) and Thomas Handys (1502) bequeathed money for the rebuilding of the 'cross aisle'. If so the work was obviously never proceeded with.

There was a building, removed in 1799, north of the chancel resembling somewhat the chapels still existing at Solihull Church. It was of two or three stories (descriptions vary), the lowest being vaulted and half below ground, and it became known as the Charnel house or bone-hole from the subsequent usage of the crypt. The chamber above may well have been a vestry or sacristy (there is no proper vestry attached to the church), although it is now described as having been a 'study' for the clergy. Its age is conjectural, but the doorway into it—now blocked—is of Collingwood's time, though it seems likely that the building was only remodelled by Collingwood when he apportioned a part of it as a dormitory for four boy choristers who were to be 'daily assistants in the celebration of divine Service'.

The church suffered many vicissitudes after the Reformation, when the rood, the chantry-chapels, &c., were abolished and many of the carvings were mutilated and glass destroyed. The chancel was boarded off from the rest of the church and it was in a bad condition at the end of the 16th century. The corporation in 1593 petitioned Lord Burleigh to use his influence for its repair, but apparently without success as it was pronounced 'ruinous' in 1618 (two years after Shakespeare's burial in the chancel). Some repairs were executed in 1621–2, the walls 'mended' and painted and the windows glazed.

The stone spire was built by William Hiorn of Warwick in 1763; it is said to have replaced a wooden spire that had caused much trouble.

According to "Church Bells of Warwickshire by Tilley and Walters", in 1683 a new ring of 6, tenor c.14cwt, was cast by Matthew Bagley out of the pre-existing five bells. The tenor was recast by Richard Sanders in 1717 and the third by him in 1733. The treble was recast by Henry Bagley in 1742. There have eight here since 1887, the tenor weighing in at c.18cwt. Taylors recast the third and fourth bells and added two more to make the octave and provided a new frame and fittings. The inscriptions on these bells were all incised.

The first peal on the bell was rung in 1889, by The St Martin's Guild.

A history of the bells was published in Bell News on August 31st 1912:

(Click to enlarge)

Ernest Morris wrote an article about the bells in The Ringing World of December 3rd 1943:

"As early as 1502-3 it is recorded that John Bedill, alias Sclatter, bequeathed 6s. 8d. to the reparation of the bells, and again in 1552 there is a note which runs as follows : ‘ Straatford-sup’-Avon. Itm there . . . ij belles Md. that the p’ishe have solde sithe’ the Last Survey two broken bells to the maynten’nce of theire bridge the pavem’ts of the towne and the relief of the poore.’
Under the date October 24th, 1617, we read again, ‘ Item we were scited to Worcester because the church and Belles were out of order,’ and on April 23rd, 1622— six years after the death of William Shakespeare— an order was given ‘ to cast two bells.’ From this it may be inferred there were Some bells, probably four or six, in the tower before 1683. In this year an entire ring of six was cast by Matthew Bagley, and probably the old bells were used to form part of this ring. Of these six bells the treble was recast in 1742 by Henry Bagley, and the third and Sixth by Richard Sanders in 1733 and 1717 respectively.
Thus'the ring appears to have remained until 1887, when two trebles were added by J. Taylor and Co. to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The old third and fourth were recast at the same time, and all the eight rehung in a new iron frame. The-tenor is 18 cwt. approximately"

Taylors recast and augmented the ring in 1948, producing, effectively, a brand new installation. They hang in a in a single level cast iron lowside frame. They go well and sound glorious: a classic Taylor ring of that period. Tenor frequency equates to E-18c. All bells were cast with flat tops. The dedication was reported in The Ringing World of December 3rd 1948:

On Saturday, November 6th, at the close of a beautiful autumn day, the bells of Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, rang out, recast, rehung and rededicated.
A crowded church heard the Bishop of Coventry, Dr. Neville Gorton, dedicate the new ring to the glory of God and in memory of those who lost their lives in the second world war.
The new ring of ten bells, with a tenor of 19 cwt., was pronounced by a large assembly of ringers from many parts of the country to be in keeping with the beautiful church, famous as the resting place of William Shakespeare.
The original ring of eight (with a tenor of 14 cwt.), with two new bells added, is hung in a new iron frame with ball bearings and all modern equipment, the contract, having been placed with John Taylor and Co.. of Loughborough.
A new sound-proof floor has been erected above the ringing room. At the close of the service the bells were rung to Stedman Caters by the local band, and afterwards in a variety of methods, including Cambridge Royal by visiting ringers.
Inscriptions and weight of the new bells -
Treble.—Dick Stokes-Roberts, Lt., Grenadier Guards, M.C.. Italy, 1944 — aged 21 — 1948. 5 cwt. 1 qr. 2 lb.
2.—The Ringers’ Bell, 1948, V. B. Hunt. Captain. 5 cwt. 1 qr. 10 lb.
3.—Peace, Cast 1887, Recast 1948. 5 cwt. 1 qr. 6 lb.
4.—Cast 1887, Recast 1948. 5 cwt. 3 qr. 14 lb.
5.—H. Bagley made me, 1742, Recast 1948. 6 cwt. 3 qr. 8 lb.
6.—Matthew Bagiev made me, 1683, Recast 1948. 8 cwt. 16 lb.
7.—1733, Recast 1887, Recast 1948. 10 cwt. 23 lb.
8.—1733, Recast 1887, Recast 1948. 11 cwt. 3 qr. 1 lb.
9.—1683, Recast 1948. Noel Prentice, Vicar, Ashley Clayton, George Lea, Gerald Price. Harry Tompkins, Churchwardens. 14 cwt. 2 qr. 2 lb.
Tenor.—1717. Recast 1948. ' The Faithful Dead, 1939-1945.’ 19 cwt. 2 lb.
Total weight : 92 cwt. 1 qr.

The first peal on the bells was rung the following year:


Stratford was the front page tower in The Ringing World of July 24th 1970:

(Click to enlarge)

The local bells website states:-
"The first record of bells in the tower is from 1502 when a legacy of 6/8d (£0.33) was left towards their restoration. We have no record of their number or weights. In October 1617 the churchwardens reported: "we were cited Worcester because the bells were oute of order (Stratford was then in the Worcester Diocese). In December of the same year £4 12d. [£4.05] was paid for re-casting. The next bell-related memorandum in the Vestry minute book is from 1650: It was agreed upon yt there shalbe a leavy made for the gathering of [£10] vizt. [£5] for the Towne, and [£5] for the parish to cast three new belles......"

The local ringers removed the Warner bell of 1881, (4-2-12 with a diameter of 28.125"), from the old cemetery chapel and hung it for electric chiming as a service/sacring bell in 1994. The canons have been removed from this bell. A dumb bell was installed for training purposes in November 2019.

Details of the Bells

 1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   5-1-02  26.75"  1649.0Hz (G#-13c)
 2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   5-1-10  27.50"  1468.0Hz (F#-14c)
 3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   5-1-06  28.50"  1309.0Hz (E-13c)
 4 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   5-3-14  29.75"  1231.0Hz (D#-19c)
 5 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   6-3-08  31.50"  1099.0Hz (C#-15c)
 6 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948   8-0-16  34.00"   979.0Hz (B-15c)
 7 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948  10-0-23  37.00"   869.0Hz (A-22c)
 8 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948  11-3-01  39.00"   820.0Hz (G#-22c)
 9 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948  14-2-02  42.50"   733.0Hz (F#-16c)
10 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1948  19-0-02  47.00"   652.5Hz (E-18c)

Details of the Pre-1947 Bells

 1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1887   5-0-08
 2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1887   5-0-27
 3 Henry Bagley I, Chacombe        1742   6-0-07
 4 Matthew Bagley I, Chacombe      1683   6-0-26
 5 John Taylor & Co, Loughbrough   1887   6-3-22
 6 John Taylor & Co, Lougborough   1887   8-2-06
 7 Matthew Bagley I, Chcombe       1683  12cwt
 8 Richard Sanders, Bomsgrove      1733  18cwt

Photo Gallery

stratford_old_bells_small stratford_new_bells_small The Old Sixth. Source: Stratford Tower 
The Old Bells, Removed
From the Tower in 1948 
The New Bells Arrive at
the Church, October 1948 
 A picture of the 6th of the
previous ring of 8.
stratford_bells_down_small stratford_bells1_small stratford_dumb_small
Looking Down 
on the bells
A Close-Up of
Bells, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 10
The Dumb Bell
stratford_spire_small stratford_table_small stratford_ringing_room_small
Looking up the Spire The Table - Made From the Wheel
of the Cemetery Chapel Bell
The Ringing Room
The Chancel. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking West. Source: Mike Chester The Centre of the Church. Source: Mike Chester
The Chancel The Church - Looking West  Underneath the central tower,
showing the bell hatch 
William Shakespeare's Grave. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester  The Tower Door. Source: Mike Chester
William Shakespeare's Grave  Looking from the centre of the
church towards the east end.
The Tower Door
in the North-West pier. 
Plan of the Church. Source: British History Online
Plan of the Church

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