1902 Encyclopedia > William Shakespeare > Stratford-upon-Avon: The Chief Streets and Suburbs of Stratford

William Shakespeare
(Part 11)


The Chief Streets and Suburbs of Stratford

The cross ways going from Rother Street to the river side, which cut the central line, dividing it into three sections, are Ely Street and Sheep Street in a continuous line, and Scholar's Lane and Chapel Lane in another line. They run parallel with the head line of Bridge and Wood Streets, and like them traverse from east to west the northern shaft of the cross that constituted the ground plan of the town. Starting down this line from the market house at the top the first division, the High Street, is now, as it was in Shakespeare's day, the busiest part for shops and shopping, the solid building at the further corner to the left being the Corn Exchange. At the first corner of the second division, called Chapel Street, stands the town-hall, while at the further corner are the sites and railed-in gardens of New Place, the large mansion purchased by Shakespeare in 1597. Opposite New Place, at the corner of the third and last division, known as Church Street, is the grey mass of Gothic buildings belonging to the guild of the Holy Cross, and consisting of the chapel, the hall, the grammar school, and the almshouses of the ancient guild. Turning to the left at the bottom of Church Street, you enter upon what was in Shakespeare's day a well-wooded suburb, with a few good houses scattered among the ancient elms, and surrounded by ornamental gardens and extensive private grounds.

In one of these houses, with a sunny expanse of lawn and shrubbery, lived in the early years of the 17th century Shakespeare's eldest daughter Susanna with her husband, Dr John Hall, and here in spring mornings and summer afternoons the great poet must have often strolled, either alone or accompanied by his favourite daughter, realizing to the full the quiet enjoyment of the sylvan scene and its social surroundings. This pleasant suburb, called then as now Old Town, leads directly to the church of the Holy Trinity, near the river side. The church, a fine specimen of Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic with a lofty spire, is approached on the northern side through an avenue of limes, and sheltered on the east and south by an irregular but massive group of elms towering above the church way path between the transepts, the chancel, and the river. Below the church, on the margin of the river, were the mill, the mill-bridge, and the weir, half hidden by grey willows, green alders, and tall beds of rustling sedge. And, beyond the church, the college, and the line of streets already described, the suburbs stretched away into gardens, orchards, meadows, and cultivated fields, divided by rustic lanes with mossy banks, flowering hedgerows, and luminous vistas of bewildering beauty. These cross and country roads were dotted at intervals with cottage homesteads, isolated farms, and the small groups of both which constituted the villages and hamlets included within the wide sweep of old Stratford parish. Amongst these were the villages and hamlets of Welcombe, Ingon, Drayton, Shottery, Luddington, Little Wilmcote, and Bishopston. The town was thus girdled in the spring by daisied meadows and blossoming orchards, and enriched during the later months by the orange and gold of harvest fields and autumn foliage, mingled with the coral and purple clusters of elder, hawthorn, and mountain ash, and, around the farms and cottages, with the glow of ripening fruit for the winter's store.

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