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Stratford-on-Avon

Stratford-on-Avon, district (2001 pop. 111,484), Warwickshire, central England, on the Avon River. The town and former borough of Stratford-upon-Avon is the administrative seat of the district, which also includes towns of Alcester, Shipston-on-Stour, and Southam.

Stratford-upon-Avon, a market town with light industries, owes its fame to its associations with William Shakespeare. A gabled building on Henley St., believed to be the poet's birthplace, is open to the public. The site of the home he purchased in 1597, and where he died in 1616, is marked (the building having been torn down in 1759). His grave is beside that of his wife, Anne Hathaway (whose home, "Anne Hathaway's Cottage," is near Stratford), in the old Church of the Holy Trinity. The church has a bust and memorial to the poet and a stained-glass window (given by Americans in 1885) depicting Shakespeare's "seven ages of man."

The town's principal memorial is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where annual Shakespeare festivals are held. The first theater, built in the late 19th cent., was destroyed by fire in 1926, but the attached gallery, library, and museum were saved. The current theater was dedicated as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1932; it was extensively redesigned and renovated in 2007–10. The Royal Shakespeare Company operates several venues in Stratford, including the Swan Theatre.

Most of the structures and places in Stratford connected with the life of Shakespeare were acquired by the nation in the 19th cent. Edward VI's Grammar School, which Shakespeare may have attended, is national property. Shakespeare scholars from all over the world attend the Shakespeare Institute of the Univ. of Birmingham. In 1964 the Shakespeare Centre was established on Henley St. in Stratford.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish Political Geography

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