Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

Ask a question about 'Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon'
Start a new discussion about 'Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum

The Collegiate Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon is a Grade I listed parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

 of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 in Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

, Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, England.


It is often known simply as Holy Trinity Church or as Shakespeare's Church, due to its fame as the place of baptism and burial of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. More than 200,000 tourists visit the church each year.


The present building dates from 1210 and is built on the site of a Saxon monastery. It is Stratford's oldest building, in a striking position on the banks of the River Avon, and has long been England's most visited parish church.

Holy Trinity contains many interesting features, including:
  • A 14th-century sanctuary knocker in the church's porch
    A porch is external to the walls of the main building proper, but may be enclosed by screen, latticework, broad windows, or other light frame walls extending from the main structure.There are various styles of porches, all of which depend on the architectural tradition of its location...

     (built c. 1500)
  • Twenty-six, 15th century misericord seats in the chancel
    In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

    , with religious, secular and mythical carvings
  • Several large stained glass windows featuring major English and Biblical saint
    A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

    s at the church's east and west ends

The carved scenes of the life of Jesus around Balsall's tomb were mutilated during the Reformation, as were most images of Christ. Notable 'survivors' include a remarkable face of Christ or possibly God the Father within a sedilia canopy, and some beautiful medieval stained glass depicting the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost. The pre-reformation stone altar slab or mensa was found hidden beneath the floor in Victorian times and has now been re-instated as the High Altar.


The church has a large three manual pipe organ which dates from 1841 by the organ builder William Hill. It has undergone several restorations by Hill Norman and Beard, and Nicholson. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

The organ case was designed by George Frederick Bodley
George Frederick Bodley
George Frederick Bodley was an English architect working in the Gothic revival style.-Personal life:Bodley was the youngest son of William Hulme Bodley, M.D. of Edinburgh, physician at Hull Royal Infirmary, Kingston upon Hull, who in 1838 retired to his wife's home town, Brighton, Sussex, England....

 and Thomas Garner
Thomas Garner
Thomas Garner was one of the leading English Gothic revival architects of the Victorian era. His name is usually mentioned in relation to his almost 30-year partnership with George Frederick Bodley...


List of organists

  • James Henry Caseley ???? - 1868 - 1888 - ???? (formerly assistant organist of Worcester Cathedral
    Worcester Cathedral
    Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Worcester, England; situated on a bank overlooking the River Severn. It is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester...

  • George Frost Bloomer ca. 1900
  • Dr. Williamson John Reynolds 1920 - 1922 (formerly organist of St Martin in the Bull Ring
    St Martin in the Bull Ring
    The church of St Martin in the Bull Ring in Birmingham 5, England is a parish church in the Church of England.-Background:It is the original parish church of Birmingham. It stands between the Bull Ring shopping centre and the markets. The church is a Grade II* listed building. The current Rector...

    , Birmingham
    Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

  • William Wells Hewitt 1926 - 1933 (then organist of the Cathedral Church of St. James (Toronto)
    Cathedral Church of St. James (Toronto)
    Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto, Canada is the home of the oldest congregation in the city. The parish was established in 1797. The Cathedral was begun in 1850 and completed in 1853, was at the time one of the largest buildings in the city...

  • John Stuart Brough 1933 - 1949
  • John Cook
    John Cook (musician)
    John Ernest Cook was an Anglo-American organist, composer and church musician.-Early life, education and early career:...

     1949 - 1954
  • John Strickson
  • Peter Summers ????-2006
  • Andrew Jones 2006-2011

List of assistant organists

  • E. A. Sydenham ca. 1864
  • H. Bromley Derry 1903 - 1908 (later organist of All Saints Church, Ealing).
  • Stephen Dodsworth 1991 -
  • Darren Oliver 2009 - (jointly with Stephen Dodsworth)

See also the List of Organ Scholars at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.

Current status

The church is open to visitors for much of the year. A small contribution is requested to access the chancel and sanctuary in which Shakespeare is buried. Holy Trinity is a member of the Greater Churches Group
Greater Churches Group
The Greater Churches Network is a self-help organisation within the Church of England. There are currently 32 churches within the Greater Churches Network....

. The Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 performed Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

 in the church in 2006 as part of the Complete Works Festival. It is an active parish church serving a parish of some 17,000 people.


William Shakespeare, poet and playwright, was baptised in Holy Trinity on 26 April 1564 and was buried there on 25 April 1616. The church still possesses the original Elizabethan register giving details of his baptism and burial, though it is kept by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for safekeeping. He is buried in the beautiful 15th-century chancel built by Thomas Balsall, Dean of the Collegiate Church, who was buried within it in 1491. Shakespeare's funerary monument
Shakespeare's funerary monument
The Shakespeare funerary monument is a memorial to William Shakespeare located inside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK, the same church in which Shakespeare was baptised....

 is fixed on a wall alongside his burial place.

Shakespeare would have come to Holy Trinity every week when he was in town, i.e. all through his childhood and on his return to live at New Place. His wife Anne Hathaway is buried next to him along with his eldest daughter Susanna. The church witnessed a sad episode shortly before Shakespeare's death. The day after Shakespeare signed his Last Will and Testament on 25 March 1616 in a 'shaky hand', William's son-in-law, Thomas Quiney
Thomas Quiney
Thomas Quiney was the husband of William Shakespeare's daughter Judith Shakespeare, and a vintner and tobacconist in Stratford-upon-Avon. Quiney held several municipal offices in the corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, the highest being chamberlain in 1621 and 1622, but was also fined for various...

 was found guilty in the church court of fathering an illegitimate son by a Margaret Wheler who had recently died in childbirth. Quiney was ordered to do public penance within the church. The distress and shame for the Shakespeare family must have been immense. Within a month Shakespeare was dead and his funeral and burial being held at Holy Trinity on 25 April 1616.

Above the grave, a badly eroded stone slab displays his epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...


It has been claimed by at least one textbook author that the warning has served to prevent both the removal of Shakespeare's body to Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and the exhumation of his body for examination.

The grave of Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare)
Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. They were married in 1582. She outlived her husband by seven years...

 is next to her husband's. The inscription states, "Here lyeth the body of Anne wife of William Shakespeare who departed this life the 6th day of August 1623 being of the age of 67 years." A Latin inscription followed which translates as "Breasts, O mother, milk and life thou didst give. Woe is me - for how great a boon shall I give stones? How much rather would I pray that the good angel should move the stone so that, like Christ's body, thine image might come forth! But my prayers are unavailing. Come quickly, Christ, that my mother, though shut within this tomb may rise again and reach the stars." The inscription may have been written by John Hall
John Hall (physician)
John Hall was a physician and son-in-law of William Shakespeare.-Life:He was born at Carlton, Bedfordshire and studied at Queens' College, Cambridge from 1589, receiving a B.A. in 1593 and a M.A. in 1597...

 on behalf of his wife, Anne's daughter, Susanna
Susanna Hall
Susanna Hall , née Shakespeare, was the eldest child of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the older sister of Judith Quiney and Hamnet Shakespeare...


External links

  • Holy Trinity's Website - information on opening times, history of the church and several interior photographs.