The Civil War
During the Civil War, in 1643, Parliamentary soldiers occupied Stratford-upon-Avon and the explosion of three barrels of gunpowder almost destroyed the Town Hall and damaged surrounding buildings. The stone bridge built by Sir Hugh Clopton, which had already suffered damage during the floods of 1588, was partly destroyed during the war when its main arch was destroyed by the Parliamentarians. The bridge has since been restored and widened to cope with the increase in the volume of traffic.
People, too, were being destroyed by another plague in 1645. More than 60 in number died.
A temporary economic recovery came in the second half of the 17th century but it was only in the 1760s that the direction of economic recovery was firmly established. The major exponent of the revival of Shakespearean drama, the actor David Garrick, went to Stratford-upon-Avon and a three-day celebration of Shakespeare was organised centring on his historic visit.
Three days celebrating Shakespeare with parades and speeches in the presence of important persons from London placed Stratford-upon-Avon at the centre of attention on both a national and international level. However, it was only when improvements in transport in the early 19th century, making the town more easily accessible, did a steady flux of visitors arrive to boost the almost static economy of Stratford. Since then tourism has become the main source of income for the town
Garrick partly financed the construction of the Town Hall in 1767, originally known as Shakespeare Hall. This was built with limestone from the Cotswolds by Robert Newman and is thought to have ben designed by Timothy Lightholer who also designed the stone spire of the parish church.
Stratford-upon-Avon also benefited from the Victorian tendency to improve the culture of the people by founding public libraries as a result of which the Free Library in Henley Street was built at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Public Library Stratford-upon-Avon
(click the image for a larger size picture)
Stratford-upo-Avon is also renowned for its modern Memorial Theatre staging Shakespearean plays and many others.
The town has also become a favourite choice for days out for people uninfluenced by its connection with Shakespeare. Just a quiet walk down the quaint streets with their rows of timber-framed buildings, rowing on the river Avon.
Stratford-upon-Avon now has a population of around 20,000 and this once peaceful and relatively unknown town is now invaded by tourists of all sorts every year. They have become an important source of income, although during the summer of 2001, the local people held public protests expressing their annoyance of half-empty guide buses continuously going round the town past their houses and of people peering through their windows.