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Welcome to the Stratford Society
Your Local Civic Society charity registration No. 251182
The Stratford Society aims to protect the  heritage of our historic market town and its residents. Founded in 1966, it  offers non-political, professional expertise on the town's buildings and their  surroundings. It works with councils and other organisations locally and  nationally and promotes high quality design in keeping with the character of  this world famous and much visited town.
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Latest News
Old Toll House Restoration Project secures National Lottery and Historic England grants 9th July 2015

Stratford Historic Buildings Trust is celebrating after securing two major grants to help restore and refurbish the Old Toll House on Clopton Bridge, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Historic England has awarded a development grant of £15,570 and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) a first round Heritage Enterprise grant of £10,500 towards the project.

The two awards will enable SHBT to draw up detailed plans for the project. Provided HLF and Historic England are content with these, SHBT will then be in a position to secure two further grants totalling£370,000 to undertake the physical restoration and refurbishment starting work in 2016.

The Old Toll House, located on Clopton Bridge in Stratford-upon-Avon, was builtjust over 200 years ago in 1814. With its crenelated roofline and gothic windows it is a familiar local landmark and an extremely important Grade I listed building. However, over the last 30 years it has fallen into serious disrepair and has been included on Historic England’s Register of Buildings at Risk.

The restoration project will preserve the historic fabric of the building and provide it with a new use as office space at ground floor and mezzanine level. In addition, the project will include the creation of a free community exhibition about the history of the building in the basement area.

Roger Davis, SHBT trustee said:

‘The Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England grants are fantastic news and are a huge vote of confidence for the project. Although we still have a way to go, the two awards are really important as they will enable us to meaningfully start work on rescuing the building.’

HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable. Grants of £100k to £5million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings like The Old Toll House, into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.

Reyahn King, Head of HLF West Midlands, said:

‘This project will breathe new life into this distinctive part of Stratford’s heritage. Investment in Heritage Enterprise projects goes well beyond bricks and mortar; it enables financially challenging historic buildings like the Old Toll Houseto become an important part of the economic health of communities by nurturing business and creating jobs. We look forward to seeing the plans develop.’

Sarah Lewis, Principal Adviser, Heritage at Risk Team, Historic England said:

‘Historic England is really pleased to support Stratford Historic Building Trust’s efforts to conserve the Old Toll House and bring it back into beneficial use. This important building is one of our top ten Heritage at Risk priorities in the West Midlands and we are delighted to be part of this project. ’

In addition to the awards from Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project has also secured grants from the Architectural Heritage Fund, The Pilgrim Trust and a number of other trusts and charities.

Members Newsletters - Talk of the Town/News Update

Unfortunately, the members producing these Newsletters had to retire in 2012 and so far no one has volunteered to take over. Can you help – or do you know someone who can? So that the responsibility doesn’t fall on one person, we need a small team to gather the Society’s news items and put them together for distribution two or three times a year in a simple letter-style format. – the General Committee would supply subjects to be reported or investigated further.

You don’t need to be experienced in layout or publishing. Al we need is a chatty Newsletter to keep members up to date. Anyone willing to have a go should get in touch with Ian Heggie at

Members Visit to Hill Close Gardens Warwick Thursday 7 th May 2015
A group of members headed off to visit these enchanting gardens armed with umbrellas and anoraks, certain that the showery weather was set for the whole day. How wrong were we! The last shower disappeared as we arrived and the sun shone all afternoon!

These gardens are a must to put on your tick list. The restoration project which rescued the area from developers has taken over twenty years of dedication by volunteers and the formation of a Trust. Impressive does not describe the efforts which have resulted in a most incredible transformation. Gill Cousins our guide has been involved since its inception and even before, as she lives nearby and despaired as the neglectof the area meant its gradual return to nature. It became so totally overgrown that it was difficult to see the original gardens at all. One of our members, a very keen gardener herself, had visited many years ago seeing the gardens in the initial dilapidated state then. Not having returned since she was amazed and thrilled to see what the incredible restoration has achieved.

Originally these were called “guineau gardens” as this was the annual rent. Each plot comprised a lawn, an area for flowers and vegetables, fruit trees and a summer house of either brick or wood. Townspeople used these gardens as a tranquil escape from the town and provided space for their children to play. Each plot has a plaque with the history of the families who have owned them, many through several generations.

We were all amazed by the peace as we stood listening to a cacophony of bird song and no other sound. Each plot was so individual and stepping inside the restored summer houses filled with Victorian artefacts was exciting and nostalgic, giving a clear vision of life in the past.

Our tour finished with tea and cake on the patio outside the impressive visitor centre……..where we perused photos of the “then” and “now “giving us a clear idea of just how much dedicated work has taken place over the years. Members took the opportunity to speak to the head gardener and purchase unusual plants before we reluctantly left the tranquillity of Hill Close to return to life as we know it!

Hill Close Gardens were beautiful on a Spring day in May. They will be even more appealing on a glorious summer day. I highly recommend you put them on your “To Do” list this summer!

Rosemary Applin
Members Visit to Stanway House on Thursday 16 th April 2015
On a beautiful sunny April afternoon a large group of members gathered at the Gatehouse of Stanway House to be met by Lorraine our guide for the visit. While awaiting the arrival of all the group we were able to visit the church which stands adjacent,and the Tithe Barn in the grounds of the House.
Lorraine welcomed our group and began the tour in the Great Hall. She explained the long and complicated history of the house, which is now still used as a residence in the most homely way. She was so knowledgeable and welcomed our questions, amusing us by pointing out stamps on the very high ceiling and asking if we had any ideas as to how they got there. None of us could find an answer. Would you believe that J. M. Barrie was a frequent visitor there who took great delight in sticking stamps to coins which he then flicked and tossed to a great height so that they stuck to the ceiling! He played cricket on the village green and having won a hat trick there he paid for a new thatchedpavilion to be built to replace the railway carriage which was being used at the time!

As we continued our tour she explained how the House has only changed hands once since the dark ages…it belonged to The Abbey of Tewkesbury for 818 years and for the last 470 years to the Tracy family and descendents, the Charterises, Earls of Wemyss. We enjoyed seeing evidence of the family gatherings as the rooms are in constant use and although it is a grand house, it does not feel intimidating or pretentious.

Our tour of the rooms over, a most refreshing break with tea and cake followed. The fountain is computer controlled, so we gradually drifted outside at the appointed time for the switch on. Wow! The spectacular force and power were a sight to behold, and several people who had climbed the slope for a better view were heavily sprayed as the wind changed direction! It is certainly clear as to how it has earned its claim to fame…….utterly spectacular! Reluctantly our visit came to a close and we were free to roam the gardens, visit the tithe barn and church again had we not had a chance earlier.

A quiet, interesting, restful and informative time spent in a beautiful area and property. A most enjoyable afternoon, made all the more so by the glorious weather.

The Programme will be available shortly.

The first meeting of the season is expected to be in September.


Not yet available


Dates for your diary !Full details and booking arrangements to follow in due course.

All costs quoted are per person.  

Wednesday 16th September 2015

Sezincote House

Sezincote is a unique and extraordinary Indian house set amidst the Cotswold Hills just beyond Moreton-in-Marsh. Built in 1810, it was the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. Meet at 2.00pm for the tour which will last about one and a half hours.

Cost £11.50. Sezincote is close to Batsford Arboretum if refreshments are required.

Affiliated Organisations
English Historic Towns Link
English Heritage Link
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George Pragnell - Jewellers Link
CA Rookes Wine Merchants & Shippers Link