A friend went to Stratford a few days ago and she found time to send me this postcard "from the town where Shakespeare was born".
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, 22 miles (35 km) south east of Birmingham and 8 miles (13 km) 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 a much larger area than the town itself. Four electoral wards make up the urban town of Stratford; Alveston, Avenue and New Town, Mount Pleasant and Guild and Hathaway. The estimated total population for those wards in 2007 was 25,505.
The town is a popular tourist destination owing to its status as birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, receiving about three million visitors a year from all over the world. The Royal Shakespeare Company resides in Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Theatre, one of Britain's most important cultural venues.
The town is located on the River Avon (afon or avon being a Celtic synonym of "river"), on a bank of which stands the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) designed by the English architect Elisabeth Scott and completed in 1932, which is the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Until recently the RSC also ran two smaller theatres, the Swan, which is modelled on an Elizabethan theatre (closed in August 2007 as part of plans for refurbishment) and The Other Place theatre, a Black box theatre which closed in 2005 to make room for the temporary RSC Courtyard Theatre, which opened in July 2006. This theatre is now the home of the RSC while the RST is being refurbished; its interior is similar to the planned interior of the refurbished RST. The site of The Other Place has now become the foyer, bars, cloakroom, dressing rooms, and rehearsal space of the Courtyard Theatre. The Other Place will be reinstated after the RST and Swan refurbishment is complete in 2010 and the Courtyard Theatre is dismantled, although many in the town would retain the Courtyard so that it can used by local theatre companies.
Other tourist attractions within the town include five houses relating to Shakespeare's life, which are owned and cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. These include Hall's Croft (the one-time home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, and her husband Dr. John Hall) and Nash's House, which stands alongside the site of another property, New Place, owned by Shakespeare himself, wherein he died. Near to the town are Anne Hathaway's Cottage at Shottery, the home of Shakespeare's wife's family prior to her marriage, and Mary Arden's House (Palmer's Farm), the family home of his mother. Elsewhere in the district are farms and buildings at Snitterfield, that belonged to the family of Shakespeare's father.
At the top end of Waterside is Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptised and is buried.
Non-Shakespearean attractions include the Stratford Butterfly Farm, which is on the eastern side of the river and the Bancroft Gardens and Stratford Armouries located three miles from the centre of Stratford on Gospel Oak Lane.
Each year on 12 October (unless this is a Sunday, in which case 11 October) Stratford hosts one of the largest Mop Fairs in the country. Then, on the second Saturday following, the smaller Runaway Mop fair is held. [wikipedia]