A brief history of the Town Hall
Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall, a most prestigious building located right in the heart of this historic market town.
Town Hall History
Welcome to Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall, a most prestigious building right in the heart of this historic market town.
The Hall was built in the reign of Charles I and throughout its chequered history has seen calamitous events including being extensively damaged from a gunpowder explosion in 1643. Just over a century later the Hall was actually pulled down but re-built the following year.
In 1863 major alterations resulted in a Hall very much as you see it today. Ill fate dogged it again in 1946 when fire, started from a cigarette, completely gutted the beautifully proportioned Ballroom, when a valuable painting by Gainsborough of David Garrick was destroyed.
The Town Hall houses many interesting and historic paintings and treasures and it is unsurprising that today smoking is definitely not permitted.
Entrance Hall / Mayor's Parlour
The Mayor’s parlour is his or her private domain and accessible only to the lucky few. It represents a haven of peace and quiet for the Council’s busy Mayor. The Mayor has access and exclusive use of the Parlour 365 days a year from May each year. Mayor Making is usually held on the third Thursday in May and it is fitting that the exchange of robes by the old Mayor and new incumbent take place in this room. It has also been designated the Registrar's Room where the interview of the Bride and Groom is conducted before their Civil Wedding ceremony proceeds.
1553 was a landmark year in the history of Stratford-upon-Avon. On 28 June, the King, Edward VI, granted the town a Charter of Incorporation, giving the townspeople extensive powers to run their own affairs. Although there have been changes since, many of today’s activities within the town can be traced back to the Charter on the wall in the Committee Room.
This room is very much a working room, where most of the Council’s Standing Committee Meetings take place. It is often hired by other organisations to hold meetings but it becomes more versatile and considerably increased in size when the partition doors adjoining the Council Chamber are removed. The Committee Room and Council Chamber can accommodate about sixty people in each room.
The Council Chamber is a very beautiful, historic room used primarily for Magistrates’ Courts and Inquests until July, 1878. Today it is still in use for Town Council Meetings, including the Mayor Making Ceremony which is well attended by the general public and even with both rooms in operation, usually ends up as “standing room only”.
The Mayor presides over Council from the red carpeted dais, with the Town Clerk at their side. Stratford-upon-Avon is steeped with history and Council continue to uphold the tradition of attending Council Meetings fully robed. At 6.30 p.m. on the appointed Tuesday, the Beadle will ring the bell, Council Members are brought to order and process silently and soberly into the Chamber The Beadle and Mace Bearers will lead the Mayor followed by the Town Clerk into the Chamber and the Mayor’s Chaplain will bless the proceedings before the meeting commences.
It is an impressive sight and the room does justice to the proceedings. Behind the dais, depicted in gold leaf the walls are adorned with names of Bailiffs and Mayors and other notables. There is one that is instantly recognisable, John Shakespeare, the father of Stratford-upon-Avon’s most notable son.
The Magistrates Room which was used as a retiring room when the courts were held in the Council Chamber is now used by the Town Council as an office.
Facilities for Visitors with Disabilities
The through the floor lift allows access to the mezzanine and first floor. An accessible toilet to part M standard is situated on the ground floor.
The kitchen has proved invaluable over the years to many organisations holding their coffee mornings or afternoon tea parties in the Town Hall. It is no longer a preparation kitchen and can be hired purely as a finishing kitchen. There is a limited supply of cups and saucers, jugs etc. but hirers are required to provide their own equipment and accessories. A maximum of five people are permitted in the kitchen.
Ante-Room and Ballroom
One cannot go far in Stratford-upon-Avon without being aware of a strong theatrical influence. Upon the stairs are portraits of the famous actor David Garrick and his wife.
The jewel in the Town Hall’s crown has to be the magnificent Ante-Room and Ball Room redecorated in 2002.
The mirrors at each end create almost an effect of infinity and the sprung floor, of Canadian Maple is arguably one of the finest dance floors around. The Council has recently adopted a more liberal approach in its letting policy of the Town Hall and dancers can be seen once more in celebration of almost any occasion.
A maximum of 200 people can be accommodated. Concert and orchestral engagements are enjoyed frequently in the Ballroom and theatre style seating is possible for up to 180. Seating for formal dinners/parties at round dinner tables is limited to a maximum of 80 guests.
Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council is justifiably proud of this wonderful building. Throughout its history it has played host to royalty, incarcerated the town’s villains and saw the earliest recorded Shakespearean production in the town. The ghosts of countless Councillors past sit side by side the present Council of eighteen Members. Business will no doubt continue to be conducted here long after they are gone.