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Appeal goes out to repair Shakespeare's church.

Byline: Neil Connor

A

appeal has been launched to safeguard the future of the church where William Shakespeare was baptised and buried after dry rot and death-watch beetle were found in the main trusses of its chancel. Trustees of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, said the bill for restoration work had now risen to pounds 150,000 -50 per cent more than estimates made last summer.

Holy Trinity, which is sited on the banks of the River Avon, is probably England's most-visited parish church.

It is one of the most important buildings for historians of Shakespeare as it is named in records of his baptism and burial. No records of births and deaths existed in the writer's day.

Shakespeare was believed to have been born on April 23, 1564. He also died on St George's Day in 1616. Records show he was baptised at Holy Trinity on April 26, 1564 and was buried at the church on April 25, 1616.

It is also thought that he worshipped at the church as a boy and young man, and when he retired to his home town.

Catherine Penn, one of the trustees of the Friends of Holy Trinity Church, which was launched last June, said work to repair the crumbling parapet was almost complete but other vital repairs were on-going at the 800-year-old Grade I listed building.

Mrs Penn said donations from tourists had dipped due to the downturn in visitor numbers in the wake of September 11 and the Sars scare.

She added: 'The Friends have just handed over a cheque for pounds 30,000 and things are going well at the moment, but tourist numbers are well down.

'We are hopeful that things will improve next year and if anyone wants to sponsor a gargoyle we would be more than happy to hear from them.'

Shakespeare's Church, as it is popularly known, benefits from donations from up to 100,000 devotees of the playwright who visit each year, but the chancel, north and south aisles and north and south transepts are all in need of repair.

A memorial to Shakespeare was erected on a wall near the building within a few years of his death, during the lifetime of his wife Ann Hathaway. The statue is thought to be a good likeness to Shakespeare as it was probably commissioned by his family. Ann Hathaway is buried alongside Shakespeare with his two daughters, son-in-laws and granddaughter. His son, who died in childhood, was also buried in the grounds of the church.

Dr Robert Bearman, head of archives at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who manage various properties in Stratford but not the church, said Holy Trinity is an important part of the town's heritage.

He said: 'For well over 300 years people who have been interested in Shakespeare have been making a pilgrimage to the church to see the gravestone of the great man.

'It has always been an important focal point for people who admire Shakespeare.

'In the early days of tourism people used to go to a person's last resting place more than the birthplace. There are many people who go to the church and want to stand next to the grave so that they can contemplate the greatest poet ever. That is why it is so important to the tourism of Stratford.

'It is obviously a beautiful building and it has the advantage of being situated in a tranquil situation.'

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Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the bill for restoration is forecast at pounds 150,000
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 3, 2004
Words:591
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