History of the Guildhall

Shakespeare's Schoolroom & Guildhall is a window onto Stratford's past, and onto the childhood of the world's greatest playwright.

Historian and broadcaster Michael Wood has called it "one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain." Outstanding timber-framed architecture, rare historic wall paintings and a rich legacy of amazing stories make it one of Stratford's must-see sights.

The Guild of the Holy Cross built the Guildhall between 1418 and 1420. It was the Guild's headquarters. Over about a hundred years more buildings were added, including a Schoolhouse, a Chapel and Almshouses. By around 1530 the Guildhall was the most impressive complex of buildings in Stratford.

In 1553 the Guildhall became the headquarters of Stratford Borough Council. It remained the heart of civic life in Stratford for over 400 years, until 1848.

The King's New School (later known as King Edward VI School or K.E.S.) moved into the Guildhall in the 1560s. And in 1571 a seven-year-old boy called William Shakespeare started going to school there. At the time, nobody could know that when he grew up his words would echo down the centuries and travel around the world. K.E.S. pupils still study in the Guildhall today.

For hundreds of years, generations of local people have used the Guildhall, cared for it and adapted it. This means it has never fallen into neglect. Continuous use has kept the fabric of the Guildhall in good condition, and kept its unique atmosphere alive. After 600 years it's still going strong, and it has a unique legacy of stories tell.

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Photography provided by SEA, Sara Beaumont and John Cairns