The Bishop of Worcester licensed Stratford's Guild of the Holy Cross to build a chapel and hospital in the town in 1269. Religious guilds existed in most medieval English towns and they came to play an important part in the townspeople's daily lives.

The Guild's buildings

The hospital was intended to provide care for needy priests and formed the basis of the complex of buildings that the guild was to develop in the town over the following three-hundred years. These buildings included almshouses to house its elderly members, and the original schoolhouse, where one of the guild's priests taught Latin grammar to young boys. The guildhall, in which feasts were held, was built in 1417. Inside the lower guildhall the painted emblem of the guild can still be traced, covering the whole of the south wall.

Robert de Stratford, founder of the guild, depicted in the stained glass of the Guild Chapel

The guild's buildings: the Guild Chapel, Guildhall and almshouses

" ... the buildings included the schoolhouse where one of the guild's priests taught Latin grammar ..."

" ... the interior of the chapel was highly decorated with religious murals ..."

Chapel wall paintings

In 1495, the Guild Chapel was re-built with an enlarged nave and stone tower. The interior of the chapel was highly decorated with religious murals including a vast depiction of the Day of Judgement painted above the chancel arch. But the paintings did not remain on view for long. In the sixteenth century, during the course of the Reformation, John Shakespeare oversaw the limewashing of the murals. Uncovered again in the 1920s, the chapel wall paintings are now some of the most interesting to be found in the country.

The end of the guild

Guilds had become wealthy and powerful institutions by the time of Henry VIII's reign and, much like the monasteries, they were dissolved in the wake of the Reformation. In Stratford, the guild's buildings then became the headquarters of the town council for the next three centuries, and home to King Edward VI School.

Preparing food for a medieval feast


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Web links

Medieval English towns
This section of the Online reference book for medieval studies concentrates on medieval boroughs of East Anglia, with articles on self-government, the urban economy and urban society. Includes an extensive listing of related web sites

Medieval wall painting in the English parish church
This illustrated site provides a brief introduction to the subject, combined with a growing catalogue of locations.

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