Stratford Town Trust derives its income from the properties and funds of two charities, the Guild and College estates, whose origins go back to the 13th Century.
The Guild of the Holy Cross, originally set up to employ a priest to pray for the souls of its members, developed into a fraternity of well-to-do local people who played a significant part in governing the town. The Guild was granted many properties in and around Stratford and some of the rental income generated was used to fund welfare facilities for its members such as the employment of a schoolmaster and the building of almshouses. Holy Trinity Church was served by priests living in the College. The College was also granted property in the town and had the right to collect tithes within the parish.
Both institutions were suppressed at the Reformation and their property confiscated by the Crown. This brought to an end the ‘welfare provision’ they had supplied and caused a breakdown in local government. To meet this crisis in 1553 the townspeople of Stratford petitioned Edward VI for a charter and on June 25th, just nine days before his death at the age of 16, Edward granted it.
The Royal Charter that Edward granted established the first Stratford Corporation and gave to it much of the property of the former Guild and College with specific responsibilities to provide a school, maintain the almshouses and pay the vicar.
For hundreds of years the income of the two charities – the Guild and College estates – was used by the Corporation to contribute towards the general municipal expenses of the Borough. Many changes took place over the intervening years; the Corporation was replaced by an elected council, management of the Grammar School passed to a separate body of trustees, the Borough Council was abolished in 1972, and the charities were transferred to the new Town Council in 1974. Years ago, legal opinion confirmed that there had been so many changes that the Royal Charter had effectively ceased to exist.
Following a report by the Charity Commissioners, the Town Council applied for a new scheme which led to the ancient trusts being transferred to a new charity – Stratford-upon-Avon Town Trust in 2001. The Trust’s remit now, which reflects to some extent the original responsibilities laid down in the Royal Charter, is to support activities and individuals across Stratford-upon-Avon.
Each year we award around £2million in grants. Discretionary grants support a huge range of organisations, charities, projects, schools, events and individuals, while our Non-Discretionary grants still see funds awarded to the Grammar School, Almshouses and the Vicar of Holy Trinity.