It’s Not about Shakespeare – Aspects of ordinary life in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1775-1915
Val Horton

It's Not about Shakespeare
Aspects of ordinary life in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1775-1915
Val Horton
A great deal is known about Stratford-on-Avon’s remarkable Elizabethan history but very little of its more recent past. Beginning in 1775 with an Act of Inclosure through to 1914 and the First World War, this book attempts to redress that imbalance. It is a concise and compelling read, presenting the reader with a rare glimpse of local life during the 140 years concerned. Being a period of remarkable change, it brought great improvement to the town, but there was often a price to be paid. Education, healthcare, suffrage, slavery and housing are just a few of the areas explored. Within its chapters, local dignitaries, benevolent families, unfortunate paupers and brave men and women all have a voice. When George Cope encountered Constable Keeley during the 1832 elections, and feelings were running high, he wanted to ‘split his skull open’. Later, in 1912, Albert Danks was told by a local district judge he had ‘done a foolish thing’ in accepting a stolen duck, and let off. With such well-chosen words, many gleaned from archived copies of the local paper, the reader is presented with an intriguing insight into life in this famous small town.
Published: Dec 2019
Paperback: 262 pages
Price: £12.99
ISBN: 9-781912-419760
Images: 60 B/W

£12.99 (+ £3 postage)
Number of copies:

Available from Amazon


Robert Booth, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Guardian
Bristling with the chaotic energy of riots, strikes and bacchanalia, this elegant, humane and subtly radical social history of Stratford reveals a place unknown to the millions of visitors who come looking only for the trace of Shakespeare. Val Horton is a witty and diligent guide as she charts her home town’s other life: a stuttering journey to modernity from the squalor of the poor house via the struggles for women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery. Suddenly, Shakespeare’s town seems so much more.

Anne Langley, Family & Community Historical Research Society
This is an unusual book...The research started out as a history of the author’s Edwardian house, but by including the owners of the land on which the house was built, it’s developed into a record of everyday life in Stratford (1775-1915). The chapters alternate between those about the history of the house and those of more general interest. Thus there are chapters about the workhouse, education, medical provision, women’s suffrage, the Great War and so on.
Anyone writing the history of a house- or indeed their family- might like to consider copying this enterprising approach to publishing their findings.

Dr Sarah Richardson, History department, University of Warwick
An impressively researched and fascinating insight into the changing character of a town in transition: Stratford-on-Avon. The lost voices of ordinary men and women from the town echo through the pages, providing a unique interpretation of the town. Valerie Horton has created a brilliant and inspiring social history based on comprehensive and meticulous research.

Michael G. Mattis, retired editor, Davis, California
Val Horton’s long residence in Stratford-Upon-Avon and her devotion to the history of its people have given her a clear vision of this special place. More than a story told between neighbors over the back fence, her book gives the bigger picture - of inclosure, slavery, conscription, insurrection, politics, women’s rights, law and order, education, medical care, housing for the poor – but from a local perspective.
A fascinating look at an amazing town.

Cyril Bennis, former mayor of Stratford, now the town’s swan keeper
Communities are a collection of individuals, connected by streets, and this is the logical starting point for this engrossing social history. We are given a fascinating glimpse into the plans and personal aspirations of the various owners of Mayfield Avenue, and how these involved and were influenced by the social institutions of their time in the town at large. Meticulously researched and well told, it brings to life a non-Shakespearean, but no less engrossing, period of Stratford-upon-Avon life.