The national charity saving historic churches at risk
Set prettily in a wooded churchyard, deep in what was once the Forest of Arden, is the church of All Saints', Billesley.
The quiet surrounds and demure appearance belie a connection to one of the most famous men that has ever lived - William Shakespeare.
Photo above by Sarah McCarthy. Not to be reproduced without permission.
Barely 4 miles from Stratford and a mile or so down the road from Mary Arden's Farm - Shakespeare's mother’s birthplace - the famous playwrite would undoubtedly have known the area – walked it, observed it and breathed its air.
The origins of this Grade 1 listed church go back as far as the 11th-century when there was once a thriving village here. The church we see today is not the very same church of Shakespeare’s time since it was radically altered at the end of the 17th-century; but vestiges of the building remain and it is a magical place steeped in history.
Whether or not Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at Billesley is unlikely ever to be proved since the evidence has long since perished. Or maybe not. Maybe there are documents yet to be discovered, records to be revealed. In the meantime, we can but surmise, look at the facts before us - and imagine.
We have created a guided trail that links the villages of Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, and Billesley - each claiming its own special connection to William Shakespeare.
There are two circular routes – a walking route mainly on public footpaths, and a road-based route for cyclists and those with limited mobility (though please be aware the country roads are often narrow and without pavements). Both routes are about 8 miles long, but can be explored in sections.
Working with local residents, school children and amenity societies, we are also creating a heritage trail leaflet and two outdoor interpretation boards featuring All Saints'.
The trail leaflet will guide visitors on a 4-5 mile walk using local footpaths and lanes to investigate nearby landmarks, whilst the boards will focus on the church’s history, its Shakespearean associations and the nearby deserted Medieval village.
This is an exciting initiative for the Churches Conservation Trust and one that will help to promote our work to a wider audience. Together we seek to build a supporter community who care about the future of this special little church.
Last year, we welcomed over two million visitors to our churches. If each person donated just £2, this would enable us to keep our churches open, safe and watertight for you and future generations to enjoy.
Text code 'OCCT05' to 70070 to donate now (free from all networks).
Or use the button below to donate online.
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