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The story begins in 1196 - in that year John de Coutances, the Bishop of Worcester decided that the part of his estates near the "strete ford" where the Roman road from Banbury crossed the River Avon should be reconstituted as a town.
He laid out a town plan on a grid system - following the pattern adopted centuries before by the Romans and used again in our own generation by town and country planners, notably at Milton Keynes.


Then the Bishop of Worcester gave his tenants the right to rent property and transmit it at death. This was called "burgage" tenure. Each development plot or "burgage" was about one quarter of an acre. The plot holders, called "burgesses", paid one shilling a year rent and were allowed by their overlord, the Bishop, to trade freely.  


In that same year of 1196 the Bishop obtained a special charter from King Richard I so that the embryonic town could hold a weekly market and attract merchants from elsewhere to come and trade.  


Richard the Lionheart was only too pleased to oblige, as the Royal coffers had been emptied first by his crusades in Palestine, then to raise the ransom money to rescue him from the Duke of Austria, and finally to pay for the war newly started in France.  


The two charters of 1196 therefore are the twin foundation stones of the Stratford-upon-Avon that we know and love today.