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Over the years and centuries following the grant of the charters in 1196, Stratford-upon-Avon developed in a distinctive way.
In this early history, Stratford-upon-Avon became a town of tradesmen and merchants who established a guild (the Guild of the Holy Cross) to meet their religious and commercial interests. In a sense it was a kind of Rotary which also concerned itself with the welfare of its members and their families. In time the Guild's responsibilities and resources were transferred to the Borough Council and confirmed in King Edward VI's Charter of 1553.


The town thus developed its own form of governance, based upon an oligarchy of merchants elected by their contemporaries: in contrast to the villages and farms in the countryside around, which remained part of the landed estates of the Bishop of Worcester and other magnates and were run on hierarchical lines based on inheritance.  


The Medieval tradesmen in Stratford-upon-Avon valued education just as highly as the local lords of the manor, but their needs were different. Whereas the sons of the noblemen were sent away to other households to learn courtly manners and military skills, tradesman wanted their sons to learn reading and writing locally.  


Thus in 1427 a pedagogue's house and school were built next to the Guild Chapel and endowed in 1482 by Thomas Jolyffe's benefaction. The school provided free education for Stratford boys whose fathers were members of the Guild of the Holy Cross. Following the Guild's suppression, the school was refounded by the same charter of 1553 and given King Edward VI's name with a requirement to educate "the unripe subjects of His Majesty". Nowadays educational responsibilities for teenagers are shared with the Stratford High School, Stratford Grammar School for Girls and the Stratford College.