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September 22, 2009

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Something rotten in Shakespeare church

THE beam that supports the roof over the grave of William Shakespeare, and the church where he lies, is urgently seeking 50,000 pounds (US$80,000) for repairs.

The Rev Martin Gorick, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, said the problem was discovered three weeks ago by workmen on the roof of the church, who were alarmed to find bits of the beam falling off.

The beam which is rotting away supports the roof of the chancel, the part of the church where the altar stands and where Shakespeare is buried.

"We were doing some urgent lead repairs anyway, and the workmen found the odd bit dropped off into the chancel," Gorick told the BBC yesterday.

"It's safe to be here to visit, but it's pretty perilous to work on," he said.

The church has raised nearly 1 million pounds in the past seven years for restoration work on the building, which is about 800 years old.

Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity on April 26, 1564, and the church's burial register lists him as "Gulielimus, filius Johannes Shakspeare" (William, son of John Shakespeare).

After a career writing and staging his plays in London, he retired to Stratford in 1611, and was buried on April 25, 1616. His wife, Anne Hathaway, is also buried there.

Shakespeare was personally responsible for keeping the chancel in good repair after 1605, when he paid a sum of money to become a "lay rector," a position which also entitled him to a share of the tithe income of the parish.

But he seems to have made a pretty poor job of it.

Within a few years of his death, the chancel was reported to be in a ruinous state.


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