The Canadian city of Stratford lies on the River Avon across the ocean from its English sister city, Stratford-upon-Avon. The two-hour drive from Toronto takes you through some really pretty landscape, mainly the Niagara Escarpment. It is especially beautiful in the autumn.
European settlers moved to this area in around 1832 when the Canada Company, a private land enterprise, started developing Little Thames as a market centre. The advent of the railway in the 1850s and Stratford’s incorporation in 1859 transformed the village into a thriving town. So much so that it was incorporated as a city in 1885. The predominant architectural style is Victorian. The City Hall is registered as a National Historic Site of Canada. It was built in the late-Victorian eclectic style and dominates the business district. Ontario Street is the main commercial road and is lined with lovely and colourful Victorian buildings.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon in Stratford some time ago. We parked the car near the City Hall and walked towards the river. The War Memorial, at the end of Erie Street, honours the memory of Stratford’s sons who died in both World Wars and in the Korean War. Their names are inscribed around the monument. War memorials are always a sobering sight. This one is set among beautiful gardens and overlooks the river. I was quite taken with the Huron Street stone bridge. It looks very English. Shakespeare would have approved.
Stratford is known worldwide for its Shakespearean theatre festival. The festival started in 1953 as a means to revive the town’s economy. It was so successful over the years that it became Canada’s principal theatre festival. From its humble start in a tent by the River Avon to its own modern facility, the Stratford Theatre Festival has attracted leading actors like Sir Alec Guinness, who played Richard III on the opening night in 1953 or, more recently, William Shatner.
We did not attend any of the plays but enjoyed our visit to Stratford. We took leisurely strolls along the river and across the bridge, and along the main street.