Bidford-on-Avon is a large riverside village on the banks of the River Avon, seven miles downriver from Stratford-upon-Avon and twenty-five miles away from Birmingham. For over one hundred years, residents from Birmingham have chosen Bidford-on-Avon for a day trip. The historic medieval bridge appears in many photographs. Bidford Bridge is a scheduled Ancient Monument and was built by monks in the 15th century, but King Charles I demolished it to protect his army when retreating from Worcester to Oxford during the English Civil War. It was not repaired until 1650. Before the bridge was built, there was a ford across the River Avon for the Roman road Ryknild Street. Its course can be seen as a lane under the churchyard wall of St. Laurence Church, which crosses the High Street and continues as the main road to Alcester. The bridge now carries single lane traffic, but there are six “cut-ins” for pedestrians to use on the upstream side.
St. Laurence Church is over eight hundred years old and dates from the 13th century. The tower and chancel are both medieval. Much of the current structure dates from 1835, when it was rebuilt. On the bank of the River Avon, is a twenty-six acre meadow known as the Big Meadow, which is open to walkers and also provides parking and playground facilities.
Bidford-on-Avon was famous for its beer drinkers. The village held a chartered market and annual fair, dating from the 12th century, which attracted thirsty farmers and traders. The Falcon Inn, a three storey building, which dominates what was once the market place in the village, dates from the 16th century. William Shakespeare is said to have been a frequent visitor. In the 19th century, it was the village workhouse and is now occupied as residential apartments.
An epigram attributed to William Shakespeare, refers to Bidford-on-Avon as, “Drunken Bidford”. The story, which obviously has elements of truth but cannot be proven, relates that the young William Shakespeare, together with his friends, travelled the seven miles from Stratford-upon-Avon to outdrink the Bidford-on-Avon locals. They failed and became “intollerable intoxicated”, having to spend the night outside under a crab apple tree. The next day, William Shakespeare’s friends wanted to repeat the challenge, but Shakespeare declined saying, he had drunk at:-
“Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston, Haunted Hillboro, Hungry Grafton, Dodging Exhall, Papist Wixford, Beggarly Broom and Drunken Bidford”.
The epigram above lists the hamlets in the area. It was not published until 1749. The crab apple tree, where William Shakespeare and his friends were supposed to have slept, became a tourist attraction. Souvenir hunters broke up the crab apple tree and in 1824, the remains were dug up.