Obituary – Edward Stone of Stratford-Upon-Avon
The Ale Taster who developed a taste for the finer things in life.
Edward Stone had recognised that the flow of sheep and sheep products across the bridge was a significant flow for the elite of Stratford-Upon-Avon; second only to the flow of ale into the ale houses. Given the right legislative adjustments, the role of ‘Chief Warden’ could be responsible not only for collecting the Bridge Toll, but could also decide who paid it.
Stone set out to control how long it would take a traveller to cross Clopton Bridge and then, following his standard approach of slowly increasing the restriction of flow, who would be allowed to cross Clopton Bridge at all.
His Trading Competitors suddenly found themselves in a position where their ongoing trade was closely linked to their support for Edward Stone’s Ambitions.
Within five years Stone had acquired several of the most prominent buildings in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon, taking advantage of the town’s regeneration to replace wooden structures with brick. His property portfolio became the hard foundation of his further rise.
The energy streaming from his control of the flow of trade across Clopton Bridge now powered a further climb to the highest influence within the Stratford community.
He built himself a 5 gabled house at the edge of town where he lived a life very much the opposite of that of his childhood. His collections of tapestries, his jewelled clothing and his dinner service of precious metals were talked about in all the ale houses of Old Town.
The one lesson from his early years that he had perhaps forgotten, is that everything continues to flow even when you no longer wish it.
His complete control over Clopton Bridge, although only applied against the few, was a threat to the many.
As time flowed past, the level of support that had carried Edward Stone to his position of benefitting from the wealth of the town ebbed away as younger and equally ambitious people began to establish themselves.
As Stone knew well, there is always a balance between how much of the flow of wealth you can restrict and how strong are the barriers you must employ to withhold the force of that flow.
His later years were increasingly acrimonious. There was a suggestion that he had surrounded himself with undesirable people; in the end using brute force to maintain his ebbing support.
His supporters however draw attention to his endowments of several local schools, his strong support for alms for the poor of the parish, and his replacing and extending the fitments of several local churches and of the Guild Hall itself.
A true tyrant would also have not left the means by which others can climb up to his level. He duly conceded his position of Ale Taster as the custom required. Stone’s latter years were occupied with shoring up his business as elements of legislation were carried through the Town Council that were less supportive of his interests.
In the end he was brought down by the flow of traffic across Clopton Bridge which eventually carried plague into Stratford-Upon-Avon. The plague, which had reasserted itself in the towns of The Weald, almost certainly came through the Cotswolds and crossed into Stratford through the toll gates of Clopton Bridge.
Edward Stone, admired by his rivals, will be missed by his family, friends and the disadvantaged of Stratford-Upon-Avon.