Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Safety warning over Bard's church

Holy Trinity Church
Extensive work is being carried out at the church

The Warwickshire church where William Shakespeare was buried may have to close because of safety fears, its vicar has warned.

Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon is under-going multi-million pound restoration work.

Reverend Martin Gorick said if a 400,000 project to fix 15th Century windows was not carried out the church could close in about five years' time.

But he added it was a "worst case scenario" which they aimed to avoid.

Shakespeare's grave has been restored as part of extensive repairs at the church.

The playwright was baptised at Holy Trinity in April 1564 and buried there 52 years later. His grave slab in the chancel and a memorial to him are visited by thousands of tourists every year.

The church, which dates back to 1210, has undergone thousands of pounds worth of repairs, including to the tower and areas of eroded masonry.

'Worn away'

The latest project involves work on stone holding the window glass in place above the congregation.

Mr Gorick said: "If we don't attend to the windows, you are probably only five years off from having to close the church, from a safety point of view."

But he added: "We are determined that won't be the case."

He said the work on the windows needed to be carried out for safety reasons.

"The stone has really worn away and needs quite major repair," he said.

"It's just had 500 years of weathering so eventually it just turns to powder."

The church raises some money from visitors' donations, but the bulk of the funds for restoration work is made through fundraising.

Last year, the fundraising group, the Friends of Shakespeare's Church, estimated 4m was still needed for the work.

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