Cox’s Yard is located on the Riverside next to Clopton Bridge.
The site was originally used as a timber yard. The business was founded by James Cox and Edward Fordham Flower. Flower soon went on to found Flower’s Brewery, which was so successful, it helped endower the Shakespeare’s town with it’s famous theatre just a little further along the river.
The linking of the canal system into the River Avon in 1816 had made a significant impact on the industrial development of the town, helping recreate a building boom in the town in the 1830s which Cox’s timber business, founded in 1830, benefited from greatly. The most striking element to be seen at a distance is the tall brick chimney. The company constructed a steam powered sawmill on the site in 1873 so help improve production.
The timber for the roofs and floors of many of the elegant 19th century buildings in Stratford would have passed through this timber yard, as they were well known for the quality of their products.
Preservation breathes new life into an old building
The timber yard remained in operation until 1991. It was bought by the District Council in order to preserve an historic example of an industrial waterfront. The site was then converted to house a museum, brewery and restaurant bar, opening in 1996. Since it’s change of use it has provided enjoyment to tourists and locals alike as a music venue, pub, café and for a number of years it has even housed a very popular fringe theatre situated in the roof space of the biggest building and probably the oldest building on the site, and aptly named ‘The Attic Theatre’.
This building was the principle timber warehouse. In 1988 it was added onto the National Heritage list for England, just prior to the timber yard closing. It is Grade II listed. It is thought to have been originally built in the 1820s, but was renewed about 50 years later. The original timber framing with wallposts has been further strengthened in the 20th century with a steel-girder frame.
Most of the timber framed buildings in Stratford would have had central posts (forming King post trusses) to support the roof, but here the less common and more recently developed queen post roof truss system was used. This allowed a much wider span then you would find with a residential property.
Because the building stored timber, and timber after cutting has to dry out slowly, you can see that the external timber weatherboarding at first floor level is unusually angled. This is to allow air to circulate through the wall but keep rain out. This would have allowed good ventilation for the stored timber which would have been stacked to quite a height.
Nowadays, to speed the drying process, timber is gently dried in a kiln, rather than being left to season in the ‘open air’.
Cox’s Yard is a great example of how old buildings can be repurposed to new uses, as how we live changes. Although someone needs to remove the grass growing in the gutters!