The Clock Tower Post-War – Then & Now

Clock Tower, early 1960s
Clock Tower, early 1960s

The Square, early 1960s and in December 2015. At first glance, little has changed between the two images. However, a handful of the buildings on the left of the clock tower survived the landmine of November 1940 before being cleared for the post-war Abbey End redevelopment, as shown in the modern image.

Up until the early 1960s, The Square still comprised a triangular arrangement closely huddled around the Clock Tower, but in the extreme left of the ‘then’ image we can see that the wall surrounding the plot that then contained Number 2  The Square, which has since been cleared in favour of a roundabout, thereby losing much of the original close knit feel of the original Square.

On the right, a clump of trees which once flanked Lord Leycester’s Lodge are still very much in evidence in the 1950s scene, but gone from the modern picture. An eerie photo of the bomb damaged Square, including the lodge prior to its collapse and demolition, can be found here.

Thankfully, the crown of the clock tower, rendered unsafe by the 1940 landmine and removed, was restored to its former glory in 1973.

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High Street / Castle Hill Cottage – Then & Now

High St Thatched Cottage
Cottage at the junction of Malthouse Lane, with High Street in the distance and Castle Hill behind the camera

A timber framed cottage at the junction of Malthouse Lane, with High Street in the distance and Castle Hill behind the camera.

As Rob Steward explains in Kenilworth History 2001 – 2002, this cottage is “…probably early 17th century and of ‘cruck’ construction. Cruck construction consists of two purpose-grown curved tree branches cut longways down the middle and then the two halves placed together to form an ‘A’ frame and a cross beam fixed at ground floor ceiling level. Two frames are made, one for each of the gables, with a ridge beam joining the two apexes. They were ‘purpose-grown’ many years before, with future generations in mind, especially for the ribs in shipbuilding. Very often these ‘crucks’ were second-hand from old ships”.

Very little has changed between the 1960s and 2015 scene except the model of car parked beyond the cottage and the appearance of double yellow lines.

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Talisman Square – Then & Now

The ‘then’ photo below shows Talisman Square, largely as had been initially conceived in the post war planning of the late 1950s. The ‘now’ counterpart photo was taken in December 2015. Talisman Square replaced the Tannery and Warwick Road almshouses, which were demolished in 1965 and 1963 respectively.

Talisman Square
Talisman square 1960s and 2015

Talisman Square was so named following a competition in which the name of the Talisman Theatre group, which originally occupied part of the old tannery site, was adopted for the square that replaced it. The theatre group had adopted the name after the novel The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott in the same Waverley series of novels as his famous work Kenilworth. The square was originally designed as a wide open space surrounded by a covered cloister-like walkway.

In 2003 the square was bought out by Cobalt Estates, who announced plans to modernise the tired looking post-war shopping precinct.

Phase 1 of the square’s modernisation, originally due to be completed by 2008, began by extending the shop units on the right forwards and adding a glass canopy to the front of the structure to provide some cover from the elements for shoppers.

Phase 2 of the scheme will result in narrowing of the square by developing new shop units on the left, up to the line of the wooden fence pictured. At the time of writing in December 2015, this has been delayed and is due to recommence shortly.

In 2010 it was decided to create a temporary carpark, marked out by the wooden fence shown in the ‘now’ image, as a stop-gap whilst finances to build the remaining shops could be sought.

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Our Warwickshire at Kenilworth Library – 26th April

There will be an open event at Kenilworth Library on Tuesday 26th April (10 am to 3 pm) to share the Our Warwickshire website

Local residents are invited to come along and share their memories of living in the town and surrounding area; and also to bring old photographs to scan and add to the site.

Our Warwickshire flyer
Our Warwickshire flyer
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KHAS April Newsletter – Additional Items

Dear KHAS Member,

It has been decided to reinstate the circulation of the monthly Newsletter by email for those who require it. As mentioned previously, it is available each month on the KHAS website at If you would prefer not to receive the Newsletter by email, please can you let me know. (You will of course, continue to receive all other notifications via email in the normal way).

This month there are two additional items that we have been asked to bring to your attention.

>> A concert is being held at Stoneleigh Church at 7.30pm on Saturday May 7th, featuring the Warwick-based choir “Immanuel’s Ground” (flyer attached). Tickets need to be obtained in advance.

Scanned poster for IGQ Stoneleigh
Scanned poster for IGQ Stoneleigh (click to enlarge)

>> Chris Holland will be speaking to Kenilworth Civic Society on Tuesday April 19th about “The Story behind the Monument”. Again, full details appear on the attached flyer: Chris Holland 19th April 2016

Best regards,

Geoff Whiteman

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April 2016 Newsletter


» Last Month: We were unexpectedly privileged to welcome Julie Crawshaw, the Project Manager, no less, for the “New Place Project” which operates under the aegis of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. She gave an animated and comprehensive account of the work being done in Stratford, and inspired many of us to get there to see the results.

» Tonight: Roy Smart will give an account of the career of the First Earl Beatty, under the title of “The Last Naval Hero”.

» Next month May 9th: A not-to-be-missed visit from Dr Richard Buckley of Leicester University who has been a lead figure in the whole of the “Richard III Project”, from its earliest days.


Unfortunately, the Mayor wants the use of the Castle on the date we had arranged for our Siege-based visit in July, so we have moved the event to the 25th July. Because this is so late in the summer, the August outing has been abandoned. There will be major ‘Siege’ events over the last weekend in August as well.

This is a ‘Members Only’ meeting. Please will those wishing to join the party see


Last month, Members were handed a Questionnaire. Its purpose is to establish the resources the Society has to hand in the abilities and inclinations of the Membership.

This was done in the past (eg, 1965) when membership was much smaller, and even then the Society was well-known for the amount of work it did. With the current membership level, it may be that we could do more if we marshalled all our forces.

It is intended that members remain anonymous, but there is no obligation to hide you lamp under a bushel, if you would like to declare your hand. The way it will work otherwise is that when a particular expertise is needed, that need will be advertised through the monthly Newsletter, and therefore on the Website. That will be the time to put yourself forward, but only if you want to. What we are trying to avoid is making anyone feel pressured; if you want just to sit back and enjoy the meetings, then the Committee will be just as happy!

Anyone who didn’t receive a copy, please take one from the table at the door, and those who have completed theirs from last month, please leave it on the table.

» Kenilworth Family History Society: 13 April AGM + Members’ evening Short talks by members. Meetings 7.30 at Senior Citizens’ Club. 11 May Mike Sharpe Writing Your Family History

» Warwickshire Local History Society: Tuesday 19th April, Richard Dace, “The Earls of Warwick in the 12th century” in The Friends’ Meeting House, 39 High Street, Warwick, CV34 4AX, 7.30 for 8pm

» Warwickshire Geology: 20 April : Luke Swain CGeol FGS. Senior Asset Engineer (Geotechnics) – Network Rail: The Harbury landslip. All meetings take place at S. Francis’ Church Hall, Warwick Road (Kenilworth main street), Kenilworth CV8 1HL, with coffee at 7pm before a 7.30pm start

» CADAS: 12th April “The Infancy of the Alphabet” Lecturer: Professor Alan Millard 10th May AGM. All meetings are held at the Friends’ Meeting House, Hill Street, Coventry, at 19:30

Some of us enjoy the privilege of conducting members of other Societies around the Castle and the Abbey Ruins. When we are in the Ruins, we open the “Barn Museum and Heritage Centre” for the visitors to see what we have on offer. We are always delighted to hear the very favourable – indeed, often envious – comments when they see what we have on offer. “If only we had somewhere like this!” they say.

Well, we do have ‘The Barn’. We want as many people as possible to see it. But we can manage only two measly hours a week in the middle of the year for them to enjoy what we have. OK, it’s too cold in the winter and there aren’t many people around anyway. But in the summer . . . . . ?

The only way we can have the place open is by members being prepared to be there and look after it while it’s open. The number of members prepared to help in this is, frankly, pathetic. It isn’t as if they have to have the complete history of the site at their fingertips – they are rarely asked deep questions. It’s just simply to have people there who can smile a welcome and point questioners to the person who can answer the question (there’s always somewhere there from the Committee).

If the truth be told, volunteers actually enjoy being there – it’s fun meeting interested people – but we desperately need more volunteers. It can’t be left to a handful – it’s not fair. See Margaret Kane (864624) or Michael Formstone (777614) tonight, or ring them, and tell them you’d love to help – when can I come?!

The Secretary reports: I’ve been contacted by Andante tours, wishing to draw our attention to the range of tours they offer on historical themes. Details are available at: and

Contacts: Chairman – 01676 532654; Secretary – 01926 858670; Treasurer – 01926 852655;

Vice Chairman & Editor – 01926 858090


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The Great Siege of Kenilworth 1266

Siege Booklet Cover
‘The Great Siege of Kenilworth 1266’ booklet Cover drawn by the late Eric Pedlar, produced for the 1966 commemorations

Jan Cooper discusses the events of the Great Siege of Kenilworth 1266, following on from her earlier article on the life and death of Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham:

Those of Earl Simon’s supporters who had escaped the carnage of Evesham made their way back to Kenilworth Castle where we believe Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, was waiting with her younger children. Also returning to Kenilworth was the Earl’s second son, also called Simon, who had arrived at Evesham too late to help his father and elder brother. There was much anger and bitterness amongst the Montfortian supporters and that anger was directed towards Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the King’s brother, who had been at Kenilworth in his sister’s custody since his capture at Lewes. He had therefore played no part in the battle of Evesham or Earl Simon’s death but Young Simon so feared for his uncle’s life that he had him released.

De Montfort Plaque
Plaque laid near where the altar of Evesham Abbey Church would have been to mark the spot where Simon de Montfort’s remains were buried.

King Henry tried to persuade the rebels to leave the castle, saying that if they would surrender immediately they would lose neither their lives nor lands but they did not trust him and remained where they were. He then disinherited all of those who continued to stand out against him.

The Countess Eleanor and her younger children went to Dover Castle and eventual exile in France where she found favour with the French Queen and lived out her life at Montargis.

Kenilworth castle had been kept well provisioned with both food and siege equipment, including Trebuchets. During the next few months the rebels ravaged the countryside looting and stock-piling food and munitions against the expected siege.

Late in 1265 Young Simon left the castle to meet with other supporters at Ely. On his way back he was captured by Prince Edward and forced to agree to surrender Kenilworth Castle and accept the King’s peace. However on arriving at the castle the garrison commander, Henry de Hastings, refused to comply saying that he held the castle in the name of the Countess of Leicester and would surrender to no one but her. This may have been something which had been agreed between Young Simon and de Hastings prior to him leaving the castle, just in case he should be captured. He was then sent under guard to London but escaped on route and fled to France to try to raise support.

In March 1266 one of the King’s messengers returned from Kenilworth minus a hand – the time for talking seemed to be over and the King called a muster which finally took place at Northampton in May. Once all the armies were assembled they set out, arriving at Kenilworth around 22nd June, the King vowing that he would not leave until the castle fell.

Four siege camps were established commanded by King Henry, Prince Edward, Prince Edmund and Roger de Mortimer.

Siege Map
Map of the Siege of Kenilworth 1266, drawn by the late Eric Pedlar

The King requisitioned vast quantities of munitions, money, food and drink to be sent to Kenilworth. Powerful siege machines (Trebuchets, Mangonels and Ballistas) and fighting towers were brought and also barges for what was to be an unsuccessful assault across the Mere.

Cardinal Ottobuono
Cardinal Ottobuono, later Pope Adrian V, was sent to England in 1265 by Pope Clement IV

As Patron of the Priory the King was entitled to hospitality and would most likely have been accommodated there, with his Queen, when not at his siege camp. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and Cardinal Ottobuono (the Papal Legate) also spent much time at Kenilworth during the months of the siege. The latter tried to mediate between the King and the rebels but to no avail.

In July Cardinal Ottobuono (wearing his red cope) excommunicated those inside the castle. (It is said that he delivered his Papal Bull of Excommunication from a safe vantage point at the top of Castle Hill – still known as ‘Bull Hill’. (This may be apocryphal.)

Apparently this act aroused the defiance of the rebels who, according to Robert of Gloucester, had a cope and other clothes made in white in which they dressed Master Philip Porpeis, a cleric and their surgeon, who presented himself on the battlements of the castle as a ‘White Legate’ and “excommunicated” the King, the Cardinal and the whole army! Morale was clearly still very high as they awaited the expected relieving force from France.

In August, at the Cardinal’s request, the King called a Parliament at Kenilworth – given the people involved and the facilities which they would require, the most likely venue for this is the Priory Church. The purpose of this meeting was to set up a Commission to decide what steps should be taken to return peace to the land and to consider the case of the ‘disinherited’ (as the rebels had come to be known). An order was made for an initial committee of 3 Bishops and 3 Barons’ representatives:

  • Walter, Bishop of Exeter
  • Walter Gifford, Bishop of Bath and Wells (then Chancellor)
  • Bishop of Worcester
  • Roger de Somery
  • Robert Walerand
  • Alan de la Zouch

They then co-opted the following:

Bishop of St. David’s, Earl of Gloucester, Earl of Hereford, John de Baliol, Phillip Basset and Warin de Bassingbourne, making a full Committee of 12.

The Papal Legate and Henry of Almain (the King’s nephew) were appointed Arbiters in the event of a dispute – their services were called upon several times during the deliberations.

Eventually agreement was reached and the terms of surrender set out in a document known as The Dictum of Kenilworth. This allowed for the rebels to leave the castle unmolested and gave the ‘disinherited’ the opportunity to buy back their lands on payment of very heavy fines set on a sliding scale dependent upon the extent of each individual’s involvement in the war and siege. The exceptions to the ‘benefits’ of the Dictum were the members of the garrison who were involved in maiming the King’s messenger and the garrison commander, Henry de Hastings. They were to be imprisoned at the King’s will.

The Dictum was delivered to the castle on 31st October 1266 and was, the following week, publicly proclaimed at St. Mary’s Church, Warwick.

De Hastings declined to accept on the basis that the terms were intolerable and they had been given no say in choosing the Commissioners. He demanded changes and was playing for time, still hoping that help would come from France.

Dictum of Kenilworth
The Dictum of Kenilworth, dated 30th October 1266

As chivalry demanded the King gave the rebels 40 days of grace saying that if no word had been received from France by 11th December they must surrender or expect no mercy. The King and Prince Edward then began to prepare for a final all-out assault upon the castle.

Conditions within the castle must then have deteriorated very quickly. Their dwindling food supplies had run out, they had already eaten their own starving horses and then disease, probably dysentery, swept through the castle. In their weakened state many died and those who survived were forced to accept the terms of the Dictum of Kenilworth and surrender. Starvation and disease had succeeded where siege warfare had failed! (The Annals of Dunstable tell us that “at the beginning of the siege there were within the castle 1000 men – 700 of whom were armed and ‘vigorous’ – plus 160 women and an unknown number of servants.” There is no record of how many survived).

On 13 December the King granted letters of safe conduct to the rebels to go where they wished and they departed, banners flying.

Henry III Effigy
Effigy of King Henry III in Westminster Abbey, c. 1272

King Henry finally left on 15th December ending an almost six months’ stay, an unprecedented length of time for a medieval monarch to remain in one place. During that time the whole of England had been governed directly from Kenilworth.

The conditions inside the castle when the siege finally ended must have been quite dreadful and the Sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire was given the obnoxious task of having it cleaned up. He was also instructed to dismantle the siege engines.

The Priory was completely impoverished, having been forced to support the King for such a very long time.

On 16 December 1266 King Henry granted the castle of Kenilworth and the earldom of Leicester to his second son the Lord Edmund, later also creating him Earl of Lancaster, and thus began almost 200 years of Lancastrian ownership of the castle and patronage of the priory during which time both grew and prospered once more – but that is another story!

Despite the exclusion of Henry de Hastings and others from the ‘benefits’ of the Dictum, by July 1267 Prince Edward had received them into the King’s peace, they having sworn on the Holy Gospels to keep the peace and never bear arms against the King or his heirs again. De Hastings did not keep his word! He became leader of the remaining “disinherited” in the Isle of Ely (just prior to their surrender) and died the following year.

A final thought. Many “Kenilworthian’s” believe that the 1266 Parliament was held on the field now known as “Parliament Piece”. There is actually no contemporary written evidence to tell us exactly where in Kenilworth the 1266 Parliament was held, nor to support the suggestion that Parliament Piece is in any way connected with this event. Indeed, since 17th century musket balls have been found there – but no 13th century artefacts – it seems more likely that the name derives from Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces who may have camped there when they came to Kenilworth during that Civil War. For further comment on this see Kenilworth History 2016 page 16.

Jan Cooper



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April Fools – Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now

As I’m sure you are by now aware, yesterday’s Then & Now post Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now was in fact an April Fools prank. No such viaduct ever existed alongside Bridge Street. We hope a few legs were pulled gently and no harm was done!

Some astute folks amongst our social media readership have pointed out that this picture of a viaduct that was supposedly demolished in the 1850s contained a car in the background. So unless time travel was available in 1850s Kenilworth, this picture was indeed a hoax.

Here’s some reaction from our Facebook readership, with the names obscured to protect the innocent:

Facebook April Fools
Facebook April Fools

As this is meant to be a website that promotes information rather than disinformation, you may be interested to know that the ‘then’ photo was in fact of the old Eastville Viaduct in Bristol in 1968, not long before its demolition. The view is at the bottom of M32 Eastgate junction with the Tesco Eastville carpark to the left. The water course in question is in fact the River Frome and not Finham Brook as stated in the article.

Eastville Viaduct, Bristol
Eastville Viaduct, Bristol – Then & Now

The Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society will now return to the realms of the purely factual, although we hope you remain entertained.

Did we fool you? Email us to let us know:  ku.o1493065445c.sah1493065445k@nim1493065445da1493065445

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Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now

EDIT 02/04/2016: Yes, this posting was an April Fools prank. Did we fool you? Read more here.


Bridge Street Railway Viaduct
Bridge Street Railway Viaduct

The Bridge Street railway viaduct was built by the London & Birmingham Railway Company (L&B), later the London North Western Railway Company (LNWR), during the railway building boom of the 1840s. It formed part of a branch line that linked Balsall Common to the line that still runs today between Coventry and Leamington Spa.

Its 14 stout brick arches spanned the Finham Brook valley before cutting through a short length of tunnel near the top of Rosemary Hill and joining the current stretch of track just up the line from the station. Its lifespan was short lived, as it became superseded by an upgrade to the track between Coventry and Milverton, and the viaduct was demolished by the mid 1850s. Very little evidence remains of its existence in the Abbey Fields today apart from one of the bridge abutments being used for the wooden footbridge that crosses the brook down by Bridge Street.

In the ‘then’ photo you can just about make out the frontages of J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights on Bridge Street between the spans of the third and fourth arches.

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