For readers under the age of 60 or so, this ‘then’ image will present a completely unfamiliar scene. It shows the mill buildings which once stood on the edge of the Common at Mill End, to which it gave its name.
According to Rob Steward in Kenilworth History 1997 – 1998:
“Townpool and Woodmill Pool powered the wood-mill at Mill End built to the west of the ford there. This mill seems to have existed during the time of the Abbey. Later on it was replaced by a cattle-feed mill which was working during the first half of the twentieth century. John Drew says his father could remember the Oil and Cake Mill working under water power. There was a sluice at Park Road which let in water to the pool to fill it. This was enough to run the mill for two and a half hours. After that the sluice was opened again to refill the pool”.
The following map extract from 1906 shows the natural course of Finham Brook and the man made Mill Brook respectively, both coloured blue. The Mill Brook once ran alongside School Lane and the along the course of the road now known as The Close, to power the mill at Mill End, shown in green:
Harry Sunley, in his book A Kenilworth Chronology (Odibourne Press, 1989) records the date of the mill’s demolition as April 1964, clearing way for the creation of the housing on what is now Forge Road.
Rob Steward informs us in the Inns and Roads of Kenilworth (Odibourne Press, 2000) that the new road was named in reference to the forge which occupied the building currently occupied by Just Tyres, although it has apparently been much altered over the years. It can be seen marked as “Smy” for Smithy on the 1906 map above.
» Last Month: Dr Richard Buckley of Leicester University, who has been the lead figure in the whole of the “Richard III Project” from its outset, gave a very lively account of all the preparation and actual work that went into establishing that the skeleton found in the famous Leicester car park was, without doubt, Richard’s. It was a humble presentation, and the audience came close to applauding his admissions of scepticism. A really good evening!
» Tonight: We are pleased to welcome David Snowden of our associated Society at Evesham who is offering – “Riding the tiger”: the Life and Death of Simon de Montfort. Expect an excellent evening.
» Next month there will be a special KHAS meeting to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Great Siege of Kenilworth. This meeting will be held on Monday 25th July at Kenilworth Castle. Chairman Jan will be giving you further details this evening. This is a members’ only meeting and is currently fully subscribed.
» Next indoor meeting: 12th September. Dr Nick Humphris will speak about the archæology of Chedworth Roman Villa, where a lot of work has been done recently to discover more.
» Kenilworth Civic Society: 21st June Daniel Dalton, MEP talking on the role of the MEP. 7.30, Senior Citizens’ Club
» Kenilworth Family History Society Meetings 7.30 at Senior Citizens’ Club. 13 July Dr Colin Chapman + summer refreshments “The Ecclesiastical Courts: Sin, Sex and Probate”.
» Warwickshire Local History Society Saturday 9 July 2016. A visit to Radway to see the new Edgehill Exhibition at St Peter’s Church, a tour of Radway followed by tea.
» Warwickshire Industrial Archæology Society: WIAS OUTING! An extra visit for WIAS members has been arranged by Alain Foote on Friday 8th July to the “Cementing Relations with Southam” exhibition in Southam followed by a site visit to examine the remains uncovered during the excavations at Nelson’s Wharf, Stockton. This will be followed by lunch at a nearby pub for those interested. The visit starts at 10:00 a.m at Southam Heritage Collection in Vivian House, Southam. The visit will be led by John Frearson. Anyone interested in joining this visit should contact Alain Foote on email@example.com.
» A vigil at St Nicholas’ Church, Kenilworth followed by prayers for those who sacrificed their lives and limbs on both sides of the conflict at the Battle of the Somme in World War I. It will commence at 4.30am (sic) on Friday 1 July and finish at 7.30am. Those were the times that the British and allied soldiers mustered in the forward trenches, before they went “over the top”. You are invited to attend for all or part of those times.
» Making ‘The Barn Museum and Heritage Centre’ accessible to the public. Recent appeals for Members’ help bore some fruit, but there is still a need for more. Please contact Michael Formstone on *protected email* or Margaret Kane on 864624, and give just two hours a year!
» We need a new Archivist – can anyone help?
» We need someone to help the Vice-chairman with editing, and publication production. Please contact him – he hopes to be at this meeting later.
» Warwick Words (bookshop in Warwick) will be presenting a History Festival in Warwick from 3-9 October. They will be celebrating historical writing – fact and fiction, including meeting and discussion with authors, talks, workshops, etc. As part of this, on the 8th there will be a History Fair from 10 am to 2 pm where local history societies have the opportunity to promote their work. This is a free event open to the general public and will be held at the Friends Meeting House in Warwick. Chairman Jan and Committee Member Sue intend to represent KHAS but would be grateful if anyone else would be willing to come along and help part of the time. Please see Jan this evening if you would like to be involved.
» At the moment Kenilworth is concentrating on Simon de Montfort and his family connections with the town. If you would like to know more about another of Kenilworth’s famous historical residents – John of Gaunt – Chairman Jan will be giving a talk, “John of Gaunt – Power & Passion”, for Kenilworth U3A on Thursday 16th June at 2.30pm. Venue: Methodist Church, Priory Road. Non-members are welcome to attend.
» The Editor of the Leamington Courier Group has offered the Society all the bound volumes of the Kenilworth Weekly News from inception to date for its archives. The Society is, we are sure, extremely grateful for this, as otherwise they would have gone into store anywhere in the country where the parent company had room. Now they will stay in Kenilworth and be accessible. Does anyone have a 6 foot steel cupboard to join the one already in the ‘Barn’ so that we can safely store them?
» The new edition of Pevsner’s Warwickshire is published on the 28th of this month. Copies available from Kenilworth Bookshop. £35
This remarkable pair of aerial photos shows the castle from the air, taken from the west. The ‘then’ photo dates from before the Elizabethan garden had first been restored in the 1970s. The ‘now photo’ dates from 2016 showing the Elizabethan garden, now bedding in nicely following an archaeological dig in 2006 and the completion of its restoration in 2009.
Elsewhere in the castle’s outer bailey we can see that numerous shrubs and encroaching vegetation have been removed from the grounds and walls. The addition of stairs and walkways into Leicester’s Building is not visible at all from this angle, which is testament to the sensitivity of the work that was carried out.
In the distance of the ‘now’ photo, Oxpen Meadow in the Abbey Fields, the site of the Priory Pool, has been permanently re-flooded since the ‘then’ photo was taken. The meadow had regularly been flooded for skating in winter since Victorian times. The ford is also in flood in the ‘now’ photo.
A special thank you to Creeves Aerial Photography (formerly Coventry & Warwickshire Aerial Photography) who carried out a special commission to produce the ‘now’ photo. Readers with a Facebook account can follow the Creeves page which contains an album of Kenilworth aerial photos as well as photos from all over the local area. Without him this Then & Now would not have been possible!
In the days when the Abbey Fields was a patchwork of farmers’ fields, the ‘tumbledown’ or ‘clappergate’ stile shown in this old postcard was situated in the Abbey’s Tantara Gatehouse to prevent cattle straying out of the fields. A larger field gate was situated in the main archway.
In June 1973 it was destroyed by vandals. Cyril Hobbins collected the remaining bits together and restored it. The restored clapper-gate is now situated in the ‘barn’ museum.
A timeline of the events of the great Siege of Kenilworth from its origins in August 1265 to its aftermath in December 1266:
August 1265 – survivors of the battle of Evesham make their way back to Kenilworth Castle where Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, is waiting with her younger children. The castle has been kept well provisioned with both food and siege equipment.
The Countess and her children leave Kenilworth for Dover and eventual exile in France where she finds favour with the French Queen and lives out her life at Montargis. Several months of negotiations follow between King and revels within the castle.
Towards the end of the year Eleanor’s second son, young Simon, leaves the castle to meet with other supporters at Ely. On his way back he is captured by Prince Edward and forced to agree to surrender Kenilworth Castle to the King. However on arriving at the castle the garrison commander, Henry de Hastings, refuses to comply saying that he holds the castle in the name of the Countess of Leicester and will yield it to none but her. Young Simon is then sent under guard to London but escapes on route and flees to France to try to raise support for the rebels.
March 1266 – King’s messenger returns from Kenilworth minus a hand.
May 1266 – King calls a muster at Northampton.
22 June 1266 – King arrives outside Kenilworth Castle with a vast army vowing not to leave until the castle falls. Four siege camps are established commanded by King Henry, Prince Edward, Prince Edmund and Roger de Mortimer.
The King requisitions vast quantities of munitions, money, food and drink to be sent to Kenilworth. Powerful siege machines (Trebuchets, Mangonels and Ballistas) and fighting towers are brought and also barges for what was to be an unsuccessful assault across the Mere.
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.
July 1266 – Cardinal Ottobuono (wearing his red cope) excommunicates those inside the castle. (It is said that he delivered this 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 arouses the defiance of the rebels who, according to Robert of Gloucester, have a cope and other clothes made in white in which they dress Master Philip Porpeis, a cleric and their surgeon, who presents himself on the battlements of the castle as a ‘White Legate’ and “excommunicates” the King, the Cardinal and the whole army!
August 1266 – Papal Legate requests that the King call a Parliament at Kenilworth – given the people involved and the facilities which they would require, the most likely venue for this is the Priory. 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).
Eventually agreement is reached and the terms of surrender are set out in a document known as The Dictum of Kenilworth.
31st October 1266 – The Dictum is read out to the rebels and also publicly proclaimed at St. Mary’s Church, Warwick.
The terms of surrender include allowing for the rebels to leave the castle unmolested and give the ‘disinherited’ the opportunity to buy back their lands on payment of heavy fines set on a sliding scale dependent upon the extent of their involvement in the war and siege. The exceptions to this are the members of the garrison who were involved in maiming the King’s messenger and the garrison commander, Henry de Hastings. They are to be imprisoned at the King’s will.
The rebels decline on the basis that the terms are intolerable and they have not been given any say in choosing the Commissioners. They are also still hoping that help will come from France.
November 1266 – the King gives the rebels 40 days of grace. If no help is forthcoming by then (11th December) they must surrender or expect no mercy. The King and Prince Edward prepare for an all-out final assault.
Mid November 1266 – Conditions within castle deteriorate rapidly and starvation and disease cause many deaths. They have no alternative but to surrender.
13 December 1266 – the King grants letters of safe conduct to the rebels to go where they wish and they depart, banners flying.
15 December 1266 – the King leaves ending an almost six months’ stay during which time England was governed directly from Kenilworth – a situation unprecedented in English medieval history.
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.
The conditions inside the castle must have been quite dreadful and the Sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire was given the obnoxious task of having it cleared 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.
16 December 1266 – The King grants the castle and the earldom of Leicester to his second son Prince Edmund, later also creating him Earl of Lancaster. Thus begins almost 200 years of Lancastrian ownership of the castle and patronage of the priory during which time both grow and prosper once more – but that is another story!
Today there is comparatively little to see above ground of the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in the Abbey Fields. Following the Abbey Excavations in 1840, in the 1880s and in the 1920s, in which the ruins were steadily uncovered for the first time since their destruction following the Reformation, the ruins have long since been covered up.
But, as these photos show, they weren’t covered up until as recently as 1967, by which time this series of remarkable colour photos from July 1963 had been taken.
The pair of shots below show the ruins of the quire and presbytery with St Nicholas’ Church in the background. In 1967 the area was covered and landscaped by the council to protect the ruins from the elements and from damage by vegetation:
In the then & now pairing below we can see the chapter house wall, now fenced off to protect it. As the ‘then’ photo from 1963 shows, the excavated remains around it were fenced off and still visible, if somewhat overgrown:
And finally, here’s another shot facing downhill towards Bridge Street. In the July 1965 shot, the overgrown remains of the south transept and slype can be seen, surrounded by railings, two years prior to their re-burial. Once again, in the 2016 the remains have long since been landscaped over.
Extract from KHAS original Siege booklet published 1966:
“The effects of this long siege on the lives of the local people in Warwickshire were severe. Even before it started, the defenders were looting and destroying property and taking what they required to stock the castle. Then the King’s army lived off the land for many months causing great hardship to the community by their demands for supplies. Contemporary accounts record some of the relevant facts. For instance, the Canons of the Priory of St. Mary at Kenilworth were impoverished to such an extent that in January 1267 the King issued Letters Patent requiring all the tenants of the Priory to contribute money to relieve its immediate financial difficulties. It is on record too that, during September alone, the Priory had been obliged to give 300 quarters of corn to the army.
Further afield, the Monks of Stoneleigh Abbey made representations to the King for provisions supplied to him and, two years later, the Sheriff of Warwickshire was paid £75.13.9 for 255 quarters of wheat, 52 oxen and 173 sheep which had been collected throughout Warwickshire for the King’s army.”
In 1268 King Henry III granted a Market Charter and Fair to his son Edmund for a weekly market on Tuesdays at his Manor of Kenilworth and an annual fair there on the Vigil, the Feast and the Morrow of St. Michael. This would certainly have helped to boost the local economy.
As for Simon de Montfort – he has been remembered down the centuries as “the father of democracy”. This may not have been quite what he had in mind at the time but in the future parliaments would gradually see an increase in the inclusion and involvement of men of lower rank until eventually there would be two “houses” – “Lords and Commons”.
A plaque bearing de Montfort’s name adorns the House of Representatives in Washington DC: