Fancott’s Bakery – Then & Now

Fancott's Bakery
Fancott’s Bakery

Harry Sunley tells us in A Kenilworth Chronology (Odiborne Press, 1989) that DS Fancott established Fancott’s Bakery in the high street in 1825. It remained in the Fancott family until 1979.

The D.S. in question was David Soden Fancott, who became a master baker and a well-established figure in the town. Robin Leach’s excellent book Victorian Kenilworth and its People (Rookfield Publications, 2006) records some episode’s from his life including an application to become one of the town’s constables, providing the use of his field to the town fire brigade to test their new equipment and an unfortunate incident when his horse became started by a marching band causing it to plough into the band breaking several limbs and damaging instruments! He was sued for “wilful, careless or neglectful driving” and paid a fine of 26 shillings.

In 1969 Joan Fancott went onto be the founder president of Soroptimist International, Kenilworth & District, the local chapter of a worldwide volunteer service organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls.

The Grade-II listed building is nowadays trading as The Old Bakery, a 14-room hotel with a bar on the ground floor. It was recognised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as being one of the best pubs in Coventry and Warwickshire in 2016. The Fancott name lives on in the shape of nearby Fancott Drive, which was named as such in 1987.

Thanks to Robin Leach for additional details provided in this article.

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Lower Ladyes Hills – Then & Now

Lower Ladyes Hills
Lower Ladyes Hills

Rob Steward’s book The Inns and Roads of Kenilworth (Odiborne Press, 2000) records that the ancient brook side trackway that would later become Lower Ladyes Hills was improved by the Enclosure Award of 1756, where it is referred to the be description “One other footway leading from the North side of Odiborne Bridge along the… to the Poor’s Plot near the Wood Mill of the breadth of four feet”.

According to A Portrait of Kenilworth Street Names (Rookfield Publications, third edition in 2015) by Robin Leach and Geoff Hilton, Lower Ladyes Hills (initially called Lower Ladyes Walk) became a private road in 1866. The area was a sun trap used for the growing of strawberries. The mid-sixties ‘then’ photo shown here shows the infilling of some of those strawberry fields with new housing. The ‘now’ photo was taken in approximately the same location in September 2016.

Harry Sunley tells us in A Kenilworth Chronology (Odiborne Press, 1989) that the development of Upper Ladyes Hills commenced in 1848. This included the filling in of a thermal spring, the cause of many a damp cellar in the area, no doubt. The area along the hillside to the Common, where Lower Ladyes Hills was later established, had been used for horse racing.

As an aside, the 1960s ‘then’ picture was developed as a mirror image of the actual scene for some reason, causing much trouble for myself to try to match the corresponding ‘now’ scene vantage point. After much traipsing around the hillside trying to find the location of the houses in the background it took the eagle eyes of Robin Leach to point out that if the ‘then’ image was flipped then all would become clear! 

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Preparing to Repair the Breach in the Tiltyard, 1964 – Then & Now

The Tiltyard near Mortimer's Tower, 1964
The Tiltyard near Mortimer’s Tower, 1964

Here’s a view which is almost impossible to recreate today – a view through the breach in the tiltyard beneath Mortimer’s Tower, taken in 1964.

The ‘then’ photograph probably shows the end of the stone bridge eastern side wall in the bottom left. In which case the camera was about three metres below the general level of the ‘tiltyard’, hence why it’s not possible to perfectly match the two locations.

As per previous Then & Now postings, it’s unclear when this particular breach dates from. It could date from when Parliament ordered Colonel Hawkesworth to put the castle’s defences beyond repair in 1649, or it could date from a later collapse caused by flood waters.

The ‘then’ photo shows the truncated tiltyard mound in front of Mortimer’s Tower, which is once again the main entrance to the castle today, following the Tiltyard’s repair in 1965 when the Ministry of Public Building and Works completed filling it in again. The ‘then’ photo shows the mound stripped of grass, presumably as preparation for the repairs.

Many thanks to David Brock for his assistance in putting the accompanying text together. His work on this subject is too extensive to summarise here, but readers can find further contributions by David in the society’s annual Kenilworth History publication, such as his article “Development of the Fourth Side of the Castle” in KH2015.

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September 2016 Newsletter


» Last Meeting:  A special private meeting in the Castle, starting in the Gatehouse,  to  commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Great Siege of Kenilworth.  This  was a  talk and tour by Chairman Jan on 25th July.  It was well-attended and much  enjoyed  by the capacity turn-out.

Castle Tour
The special private talk and tour in the Castle by Chairman Jan on 25th July.

 » Tonight: Dr Nick Humphris speaks about the archæology of Chedworth Roman  Villa, where a lot of work has been done recently to discover more.

» Next month: Alan Godfrey speaks about Kinwarton, which he describes as a  ‘pint pot parish’.  This is on 10th October at the usual time of 7.30 for 7.45pm

» Kenilworth Family History Society  Meetings 7.30 at  Senior Citizens’ Club.  14 September Carol Ewing, staff  member  at Herbert Gallery: The Herbert Archive of Family and Local History

» Kineton Local History Group: Friday 16 September – A Cruise down the Coventry and Oxford Canals 50 Years Ago Roger Butler  7.30 in the Village Hall

» Warwickshire Local History Society   Saturday 17 September 2016 –  A ‘mystery’ history tour of Harbury village, followed by the usual tea

» CADAS 13th September: The Margaret Rylatt Memorial Lecture: Revealing Grey  Friars: The archaeology of Leicester’s lost Franciscan Friary Lecturer:  Mathew Morris 7.30pm at Friends’ Meeting House, Hill Street,  Coventry

» Kenilworth Civic Society 18th Oct:  Sheila Wolfe – ‘Travels with the Leighs’. At  the Senior Citizens’ Club at 7.30

» A series of free talks on “Historic Kenilworth” at the Library: Tuesday 20th  September 7pm – Susan Tall speaking on “Kenilworth a hundred years ago”

»  A new Archivist has materialised in the shape of Derek Boyce, former Archivist  of  Jaguar Cars and long-standing member of this Society.

» Your Editor has given notice that Kenilworth History 2017 will be his last.  The  Society  therefore needs a new Editor.  The production of this Newsletter falls  to him/her  as well.

» Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group – Wednesday 21st September at St  Francis Church Hall, Warwick Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1HL (the usual venue), meeting  at 7pm for coffee and a 7.30pm start.  We will have two speakers giving shorter talks covering topics relating to the village of Martley, Worcestershire.  John Nicklin is a founding member of the Teme Valley Geological Society (TVGS).  He is not a professional geologist, but a great ambassador for the subject.  He will speak about how and why TVGS was formed and their inspirational achievements.  Bill Barclay, a professional geologist, worked for the British Geological Survey prior to retirement (and he is still very busy with fieldwork here and abroad). He has worked with TVGS for several years on researching a small but important site in the village, located on the East Malvern Fault.  Bill will tell us about this work and the findings so far.

» Warwick Words (bookshop in Warwick) will be presenting a History Festival in Warwick from 3-9th October.  They will be celebrating historical writing – fact and fiction, including meeting and discussion with authors, talks, workshops, etc.

On the 8th there will be a History Fair in Warwick Friends’ Meeting House from 10am to 2pm 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 Tyler 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.

» Other events are added verbatim to this Newsletter.  It would be useful if members would indicate to the Editor if this sort of information is useful, or whether a link to the organisations on the website would suffice.

» The Editor of the Leamington Courier Group has given the Society all the bound volumes of the Kenilworth Weekly News from inception to date for its archives.  The Society has expressed its appreciation for this kind gesture.  Now they will stay in Kenilworth and be accessible.  Please ask the Archivist for access.

» The new edition of Pevsner’s was published on the 28th of June.  Your Editor was kindly invited to the launch at the Nicholas Chamberlaine Almshouses in Bedworth (worth a visit if you can get there).  Kenilworth enjoys no less than twenty pages, compared with the first edition which had eight!  It is now, in comparison, sumptuous, as it maintains as a description of S. Nicholas’ West Door!  Copies available from Kenilworth Bookshop. £35

» The Committee is looking at the possibility (only, at this stage) of producing a 3-D model of at least the Abbey as it was at the Dissolution.  If anyone has connections with someone who knows about the practicalities and costs of casting in bronze, please contact the Chairman. The value of this is that visually impaired people will be able to understand more clearly the layout and extent of the buildings.

Kenilworth History 2017 Articles, please, to the Editor, as soon as possible.

Contacts:  Chairman – 01676 532654;  Secretary – 01926 858670;  Treasurer – 01926 852655; Vice Chairman & Editor – 01926 858090 



It is with great regret that we have to report the untimely death of Veronica during our Summer recess.  Always an active member and with a ready smile on her lips, she will be much missed.  We extend our sympathy to her grieving family



Portcullis History Courses

Saturday October 22nd
10.00 – 4.00
Tythe Barn, Polesworth Lords, lands and people: medieval Polesworth Polesworth provides a fascinating opportunity to examine a complex medieval community, and the interaction of lords, land and people, a prominent feature of which was the modest Benedictine abbey that was claimed as the ‘resting place’ of an Anglo-Saxon royal saint. What was the character of medieval Polesworth and its communities? What can be reconstructed of the patterns of lordship; of the nature of the landscape and its exploitation; of how its inhabitants made their livings and lived alongside each other; and what role did the abbey play?
These questions will form the basis of a day aimed at creating impressions of medieval Polesworth – its buildings, landscape, settlement and people.
Tuesday October 25th on
October 25th; November 1st, 8th,
15th, 22nd, and 29th.
2.00 – 4.00
Ansley Church Hall People and Places:
reconstructing medieval
The focus of this course will be to introduce some of the ways in which we might reconstruct medieval communities, particularly in the period between the late twelfth and early fifteenth centuries. We will discuss approaches to the reconstruction of these communities within local society, identifying the key themes that might provide a framework for such reconstructions, together with the principal sources that may be used, considering their character, potential and limitations. The course will draw upon a series of case studies and examples, mostly from across Warwickshire, to illustrate these approaches ‘in action’ and demonstrate what impressions can be developed of life in medieval communities.
Saturday November 5th
10.00 – 2.30
Berkswell, Jordan Room Patrons, Fiefs and Fonts: the Twelfth Century Herefordshire
School of Sculpture
The Herefordshire School of Sculpture, whose works may be found across the west midland region, was one of the most exuberant of the regional styles to emerge in English Romanesque art. It coincided with one of the most turbulent periods in English history of the century, the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, and the subsequent accession to the throne of Henry II. This study day will introduce the range and nature of the sculpture within the School and its setting, and will in particular explore the iconography of the surviving schemes, their probable patronage, and the context of this sculpture within local society.

Contact Portcullis History C/O 11 Hardy Close, Galley Common, Nuneaton, Warwickshire CV10 9SG for more information. Regrettably, the brochures we have show neither a telephone number or a website


Affiliated to The British Association for Local History

Registered Charity No. 511528


LOCAL and ONLINE – the internet and local history groups

April 2016 Dear Local History Colleague

As the ‘Umbrella’ local history society for Warwickshire we have held two conferences for all the local history societies in the county.   At the first conference we asked the societies what they wanted from us, and at the second we addressed such issues as copyright, the preparation of a rolling events diary, lists of speakers, topics, outings and publications, as well as links to those societies who have their own website.

On 12 November 2016 we propose to hold our third conference on the theme of LOCAL and ONLINE – the Internet and local history groups. The main aim for the day is to enable members of local history societies to learn about how the Internet and how online sources can be used for both publicity and research.   It is not to learn basic computer skills:  general familiarity will be assumed.   We will be welcoming speakers who have experience in setting up and using websites, and inviting local societies to show us what they have achieved so far, and to discuss some of the pitfalls.

We have been fortunate to secure the Pyne Room at Warwick School, Myton Road, Warwick, CV34 6PP. This has the state-of-the-art internet facilities with ample free parking within easy access.   The day will begin at 10.00am and end at 4 pm.   The booking fee of £20 includes parking, coffee on arrival and a buffet lunch with tea or coffee.   This is an inclusive package to conform to the requirements of the venue;  opt-outs are not available.   Room will be available for local societies to bring a small selection of their publications for sale. A more detailed programme and booking form will be sent out in the summer.   Numbers will be limited, so to ensure that places are reserved for you and your members, you are urged to book up as soon as possible, either by E mail or by completing the attached form.   Please save the day in your diaries now, and discuss it with your membership.

Best wishes,

John Bland

John Bland, Chairman, WLHS


PLEASE NOTE THAT NO TICKETS WILL BE ISSUED Should you want an acknowledgement, please send a SAE.   Cheques should be made payable to Warwickshire Local History Society and sent to Neville Usher, 6, The Fold, Payton Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6NJ, Tel.01789 205 043.  Email ku.gr1493067313o.yro1493067313tsihe1493067313rihsk1493067313ciwra1493067313w@ofn1493067313i1493067313

Saturday 12th November 2016, WLHS 3rd ‘UMBRELLA’ CONFERENCE     Reply by 31 October 2016

I/we wish to reserve …. Places for delegates @ £20 each from ……………….…….Local History Society

Names of all delegates ………………………………………………………………………………………..

Tel ………………………………………………

Address ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. E mail address …………………………………………………

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Laying the Pipes Under the Tiltyard, 1964 – Then & Now

Building the tunnels under the Tiltyard, 1964
Building the tunnels under the Tiltyard, 1964

It was widely assumed that Colonel Hawkesworth drained the mere and breached the Tiltyard dam to render the former royalist stronghold indefensible. However an article on page 32 in Kenilworth History 2015:

“The question has often been asked when the breach in the dam was made? This is not known. Hawkesworth may have just opened the sluice under the dam on a permanent basis. Then a hundred years of floods weakened the masonry and caused cavitation around the barrel vault which finally collapsed – before 1821”.

In the 1964 picture we can see the concrete pipes have been laid to culvert Finham Brook so that the breach can be filled in at last.

Many thanks to David Brock for his assistance in putting the accompanying text together. His work on this subject is too extensive to summarise here, but readers can find further contributions by David in the society’s annual Kenilworth History publication, such as his article “Development of the Fourth Side of the Castle” in KH2015.

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Filling in the Gap in the Tiltyard, 1964 – Then & Now

The Tiltyard from Mortimer's Tower, 1964
The Tiltyard from Mortimer’s Tower, 1964

The ‘then’ photo shows the preparations for filling in a gap in the castle’s Tiltyard by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in 1964 . The restored Tiltyard entrance opened in 1967, replacing the lower walkway which sits beside the Tiltyard.

The dam was probably constructed in three phases; initially circa 1125, then subsequently raised by King John and lastly the western lane and bridge possibly 17th century. It is not known when the castle’s great defensive lake, created by the dam, was first called a Mere nor when the breach, shown here being repaired in 1964, was first called Hawkesworth’s Gap.

At the end of the Civil War in 1649, Cromwell’s Parliamentarians were determined to ensure that the former Royalist strongholds would never again provide a safe haven for those who opposed the new republican parliament’s powers. So, Colonel Joseph Hawkesworth, MP was appointed to ‘slight’ or damage the castle beyond repair and it is said he breached the Tiltyard to drain the mere as part of the slighting.

Two former breaches through the dam can now be seen, the first at the lowest point where the Brook now flows and the second at the spillway location. The latter was shown in an earlier T&N photo of John Drew & Charles Blick on the stonework of the possible Tiltyard Mill Leat. It is not known when either breach was formed. However, the general ground level at the Spillway was about four metres above the Brook so the Mere could not have been fully drained and returned to farmland use by this breach.

Hawkesworth took possession of the remainder of the castle, converting and living in the gatehouse, having also slighted the keep and sold off much of the fixtures and fittings of the palatial state rooms. He was ousted from the castle following the restoration of Charles II.

Many thanks to David Brock for his assistance in putting the accompanying text together. His work on this subject is too extensive to summarise here, but readers can find further contributions by David in the society’s annual Kenilworth History publication, such as his article “Development of the Fourth Side of the Castle” in KH2015.

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