Building of Talisman Square – Then & Now

The building of Talisman Square
The building of Talisman Square

This remarkable street scene, dated 28th November 1965, shows the building of Talisman Square in progress.

In the ‘then’ photo, both the Almshouses that used to front onto Warwick Road and the Tannery buildings behind have been demolished and building the new shopping precinct is already well under way. A sign proclaims the forthcoming pedestrian shopping precinct and car park, indicating that some shops were by this stage already open.

As per a recent then & now pairing, the original Talisman Square was double its current width, and the ‘now’ photo shows that the addition of the greengrocer’s premises onto the north side of the square (the white building with the round tower, extreme left) has eaten into some of the original plaza space.

In the ‘then’ photo two cars are parked on an otherwise quiet Warwick Road. In the 2016 photo, double yellow lines can be seen which now prevent parking in order to keep the more or less constant traffic moving more smoothly.

In the foreground of the ‘now’ image is a revamped Barclays Bank sign in exactly the same spot as its earlier ‘then’ counterpart providing some pleasing continuity between the two images.

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Noah’s Ark – Then & Now

Noah's Ark, School Lane
Noah’s Ark, School Lane

This characterful property, known locally as Noah’s Ark, was situated at 95 – 99 School Lane. It was an 18th century building with a distinctive mansard roof; a roof with sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down.

This row of houses sat at ninety degrees to School Lane, with the lower end butting up against the Mill Brook. This evidently caused the cellars to be very damp and to flood every spring as described by a KWN reader whose grandmother lived in the property up until 1964. The following map shows the course of the mill brook, now filled in, the proximity of which to Noah’s Ark (circled in red) which explains the flooding!:

Map of School Lane showing Noah's Ark (ringed)
Map of School Lane showing Noah’s Ark (ringed)

Noah’s Ark gave its name to Noah’s Ark allotments across the road between School Lane and Albion Street and later the 1920s Noah’s Ark housing scheme that became Hyde Road and its surrounding areas, built for ex-servicemen returning from WWI.

The club shown on the map above was the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers (NFDDSS) club that became first British Legion Club. It was made from army huts, convenient for all the ex-servicemen in Hyde Road.

Noah’s Ark was demolished in 1965 for the housing shown here. Had it survived today, the School Lane Fish & Chip Shop would have stood to its immediate right as viewed from the road.

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

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October 2016 Newsletter


» Last Meeting: Dr Nick Humphris gave a detailed account the archæology of Chedworth Roman Villa, particularly where the recent work has been done. Very likely that there will be members who heard the talk making the trip south to see for themselves.

» Tonight: Alan Godfrey speaks about Kinwarton – a ‘pint-pot parish’.

St Mary the Virgin, Kinwarton
St Mary the Virgin, Kinwarton

» Next month: Anne Langley will be asking us to join her on a grand tour of Europe, though we shall need the time machine to take us back to the 18th Century and the company of Bertie Greatheed. This will be on 14th November at the usual time of 7.30 for 7.45pm

» Kenilworth Family History Society 12th October Adrian de Redman A Brief introduction to English Heraldry Meetings 7.30 at Senior Citizens’ Club.

» Kineton Local History Group: Friday 21 October – World War 1 at Scapa Flow: Extracts from my Grandfather’s Diary 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 11th October: Preliminary results of excavations of a prehistoric cemetery and settlement at Wolston Quarry 2015 : Simon Markus 7.30pm at Friends’ Meeting House, Hill Street, Coventry

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

» A series of free talks on “Historic Kenilworth” at the Library: Monday 31st October 7pm – Jan Cooper speaking on “War & Worship: Castle & Church”

» 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.

» 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 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.

Articles, please, to the Editor, as soon as possible.

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

Vice Chairman & Editor – 01926 858090 *protected email*


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The Vaults – Then & Now

The Vaults, Station Road
The Vaults, Station Road

The Vaults, which fronts onto Station Road behind The Kings Arms & Castle. This building has a long and varied history to it.

The first incarnation of this structure was on a completely different site, originally as the town’s station opened in 1844. An engraving of this can be found on the Windows on Warwickshire website taken from the London Illustrated News on the day of the railway opening, in which the arches are immediately recognisable.

Robin Leach tells us in his book Kenilworth’s Railway Age (Odiborne Press, 1985) that in 1880 it was decided to replace the single track with a double track to alleviate bottlenecks at Coventry. A larger replacement station was completed in 1883, and the stones from the old building were acquired by the proprietor of the Kings Arms & Castle hotel and repurposed for use as refreshment rooms in their current location at the opposite end of Station Road.

It is thought that the stone provided a façade for an existing building on the site, and that the two sides of the station’s stonework were erected one on top of the other to form a structure with two floors. On the lintel it is still possible to read “Kenilworth Railway….”, this continued as ‘……Station refreshment rooms’ and quite possibly dated back to when it first opened at the rear of the Kings in the 1880s.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, by any means. The upper floor of the repurposed station building was being utilised as an assembly room. In 1912 the assembly rooms were taken over by the Royal Electric Theatre Company and opened as a cinema seating around 100, accessible from an arched doorway into a newly built vestibule next door, on the site of what is now the Wilko’s store. A 1912 showing took £3 from seats prices 1/- to 6d so it must have seated between 60 and 120. A vivid testimony of what it was like to attend “the pitchers” here can be found on the Our Warwickshire website and further reading about this phase of the building’s lifetime can be found in Robin Leach’s book Kenilworth People & Places Volume 1 (Rookfield Publications, 2011).

Following damage from the landmine in November 1940, the upper floor used for the cinema was removed. It is at this time that the corrugated iron roof pictured in our previous Then & Now image was added.

When the Kings Arms & Castle site was renovated in 1985 / 86 as the Drummonds pub complex the vault found a new lease of life and the façade of the vaults is the only bit of the site that wasn’t flattened and replaced by a replica during this renovation work. A new upper floor was added in sandstone, the difference between old and new stonework is visible in our then and now photos above.

However, by 2005 Drummonds had itself become somewhat shabby and soon closed down. After yet another revamp of the King’s Arms & Castle site in 2007, the vault building was repurposed yet again and at the time of writing it is trading as Pomeroy’s bistro.

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

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The Kings Arms & Castle From the Rear – Then & Now

The rear of the King's Arms & Castle
The rear of the King’s Arms & Castle

This shot of the rear of the Kings Arms & Castle shows just how much it was altered during the 1985 demolition and rebuilding. The original building, also used as the Abbey Courts Leet in the 16th century, was later extended by the addition of gables to the rear of the building which can be seen on the ‘then’ photo. However, as the 2016 ‘now’ photo shows, the 1985 rebuild completely remodelled the rear of the property, which nowadays contains flats.

Similarly, the old Vaults building out the in rear of the King’s Arms, which was by this stage almost derelict, was substantially renovated in 1985 and a missing upper floor was reinstated. When the ‘then’ photo was taken it was capped with a very temporary looking corrugated iron roof put there as part of wartime repairs. It now contains the restaurant Pomeroy’s. The rather tatty brick remains of the old Assembly Rooms vestibule extension on the extreme right of the photo was demolished for access to these flats as part of the same redevelopment. The rest of the Assembly Rooms had already been demolished in the run up to building what is now Wilko’s, formerly Bishops and then Budgens.

On the extreme left of the ‘then’ photo, a sign on the access road to the rear of the Talisman Square development states that it is a no parking zone. By 2016 this road was being used by cars to access a temporary carpark instated on the site of the demolished north side of Talisman Square, on which parking is very much permitted at the time of writing.

In the distance, Midland Bank has been rebranded as HSBC as a result of a 1992 takeover, although it appears that Midland Bank may yet return to our streets as a high street brand once more.

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

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