The Clock Tower – Then & Now

The Clock Tower, 1906
The Clock Tower, 1906

This unusual postcard, dated 1906, shows the clock tower in The Square during its construction. The scaffolding and hoardings are still in place, the stonework appears to have been completed but the clock faces and weather vane are yet to be added.

In the background we can see the buildings of Abbey End as they appeared before they were destroyed in the blitz of November 1941. According to the 1939 Kelly’s Directory listings quoted by Robin Leach’s WWII website these included A & F Hanson, Music dealers; Daniels, Trustam and Ward, Dentists, Gilbert Morgan, Wine & spirit merchant and Arthur J Cooke, Grocer just shortly before their destruction.

Robin Leach’s book Kenilworth People & Places vol 1 (Rookfield Publications, 2011) contains a detailed account of how George Marshall Turner, a wealthy local owner of a successful Birmingham based drapery business, became a benefactor to the town. He funded the construction of the clock tower in memory of his late wife.  The finished clock tower was unveiled in January 1907.

Following the destruction caused by the Luftwaffe parachute mine in November 1941 the crown of the clock tower was deemed unsafe, and was pulled down using the local fire ladder.

In its damaged form, the continued existence of the clock tower was by no means assured, despite its status as a local landmark from which buses would leave and under which meetings would be arranged. KHAS newsletter no. 26 from 1967 records how even the Society was split over its future: “Firstly, the Clock Tower. Before it was decided to defer the decision with regard to its future, the matter was discussed by the Committee. It was thought that the view of the Society was unlikely to be unanimous. This was tested at the next meeting, July 17th , when without prior discussion, I asked for a show of hands. Of those who voted, 14 were in favour of the Clock staying, and 7 in favour of it going. Unless there is a later change of heart either way, we will not be able to present a united view. I should add that there is no special reason why we should.”

Thankfully, the clock tower was restored. In 1973 the stone crown was reinstated and in 1974 a local blacksmith constructed a replacement weather vane.

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Talisman Square Plans – Then & Now

Talisman Square Billboard, 1965
Talisman Square Billboard, 1965

The ‘then’ image above shows a photo of the somewhat tattered billboard that stood at the entrance to Talisman Square as it was being built in 1965. It can clearly be seen in this previous Then & Now pairing showing the building of the square from Warwick Road.

The text of the billboard proclaimed the forthcoming pedestrian shopping precinct and car park, indicating that some shops were by 1965 already open. Talisman Square replaced the old tannery buildings and almshouses which fronted onto Warwick Road, both of which can be made out on this aerial Then & Now comparison.

The ‘now’ photo is taken from Google Maps, showing the equivalent aerial view, taken in 2016. The south and east sides remain true to the original plan, albeit revamped. The north side has been demolished altogether, awaiting rebuilding of larger shop units that will narrow the square to approximately a road width. The West side remains as Boots, extended southwards to form a larger store footprint, and the new greengrocer building has been built into the Warwick Road entrance to the square.

The lesser used Bing Maps view of the scene (below) shows Talisman Square before the revamp, still true to the original design. In the Bing aerial view the preparation and demolition work for the building of Waitrose has begun, with the site fenced off and the excavations commenced for the underground car park.

Talisman Square, Bing Maps
Talisman Square, Bing Maps
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Hyde Road – Then & Now

Hyde Road
Hyde Road

This Then & Now pairing shows the open land now occupied by Hyde Road. The ‘then’ photo shows what looks like an idyllic view across the fields, over the mill brook at the bottom end of School Lane and across to Lower Ladyes Hills and the Common in the distance.

At the bottom of the valley can be seen the mansard roof of Noah’s Ark which stood just to the left of the lower entrance from Hyde Road onto School Lane, where the mill brook curved round sharply to follow the line of School Lane down to the weir by the bridge at Manor Road. The hillside shown slopes gently down from Upper Rosemary Hill towards the junction of School Lane and Manor Road.

According to Robin Leach and Geoff Hilton in A Portrait of Kenilworth in Street Names (Third Edition, Rookfield Publications, 2015) Hyde Road was built on what was known as Noah’s Ark Allotments, named after the Noah’s Ark house mentioned above. It was build as part of the ‘Houses for Heroes’ campaign to house WWI veterans and opened in 1921, becoming fully occupied by 1923.

Hyde Road was so-named in honour of the Hyde Earls of Clarendon, the Villiers family, who had held the castle since Charles II granted it to Laurence Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon in 1665. The authoritative account on this, and other ‘Houses for Heroes’ developments, can be found in Robin Leach’s book Kenilworth People and Places – Volume 2 (Rookfield Publications, 2013).

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March 2017 Newsletter


Guide Books

Richard Morris was an inveterate collector of guide books, particularly of places of architectural note. Jenny has so many of them that she is offering them to Members of the Society for free. Tonight you will find another batch. We suggest that you take what you want (no fighting!) and make a donation. Monies will be shared between the Harry Sunley Memorial Project and Myton Hospice. Please – they must go!

» Last Meeting: was the AGM. All officers and committee members were (re)elected, and one new committee member, Sue Martin, was elected to take the place of Sue Tyler who had proffered her resignation. After the formal meeting, our Webmaster, Chris Blunt, spoke about “KHAS on the Web”. He surprised us with his account of how popular the site was and how many and what sort of people were accessing it!

» Tonight: Dr Bob Pryce will speak on “Some aspects of Stereo Photography in Warwickshire”

Kenilworth Castle Stereo Photography
Kenilworth Castle Stereo Photography

» Next month: Dr Sylvia Pinches will give us an account of Maria Home, housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick. April 10th, at the usual time of 7.30 for 7.45 at the Senior Citizens’ Club.

Subscriptions are now due.

Dates for your diaries: Our July evening ‘walk about’ will take place on Monday 10th July when we will be looking at points of historic interest in the Bridge Street area. More details nearer the time.

Our August outing will take place on Saturday 19th August when we will be visiting three very lovely churches – Halford, Tredington and Honington. More details next month, when those interested will also be able to ‘sign up’.

» Kenilworth Family History Society Wednesday, 12th April. Annual Business Meeting, to be followed by short talks by members on aspects of their family history research. Senior Citizens’ Club, Abbey End, Kenilworth, CV8 1QJ, from 7.30. Nonmembers welcome.

» Kineton Local History Group: Please see website

» Warwickshire Local History Society: Tuesday 21 March, 2017 AGM 7.30pm, Dr. Andrew Hopper, Senior lecturer and civil wars expert at Leicester University’s Centre for English Local History, Bereavement and loss in the civil wars in Warwickshire. Start at 8.00pm, preceded by coffee at 7.30pm, in The Friends’ Meeting House, 39 High Street, Warwick, CV34 4AX

» CADAS: 14th March: Professor Mark Jobling: Genetic approaches to the History of the British Isles. 7.30pm at Friends’ Meeting House, Hill Street, Coventry

» Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group: Monica Price from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History will talk on the Corsi Collection of decorative stones. Wednesday 15th March at S Francis’ Hall, 7pm for 7.30pm

Replacement Editor still needed!

One of the suggestions for a walkabout this year includes spending some time at the Fire Station in School Lane, on the site of the primary school. The Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Brigade served the time admirably over the years. Part of its success was the cameraderie of its members. Cementing that was meeting for a communal meal – as is shown here in the Re-union Dinner of November 1935. It is sobering to think of the situation in Kenilworth just five years later. The table cards for that dinner are shown below.

Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Brigade Re-union Dinner of November 1935 page 1
Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Brigade Re-union Dinner of November 1935 page 1


Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Brigade Re-union Dinner of November 1935 page 2
Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Brigade Re-union Dinner of November 1935 page 2

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

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Drovers Inn – Then & Now

The former Drovers Inn, Clinton Lane
The former Drovers Inn, Clinton Lane

This property, which hugs the bend of Clinton Lane opposite the entrance to Avenue Road, was once an inn. As Robin Leach records on his Victorian Kenilworth website it was once known as the Drovers Inn, having been used by Welsh drovers, although further dates and details of the pub itself are hard to come by. According to the Local Drove Roads website, it doubled as a turnpike and hence drovers are said to have dodged behind the row of buildings to avoid the tolls.

Clinton Lane once formed a link in the great chain that was The Welsh Road; a drovers road used to drive cattle from as far away as the rich soils of Anglesey over 250 miles to wealthy customers at market in the South East. Drovers and their herds would follow the line of Watling Street from Shrewsbury and over Cannock Chase to Brownhills, from where the Welsh Road ran through Stonnall, Castle Bromwich, Stonebridge, Kenilworth, Cubbington, Offchurch, Southam, Priors Hardwick, Boddington, Culworth, Sulgrave, Syresham, Biddlesden, and Buckingham.

This means that the Welsh Road followed the line of the modern A452 as it departed from the A5 Watling Street near Brownhills, along a stretch known today as the Chester Road, before entering Kenilworth down Clinton Lane and passing out the other side over Chesford Bridge, where a ford has existed since ancient times with probable Roman connotations, and up Bericote Road.

References to the name Welsh Road can still be found along the way. South of Kenilworth, the 20 mile stretch between Cubbington and the bridge over the River Cherwell near Culworth is still called Welsh Road and Welsh Road East. Further north, a modern development in Balsall Common has also assumed the name Welsh Road.

According to the Our Warwickshire website the Welsh Road’s usage as a drover’s road would have dated to way back before the Elizabethan era, when the castle was very much still occupied. So, the question of which route it took through Kenilworth is an interesting one. The direct route from the Drovers Inn on Clinton lane would be straight through the castle’s gatehouse and through outer ward of Kenilworth Castle, out through Mortimer’s Tower over the Tiltyard, via the The Brays and then onwards down Warwick Road towards Chesford Bridge. The modern route through Castle Road via the ford wouldn’t have existed for much of the period when the Welsh Road was in operation as the area was flooded as part of the castle moat. But if the route through the castle’s outer ward itself wasn’t permitted, then which route did the drovers and their cattle take? Perhaps drovers went via the long since lost pack horse bridge that once stood next to the modern day swimming pool? Alternatively, resistivity work in the Abbey Fields shows that there was almost certainly a ford immediately west of Town Bridge, which would have been an ancient route. Fieldgate Lane/Beehive Hill linked the northern Welsh Road to this ford and its southern continuation.

The 250 mile journey down the Welsh Road had to be undertaken in stages of 12-15 miles a day, taking three weeks to complete. By 1810 number of cattle being driven out of Anglesey had risen to over 14,000, so just imagine for a moment having potentially thousands of cattle wending their way through the very centre of Kenilworth every year!

Behind the Inn in the mid 1960s ‘then’ photo can be seen the old timber-framed and sandstone cottages of 81 – 83 Clinton Lane before their demolition, presumably for a road widening scheme that evidently never happened. The former Drovers Inn somehow escaped this fate.

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Details of Forthcoming Events

The Abbey ‘Barn’ Museum

The Abbey Barn
The Abbey Barn

Kenilworth’s Abbey Museum and Heritage Centre, at The Barn, Abbey Fields, will re-open for the 2017 season on Easter Sunday 16th and Easter Monday 17th April from 2.30 to 4.30 pm and will remain open every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoon thereafter until the 17th September.

Admission is free – any donations are very welcome.

Come along and learn about Kenilworth’s past from the Bronze Age right up to the 20th century. There is also a detailed interpretation of Kenilworth Priory (later Abbey) with some beautifully carved and decorated stones and tiles on display which have been found during excavations of the site.


Free Guided Walk of Kenilworth Abbey Ruins – SATURDAY 30th JULY 2017

Members of KHAS will be hosting a free guided walk of the Kenilworth Abbey ruins in support of the CBA’s Festival of Archaeology 2017 and talking about archaeological excavations which have taken place there.

Festival of Archaeology 2017
Festival of Archaeology 2017

Take a walk back in time to when Kenilworth’s St. Mary’s Priory (later Abbey) was one of the wealthiest and most prestigious Augustinian houses in the Midlands. Hear about the men who lived here, what their lives were like and what happened to them and their once beautiful buildings. Learn about the archaeological excavations which have taken place at the Abbey and see some of the items discovered now on display in the Abbey Museum & Heritage Centre.

The walk will commence at 3 pm and lasts approximately one hour. We will meet outside the Abbey Museum & Heritage Centre at The Barn, Abbey Fields, Kenilworth (just beyond the children’s play area).


Heritage Open Days 2017


Kenilworth Abbey Museum & Heritage Centre at The Barn, Abbey Fields, will be open both Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September between 2.30 and 4.30pm and on Saturday 9th there will also be a free guided walk of the Abbey ruins at 3pm in support of Heritage Open Days.

If you have ever wondered who built Kenilworth Abbey, why it is sometimes called a Priory, what it looked like, who lived there and why it is now a ruin then do come along and join your KHAS guides on 9th September.

Buck Engraving of St Mary's Abbey, Kenilworth
Kenilworth Priory ruins as they appeared in 1729, in an engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

We will meet outside the Museum & Heritage Centre (just beyond the children’s play area) at 3 pm.


Private Group visits to the Museum & Heritage Centre and Guided Walks

Private Group visits to the Museum & Heritage Centre and Guided Walks of Kenilworth Abbey Ruins and ‘old’ Kenilworth (High Street, Castle Hill, Castle Green) are available by prior arrangement between Easter and mid-September. Please contact ku.oc1493067359.sahk1493067359@nimd1493067359a1493067359 for further information.


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Little Chase Cottage – Then & Now

Little Chase Cottage
Little Chase Cottage

Little Chase Cottage, and its partner Chase Cottage (out of shot, left) are welcome survivors from the pre-conservation era of demolition and modernisation in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that swept away several historic properties in the area. They stand on Clinton Lane, which forms the approach to the Castle for travellers coming from the Birmingham and Balsall Common direction.

According to Robin Leach and Geoff Hilton in A Portrait of Kenilworth in Street Names (Third Edition, Rookfield Publications, 2015) Clinton Lane was known as Ram Lane or Cripplegate Lane, where a cripplegate is a gate that allows sheep through but not larger animals.

The name Clinton Lane today relates to Geoffrey de Clinton, chamberlain of Henry I of England  who founded the Castle and the Abbey, and his son who founded the later borough of Kenilworth clustered around Warwick Road. The Clinton family name relates to a bastardised version of the name of Geoffrey’s seat at Glympton, a village and civil parish on the River Glyme about 3 miles (5 km) north of Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

The Chase reference in the names of these cottages relates to Robert Dudley’s 740 acre hunting chase which swept across the fields behind these cottages, including Chase Lane of course, which is visible in the background of both images.

The ‘then’ picture captures the after effects of the demolition of some adjacent brick properties to the north of Little Chase Cottage. The following excerpt from the  OS 25 inch map, 1892 – 1905 shows the demolished properties in red:

Clinton Lane OS Map 1892 - 1905
Clinton Lane Map 1892 – 1905

For reference, the surviving former Drovers Inn is the inverted L shaped building just south of the ‘170’ map marking. The properties north of the ‘170’ marking have also since disappeared, with their successors set back from the road. Presumably all of this demolition related to road widening schemes which never came to fruition, as cars passing through this stretch of Clinton Lane still have to stop and wait for vehicles coming in the opposite direction to overtake parked cars today. Little Chase Cottage and is neighbour presumably survived because they were set a little further back from the road than those around them that were demolished.

Sadly, our intrepid 1960s photographer was too late to capture the demolished properties on film before they were reduced to rubble. The plot is now occupied for garages serving the Kenilcourt flats on the right hand side of the ‘now’ image which, as shown in the map above, were built on the site of former allotment gardens.

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