St John’s – Then & Now

St John's
St John’s

This sedate looking scene of the St John’s end of town shows a horse and cart heading towards the direction of Warwick, watched over by an elderly gentleman in a top hat. A lady in fine attire and an elegant hat walks alongside on the pavement. A child in a smock is ambling along in the middle of the road, a pursuit which wouldn’t be encouraged today! A gas lamp stands at the centre of the cross roads. Then, as now, the railway runs past the rear of the church but when the ‘then’ photo was taken there were fields between the railway and Windy Arbour.

According to the St John’s church website, the foundation stone for the church itself was laid in August 1851 and the church was consecrated in 1854. The website adds that the church was built “for the princely sum of £5,000 to cater for a growing class of artisans, who may not have been overly welcome elsewhere”, which perhaps provides a little glimpse into the social history of the area at the time compared to the much older parish of St Nicholas to the north.

On the extreme left of the photo is the Forge Cottage at number 200 Warwick Road, once farrier William Beck’s premises, which has been Grade II listed since November 1971. The listing describes it as “Early C19. Whitewashed brick, tiles. Cottage 2 storeys with corbelled cornice, 2 windows, ground floor sash and casement, both under cambered arches, 1st floor casements, all with glazing bars. Forge one storey, sash with glazing bars.”

Some recommended reading regarding the St John’s area must include Paul Byron Norris and Arthur Frodsham’s book Jackender (Odibourne Press, 1995), so named after the nickname ascribed to the people of the parish, as opposed to Jackdaws (castle area) and Moorhens (Mill Enders).

Similarly, Peter Ashley and Graham Gould’s book Another One is Born (published by Peter J Ashley and © Graham Gould, 2011) gives a vivid account of the unique community of St John’s from 1930 to 1960.

The area was not short of a pub or two. Out of shot to the right of the photo, in what is today Camden House conference centre, was once the Horse & Jockey. Just behind the smithy was the old Malt Shovel, which closed in 1923 and is today a residential cottage displaying the name on a plaque beside the front door. A little further on, of course, is the Green Man which today operates under the Ember Inns brand in a somewhat tamer incarnation of its former self.

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April 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 and perhaps make a donation (monies will be shared between the Harry Sunley Memorial Project and Myton Hospice where both Harry and Richard died). Please – the guides must go!

» Last Meeting: Dr Bob Pryce showed us a remarkable collection of mainly Victorian Stereo Photographs of Warwickshire. These proved to be produced very early in the history of photography. It was interesting to see how many of the classic photographs we have of old Kenilworth proved to be one ‘half’ of these double views. Dr Pryce explained the technology of the process too, and the whole evening proved to be very useful.

» Tonight: Dr Sylvia Pinches will give us an account of Maria Home, housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick.

Maria Home, Housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick
Maria Home, Housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick (Source: Warwick DC)

» Next month: May 8th, Matthew Morris will speak on “Revealing Greyfriars: The Search for Leicester’s lost Franciscan Friary” at the usual time of 7.30 for 7.45 at the Senior Citizens’ Club. Subscriptions are now (over)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.

Subscriptions are now (over)due.

Our August outing will take place on Saturday 19th August when we will be visiting three very lovely churches – Halford, Tredington and Honington. Directions – meet at Halford Church for at 11am, bring a picnic or visit Halford Bridge Inn for lunch, followed by visit to Tredington and Honnington Churches during the afternoon. Chairman Jan will talk about both Halford and Honnington Churches and donations at each church would of course be much appreciated. At Tredington we will be given a talk/tour by a member of Friends of Tredington Church and Jan will collect a donation of £2 per person for this church before we arrive at Tredington. Parking at all three locations is very very limited so please get together and car share to keep the number of vehicles to a minimum. If you would like to come along a ‘signing up’ list is available this evening. Final details and directions will be sent out to everyone participating nearer the date.

» Kenilworth Family History Society Wednesday, 10 May 2017 The Society welcomes local professional family history researcher Jacqui Kirk, who will tell the story of one of her own forebears, Thomas Lodge, who was a Mayor of London in Elizabethan times. Senior Citizens’ Club, Abbey End, Kenilworth, from 7.30. Nonmembers welcome. Contact 511969.

» Kineton Local History Group: Please see website

» Warwickshire Local History Society: Saturday 13 May 2017 Bidford-on-Avon: a visit led by Prof. Chris Dyer; on the lines of his recent Warwickshire History article, he will explore its mediaeval attempts to develop into a town. Dr Nat Alcock will also comment on vernacular buildings like the Old Falcon, and we will be joined by members of the Bidford and District LHS. Start at 8.00pm, preceded by coffee at 7.30pm, in The Friends’ Meeting House, 39 High Street, Warwick, CV34 4AX

» CADAS: Last meeting before the autumn is the AGM which is for members only

» Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group: The next evening lecture held by Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group will be on Wednesday 18th April when Dr Phil Wilby from the British Geological Survey will be talking about the Charnian fossils. We will meet as usual at 7pm for coffee and a 7,30pm start at St Francis’ Church Hall, Warwick Road, Kenilworth. His abstract is printed here:


Life first appeared on Earth at least 3,800 million years ago but, for the great majority of this time, it was dominated by simple microbes. Large, complex organisms only appear at around 580 million years ago, but their position(s) in the tree of life and the trigger for their sudden appearance remain mysterious. Charnwood Forest, near Leicester, hosts the very earliest examples of these enigmatic organisms, and is at the forefront of research into understanding what they were, how they made their living, and how they helped pave the way for the modern world. The fossils form part of diverse communities, killed en masse and buried beneath submarine landslides of volcanic ash. Almost invisible in daylight, their exquisite detail can only easily be studied using laser scanning or silicone rubber moulding techniques. A programme of conservation and long-term monitoring is underway to protect these globally important fossils, including the effects of pollution and lichen-attack.

24th May Outing to Kenilworth Cutting/Finham Gorge. See Website


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

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Abbey ‘Barn’ Museum Reopens This Weekend

A reminder that 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.

The projector screen in the Barn Museum & Heritage Centre
The projector screen in the Barn Museum & Heritage Centre

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.

The interior of the Barn Museum & Heritage Centre
The interior of the Barn Museum & Heritage Centre
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Lord Leycester’s Lodge – Then & Now

Lord Leycester's Lodge
Lord Leycester’s Lodge

Possibly the saddest casualty of the November 1941 Luftwaffe parachute mine, after the tragic loss of life itself of course, was the wonderful property at 1 Borrowell Lane known as Lord Leycester’s Lodge, shown here in an early 20th century postcard view.

The origins of Lord Leycester’s Lodge are somewhat lost in the mists of time. There are some unverified suggestions that it acted as a hunting lodge to the castle itself, but it’s far from clear if this was the case and indeed whether Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (circa 1533 to 1588) had any actual connection to it.

Nevertheless, the lodge was an elegant timber framed construction with a long history. Stephen Wallsgrove’s wonderfully researched book Kenilworth 1086 – 1756 (published by the author, 1991) contains records of deeds of ownership right back to 1581 by a John Brabande. Over the years Stephen records that it was conveyed to new owners along with the Eagle & Child pub situated next door on The Square and subsequently the Green Dragon at Abbey End. Later still the nearby school house on Borrowell Lane and Edwards Charity was set up within grounds owned by the lodge. Also, during its long history it had a malthouse and timber yard within its grounds.

A very sorry looking photograph of the shattered remains of the lodge can be seen on Robin Leach’s WWII website, taken through the gutted remnants of the chemist’s shop on the opposite side of the road. John Drew recorded in Kenilworth – A Manor of the King (Pleasaunce Press, 1971) “The middle of Leicester’s Lodge fell in while the writer was standing in front of it. Its walls were still standing and the magnificent porch remained complete”. Eventually it was pulled down altogether.

After the war the lodge was replaced in a similar 1950s dark brick, flat roofed style to match the rest of Abbey End. The line of the old driveway seems to have been preserved as vehicular access to the rear of the shops.

Several of the premises directly behind the clock tower in the ‘then’ photo survived in a dilapidated state for over a decade before being demolished.

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Poundland – Then & Now

18-24 The Square, Poundland
18-24 The Square, Poundland

The chipping away of pre-20th Century buildings on Warwick Road during the last 75 years has left us with numerous Then & Now examples such as this one. Listed building status didn’t exist until the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and even then it only really applied to exceptional historic properties. Local conservation pressure groups only really started springing up in the mid 1960s when old buildings not covered by the listing process started regularly becoming targets of developers and town planners, who were not overly concerned with character and aesthetics. Even then they were often powerless to intervene or simply resigned to picking their battles over the more alarming demolition schemes.

The body that is today KHAS started out in 1962 as the Kenilworth Society Historical Study Group, an offshoot of the Kenilworth Society whose founding aim was to organise talks and open meetings about local matters. However, a historical society staffed by volunteers has to choose carefully which schemes to lend its objections to so it can focus its efforts on the most deserving cases. A search through the society’s early newsletters from the 1960s and 1970s does not reveal any documented objections raised to developments like those shown here. The Society was gearing up for a fight to preserve Little Virginia in 1973 which took precedence.

Later on, members of the Society were at least able to inspect the fabric of buildings before they were demolished to discover whether they contained remnants of timber frames or sandstone walls, suggesting the building was older than its facade might suggest. The adjoining property Over The Moon (16 The Square, extreme right of the ‘now’ image) was recently found to have an ancient sandstone interior wall, as detailed in Norman Stevens’ article in Kenilworth History 2017. Another example; the facade of The Lion pub is not dissimilar to that of the Kenilworth General Supplies building shown here. However, The Lion is in fact a listed building containing timber framing and sandstone walls, showing that its is in fact a much older building with a later facade.

So, unless some enlightened individual took it upon themselves to survey such buildings and raise objections to their demolition where warranted, or at the very least record what was to be destroyed, all we are left with is old photographs and unanswered questions over the nature of the buildings we have lost.

The site is numbered as 18-24 The Square. In the 1970s the Keymarket supermarket chain opened a store on this site, built in a what might be described as a brutalist style. Keymarket was in turn bought out by Gateway which was itself bought out by Somerfield, during the course of which the site was rebuilt largely as we see it today before becoming a branch of Co-Operative Food. However, since the arrival of the likes of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose chains such as these have been pushed out of the town. Discount stores now rule the roost and the site was first taken over by The 99p Stores and is currently occupied by the Poundland discount store.

Thanks to Chris Lillington from the Kenilworth Weekly News for permission to reprint this image and also to Robin Leach for providing it to KHAS.

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KHAS Meeting on Monday April 10th

Dear KHAS Member,

A slightly earlier than usual reminder that there will be a KHAS meeting on Monday April 10th at 7.45pm, in the Senior Citizens’ Club at Abbey End.

Dr. Sylvia Pinches will be speaking to us on: “The True History of Maria Home, Housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick”. Mrs Home was housekeeper at Warwick Castle for nearly 60 years, and when she died in 1834 she left over £20,000. Find out how she made this money and something of the lives of servants in great households.

Maria Home, Housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick
Maria Home, Housekeeper to the Earls of Warwick (Image Source: Royal Spa Centre)

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting.
Geoff Whiteman

Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society (KHAS)

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