From the Archives – Parliament Piece, Kenilworth – A Metal Detector Survey

The piece of open land known as Parliament Piece, sandwiched between Upper spring Lane and the Coventry Road, is the subject of a bit of local myth and legend.

Parliament Piece from the air
Parliament Piece from the air

One persistent myth is that it is said to be the site where Henry III held a Parliament during the great siege in August 1266. This subject was tackled by Norman Stevens in a Mythbusters article in Kenilworth History 2016. It is considered much more likely that Henry’s parliament took place at the Priory (later Abbey), of which he was patron, and which he had made his base during the siege. The name Parliament Piece is more likely to derive from Cromwellian troops having used this spot as their camp for an assault on the castle that never came, safely out of range of the anticipated Royalist muskets, much later on during the English Civil War (1642–1651) .

Nevertheless, Parliament Piece has had a hugely varied history. Here, Cyril Hobbins takes us on a whistlestop tour of its chequered past via numerous metal detector finds, ranging from the mundane to the bizarre, in an article first published in Kenilworth History 2007 – 2008:

Parliament Piece, Kenilworth

A Metal Detector Survey 1987-1989

Cyril Hobbins (survey undertaken with the kind permission of the late Miss Helen Martin)

During the mid 1980s I was given permission to carry out a full metal detector survey of the land known as Parliament Piece. It was owned by the late Miss Helen Martin, as part of ‘The Spring’. I was to meet this very gracious lady on many occasions during my explorations as she walked her dogs there. She was always very keen to examine and discuss my latest finds.

Parliament Piece was about to be handed over to ‘The Open Spaces Society’ for safe keeping by Miss Martin. She (and they) were very interested in my work: permission to search remained for a year or so after her death. I was in full time employment as a social worker/manager then, so searching was done during any spare time available and in all kinds of weather. I carefully logged my finds on record sheets of my own design (I had no computer then). From them I was able to build up a reasonable idea of area usage over the years.

My metal detector was a (then) top of the range ARADO 120B, a rather heavy and noisy beast that still is an excellent machine for detecting small non-ferrous objects beneath the ground. Many people imagine that a metal detector has the ability to find items at great depth when in fact the range is usually no more than 12 inches (30cm) – not very far below turf roots. Only a strong garden trowel was used for extracting finds and all turf divots were replaced and then heeled in. No deep archæology was ever disturbed: by the next day all traces of my efforts had vanished. My detector was set to discriminate between ferrous metals, silver foil and coke but not enough to ignore modern aluminium can-pulls, the bane of any serious detectorist.

The actual depth that metal objects end up is dependent on many factors: the length of time since deposited, the soil and subsoil types, farming methods, cattle/horse grazing and, surprisingly perhaps, earthworm activity.

The topsoil on Parliament Piece is generally good, in places very gravely with a sandstone base. There is clear evidence of quarrying and possibly gravels extraction. More of this later.

During the three years I discovered that the find spots of many artefacts had a real story to tell, hence this paper. I must add here that I haven’t found the time or permissions fully to explore my findings and I am happy for any follow-up explorations to challenge my theories.

Surmised past uses of Parliament Piece:

The type and positions of groups of finds enabled me to make an educated guess at what different areas of the field were used for. Later, a little research confirmed some of my findings. Sadly (and to my surprise) no ancient or medieval artefacts were discovered anywhere on the land. If there are any, they were beyond the detecting range of my equipment.

Sunday School Medal of Merit
Sunday School Medal of Merit

Area 1, behind the boundary hedges to Upper Spring Lane and Coventry Road: I excavated a series of Sunday school medals, Victorian and Edwardian coins, and odd remnants of corroded jewellery (including one relating to the Wesley brothers) as well as broken spoons and a beautiful silver one Rupee piece. From this I concluded that the corner for some time had been used for Sunday school picnics or open air services.

Area 2, immediately behind the Coventry Road bus stop: Lots of metric and pre-metric coinage, broken bangles, (amazingly) a working wristwatch, corroded lipstick and make-up holders, and a cigarette lighter; all evidence, perhaps, of occasional courting couples.

Area 3, around the rocky depression just in from the Coventry Road end of the Upper Spring Lane boundary: Here I discovered two heavy iron hammer heads, Georgian and Victorian coinage, and odd bits of clay pipe, evidence of men at work. I am inclined to think that this is the remains of a small stone quarry. It would be interesting to know where the excavated stone was used.

Area 4, the central area backing the Coventry Road boundary and up to and along the Gypsy Lane footpath boundary:

A corroded but complete foot patten
A corroded but complete foot patten

An amazing number of very interesting items surfaced here: barrel-tap keys of brass that were once used by farmers to secure cider and beer barrels. A number of Jaws (or Jew’s) harps – small, lyre-shaped instruments, each with a narrow steel spring which produced a twanging note when plucked. I discovered, too, a wide assortment of coinage of the Georgian period including a forged half crown – forging was a crime punishable by deportation or death even then. A corroded but complete foot patten came to light – the oval shape fooled the ferrous discriminator of my equipment. Iron-ring pattens were fixed to strapped wooden soles that buckled on over normal footwear. They kept the wearer above any mud or slurry in the farmyard or dairy – early day Wellingtons, in fact. One mystery item is the shell-shaped scraper, cast from base metal. Detectorists in other parts of the country have found similar items; as far as I know their true use is unknown. From these finds I surmise that a small fair or market may have been held in this area.

Area 5, behind area 4: I discovered evidence of a house. I seem to remember reading that one stood on Parliament Piece, and here I found three Georgian halfpennies fused together by fire, and other coins and tokens of the period. This raises the question of whether the market/fair finds were something to do with the owner/tenant of that building?

Area 6, to the left of area 5 and slightly further behind: I found clear evidence of a soccer pitch that once had metal (tubular) goal-posts; I uncovered all four corroded stumps in situ at each end of the pitch. Further evidence of club activity was obvious when, in one particular spot close to the farther goal, I dug up a whole series of pre-decimal threepenny bits. I can only guess that at this point subscriptions were collected, or refreshments sold, with threepence the going rate.

Area 7, the banks of the water-filled pit or pond – a very common feature of fields used for grazing in this area: Here was evidence of minor hunting and fishing. Finds included lead musket- and pistol-balls, later lead bullets, old and modern shotgun cartridge cases and ends, 0.22 rifle bullet cases, lead weights, a corroded pocket-knife and odd coinage of all periods from 1750 to present day.

Area 8, is what remains of the field, mainly towards the back, close to the existing cottage, and in between and surrounding all the other areas:

Here I uncovered the usual scattering of things that a metal detector finds: mixed coinage, lead musket- and pistol-balls, odd buckles both from clothing and harness but in no particular pattern that might point to a particular use. Perhaps the most significant of these finds were those clearly from the Second World War. Bullets, all for the army issue rifle, the ‘point 303′ Lee Enfield. To my amazement I discovered three live rounds of this ammunition! Following safety procedures, I took them for safe disposal to the Police Station where I had to sign a firearms certificate declaration! The discovery of the ammunition points perhaps to regular soldiers training a local Home Guard contingent.

Wartime Finds
Wartime Finds

Chunks of jagged shrapnel from the Anti Aircraft guns that helped defend Coventry and the surrounding area are a common find on local land. Parliament Piece was no exception. The business end of each shell was designed to burst into red-hot jagged pieces at a pre-set height; found chunks have a distinctive chocolate-bar pattern that helped them break up. Many pieces have clear evidence of manufacture, and type and height-setting figures. I have collected verbal evidence that red-hot shrapnel like this rained down in quantity during raids. Little wonder that steel helmets were issued to all personnel!

One small area of ground off Upper Spring Lane proved to be beyond my equipment’s capabilities because of the mass of ferrous metal such as buried roofing sheets, farm machinery and even an old car.

This fascinating and wide-ranging collection of artefacts gives a real insight into the past uses of Parliament Piece but, sadly, not the mediæval evidence expected by myself or Miss Martin when I started.

Detectorists can and do find mediæval items not far below the turf on other sites. Worm activity and farming bring them close to the surface after long burial. I have a good collection of Roman and mediæval artefacts in my collection, all officially recorded, and all found locally, with permission, but regrettably nothing from this survey.

The survey continued for a time after Parliament Piece was taken over by the Open Spaces Society, but despite many letters and appeals their blanket ban on metal detecting eventually prevented further work. I should stress, however, that no damage was done to Parliament Piece during my survey: as I remarked above, a garden trowel only was used for any digging, all divots were heeled in after a find was extracted and recorded, and, by the next day, hardly any trace of my work could be seen.

I presented the whole collection to the KHAS just after the ‘Barn’ Museum was opened, and it is there still for all to see.


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From the Archives: The Brays

We know a great deal of the phases of development of Kenilworth Castle itself, but what of its enigmatic counterpart known as The Brays? Was it a hastily constructed rampart thrown together as a result of the Siege of 1266? Was it constructed earlier during the reign of King John? Or does it in fact pre-date the Castle altogether and date from Anglo-Saxon times, the Roman era or even earlier?

Norman Stevens ponders these very questions, in an article first published in the 2010 edition of Society’s yearly publication Kenilworth History:

The Brays

by Norman Stevens

That Kenilworth had a Roman settlement within it or in the immediate vicinity cannot be doubted. The tile kilns at Cherry Orchard and Chase Wood underline that, as do the Roman tiles to be found associated with the Abbey, in what little is left of the visible structure and in the debris washed into the 12th century access shaft of the water conduit running from near the Queen & Castle to the Abbey. A ground-penetrating radar trace of an underground continuous level beside the Abbey ruins suggests a building layer years before the Abbey.

Roman artefacts found in the Cherry Orchard Dig of 1964
Roman artefacts found in the Cherry Orchard Dig of 1964

Further, the settlement known as “Chesford” clearly has a Roman origin, and an examination of the topography shows possibly one or two platforms above the River Avon to the east of Chesford Bridge in the contiguous fields there, beyond the clearly defined hollow-way that at one time was the access to the ford itself. An investigation of the site is well over-due.

A quotation from a principal commentator on the Anglo-Saxon (A-S) development of England, Warwick Rodwell, ties the Roman presence in Kenilworth with a later Anglo-Saxon feature. He says: “There are . . . many instances of Anglo-Saxon manor houses emerging on or close to the sites of Roman villas and farmsteads . . .” “. . . it is fundamental to the history and topography of the late Saxon and mediaeval country-side.” p14 col. 1

He goes further: “. . . . the villa was the central point of an estate, the residence of authority, and it was that authority which could and did embrace Christianity, giving rise to the construction of a private estate church which formed an integral part of the contemporary suite of manorial buildings. As so often happened, that church became parochial in the tenth or eleventh century.” p15 col. 1. [Churches in the Landscape: Aspects of Topography and Planning, Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon Settlement. Ed. Margaret L. Faull. Oxford University Department for External Studies. 1984]

I have argued before that the pair of stone cottages on Castle Green, Nos. 12 & 13, is, in fact, a Saxon church [Kenilworth History 2001-2, KHAS, published annually]. Then, I claimed the mass dial, arrow-sharpening marks, the double plinth, the squint, the orientation, and the recorded fact that there was a church/chapel in Kenilworth before S. Nicholas’ Church, made it quite clear that this was a very early church. Since that article, I have had the privilege, thanks to the present incumbent, of measuring the thickness of the walls, and these, at just under 30 inches, (75 cms) are typical of a Saxon church, and atypical of a Norman one, which was very rarely less than three feet.

No's 12 & 13 Castle Green - a Saxon church?
No’s 12 & 13 Castle Green – a Saxon church?

We have to accept, if all this is true, that Kenilworth was a stable Anglo-Saxon community in the early 1100s, already recorded at Domesday in 1086. At the moment, all we have is the Castle Green “church”. There is not a lot of evidence otherwise of Anglo-Saxon presence in the town, although there is plenty around, nonetheless. Perhaps the nearest most significant is Blacklow, where the Society found a high-status A-S burial and associated grave goods in the course of a rescue dig in 1971-2.

The Avon valley, generally, has evidence of A-S presence, as one might expect. One might almost ask “why not?” And by far the most important is Warwick itself, a major A-S site. It would appear to have enjoyed some sort of defensive bank and ditch arrangement appropriate to its importance, but much of that has been subsumed by the major works applied since the Conquest.

Tamworth, further north, enjoyed a similar treatment, and, as a Saxon “burh”, or burgh, was well fortified, and, as Warwick, later over-whelmed by Norman work.

As I have argued before [KH1994] Kenilworth stands on a drovers’ road, of what antiquity we don’t know, although these were in use for centuries. It is near a significant crossing of the Avon, and is a nodal centre for a number of ancient trackways. It is not very far, in fact, from Watling Street, which became the boundary between A-S Wessex/Mercia and the Danelaw. So there is some reason to suppose that it had an importance which is not reflected in theDomesday entry which speaks of a community of some seventy souls.

All this is merely a preliminary to the question: what is “The Brays”? Considerable research, examination and thought may provide an answer. To the best of our knowledge, no concentrated, even superficial, work has ever been carried out on the area other than an English Heritage (EH) survey of levels. In his article on the 1563 Survey of the Castle in EH Historical Review, Vol 3, 2008, Nicholas A D Molyneux speaks of ‘a massive earthwork enclosure of uncertain date’. The Castle as we know it is such an iconic structure that it absorbs all our attention, and we fail to address a remarkable, but very knocked about, feature right alongside it.

The Brays
Aerial view of The Brays, courtesy of Bing Maps

From the top of the banks to the bottom of the ditches it is 30 feet (Keith Croucher’s otherwise excellent monitory article in KH2002-3 suffered a regrettable misprint which states 25 metres). This is not, then, an insignificant earthwork. The extensive works that clearly once existed in the area of the Brays will have been executed either in an emergency, or at a time when such things were normal and could be achieved within the every day routine. If the former, was it Geoffrey de Clinton, newly arrived in an unknown environment, providing himself a secure earthwork camp he could use as a base for building the castle that Henry I had commissioned? If the latter, was it an A-S ‘burh’, like Warwick, built against the threat of the Dane ? On the other hand, however, the earthworks may already have been there. Whenever they were built, there were considerable resources available, either of manpower or time.

Brays Entrance
The entrance to The Brays from Castle Road

It stands at the end of a tongue of land sloping down towards a confluence of three streams, and, as we have noted, commanded several established routes through the countryside. No dating evidence has ever been found, and, we suspect, ever been looked for, to determine when these substantial earthworks were made. They are the size of Helmsley Castle’s, Castle Acre’s, and Castle Rising’s. But, and it is a big ‘but’, they are a funny shape. No Norman motte and bailey ever had a perimeter as irregular as this. An examination of Iron Age and Neolithic forts, contour-hugging, shows a much closer parallel. A-S towns, like Wareham, were not as regular as the Norman fortifications. Roman fortifications were utterly and predictably regular, so these are not Roman.

Where are we to place them in the time scale? We can see that they were much curtailed and reduced later. Who did that ? King John, in building his dam to heighten the Mere ? Were they really erected against the 1266 siege, complete with walls, and with the towers that the 1925 Ordnance Survey map shows ? In that short time? That is the received wisdom, but a walk up the lane towards Grounds Farm shows us that the powerful trebuchets of the 13th Century would have caused havoc, as the fortification is downhill from there. Or were the changes made by John or Robert Dudley redesigning the site, landscaping it to the ideas of their day ?

The Brays as seen from Castle Grove
The Brays as seen from Castle Grove

Ultimately, we are forced back to saying that “The Brays” is an enigma. We have found no detailed research work on it as yet, and (apart from a recent unrevealing trench dug along the road to lay cables) no excavation or even soil-sampling to establish either the actual depth of the ditches, or the presence of stone where the mediaeval walls and those ‘Towers’ shown on the 1925 Ordnance Survey sheets were supposed to be. The iconic presence of the Castle, as we and the rest of the world knows it, is our enemy ! All eyes are on that : the Brays is where you park your car !

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From the Archives: Anyone for Tennis?

Kenilworth’s role as a royal residence meant that it was often at the centre of events of national and even world importance. A classic example is the story of the insulting gift of a barrel of tennis balls sent to Henry V by the Dauphin, Louis of Viennois during a lull in the Hundred Years War. Henry’s reaction to this insult resulted in the build up to the campaign that culminated in the routing of the French at the Battle of Agincourt.

Shakespeare included the tale in his play Henry V, but did these events really take place just as we are led to believe? Brian Jackson takes up the tale in an article first published in Kenilworth History 2000 / 2001:

Episodes in Kenilworth History No.5 – Anyone for Tennis?

Brian Jackson

King Henry V was fond of Kenilworth. Indeed, after London, Kenilworth – his ‘castellum dilectum de Kenilleworth’ – was the place where he spent a good deal of his time. His manors of Cheylesmore and Plesantmaris were nearby, and as we have seen in the 1996 – 7 edition of ‘Kenilworth History’, to build what we now know as the Pleasaunce he went to a great deal of trouble preparing the ground and draining a noxious marsh.

Henry V
King Henry V, by unknown artist, from the National Portrait Gallery.

It is on record that Henry was in Kenilworth in Lent, 1414. He was much preoccupied with his claim to territories in France and the prospect of marriage with the French princess Katherine. Negotiations were not going well. What followed is a widely told anecdote, most generally known, perhaps, as it appears in Shakespeare’s play, ‘King Henry V’: French Ambassadors arrive and present the King with a mocking gift from the Dauphin, Charles, son of the King of France. The ‘gift’ is blatantly insulting – a barrel full of tennis-balls, together with the message that Henry, well known for his irresponsible youth, might be better employed playing tennis than going to war with grown-ups.

Louis de Guyenne
The Dauphin Louis, Duke of Guyenne (1397 – 1415)

Henry, infuriated, returns the message that the only balls he would send back would be cannon-balls. He declares war forthwith, to begin the famous campaign culminating in the battle of Agincourt in October the following year.

So what was the source of this anecdote, and did it really happen? Shakespeare knew a good dramatic situation when he saw one, but his history is not always entirely reliable. Here he seems to be on well-established ground, taking it straight from the 16th century historical compilation of Raphael Holinshed, who clearly held it as fact, deriving it at several removes from an obscure chronicler known as Otterbourne, who locates it in Kenilworth.

The better known Thomas Elmham, a royal chaplain who was present at the battle of Agincourt, and who died in 1428, tells it as brief plain tale in his chronicle, ‘Liber Metricus’. Elmham firmly puts Henry at Kenilworth on Quadragesima (first Sunday in Lent) 1414, which that year fell on March 12. On the following day negotiations in France came to nothing and Henry’s envoys promptly returned. The tennis balls story follows. Elmham tells us that the Dauphin wrote to Henry extremely mockingly (verba jocosa nimis) and sent him tennis balls from Paris (Parisias pitas misit), which would suit him nicely for the childish games he enjoyed. Henry wrote back promising cannon balls from London that would shatter the roofs of the French and win the match.

But the main authority, John Strecche, a Canon of Kenilworth Priory who became Prior of Brooke, the small Rutland Cell of Kenilworth Priory in 1407 and retired in 1426, tells a much more circumstantial tale. He was something of an anecdotal historian, fond of many a colourful incident, but he was writing about roughly contemporary events, and was on the spot, with an ear cocked for gossip from the Castle.

The Signature of John Strecche
The Signature of John Strecche. canon of the Priory of St Mary, Kenilworth, from 1407 to 1425.

Elmham and Strecche do not appear to have collaborated. The latter’s tale, indeed, contains subtle differences from Elmham’s, and it is worth quoting more fully. He gives some account of the failure of the negotiations with the French over Henry’s proposed marriage (pro matrimonio inter Henricum regem Angelorum et nobilem dominam Katerinam regis francorum filiam) and how they fell short of what the king could honourably accept. He is much more specific about what followed: “These French, blinded by their own arrogance, and careless of the dreadful consequences, vomited forth words of venom (verbis fellis eructantes) to the English envoys.” Then comes the significant difference. The French told the departing English delegation that because Henry was young they WOULD send him tennis balls to play with, and (a nice addition) some soft pillows (pulvinaria mollia) to sleep on to help him grow to manly strength. Interestingly enough, in an early drama, ‘The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth’, which some critics believe to have been a practice run by Shakespeare, these pillows have become a carpet.

When these insults were reported to the king, says Strecche, he was greatly moved: “With words brief, well-chosen, and graceful in form, this is what he said: If God wills, and if I have life and health, within a few short months, I shall play such games with my cannon balls within their streets that the French will curse their mockery, and pay for their wit with tears and lamentations. And if they thought to lie abed with soft pillows, then I, perhaps, before they might have wished it, shall beat on their doors at dawn and rouse them from their dreams.”

Which has a fine patriotic ring, both in the Latin and in translation. This may well be the heart of the matter. In fact, the French ambassadors in Shakespeare’s play did not arrive in England until July, in a late and conciliatory attempt to restart negotiations, certainly without an insulting barrel of tennis  balls, when Henry’s preparations for war were well advanced. It is not unlikely that the whole thing had its origins in a discourteous joke among the French negotiators, was brought back by the English envoys, and grew in the telling, to be seized upon by Strecche and other chroniclers as a piece of ‘true’ anti-French propaganda and an opportunity to display the king’s legendary oratory. Myth? Or fact? Either way the tale is a Kenilworth tale, and a Kenilworth Canon was there when it began.

King Henry V William Shakespeare
The Famous Victories of Henry V Author unknown, poss. early Shakespeare
Chronicles Ralph Holinshed
Liber Metricus Thomas Elmham
Historia Regum Angliae Book V John Strecche
Henry V and the Invasion of France E. P. Jacob, E.U.P. 1947

For more articles like this, a CD containing all back issues of Kenilworth History from 1981 to 2015 can be purchased from the Society for £5. See the link above for more details.

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From the Archives: Kenilworth Windmills

The following article was first published in Kenilworth History 2000 – 2001 by Rob Steward. If you were of the understanding that there was but one windmill in Kenilworth, then this may very well be the article for you.

Kenilworth Windmills

Rob Steward

I have written in the past, in these pages, about water and its power to drive the watermills of Kenilworth; now let me turn to that other natural power, the force of the wind.

Over the centuries there have been a number of windmills in Kenilworth and close by. The earliest reference to a windmill I can find is in a document dated 22nd July 1549 listing property acquired by Andrew Flammock. It is Wyndmyllfeld which lies to the west of Dunn’s Pits farm. A short green lane to the south off Hollis Lane, called ‘Pebble Lane’ in 1756, probably led to the mill. In William Dugdale’s ‘Antiquities of Warwickshire’ there is a panoramic view, dated 1723, seen from Honiley showing Kenilworth Castle on the right, Balsall Common windmill on the extreme left with another windmill on the horizon, which appears to be the one on Wyndmyllfeld, between the two. Coventry is also depicted on the horizon further to the right but left of Kenilworth Castle.

Unfortunately the positions of Coventry and the windmill on Wyndmyllfeld are shown transposed, but the positions of Kenilworth Castle, Balsall Common windmill and Chase Wood are very accurate. There is artistic license, however, regarding the orientation of Kenilworth Castle. None of the Kenilworth windmills is shown; they were built later in the century. As a point of observation, on the above mentioned panoramic view and on contemporary maps, even the later Ordnance Survey map of 1834, all windmills are shown as post mills. This is purely to indicate the position of a windmill. Balsall Common windmill, for instance, is a tower mill built of brick.

In 1787 two post-mills were built in Kenilworth, one on Knowle Hill, MR SP 299727, and the other one on the common, MR SP295731. William Yates’ map of 1793 shows these two mills. They are also indicated on the O.S. map of 1834.

A post-mill, for the uninitiated, consists of a large diameter vertical timber post supported on two horizontal cross timbers, called cross-trees, the ends of which are supported on low brick or stone pillars. Balanced on top of the post is the mill, which can be rotated to face the wind or ‘winded’. The sails are of course at the front, and a tail pole protrudes at the back down to about two or three feet above the ground, so the miller can push it round to face the wind, or ‘wind’ the mill. Very often the cross-tree supports are enclosed in a round-house with a conical shaped roof to make a store place; this is an eighteen century addition to old mills.

The two Kenilworth post-mills both ceased operating shortly after 1834, most probably due to steam power and the coming of the railway in 1844 bringing cheap power to this area. As they were post-mills it was impossible to convert them to steam.

Kenilworth Windmills Map 1793
Extract from Thomas Yates’ map of 1793, redrawn by M. G. Sayer, 1966 (from the cover of Kenilworth History 1998)

Nine years before the two post-mills were constructed, a brick tower-mill was built on Tainters Hill, SP290721. This mill battled on, driven by the wind, grinding corn for the inhabitants of Kenilworth for seventy-six years until it succumbed to the power of steam. Unlike its fellow post-mills, conversion was possible. In 1854 the conversion was implemented.

A black and white sketch of this mill exists. It shows it with ‘common’ or canvas sails, a pitched roof type cap but without any method of turning the cap into the wind. It seems to be purely an artist’s impression, and one from memory. Quite probably it had canvas sails, not the ‘Patent’ sails as the Lincolnshire and Norfolk windmills later had; they were an invention in 1807 of William Cubit, later Sir William. The cap would have had curved rafters; as it is shown, there would have hardly have been enough room for the large brake wheel under it. In Lincolnshire the caps were usually ‘ogee’ shaped, while in Norfolk they were upturned ‘transom’ boat shaped with the wind shaft projecting out of the transom end. Warwickshire windmills were usually similar to the Norfolk type.

Balsall Common tower windmill has this boat type cap, with a transom at the back as well to accommodate a large wheel and chain which enabled the cap to be turned by hand from the ground. The tower-mill on Tainters Hill most likely had a cap of this type, with a wheel and chain. If it had a ‘fantail’, a small six or more bladed fan at right angles to the main sails, the artist would certainly have remembered this feature and shown it on his sketch.

There is the wonderful tale of the early eighteen hundreds when this old tower mill driven by the wind still ground flour for local bread making, of Gerry O’Hea who, as a youth, nearly lost his life showing off his pluck and lack of fear to his friends by catching hold of a passing revolving sail. Unfortunately for Gerry, when releasing his hold he became caught up and revolved with the sail until the miller, hearing his cries for help, stopped the mill and rescued the lad.

In 1883 the Kenilworth Water Company was formed. The old mill, having ceased working, was seen to be an ideal structure on which to fit a water tank. In 1884 the cap was removed, the tower raised from about forty feet to about fifty feet and a 26,000 gallon tank was placed on the top.

The Kenilworth U.D.C., in 1922, purchased the water undertaking. Electric pumps replaced the steam driven ones and in 1925, because of the increased demand for water by the growing population of Kenilworth, the original tank was replaced by a new 500,000 gallon tank. By 1963 the Council’s responsibility for the water supply was passed to the South Warwickshire Water Board. The ‘water tower’ by that time had gone out of use and was sold and turned into a residence in 1973.

In 1935 a half full-size model of the smock-mill at Dyke, Lincolnshire, was built on the site of the old Crackley post-mill on the Common for the late Lord Kenilworth by Messrs. Hunts of Soham, Cambs. The director of operations was the late Mr. Rex Wailes, a pioneer of industrial archaeology and president of the Newcomen Society from 1953 to 1955. This large model remained there until it was demolished in 1964.

Smock Mill Replica on the Common
Drawing by Rob Steward of the half-size model of the smock mill at Dyke, Lincolnshire, which stood on Kenilworth Common between 1935 and 1964

Again for the uninitiated, a ‘smock’ mill is like a tower mill, but instead of the tower being built of brickwork it is made of timber and usually octagonal in plan. The whole was clad with lapped weatherboarding and more often than not painted white, giving the appearance of a miller’s ‘smock’.

Research has failed to find out who the millers of the post mills were between 1778 and 1880. A will, dated 15th June 1793, shows that at that time, the windmill on Tainters Common and a malt-house in New Way (later New Street) belonged to William Parker of Kenilworth, a baker, and was left to his mother Susannah Parker. His mother died 15th April 1796 and the ownership seems to have passed to his brother John Parker, a baker of Birmingham, and his sister Susannah, wife of John Gee. Although one gets the impression that William Parker died in middle age, he was possibly the first owner, building the mill when he was, perhaps, about the age of thirty-five. Three other names appear to be likely candidates for Tainters Hill tower-mill. The first is William Homan who lived in New Street in 1835, the second is Mark Sturley, a corn miller in 1850, who also lived in New Street, the third is James Grant whose address, in 1866, was Gravel Pits, Coventry Road, a miller. Was it Mark Sturley who converted the mill to steam power in 1854, or did James Grant take it over in 1854 and convert it? John Boddington was also a miller living at Mill End in 1841. But he worked at the watermill. He later took over the ‘Engine’ pub from Edward Boddington.

In 1969 the K.H.A.S. had the opportunity to visit the ‘water tower’ and made a very quick survey.

Part of Rouncil Lane was once called Millfield Lane. The name Millfield suggests that there may have been a windmill here at some time. To the north of this part of the lane is a slight knoll, rising about 15 metres (50 feet) above the stream which is four or five fields away further north. It is not the ideal place for a windmill but not out of the question. There was also a ‘Miller’s Field’. But in 1756 there was a John Miller.

Some of our readers may have further information about these old windmills which they may like to tell us so it can be added to our knowledge of the subject.

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From the Archives: Last Night at ‘The Globe’

The moving story below was first published in the 2003 / 2004 edition of the Society’s Kenilworth History publication, written by Roy Stanley. It tells the story of the tragic events of November 21, 1940 when a Luftwaffe parachute landmine fell on Abbey End, killing 26 people. Kenilworth recently marked the 75th anniversary of these horrific events with a service and a wreath laying by the mayor Michael Coker at the site of the former Globe Inn, which was destroyed by the explosion

The original story follows:

Roy Stanley recalls his boyhood experience: the night’s events and the people who were there

The Globe was located in the Square at the south end of what is now Abbey End, almost opposite the Clock Tower. One of Kenilworth’s old pubs, it was popular with locals and visitors alike. Unlike most pubs, its hanging sign was not a flat board but a genuine world globe, as old photographs testify. It had a gated side entrance wide enough for the passage of horse-drawn carts. There was a large yard at the rear with stabling on the north side above which was a large club-room. An outside wooden staircase provided access.

The Globe circa 1910
The Globe circa 1910 (Courtesy of the Kenilworth Weekly news)

In 1939 the tenancy of The Globe became vacant and a Mr James Stanley was installed as the new landlord. Jim had been apprenticed to toolmaking. He became interested in politics, joined the Independent Labour Party and soon found himself in conflict with employers in his pursuit of better wages and conditions, resulting in his sacking and blacklisting so that he had to seek employment outside the city.

He was happily married to Polly, who gave birth to two sons, Ralph and Lewis. When the boys were in their early teens, however, Polly died, leaving Jim to raise the boys alone.

In the years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Jim found employment back in Coventry, and, like most working men, was fond of a glass of ale. During this period a friendship developed between Jim and Florrie, a barmaid at his local pub. The friendship blossomed into romance, and they married. Florrie sensed that Jim’s outgoing personality was suited to the role of publican, and with her knowledge of the trade found little difficulty in persuading him to apply for the tenancy of The Globe.

September 1940 saw the beginning of German air-raids on Birmingham and Coventry. There were frequent night alerts when warning sirens would send folk scurrying to seek relative safety in reinforced indoor an outdoor shelters. Jim and Florrie had many relatives and friends living in Coventry. They thought Kenilworth, a few miles away from the industrial target, would be a safe haven and invited them to spend the night sleeping on the floor of the unused club-room. So when the men left off work in factories in the early evening, they would collect wives and children and leave the city for Kenilworth.

The Square, Kenilworth showing the Globe (right)

On arrival at the club-room, rolls of makeshift bedding were placed against the walls on each side of the room. Then the men would disappear downstairs to the busy bar, to reappear with trays of drinks for their families. Later the men would return to the all-male company of the bar.

A good community spirit developed in the temporary dormitory of the clubroom. Impromptu concerts were organised to raise money for parcels of little luxuries for the fighting forces. There was a small stage at one end of the clubroom and Jim would leave Florrie serving at the bar to appear on stage to deliver one of his monologues – “The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God”, “Gunga Din” and other offerings of a similar nature. His younger brother, Will, was an accomplished amateur magician whose wife Daisy played the piano and sang, sometimes accompanied by Jim, who had a good baritone voice. The finale usually consisted of a singsong in which everyone joined: good old music hall favourites and the wartime songs such as “Run, rabbit, run”, “Roll out the Barrel”, etc.

Closing time saw the return of the men from the bar, when bedding was unrolled, most of the lights turned off, and everyone exchanging “Good Nights” before settling down for the night’s sleep.


On the night of the 21st of November, 1940, one week after the worst air raid on Coventry, the Globe was full of people from the city, seeking respite from the terror of possible further attacks, and content to sleep in any available space. Just before closing time, a tired-looking man with ginger hair entered the bar, ordered a drink, and asked Florrie if he could stay for the night. Florrie at first said there was no space left, but when he told her he had been walking all day and was on his way to take up a job in one of the factories in Coventry she relented and said he could rest on one of the seats in the bar. He thanked her and attempted to make himself comfortable on the hard wooden settle. Glasses were cleared, ashtrays emptied, doors bolted, and lights extinguished; Jim and Florrie retired to bed.

It was a relatively quiet night. About 2 a.m. a solitary German aircraft arrived over Kenilworth. Whether its crew had any specific target, or were unable to find it – whatever their mission – the decision was made to release the canister containing a ton of explosive. The crew headed for home, no doubt eager to avoid searchlights, anti-aircraft shells and R.A.F. night fighters. As they changed course, the deadly canister, suspended beneath a parachute, descended silently.

The weapon was designed to explode on impact and cause maximum blast damage. It contacted the earth yards to the north of The Globe and immediately exploded.

The Globe
The rubble of The Globe (© Leamington Courier)

A fourteen year old boy asleep on the floor of the clubroom awoke to find he was unable to move, aware of an overbearing weight that seemed to be crushing the life out of his body; hardly able to breathe, his mouth and nostrils clogged with the dust of plaster and brick. Screams and cries for help penetrated the debris.

His agony gradually succumbed to unconsciousness.

As his senses returned he became aware of cold air, someone’s arms holding him, a soldier, the rough khaki of a battledress jacket against his face; of stars, bright as bright in a dark sky. The man spoke words of comfort as he carried the lad across the uneven mounds of rubble. Someone wrapped a blanket around his shivering body and placed him in the back seat of a car parked alongside the clock tower. In the dim light he discerned a figure in the front passenger’s seat.

The person’s head turned and a voice, that of his Aunt Florrie, said: “Oh – it’s you, Roy – I’ve seen your mum and dad; they are all right.” Someone got into the driver’s seat, started the engine and drove the car south along Warwick Road as far as St. John’s Church. There they were led into the brightly-lit church hall. It had become a casualty clearing station. Volunteers were busy with blankets, bandages, cups of tea. The boy looked at fellow-victims, dazed, lying or sitting on mattresses. Distraught faces, barely recognisable, not the familiar smiling faces of a few hours ago. He heard his name called and saw the look of relief on the faces of his parents. Across the room he saw Uncle Jim, shirt sleeves rolled up, blood caked on his face and arms; one arm clutching a half-empty whisky bottle – the arm which had held the lifeless body of his son Ralph – he had found him lying in the pub yard. Ralph was in the R.A.F. He was on home leave awaiting the imminent birth of their first child – born a few hours afterwards .

Abbey End Rubble
Removing Abbey End Rubble (© Leamington Courier)

Twenty-eight people died that night, many were injured. The man with ginger hair was among the dead. Florrie never even knew his name. The following morning, victims with minor injuries were transferred to the ballroom of the Abbey Hotel and eventually taken back to their respective homes. They were left to cope as best they could after brief examination by their G.P.s. The full shock of the event began to register hours later, fits of trembling and waves of nausea.

In the days to follow the survival instinct gradually took hold and, combined with the daily routine of life, normality was achieved, but, as with most trauma, scars not visible to the eye remained.

Square 1950s
The Square in the 1950s (© KHAS)

Today, nothing remains of The Globe, except in the memories of a few and in Abbey End, where there is a small stone plinth bearing a bronze plate recording details of the fateful event.

Further Reading

The following sources contain some excellent information on The Globe, the raid itself, the aftermath and the commemorations:

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