Bridge Street from Kenilworth Hall – Then & Now

Bridge Street from Kenilworth Hall
Bridge Street from Kenilworth Hall

This slightly sinister looking scene shows Bridge Street, presumably taken from Kenilworth Hall. The ‘then’ photo shows what might conceivably be a local bobby peering suspiciously round a gas lamp at the photographer. Warwickshire, like all counties nationally, had been forced to provide a constabulary by Act of Parliament since 1858.

Kenilworth Hall was owned by William Thomson Pears who, as was covered in the Kenilworth History 2016 article ‘Mythbusters’ had no connection to the family that owned Pears Soap, despite a widely held misconception to the contrary. Our Pears made his money as a solicitor.

Behind the ‘constable’ can be seen the area of Abbey Fields now occupied by the Bridge Street car park and the avenue of lime trees running up to St Nicholas’ church. As per the recent St Nicholas Church Then & Now, the absence of this avenue of trees helps date our ‘then’ picture to no later than the turn of the century. The car park wall was apparently rebuilt in about 1925 when the Abbey excavations were completed and there was a lot of loose stone about, which might explain why it’s difficult to match up the wall exactly between the two photos.

The Friends of Abbey Fields website details how the land bordering Bridge Street shown here was, just like the parcel of land in the Bridge Street from Abbey Fields Then & Now, donated in 1884 to William Evans and Joseph Roberts in their capacity as Churchwardens of the Parish of Kenilworth, as trustees, by Henry Street, George Marshall Turner and others.

In the distance, on the horizon of the ‘then’ photo, can be seen the distinctive three-gabled sandstone house on Abbey Hill near the War Memorial (top, centre). Also visible on the horizon is the 220ft tannery chimney (top, left). It fell in 1894 and  was replaced by a shorter one, thus our ‘then’ photo must pre-date 1894.

Strictly speaking, if the ‘now’ photo was taken from the correct vantage point from up in Kenilworth Hall that it may be that the correct match for the position of the ‘policeman’ would actually be a bit further back than shown here, about where the air raid shelter is today. The location of the car park steps does not assist us to align the two images, unfortunately, since they were not inserted into the wall until 1984.

Thanks to Robin Leach for additional dating information for this article.

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Bridge Street from Abbey Fields – Then & Now

Bridge Street from Abbey Fields
Bridge Street from Abbey Fields

This postcard scene shows Bridge Street and Rosemary Hill from the Abbey Fields. The ‘then’ postcard must date to about 1905 or 1906, as the the avenue of trees along the path between Bridge Street and Abbey Hill is newly planted.

Following the dissolution of the Abbey of St Mary, Kenilworth in 1538, the land formerly belonging to the Abbey fell into private hands.  It remained largely undeveloped, being used variously for farmland and private ownership. Between 1884 and 1974 the various parcels of land that constitute the Abbey Fields today were donated by these private owners for recreation and pleasure purposes and are maintained by Warwick District Council under the control of English Heritage.

The Friends of Abbey Fields website details how the section shown here, situated bordering Abbey Hill and Rosemary Hill, “was donated in 1884 to William Evans and Joseph Roberts in their capacity as Churchwardens of the Parish of Kenilworth, as trustees, by Henry Street, George Marshall Turner and others”.

In the distance in the ‘then’ image we can see the buildings of Bridge Street and Rosemary Hill, somewhat obscured by mature trees in the ‘now’ photos. On the extreme left is J.C. Clarke’s Wheelwrights, long since demolished for now private residences. The remaining buildings remain largely unchanged up as far as the white gables of the former millinery shop that once stood at the entrance to School Lane, since demolished for road widening (right of centre). On the extreme right of the ‘then’ image we can see the rose window of the former Rosemary Hill Chapel, built in 1816, which was converted in 1945 and since heavily modified to become the the Priory Theatre.

On the horizon of the ‘then’ image we can see the former windmill and later water tower on Tainter’s Hill, which is now a private residence, now obscured by trees. In the foreground of the ‘then’ image, a hedge line can be seen relating to the former agricultural usage of the land, the lower portion of which still exists in the clump of trees behind the dog walkers in the ‘now’ image.

Thanks to Robin Leach for additional dating information for this article.

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Rosemary Hill – Then & Now

Rosemary Hill and the Milliners
Rosemary Hill and the Milliners

This then and now view shows Rosemary Hill looking towards Bridge Street.

According to Helen Scott & Richard Storey in ‘A Second Kenilworth Collection’ (Odibourne Press, 1988) the elegantly gabled building shown (centre) was a millinery shop that once stood at the corner of School Lane and Rosemary Hill.  It was demolished for road widening to improve access to School Lane. Harry Sunley records in ‘A Kenilworth Chronology’ (Odibourne Press, 1989) that numbers 58 – 60 Rosemary Hill were demolished around 1920, which presumably relates to the demolished millinery shop.

This map from 1906 shows the extent to which the millinery shop narrowed the entrance to School Lane.

Map of School Lane and Rosemary Hill, 1906
Map of School Lane and Rosemary Hill, 1906

Directly behind the millinery shop, on the other side of the entrance to School Lane, is the sandstone Number 2, Bridge Street which has at various times been used as a market house and town gaol, before becoming the private residence it is today.

It is noticeable that the left hand side of the two pictures differ quite substantially. As this poem relating to Kenilworth at the turn of the century describes, Rosemary Hill was narrow and dark. This helps us date the ‘then’ picture as having been taken prior to road widening works carried out to the upper portions of the hill. Robin Leach tells us in Kenilworth People & Places – Volume 1 (Rookfield Publications, 2011) that this road widening work was embarked upon following a couple of small land slips from the embankment at the top of the hill in late 1912 and early 1913. Also, in the distance, the avenue of lime trees leading up to St Nicholas’ church has been planted, which means that it must be post 1904.

The gate on the extreme right of the images leads to 6a and 6b Rosemary Hill, next door to the former Rosemary Hill Chapel (now Priory Theatre) which, since the 19th Century, have been known as the Chapel Yard. For a fuller account of the history of this area, see Val Millman’s book Chapel Yard: Cottages and Gardens, Owners and Occupants, 1780 – 2015 (Dr V.E Millman, 2015).

Thanks to Robin Leach for additional dating information for the ‘then’ photo.

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April Fools – Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now

As I’m sure you are by now aware, yesterday’s Then & Now post Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now was in fact an April Fools prank. No such viaduct ever existed alongside Bridge Street. We hope a few legs were pulled gently and no harm was done!

Some astute folks amongst our social media readership have pointed out that this picture of a viaduct that was supposedly demolished in the 1850s contained a car in the background. So unless time travel was available in 1850s Kenilworth, this picture was indeed a hoax.

Here’s some reaction from our Facebook readership, with the names obscured to protect the innocent:

Facebook April Fools
Facebook April Fools

As this is meant to be a website that promotes information rather than disinformation, you may be interested to know that the ‘then’ photo was in fact of the old Eastville Viaduct in Bristol in 1968, not long before its demolition. The view is at the bottom of M32 Eastgate junction with the Tesco Eastville carpark to the left. The water course in question is in fact the River Frome and not Finham Brook as stated in the article.

Eastville Viaduct, Bristol
Eastville Viaduct, Bristol – Then & Now

The Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society will now return to the realms of the purely factual, although we hope you remain entertained.

Did we fool you? Email us to let us know:  ku.o1493066940c.sah1493066940k@nim1493066940da1493066940

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Bridge Street Viaduct – Then & Now


EDIT 02/04/2016: Yes, this posting was an April Fools prank. Did we fool you? Read more here.


 

Bridge Street Railway Viaduct
Bridge Street Railway Viaduct

The Bridge Street railway viaduct was built by the London & Birmingham Railway Company (L&B), later the London North Western Railway Company (LNWR), during the railway building boom of the 1840s. It formed part of a branch line that linked Balsall Common to the line that still runs today between Coventry and Leamington Spa.

Its 14 stout brick arches spanned the Finham Brook valley before cutting through a short length of tunnel near the top of Rosemary Hill and joining the current stretch of track just up the line from the station. Its lifespan was short lived, as it became superseded by an upgrade to the track between Coventry and Milverton, and the viaduct was demolished by the mid 1850s. Very little evidence remains of its existence in the Abbey Fields today apart from one of the bridge abutments being used for the wooden footbridge that crosses the brook down by Bridge Street.

In the ‘then’ photo you can just about make out the frontages of J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights on Bridge Street between the spans of the third and fourth arches.

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J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights, Bridge Street – Then & Now

J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights
J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights, Bridge Street

Another shot of the timber framed tannery buildings that later housed J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights up until 1952, which stood on Bridge Street until it was demolished in May 1961. The Ministry of Housing had endorsed the Council surveyor’s view that the buildings had become dangerous, despite them having been listed as having architectural or historic interest since July 1949.

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Bridge Street – Then & Now

Bridge Street
Bridge Street

Bridge Street, Kenilworth. The old timber framed houses to the left of the ‘then’ photo were demolished in May 1961, despite having been listed as having architectural or historic interest since July 1949.

Harry Sunley in his book ‘A Kenilworth Chronology’ (Odibourne Press, 1989) tells us that these buildings had housed J.C. Clarke, Wheelwrights, up until 1952 and that the Ministry of Housing had endorsed the Council surveyor’s view that the buildings had become dangerous.

The Kenilworth Society was formed in the same month as their demolition due to concerns about destructive development around the town.

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