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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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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The Tannery, Warwick Road Updated – Then & Now

Today’s Then & Now pairing is an updated version of an earlier post showing the Tannery, Warwick Road. Thanks to Robin Leach for pointing out that the original ‘now’ photo was taken from the wrong angle. The updated ‘now’ photo is taken from as close to the original spot as today’s buildings will allow, as can be seen by the distant buildings on Station Road in the bottom left of the picture. The original post can be found here: khas.co.uk/the-tannery-warwick-road-then-now/

The Tannery, Warwick Road 1965 and today in 2016
The Tannery, Warwick Road 1965 and today in 2016

This remarkable colour photograph shows the Tannery, Warwick Road, on the site now occupied by Talisman Square, prior to its demolition in 1965.

According to the Our Warwickshire website, the tannery was operated by Thomas Day & Co in the late nineteenth century, but was owned by Samuel Barrow after whom Barrow road is named. It later changed name to the Kenilworth Tannery Ltd, run by Charlie Randall, after whom Randall Road is named. The nearby Tannery Court owes its name to the site, having been built on land belonging to the tannery company.

Harry Sunley provides some interesting snippets in “A Kenilworth Chronology” (Odibourne Press, 1989). Firstly, that on the 26th October 1942 the Rover Players set up a production of ‘The Children to Bless Us’ in a hut behind the tannery. They would go on to become The Talisman Theatre Company, and the square would eventually adopt the Talisman name. The company moved the theatre to its present Barrow Road site in February 1969.

Also, Harry Sunley records the ultimate reason for the tannery’s closure, namely that “the need for leather had fallen from 1500 hides a week in 1950 to 500 a week in 1957 due to the plastic boom”.

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Warwick Road Aerial Photo – Then & Now

Warwick Road Aerial Photo, May 1920 and 2016
Warwick Road Aerial Photo, May 1920 and 2016

This fascinating aerial view of Kenilworth is dated May 1920, and was obtained from the absorbing Britain From Above website. To the modern eye this scene is notable for the amount of green space that surrounded the now very much built-up Warwick Road area.

In fact, it takes a while to familiarise yourself with some recognisable landmarks. Running diagonally from top to bottom (north west to south east) is of course Warwick Road with The Square at the top and the clock tower picked out against the dark of the buildings behind it. Running parallel to it on the right is Southbank Road with only a small cluster of properties at the Abbey Hill end, followed by a gap until the Victorian properties on the corner of Station Road. To the right of that is Priory Road with almost no properties on its northern end built at all, although its southern stretch off camera to the right was already well built up by this stage.

Back on Warwick Road, the scene was dominated by the enormous Tannery complex, the site of which today is occupied by Talisman Square. Opposite was Barrow Road running off to the left of the image, again with very few properties yet built on it, which stopped abruptly after 180 yards at the alley way which ran parallel to Warwick Road. Further south, was an open field where Randall Road was as yet to still be built. Right at the bottom of the image the turning for Queens Road can just be seen which, like Barrow Road, ran only for 180 yards to the alley way.

Just visible in the blur in the bottom right of the image was the roof of a building on Waverley Road, leading to the only stretch of Bertie Road that had by then been built. At the time, Bertie Road had yet to be joined up with Station Road and stopped approximately where the Waitrose Carpark now begins, until 1960 when it was completed in length, in the run up to the Talisman Square development completed in 1965.

The half white building just visible above the tannery in Station Road was at this time the town’s cinema, part of which survives as Pomeroy’s. You can read a personal account of a visit to this cinema here: A Visit to Kenilworth Cinema in the Early 20th Century

It’s possible to put some dates to when these roads all appeared. According to Stephen Wallsgrove’s Kenilworth 1086 – 1756 the Warwick Road was laid out in the 12th century as an estate of properties whose tenants owed rent to the lord resident in the Castle, hence it is known as Castle End as opposed to Abbey End.

A number of books can be drawn upon (see sources below) to provide some dates for the other roads listed here. Station Road was built to link the town to the new station built in 1844, and the green fields between the two were still evident even by the time our ‘then’ photo was taken in 1920. Priory Road was built in 1885, necessitating the demolition of the part of the Bowling Green Hotel on Abbey Hill as a result, the remainder being demolished when the Abbey Hoel was built in 1892. Southbank Road was built in 1873, although the northern part is earlier. Waverley Road was built between 1885, the Bertie Road cul-de-sac in 1886, Barrow Road was a new road adopted in September 1900 and Queens Road in October 1900. Randall Road was simply a development of the ancient Monks Path and was built up in the early 20th Century.

The ‘now’ photo is dominated by the 1967 Holiday Inn at the clock tower end, the Talisman Square development which replaced the tannery and opened in 1965 and Waitrose which opened in 2008.

A special thank you to Creeves Aerial Photography (formerly Coventry & Warwickshire Aerial Photography) who very kindly carried out a special commission to produce the ‘now’ photo. Readers with a Facebook account can follow the Creeves page which contains an album of Kenilworth aerial photos as well as photos from all over the local area. Without him this Then & Now would not have been possible! Thanks also to Robin Leach and Graham Gould for some of the additional dates and details in this accompanying text.

Sources:

  • Kenilworth 1086 – 1756 (Published by S. Wallsgrove, 1991) by Stephen Wallsgrove
  • A Portrait of Kenilworth in Street-Names (Rookfield Publications, 2015) by Geoff Hilton & Robin Leach
  • The Inns and Roads of Kenilworth (Odiboure Press, 2000) by Rob Steward
  • Victorian Kenilworth and its People (Rookfield Publications, 2006) by Robin Leach
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Talisman Square, mid 1960s – Then & Now

Talisman Square, mid-1960s
Talisman Square, mid-1960s

Talisman square, mid 1960s and again in May 2016. The ‘then’ picture shows the footbridge being built between the offices built above the north and south sides of the square as part of the ‘walkway in the sky’ concept that developers of the 1950s were so fond of. The bridge was removed in the early 2000s.

In the ‘then’ image we can also see Bishops supermarket, prior to its relocation to Station Road, which would in turn be replaced by Budgens and then Wilkos. The former Bishops plot in Talisman Square subsequently became occupied by Boots the Chemist.

In the ‘now’ picture, phase 1 of Talisman Square’s modernisation has been completed by extending forward the Boots store to give it a larger retail footprint. To achieve this, a red brick extension was added to the front of the Boots store. A new white Joe Richards greengrocer’s store was built out into the middle of the square at around the same time.

Phase 2 of the square’s redevelopment was delayed following the economic slowdown of 2004. When completed, it will add extra retail units on the right of the picture in line with the wooden fence which currently marks out a temporary car park, utilising the space left by the demolished 1960s north side of Talisman Square. The final Talisman ‘Square’ will be more of a corridor arrangement, which has met with a mixed reception from local commentators.

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Talisman Square – Then & Now

The ‘then’ photo below shows Talisman Square, largely as had been initially conceived in the post war planning of the late 1950s. The ‘now’ counterpart photo was taken in December 2015. Talisman Square replaced the Tannery and Warwick Road almshouses, which were demolished in 1965 and 1963 respectively.

Talisman Square
Talisman square 1960s and 2015

Talisman Square was so named following a competition in which the name of the Talisman Theatre group, which originally occupied part of the old tannery site, was adopted for the square that replaced it. The theatre group had adopted the name after the novel The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott in the same Waverley series of novels as his famous work Kenilworth. The square was originally designed as a wide open space surrounded by a covered cloister-like walkway.

In 2003 the square was bought out by Cobalt Estates, who announced plans to modernise the tired looking post-war shopping precinct.

Phase 1 of the square’s modernisation, originally due to be completed by 2008, began by extending the shop units on the right forwards and adding a glass canopy to the front of the structure to provide some cover from the elements for shoppers.

Phase 2 of the scheme will result in narrowing of the square by developing new shop units on the left, up to the line of the wooden fence pictured. At the time of writing in December 2015, this has been delayed and is due to recommence shortly.

In 2010 it was decided to create a temporary carpark, marked out by the wooden fence shown in the ‘now’ image, as a stop-gap whilst finances to build the remaining shops could be sought.

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Almshouses, Warwick Road – Then & Now

These former almshouses on Warwick Road were demolished in 1963 to make way for the Talisman Square development on the site of the adjoining former tannery. Next door was Olive Aldridge’s haberdashery, now Warwick Estates and Kenilworth Weekly News offices. The ‘now’ pictures were taken in December 2015.

Warwick Road Almshouses 1963
Warwick Road Almshouses 1963

It was a time of change in Britain, when the austerity and rationing of the 1950s made way for the unbridled modernity of the 1960s. Town planners felt emboldened to sweep away the old world and embrace concrete and commercialism. The demolition often went beyond simply clearing bomb sites and swept away buildings which today may well have be protected.

Warwick Road Almshouse 1963 again
Warwick Road Almshouse 1963 again

 

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The Tannery, Warwick Road – Then & Now

This remarkable colour photograph shows the Tannery, Warwick Road, on the site now occupied by Talisman Square, prior to its demolition in 1965.

The Tannery, Warwick Road 1965 and today in 2015
The Tannery, Warwick Road 1965 and today in December 2015

According to the Our Warwickshire website, the tannery was operated by Thomas Day & Co in the late nineteenth century, but was owned by Samuel Barrow after whom Barrow road is named. It later changed name to the Kenilworth Tannery Ltd, run by Charlie Randall, after whom Randall Road is named. The nearby Tannery Court owes its name to the site, having been built on land belonging to the tannery company.

Harry Sunley provides some interesting snippets in “A Kenilworth Chronology” (Odibourne Press, 1989). Firstly, that on the 26th October 1942 the Rover Players set up a production of ‘The Children to Bless Us’ in a hut behind the tannery. They would go on to become The Talisman Theatre Company, and the square would eventually adopt the Talisman name. The company moved the theatre to its present Barrow Road site in February 1969.

Also, Harry Sunley records the ultimate reason for the tannery’s closure, namely that “the need for leather had fallen from 1500 hides a week in 1950 to 500 a week in 1957 due to the plastic boom”.

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