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.
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.
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.
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.
The Square must have been established along with the building of the new Castle End borough on lands granted to the de Clintons as lords of the castle manor in the early 12th Century as a result of a charter issued by the pope on land issued to them by Henry I.
Residents of the Castle End borough owed rent to the lords resident in the castle as lord of the manor, as opposed to the older Abbey Manor district whose residents owed rent to the canon of the Abbey as lord of their manor.
According to Stephen Wallsgrove’s book Kenilworth 1086 – 1756 (published by S.G Wallsgrove, 1991) by 1268 the Castle End borough had been sufficiently established to be awarded a market charter and fair by Henry III. This stretch of road is still known as The Square from Abbey End as far down as Station Road.
A market cross once stood at the spot where the clock tower now stands (behind the camera). The clock tower was unveiled in 1906, having been presented by Birmingham draper George Marshall Turner, who lived in Montpellier House on Abbey Hill, as a memorial to his late wife.
From this angle, the ‘now’ photo of the square looks relatively unchanged from the ‘then’ shot. However, the buildings on the extreme left replaced those destroyed in the Abbey End landmine of November 1940. Many of the buildings in the distance on the right hand side of the road were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s, but the foreground at least retains much of the character of the old market square.
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.
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.
Kenilworth 1086 – 1756 (Published by S. Wallsgrove, 1991)byStephen 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
The De Montfort Hotel (now the Holiday Inn) opened in 1967, occupying part of the site destroyed by the landmine of the 21st November 1940. Historically, the Square had been more of an intimate affair, comprising a cozy triangular area enclosed by low rise buildings on all sides. The ‘then’ picture shows that at this time the clock tower was enclosed in a triangular traffic island, with a larger circular roundabout behind where previously Number 2 The Square, which survived the 1940 landmine, had stood.
The clock tower dates from 1906 and was presented to the town by George Marshall Turner, the proprietor of a large drapery emporium in Birmingham. The crown on top of the clock tower, which was declared unsafe and dismantled following the devastation caused by the 1940 landmine, was replaced in 1973.
James Fish’s 1692 map of Kenilworth show the remains of a market cross at this spot.
The Square, early 1960s and in December 2015. At first glance, little has changed between the two images. However, a handful of the buildings on the left of the clock tower survived the landmine of November 1940 before being cleared for the post-war Abbey End redevelopment, as shown in the modern image.
Up until the early 1960s, The Square still comprised a triangular arrangement closely huddled around the Clock Tower, but in the extreme left of the ‘then’ image we can see that the wall surrounding the plot that then contained Number 2 The Square, which has since been cleared in favour of a roundabout, thereby losing much of the original close knit feel of the original Square.
On the right, a clump of trees which once flanked Lord Leycester’s Lodge are still very much in evidence in the 1950s scene, but gone from the modern picture. An eerie photo of the bomb damaged Square, including the lodge prior to its collapse and demolition, can be found here.
Thankfully, the crown of the clock tower, rendered unsafe by the 1940 landmine and removed, was restored to its former glory in 1973.
The King’s Arms & Castle, 1960s. According to Rob Steward’s “The Inns and Roads of Kenilworth” (Odibourne Press, 2000) the “King’s Arms Inn” was the venue of the Abbey Courts Leet in 1563 and remained so until the nineteenth century.
By the nineteenth century, Coaches used to call in at the King’s Arms ‘from a quarter past seven until ten at night’ and later ‘omnibuses and cars’ from the King’s Arms & Castle would meet every train from the station.
Sir Walter Scott stayed at the inn in 1815 and commenced writing his famous novel Kenilworthpublished in 1821. It is also though that Charles Dickens stayed at the inn during preparations for writing Dombey and Sonwhich was published in 1848 and featuring the line “A stroll among the haunted ruins of Kenilworth”.
During renovations in 1985, it was found that the facade of the building was erected around an earlier timber framed structure, which was now perilously unsafe. It remained in scaffolding whilst developers deliberated about how to resolve the situation.
Ultimately, it was decided to completely demolish the building in 1986 and rebuild the facade from scratch. Close examination of the two image shows discrepancies in the roof line, wings at the rear have been omitted from the new design and windows are not aligned with their predecessors. The interiors have been completely altered, with features like the bed which Sir Walter Scott is said to have stayed in having been long since taken elsewhere.
The rebuilt Kings Arms was repurposed as a nightclub named Drummonds, with residential flats to the rear. In 2005 it closed and became neglected, before eventually reopening in 2007 as separate restaurant units named now named Zizi, and Ego.
The Square, early 1960s. Where the roundabout now stands once stood an elegant building with grand bay-windows, which can be seen on many a postcard of the Square from before the turn of the century. The ‘then’ image above shows its somewhat truncated state in the early late 1960s, following a number of enforced reductions in its size as explained below, shortly before its final demolition.
The right hand side of the building was demolished in 1932 as part of the Abbey End road widening scheme, leaving only the left hand side, minus the upper floor, which survived the war and became Dudley Taylor’s chemist’s shop. Ultimately it gave way to the utilitarian traffic management schemes of the 1960s and now the Square is a somewhat windswept and characterless shadow of its former self, dominated by the towering Holiday Inn.
More information on the tragic fate of The Square and Abbey End can, as ever, be found on Robin Leach’s excellent WWII website:
UPDATED 19/02/2016: I am very much indebted to the incomparable Robin Leach for correcting the inaccuracies in the previous version of this text.
The ‘then’ image above shows an early 20th Century postcard of The Square, taken from the junction with Station Road and Warwick Road with its equivalent image from December 2015. On the extreme left is a quirky and ramshackle timber framed frontage which had gone by the time later postcards of the scene were produced.
By the 2015 picture much of the left hand side of the picture had been swept away for modern buildings. This stretch is often referred to as being part of Warwick Road but strictly speaking The Square starts at the junction with Station Road.
Similarly, the three story Kings Head, which is sometimes erroneously listed as having been amongst the buildings on the left of the ‘then’ image that was swept away, is very much alive and kicking. This information came to light in 1974 when a sign painted on the side of a wall “Kings Head, Charles Gill” was uncovered when the building next door was demolished (and the now £1 shop building was put up covering it up again). It was painted on the side of a shop ‘Sew-n-’Sew’, today it is ‘Nails 4 U’. The upper floors of the building is MDM Music. Unfortunately, virtually nothing is known about the inn, and is part of Robin Leach’s as yet unpublished work ‘Former Kenilworth pubs that now have different Uses’ .
In the distance of the ‘then’ image can be seen the ivy clad double bay-windowed buildings which formed the rear side of The Square, before it was destroyed by a combination of road widening in 1932, the November 1940 Luftwaffe parachute mine and the resulting post-war redevelopment. The ‘then’ image can thus be approximately dated by the fact that it shows the clock tower, which was built in 1906, as well as the pre-1932 buildings in The Square.
Today the clock tower is overlooked by the Holiday Inn, which opened in 1967 as the De Montfort Hotel.
Pre-war postcard of The Square, Abbey End, taken from the War Memorial end looking towards the clock tower. Following the landmine on 21st November 1940, all the buildings on the left were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The rubble was later cleared to make way for a temporary carpark until the Square was redeveloped in the 1960s.
In the centre of the ‘then’ image, it’s evident just how narrow the road at Abbey End was until road widening in 1932 swept the property north-east of the clock tower away to enable traffic to pass more easily.
According to Rob Steward’s “The Inns and Roads of Kenilworth” (Odibourne Press, 2000) the property on the far right known as ‘The Firs’ was formerly the site of the Green Dragon Inn.
The ‘now’ scene includes the modern Almanack bar / restaurant (left) and the Holiday Inn (formerly the De Montfort Hotel) out of frame (right).