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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
The following sources contain some excellent information on The Globe, the raid itself, the aftermath and the commemorations:
WW2 in Kenilworth specifically the ‘Abbey End Landmine’ section in Robin Leach’s WW2 in Kenilworth website, containing a detailed account of the raid, before and after pictures and damage further afield.