Then & Now

Abbey Gatehouse Archway – Then & Now

Richard Morris cataloguing architectural mouldings in the Abbey Gatehouse passageway

This image of an archway adjoining the Abbey Gatehouse was provided to KHAS from the collection of the late Reg Palmer. The comparison shows two images of the archway into the sunken chamber beside the Abbey Gatehouse, sadly showing visible signs of deterioration to the stone work between the two images. The ‘then’ image above shows the late Richard Morris poring over his specialist subject; cataloguing architectural mouldings of the Mediaeval era. 

Brian Jackson recorded in Kenilworth History 2012  that the Abbey Gatehouse was built during Prior Henry Bradway’s time (1361-75); a time of much rebuilding following a slump in the Abbey’s fortunes. He quotes later prior John Strecche as saying “Soon after Henry’s inception as Prior of Kenilworth, he caused to be built a Gatehouse, complete with wide and unobstructed entrances and handsome vaulted ceilings. Above were chambers and, outside, battlemented walls of dignified form. He also built a new cattle shed with a road near the vineyard, with a new granary nearby, where the community’s corn could be stored within the gates of the Priory.”

KHAS Chairman Jan Cooper provides some details on what this archway led to. Just through the doorway on the left is the scar of what was probably a narrow spiral staircase giving access to the chamber above the gate passage. This chamber would traditionally have been used as a courtroom / exchequer (accounting office). Originally, Richard Morris suggested that the scar might relate to a diagonal room but later decided that it was more likely a spiral staircase, otherwise how would anyone get to the chamber above?

Stonework above the archway facing the ‘Barn’

There may also have been other buildings on the eastern side which have now disappeared beneath the built up later cemetery or simply a wall. Beyond the stair turret the original external wall of the gate passage is visible with its chamfered base. 

Looking back up the passageway towards the High Street

The modern ground level beside the chamber shows how much the graveyard was raised to accommodate new burials in the Victorian era. The chamber extends beyond the modern wall shown on the right of the images above. In the rear of the ‘then’ image above you can also see the iron fence erected around the gatehouse in the 1960s when the gatehouse structure was declared unsafe, prior to extensive restoration works to stabilise it.

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