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.