This Then & Now comparison attempts to match the view of St Mary’s Abbey, Kenilworth as captured an engraving by brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck in 1729. The engraving is taken from their work Views of Ruins of Castles & Abbeys in England, Part 2, 1726-1739.
Prolific antiquarians, the Yorkshire born Buck brothers travelled the land capturing scenes of castles, abbeys and townscapes often before they were lost or irrevocably changed by the spread of the industrial revolution. The Buck engravings were usually funded by aristocratic patronage, and the Abbey engraving was no different, as the dedication to the lord of the land on which the ruins sat below the engraving shows, which reads:
“To the Rt. Honble. HENRY Earl of Clarendon & Rochester, Viscount Cornbury, Viscount Hyde of Kenelworth, Baron Hyde of Hindon & Baron of Wotton Basset – This Prospect is humbly Inscribed by My Lord: Ye Lordship’s most Obedt. & Obligd. Servts. Saml . & Nathl. Buck
S & N Buck Delin. et. Sculp. 1729”
The engraving shows the state of the Abbey 191 years after its destruction in 1538. Much of the fabric of the buildings had long since been carted off to be used as an easy source of stone for numerous buildings around Kenilworth, including later alteration works carried out at the Castle during Robert Dudley’s time. Nevertheless, the Buck brothers captured the site when considerably more stonework laid in situ than it does today.
Harry Sunley and Norman Stevens point out in Kenilworth – The Story of The Abbey (Pleasaunce Press, Second Edition, 2015) that “Despite being entitled The East View of Kenilworth Priory, it is in fact a view from the north. The ‘Tantara’ Gatehouse is on the right, with the ‘Barn’ behind it. The remains in the centre of the picture are part of the Cellarer’s Range, and on the left is a part of the Chapter House south wall, which still stands today, but without the sculpted decoration shown here. In the left foreground are the remains of the church”.
If you wish to place where in the Abbey buildings these remains were situated, you can do no better than the following 3D reconstruction, produced by a KHAS member. If you pause the video at approximately 2 mins 35 seconds you can line up a view across the nave and cloisters that corresponds approximately to the Buck print’s orientation: Abbey 3D Video