This Then & Now comparison shows Lord Leicester’s Stables, Kenilworth Castle, when it first became used as a cafe for visitors. Later renovations and alterations have since removed extra beams and props and made subtle alterations to the brick and stonework, which make an exact ‘now’ match more troublesome than it might first appear. Hence, this image has prompted a good deal of discussion amongst the regular KHAS Then & Now contributors!
If the orientation of the image in the postcard above is correct, then the section of the stables shown is that closest to Lunn’s Tower and the Gatehouse. However, closer inspection reveals that the image shows an opening behind a pair of curtains (underneath the painting) which looks suspiciously like a doorway which is still there today, at the opposite end, nearest the Water Tower. An alternative interpretation is that the commercial company responsible for the postcard accidentally flipped the image during development, and before the caption was applied. If that were the case then the alternative ‘now’ image match would be as follows, in which the panelling up in the roof space and the brick buttresses seem to match more closely, and the absence of the window up in the eaves makes more sense. Curiously, though, other similar postcards exist with the same orientation as the original above. We leave it to the reader to decide which image is the correct match!
Harry Sunley has an entry in A Kenilworth Chronology (Odibourne Press, 1985) for various building works performed at the castle in 1444, including the building of a ‘longstabull’ on this site, although this was later replaced by the current stable buildings. It has been suggested that the structure we see today dates either to the time of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in AD 1571, hence the name Leicester’s Stable, or to the time of his father John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, in 1553.
Prior to conversion, the stables were in use as a barn, with the roof propped up and a rickety wooden first storey floor, added in the days when it was used as a wood store during the time the castle’s grounds were worked as a farm for the Earls Clarendon. Harry also records that the both the stables and the gatehouse were retained by Sir John Davenport Siddley when he purchased the castle from the Earls Clarendon for £30,000 in 1937.
One end of the stables were converted to a tearoom in the 1930s. Eileen Tisdale recalls in her book Looking Back Again (Odibourne Press, 1990) that it was “…a very good restaurant, often used for public functions and celebrations. By that time it had been restored and furnished in exceptionally good taste”. For some years the remaining half of the stables were partitioned off behind a door, inaccessible to the public, until their renovation by English Heritage in the 1980s.