This old postcard of a horse and cart crossing through The Ford is instantly recognisable, despite subtle changes in the scene over the years. The good citizens of Kenilworth have had ample opportunity to build a bridge here over the years, given the disruption it causes when in flood. The reluctance to do so seems to be as much to do with the locals’ age old pass time of lining the bridge to watch unsuspecting out-of-town motorists becoming mired in the flood waters for our amusement, before relenting and helping to push them out again. Long may this spectacle continue!
The road at The Ford could presumably not have existed prior to the slighting of the castle’s walls and the draining of its water defences, which was ordered by Parliament in 1649. Rob Steward tells us in The Inns & Roads of Kenilworth (Odiborne Press, 2000) that there is a reference to a deeds of sale for some pasture land from 1740 to the name Killingworth Lane for this stretch of road, or perhaps the track round the south of The Brays.
Our ‘then’ image shows much older and more rustic stonework, with what looks to be a constant trickle of water in the brook’s bed, before the flow was permanently sunk in pipes beneath the road, save for those unusually high flood waters. Thankfully, we can rely on some dating evidence to find when our ‘then’ image was taken.
In the background of ‘now’ image, we can clearly see the splendid and unusual property known as The Bungalow, whose porch roofline is also just about visible through the trees in the ‘then’ image. Robin Leach devotes some commentary in The Abbey Fields (Rookfield Publications, 2017) to the selling off of various plots on the periphery of the old Abbey estate to fund public ownership of the rest of what would become the Abbey Fields park. This plot of land was sold by local digitary Henry Street, after whom the street is named, to Eva Whittingdale, the wife of auctioneer and estate agent James Whittingdale, who built The Bungalow together here in 1896, so our ‘then’ image must be more recent than this date.
Again, Robin Leach is the man to turn to in order to date the image more exactly. He adds that the ‘then’ photo pre-dates the depth post first put in by AA in 1912. The bridge was then rebuilt in 1922 – 1926 and the footpath to it was re-arranged. In 1940 the ford dried up for the first time in living memory and the opportunity was taken to lay pipes and raise the road for the first time so it became no longer a ‘proper’ ford. The new pipes were laid in 1959 and then a new, longer bridge was planned in 1960, necessitating the demolition of the old one in 1962.