Then & Now

The Keep – Then & Now

This image of the Kenilworth Castle’s Keep was provided to KHAS from the collection of the late Reg Palmer. It shows the Keep some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and again in the summer of 2018.

According to the English Heritage history of the Castle, “Henry I (reigned 1100–35) granted land from his manor of Stoneleigh to his chamberlain and treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton (d.1133), in about 1120, seemingly to counter the influence of his neighbour the Earl of Warwick. De Clinton retained the southern part of the land for a castle, park and mere; the sandstone keep dates to the 1120s.”

Norman Stevens wrote in Kenilworth History 1994 of the desire of Henry I to establish a fortress under the control of a trusted man, Geoffrey de Clinton, at a strategic spot to guard an approach road through the Forest of Arden to intercept any forces opposing the King coming down Watling Street – and that spot was the sleepy hamlet of Chinewrde, where what we now know as Chase Lane emerged from the Forest. Due to the urgency of establishing the fortress for his royal master, Norman suggests that Geoffrey de Clinton concentrated on building his castle first before transferring his attentions to establishing the Priory next door: “A plausible timetable, therefore, would be that the land was granted Geoffrey shortly after 1116, and certainly before 1121, by which time he was Sheriff. If he started work on the castle immediately, which is highly probable, then at a standard mediaeval rate of ten feet a year, a fifty-foot tower would have graced the site by 1123”.

The Keep was remodelled several times over the centuries, including the insertion of later Elizabethan windows into 12th-century apertures on the first floor. The missing north wall was ‘slighted’ by the victorious Parliamentarian forces after the English Civil Wars to ensure the Castle could never again be a Royalist stronghold.

The ‘now’ photo shows the terrace of the Elizabethan garden at the foot of The Keep’s buttresses, which was re-established in 2009 by English Heritage to match their 16th century equivalents. Norman Stevens has pointed out that the ‘now’ photo shows the reappearance of a potentially damaging growth of ivy; something which English Heritage used to take great care in removing.

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