This image of the Old Council House was provided to KHAS from the collection of the late Reg Palmer. According to Harry Sunley’s A Kenilworth Chronology (Odiborune Press, 1989) the Old Council House was built on Upper Rosemary Hill in 1885, at a cost of £1600 including the land.
Robin Leach, however, has a slightly different cost figure, adding that the Council offices were built by the Local Board of Health, moving from The Institute on Bridge Street (now the Priory Theatre’s costume store room). It cost £800 for the land and the construction contract went to Ed Smith & Son for £398 19s. The same firm later built the clocktower, amongst many other Kenilworth structures. More details can be found in in Victorian Kenilworth and its People (Rookfield Publications, 2006) p 82-83.
Robin also records in Kenilworth People & Places Volume 2 (Rookfield Publications, 2013) that part of the Old Council House was used as the town’s first lending library in October 1920, before it subsequently outgrew these premises and moved to the old Institute building on Bridge Street just two years later. He also records that the Kenilworth Urban District Council (KUDC) themselves began looking for new premises in 1946 and bought Wilton House on Southbank Road.
According to the Kenilworth Town Council Website, in December 2011 the Council offices, and Council Chamber relocated from Wilton House on Southbank Road to Jubilee House in Smalley Place. Wilton House was demolished in 2012.
For a while, the burgeoning Kenilworth Historical Society (now KHAS) was permitted to use the Old Council House for its meetings and to store its records. KHS Newsletter No.25 from June 1967 states “All meetings will be at the Old Council House, Rosemary Hill at 8.00 p.m. except where otherwise stated. Miss Powell advises that coffee will continue to be served on Members’ nights, the cost 6d per cup including biscuit”. Sixpence for coffee and a biscuit sounds like an eminently civilised tradition that perhaps we should consider resurrecting at Society meetings!
Reg Palmer noted in Kenilworth History 1995 – 1996 that the Old Council House also played host to meetings of the local Scouts, prior to the purchase of the subsequent Barrow Road site in the late 1950s: “The next meeting place for the first Kenilworth Troop was to be over the Old Council House on Upper Rosemary Hill. The building still exists, even though those on either side of it have either been changed drastically or have disappeared. There is no longer a Fire-Station on the Albion Street side of the Old Council House, but a gap in the sequence of buildings. The cottage on the other side is still there, although it has been altered and renovated considerably. There used to be a big archway near to the Old Council House and this led to the stables or garages when the Abbey Hotel was in use on the corner of Upper Rosemary Hill and Priory Road.”
An earlier Then & Now comparison showed the Old Council House’s thatched predecessor, with the fire brigade posing outside. Today, the Old Council House is a private residence.