The Vaults, which fronts onto Station Road behind The Kings Arms & Castle. This building has a long and varied history to it.
The first incarnation of this structure was on a completely different site, originally as the town’s station opened in 1844. An engraving of this can be found on the Windows on Warwickshire website taken from the London Illustrated News on the day of the railway opening, in which the arches are immediately recognisable.
Robin Leach tells us in his book Kenilworth’s Railway Age (Odiborne Press, 1985) that in 1880 it was decided to replace the single track with a double track to alleviate bottlenecks at Coventry. A larger replacement station was completed in 1883, and the stones from the old building were acquired by the proprietor of the Kings Arms & Castle hotel and repurposed for use as refreshment rooms in their current location at the opposite end of Station Road.
It is thought that the stone provided a façade for an existing building on the site, and that the two sides of the station’s stonework were erected one on top of the other to form a structure with two floors. On the lintel it is still possible to read “Kenilworth Railway….”, this continued as ‘……Station refreshment rooms’ and quite possibly dated back to when it first opened at the rear of the Kings in the 1880s.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, by any means. The upper floor of the repurposed station building was being utilised as an assembly room. In 1912 the assembly rooms were taken over by the Royal Electric Theatre Company and opened as a cinema seating around 100, accessible from an arched doorway into a newly built vestibule next door, on the site of what is now the Wilko’s store. A 1912 showing took £3 from seats prices 1/- to 6d so it must have seated between 60 and 120. A vivid testimony of what it was like to attend “the pitchers” here can be found on the Our Warwickshire website and further reading about this phase of the building’s lifetime can be found in Robin Leach’s book Kenilworth People & Places Volume 1 (Rookfield Publications, 2011).
Following damage from the landmine in November 1940, the upper floor used for the cinema was removed. It is at this time that the corrugated iron roof pictured in our previous Then & Now image was added.
When the Kings Arms & Castle site was renovated in 1985 / 86 as the Drummonds pub complex the vault found a new lease of life and the façade of the vaults is the only bit of the site that wasn’t flattened and replaced by a replica during this renovation work. A new upper floor was added in sandstone, the difference between old and new stonework is visible in our then and now photos above.
However, by 2005 Drummonds had itself become somewhat shabby and soon closed down. After yet another revamp of the King’s Arms & Castle site in 2007, the vault building was repurposed yet again and at the time of writing it is trading as Pomeroy’s bistro.
Thanks to Robin Leach for additional details provided in this article.