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Kenilworth in 1843

Kenilworth is in the Kenilworth division of Knightlow hundred, about 5 miles N. of Warwick, and about the same distance S.W. of Coventry. The manor was an ancient demesne of the Crown, and had a castle which was demolished in the war of Edmund Ironside and Canute the Dane, early in the eleventh century. In the reign of Henry I the manor was bestowed by the king on Geoffry de Clinton, who built a strong castle and founded a monastery. In the reign of Henry III Kenilworth received a grant for a weekly market and a yearly fair ; but the market probably fell into disuse, as a new grant for one was obtained by the Earl of Leicester in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The historical interest of this place attaches to its castle, which was one of the strongholds of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, in his insurrection against Henry III, and afforded shelter to his son and others of his adherents after the fatal battle of Evesham (A.D. 1265). It was however, after a gallant defence, obliged to capitulate (A.D. 1266). Edward II was confined for a time at Kenilworth Castle, shortly before his murder in Berkeley Castle (A.D. 1327). In the following reign, John of Gaunt became owner of the castle, which he much augmented by new and magnificent buildings. Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt, united the castle, which he inherited, to the domains of the crown, of which it formed part till the time of Elizabeth, who granted it to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. The magnificent entertainment given here by Leicester to Elizabeth has been made familiar to the general reader by Sir Walter Scott’s historical romance of ‘Kenilworth.’ After the civil war of Charles I, the castle was dismantled, but extensive and picturesque ruins remain. The parish of Kenilworth has an area of 6,460 acres, and contained, in 1831, 676 houses, namely, 651 inhabited, 22 uninhabited, and 3 building, with 670 families, and 3,097 persons. The town consists principally of one long street, extending a mile along the road from Coventry to Warwick, which here has a number of bends; another street leads towards the castle, and near this street is the church. Many of the houses are very neat : the church has some remains of ancient architecture, especially a fine and much enriched western door of Norman architecture, in the lower part of an ancient tower surmounted by a spire of more modern date. But the most interesting object in the place is the castle, the ruins of which are extensive : they are principally of late perpendicular character, but there are some Norman portions. The most ancient part is an old tower called Caesar’s Tower, of which three sides remain, with walls in some parts sixteen feet thick. The large and massive additions of John of Gaunt, known as Lancaster Buildings, are in different stages of decay; and the additions of the earl of Leicester, though of comparatively modern date, present, from the friable nature of the stone of which they are built, an appearance of great antiquity. They are called Leicester Buildings. They contain the ruins of the noble banqueting hall, 86 feet long by 45 wide. The gate-house erected by the same earl is in better preservation, and is (or was, not long since) occupied as a farm-house. The ruins are in many parts mantled with ivy, which adds to their picturesque character, and are on an elevated, rocky site, commanding an extensive view of the country round. There are very few remains of the monastery, which was first a priory, and afterwards made an abbey. It belonged to the Regular Canons of St. Augustin. Its possessions were valued at the dissolution at £643, 14 shillings, 9 pence gross, ox £538, 19 shillings (or, according to another statement, £533, 15 shillings, 4 pence) clear yearly income. There is an ancient stone bridge over a brook flowing into the Avon.

The manufacture of horn combs, and of some chemicals, such as Prussian blue, sal-ammoniac, and Glauber’s salts, is carried on at Kenilworth. The comb-manufacture, in 1831, employed 150 men. The market is on Wednesday, and there is a yearly cattle-fair. There are some dissenting meeting-houses and some alms-houses.

The living is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £280, with a glebe-house, in the rural deanery of Stonely, in the archdeaconry of Coventry, in the diocese of Worcester.

There were in the parish, in 1833, five dame-schools, with 68 children, namely 26 boys and 42 girls ; and twenty other day-schools of all kinds, with 438 children, namely 201 boys and 237 girls ; making one in six of the population of the parish under daily instruction. Of these schools, one was an endowed school with 66 boys, one a ‘school of industry,’ partly supported by endowment, partly by charitable contributions, with 30 girls. Three others, with 43 boys and 35 girls, were supported either by endowment or contribution. One of the day-schools was also a Sunday-school, and there were two other Sunday-schools, the whole containing 114 boys and 141 girls, giving 255 children, or one in twelve of the population, under instruction on Sunday.