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Warwick in 1843

Warwick, the county-town, is a place of considerable antiquity. It does not appear to have been a Roman town, though Camden and some others have regarded it as such. A charter of Beorhtwulf, king of Mercia, extant in the ‘Textus Roffensis’ (cap.44, ed. Hearne), is dated from ‘Vicus Regalis Werburgewic, which is supposed to be Warwick. Warwick was ruined in the early wars of the Danes, and restored by the Lady Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, and governor of Mercia, who built a fort here, A.D. 913. At the time of Domesday Survey, it was a borough and contained 261 houses, of which 130 belonged to the king. After the Conquest the town was protected by a ditch and gates, and the castle was much strengthened. Several religious houses were founded. In the time of Edward I, the paving of the town and the erection of the wall round it were commenced. In the time of Philip and Mary, the town received its first regular charter of incorporation, though it had sent members to parliament in the reign of Edward I.

The borough boundaries comprehend the two parishes of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, the statistics of which in 1831 were as follows:-










St. Mary







St. Nicholas











The municipal boundaries include the town, with a portion of the surrounding country extending from half a mile to above four miles from the town in different directions. The town is on the west side of the Avon, from which it is separated by Warwick Castle and the castle grounds. Its site is a solid rock, in which the cellars are excavated. The streets are irregularly laid out, but are spacious, well-paved, lighted with gas, and in general lined with modern well-built houses. The castle is one of the finest specimens in the kingdom of the ancient residences of our feudal nobles. The apartments have been modernised, but the outward arrangement and form of the building have sustained little alteration. The approach to the castle is from the eastern part of the town, opposite St. Nicholas’s church, by a winding path cut in the rock. One of the towers in the castle, known as Caesar’s Tower, is the most ancient part of the whole building, and is of uncertain date ; another, known as Guy’s Tower, is of the latter part of the 14th century and of decorated English character, in fine preservation, of noble outline, and of curious construction and composition. The great hall of the castle, a noble room, 62 feet by 37 retains, in its appearance and furniture. much of it ancient character. The other apartments contain a number of portraits and other paintings by the old masters, and a valuable and interesting collection of ancient and modern armour. The grounds are extensive and beautiful, and one of the greenhouses contains the capacious and beautiful ancient vase brought to England by the late Earl of Warwick. to whom it had been given by Sir William Hamilton, and known as ‘the Warwick Vase.’ St. Mary’s church, built on the site of an older structure in the 14th century, and in great part rebuilt after a fire in 1694, which destroyed a large portion of the church, is in the centre of the town. It is a cross church, of which the choir and its adjuncts, especially the chapel of St. Mary, usually termed Beauchamp Chapel, adjacent to the choir on the south side, are ancient ; the nave and transept are modern, and are of most. barbarous architecture, with an absurd admixture of different styles. The choir has a finely designed and beautifully worked stone ceiling, and ranges of stalls on each side. ‘The chancel,’ says Rickman, ‘is an uncommonly beautiful specimen of perpendicular work ; and the east front is remarkably fine - simple in its arrangements, yet rich from the elegance of its parts.’ The Beauchamp Chapel, according to the same author, is ‘completely enriched both within and without ; its details of the most elegant character and excellent execution, and in very good preservation.’ It consists of a chapel of several arches, and a small aisle or rather passage on the north side, between the chapel and the chancel of the church. In the centre of the chapel is a very rich altar-tomb, with the figure of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, whose executors erected the chapel according to the directions of his will ; and there are some monuments of later date. St. Nicholas’s Church is modern, neat in the interior, but small and altogether devoid of architectural beauty. There are a spacious and handsome county-hall ; a large modern gaol, adjoining the county-hall ; a county house of correction, on the opposite side of the street to the gaol ; a town-hall of respectable appearance ; and a substantial market-house. ‘Leicester Hospital’ was originally two buildings, the halls of two guilds, founded in the reign of Richard II, one in honour of the Virgin, the other of St. George the Martyr, and afterwards united. After the dissolution of the united fraternity at the Reformation, the buildings became the property of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, the well-known favourite of Elizabeth, who converted them into an hospital or almshouse for a master and twelve brethren, impotent or infirm men. The endowment of this hospital is of considerable value ; the master now has, or is to have, a salary of £400 per annum, and each of the brethren (who have been increased to twenty) £80 per annum. The buildings consist of the brethren’s lodgings and public kitchen, forming a quadrangle; a chapel of ancient architecture over the west gate of the town ; and an ancient hall. An ancient place of worship, called St. Peters Church, over the east gate of the town, is now used as a free-school; and there are some other schools and almshouses, some dissenting meeting-houses, a neat but small building for the public library, and a theatre. There is a race-course on the west side of the town, where races are held yearly.

Some worsted and cotton and lace manufactures are carried on at Warwick, but only 51 men were returned in 1831 as engaged in manufactures. There are malt-houses, and lime, timber, and coal wharfs on the bank of the Warwick and Napton Canal. The market, which is well supplied and well attended, is on Saturday. There are twelve yearly fairs, some of which are considerable cattle fairs.

Warwick returns two members to parliament ; the number of voters in 1835-36 was 1,046; in 1839-40 it was 977 ; showing a decrease in four years of 69. The town is the principal place of election and one of the polling stations for the southern division of the county. The assizes and quarter-sessions for the county are held here. The borough has a commission of the peace, and, under the Municipal Reform Act, is divided into two wards, with six aldermen and 18 councillors. Its limits were not altered by the Boundary Act. Quarter-sessions for the borough are held, and there is a Court of Record for personal actions under £40, but it is not extensively resorted to.

The living of St. Mary is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £300, with a glebe-house ; that of St. Nicholas is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £218, with a glebe-house. Both are in the rural deanery of Warwick, and in the archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester.

There were in the borough, in 1833, twenty day-schools of all sorts, with 714 children, namely, 394 boys and 320 girls ; three of these schools were supported partly or wholly by endowments, and contained 89 boys and 36 girls ; three others, two of them national schools, were supported chiefly by charitable contributions, and contained 90 boys and 120 girls. Of the population in the borough about one in thirteen was, in 1835, under daily instruction. There were at the same time ten Sunday-schools, with 865 children, viz. 503 boys and 362 girls ; to which may be added one of the national schools which was also a Sunday-school, with 80 girls : making 945 children, or rather more than one in ten of the population, under instruction on Sunday.