Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for KENILWORTH

KENILWORTH, a small town, a parish, a sub-district, and a division in Warwick. The town stands on a small trout stream, and on the Leamington and Coventry railway, near the river Avon, 5 miles N by E of Warwick, and 5½ SSW of Coventry. Its name is sup posed to have been taken from the Mercian king Kenulf, . or from his son Kenelm, and the word "worthe, " 2 signifying "a dwelling place;" but in many old documents, particularly of the time of Elizabeth, it is improperly written Killingworth; and it is still so called by the common people. A royal castle stood adjacent in the Saxon times, and was destroyed in the wars of Canute. The place, till after the Norman conquest, formed part of the manor of Stoneleigh; but it was given, by Henry I., to Geoffrey de Clinton; and it then, about 1122, acquired an Augustinian priory and a new castle. The town thence rose to importance; it acquired a weekly market, which has long been discontinued; it afterwards engaged largely in comb making, which also has fallen into decay; it likewise acquired chemical works, for a variety of products; but it now presents every appearance of a rural village: and it attracts the notice of strangers chiefly, but attracts that notice strongly, by the vestiges of its ancient priory, and by the ruins and reminiscences of its castle. It is scattered and almost straggling; but it has an aspect of neatness, comfort, and picturesqueness; and, together with its environs, it answers well to the description of it by Jago: " Chiefly two fair streets, in adverse rows, Their lengthened fronts extend, reflecting each Beauty on each reciprocal. Between A verdant valley sloped from either side, Forms the mid-space, where gently gliding flows A crystal stream beneath the mouldering base Of an old abbey's venerable walls. Still further in the vale her castle lifts Its stately towers and tottering battlements, Dressed with the rampart ivy's unchecked growth, Luxuriant." The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station, a banking office, two chief inns, a cattle fair on the last day of April, two churches, four dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a literary institute, an endowed free school, an endowed British school, two national schools, an infant school, and alms-houses. The total amount of endowed charities is about £640. The parochia1 church is variously Norman, early English, and decorated; has a very fine western Norman door, and a picturesque tower and spire; measures 74 feet by 28 in the nave, and 39 by 33 in the chancel; was restored and enlarged, with new chancel arch, new E window, and added chancel aisle and S transept, in 1865, at a cost of between £3, 000 and £4, 000; and contains an ancient circular font on a single Norman column, and some ancient interesting monuments. St. John's church was built in 1852, at a cost of £3, 000; is a neat edifice with a spire; and serves for a chapelry constituted in 1854. The dissenting chapels are for Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. Pop. of the town in 1851, 3, 140; in 1861, 3, 013. Houses, 660. The priory eventually became an abbey. It was originally endowed with all Geoffrey de Clinton's lands and woods in Kenilworth parish, excepting the site of the castle and its park, and with other privileges; it possessed, at the dissolution, an annual revenue of £534; it was then given to Sir Andrew Flamock; it went, by sale, to the Earl of Leicester; and it belongs now to the Earl of Clarendon. It was in the Anglo-Norman style, of large extent and of imposing aspect; but, with trivial exceptions, it has all disappeared. A gateway of it exists in good preservation, and is very picturesque; another fragment, of similar character, is not far from the gateway; and several large and shapeless remnants of walls are at some distance. A portion of the site was included in a modern enlargement of the parochial churchyard; and was found, at the time of that enlargement, to contain foundations of what were supposed to be the chapter-house, and some fine ornamental fragments of different styles and periods. The castle remained with three descendants of Geoffrey de Clinton, and then reverted to the Crown. It was given, by Henry III., to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester; it became, on the Earl's rebellion, and after the battle of Evesham, the centre of the rebel party's operations; and, in 1266, it stood a siege of six months by the King, and then surrendered. It was bestowed, by Henry, on his son Edmund, whom he created Earl of Leicester and Lancaster; and, in 1278, while in Edmund's possession, it was the scene of a splendid tournament, challenged by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, and attended by one hundred knights. It continued to be held by Edmund's son Thomas, who was beheaded for rebelling against Edward II.; and it afterwards was the place of that monarch's imprisonment, and of his abdication. It was restored, by Edward III., to Henry, the brother of Thomas; it passed, by marriage with that nobleman's grand daughter, to John of Gaunt, son of Edward III. and Duke of Lancaster; and, while in his possession, it was renovated and greatly enlarged. It reverted to the Crown when John of Gaunt's son, Henry of Bolingbroke, supplanted Richard II.; it continued given, by Elizabeth, to her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; it was improved and extended, by that nobleman, at a cost of £60, 000, -a sum equivalent to about half a million of our present money; it was visited by Elizabeth in 1566, 1568 and 1575; and, in the last of these years, it was the scene of the seventeen days' magnificent entertainment, which is so graphically described by Sir Walter Scott in his novel of " Kenilworth. '' It was bequeathed by Dudley for life time to his brother Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, and thereafter to his son, Sir Robert Dudley; but it was seized from the latter by the Crown. It continued to stand in all its magnificence at the commencement of the civil war; but, being given by Cromwell to some of his officers, it was then in great measure demolished for sake of its materials; and it afterwards, for many years, was left exposed to the depredations of all persons who chose to use it as a quarry. It was given by Charles II., on his restoration, to Lawrence Hyde, afterwards Earl of Rochester; it passed, by marriage, first to the Earl of Essex, and then to Thomas Villiers, afterwards Earl of Clarendon; and it has since remained with that Earl's descendants. The castle was in its best condition at the time of the great entertainment to Elizabeth. Sir Walter Scott's account of it appears to have been drawn from jointly a description by Laneham, a survey of the time of James I., and an examination of the extant remains; and may here be quoted:-"The outer wall of this splendid and gigantic structure enclosed seven acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables, and by a pleasure garden with its trim arbonrs and parterres, and the rest formed the large base court or outer yard of the noble castle. The lordly structure itself, which rose near the centre of this spacious enclosure, was composed of a huge pile of magnificent castellated buildings, apparently of different ages, surrounding an inner court, and bearing in the names attached to each portion of the magnificent mass, and in the armorial bearings which were there blazoned, the emblems of mighty chiefs who had long passed away, and whose history, could ambition have bent ear to it, might have read a lesson to the haughty favourite who had now acquired and was augmenting this fair domain.... The external wall of this royal castle was, on the south and west sides, adorned and defended by a lake, partly artificial, across which Leicester had constructed a stately bridge, that Elizabeth might enter the castle by a path hitherto untrodden instead of the usual entrance to the northward, over which he had erected a gate house or barbican, which still exists, and is equal in extent, and superior in architecture, to the baronial castle of many a northern chief. Beyond the lake lay an extensive chase, full of red deer, fallow deer, roes, and every species of game, and abounding with lofty trees, from amongst which the extended front and massive towers of the castle were seen to rise in majesty and beauty." The remains of the castle are on a gentle eminence to the W of the town. The entrance tower, or gallery tower, where the gigantic porter was stationed at the approach of Elizabeth, has nearly disappeared. The great gate house still stands; is occupied by a farmer; and contains a curiously carved chimney piece, with the arms of Dudley. Cæsar's Tower occupies the N part of the main front of the castle, facing the base court; was of square form, but has lost all its N side; was a keep of enormous strength, with walls, in some parts, 16 feet thick; and is of thoroughly Norman character, and evidently the oldest part of the castle. Leicester's Buildings occupy the S part of the same front; are inscribed with the date 1571; were less strongly built than other parts of the castle; and have a more weathered aspect than the earlier towers. Two structures called Sir Robert Dudley's Lobby and King Henry VIII. 's Lodgings, and an arched entrance into the inner court, were between Cæsar's Tower and Leicester's Buildings, but have been entirely destroyed. The Great Hall occupies most of the upper end of the inner court; was, with several adjoining parts, built by John of Gaunt; measured 90 feet in length and 45 feet in breadth; and retains windows, fire places, and other portions of such exquisite design as show it to have possessed very great magnificence. The strong Tower, or Mervyn's Tower, stands NW of the Great Hall; was originally a very strong structure of three stories; possesses interest from the associations connected with it by Sir Walter Scott; and answers exactly to his descriptions of it in "Kenilworth." The other extant portions of the castle, though of considerable aggregate extent, have not much individual or separate interest. The surrounding grounds also have lost nearly all their antiquarian features. But various points of the ruins and of the grounds command fine views, along the valley of the Avon, to Coventry and to Leamington. The parish includes a place called Redfern, and comprises 6, 460 acres. Real property, £17, 784; of which £96 are in gas works, £100 in fisheries, and £10 in quarries. Pop., 3, 680. Houses, 827. Pop., of the portion within St. John's chapelry, 1, 027. Houses, 232. The manor belongs to the Earl of Clarendon. The parochial living is a vicarage, that of St. John also is a vicarage in the diocese of Worcester. Value of the former, £280; * of the latter, £50.* Patron of the former, the Lord Chancellor; of the latter, Trustees.—The sub-district contains also seven other parishes, and is in the district of Warwick. Acres, 23, 698. Pop., 6, 195. Houses, 1, 389.-The division is part of Knight low hundred, and contains fifteen parishes, and part of another. Acres, 37, 788. Pop. in 1851, 26, 509. Houses, 5, 107.


(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a small town, a parish, a sub-district, and a division"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Kenilworth AP/CP/Ch       Kenilworth SubD       Warwickshire AncC
Place: Kenilworth

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