Historically Warwickshire included the cities of Birmingham and Coventry but since 1974 these have been part of the county of West Midlands. There are no cities in Warwickshire, Nuneaton being the largest town in the county with 68,000 inhabitants.
Towns and villages of Warwickshire
Places of interest
1911 encyclopedia text: (partially updated)
WARWICKSHIRE, a midland county of England, historically bounded North by Staffordshire, East by Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, South by Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, and West by Worcestershire. With the local government reorganisation of 1974, county boundaries were redrawn with the formation of the West Midlands metropolitan county to the northwest of Warwickshire.
The River Avon, watering a rich valley on a line from Northeast to Southwest, divides the county into two unequal parts. The greater, lying to the Northwest, drains principally to the Trent through the rivers Cole, Blythe, Rea, Anker and minor streams. Between these valleys, and dividing the system from that of the Avon, the land rises in gentle undulations, and is of plateau-like character, generally between 400 and 600 ft. in elevation.
It is not difficult to trace the influence of the scenic characteristics of the county in the writings of its most famous son, William Shakespeare.
The municipal boroughs are (150,000), Leamington, officially Royal Leamington Spa (45,064), Nuneaton (68,000), Stratford-upon-Avon (19,452), and Warwick (18,296), the county town. The urban districts are: , Kenilworth (20,098) and Rugby (65,000).
The University of Warwick, is located midway between Coventry and Leamington.
The earliest English settlers in the district now known as Warwickshire were a tribe of Hwiccas who, pushing up the Severn valley in the 6th century, made their way along the passages afforded by the Avon valley and the Roman Fosse Way, the extent of their settlement being indicated by the ancient limits of the diocese of Worcester. The vast Forest of Arden[?], stretching from the Avon to the site of the modern Birmingham, barred any progress northwards, at the same time affording protection from the Anglian tribes who were already settled about Atherstone, and it was only after the battle of Cirencester in 628 that the whole of the Hwiccan territory was comprised in Mercia. In 675 Cosford was included in the endowment of Peterborough, and in 757 Athelbald[?] was slain at Seckington in a battle with the West Saxons.
The shire of Warwick originated in the 10th century about Elthelfled's new burgh at Warwick, and is mentioned by name in the Saxon Chronicle in 1016, when it was harried by Canute. The Danes made frequent incursions in the district in the 10th and 11th centuries, but no traces of their settlements occur south of Rugby.
The shire offered little resistance to the William the Conqueror, who was at Warwick in 1068, and Thurkill the sheriff was one of the few Englishmen to retain large estates which he had held before the conquest, his family long continuing in the county under the name of Arden. The fortification which he had raised at Warwick William entrusted to Henry, son of Roger de Beaumont, afterwards earl of Warwick, and Robert, count of Meulan, Henry's elder brother, had an important fief.
Coventry Minster was richly endowed, and in 1285 the prior claimed among other privileges to have an independent coroner and to hold two courts a year. The earldom and castle of Warwick subsequently passed to the Beauchamps, and in the reign of Henry VI of England to the Nevilles. See Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. The Clintons, founders of the castles and priories at Maxstoke and Kenilworth, enjoyed large estates in the county during the Norman period.
The ten Domesday hundreds of Warwickshire are now reduced to four, all of which are mentioned in the 12th century. Hemlingford represents the Domesday hundred of Coleshill; Knightlow, the Domesday hundreds of Bomela'i, Meretone and Stanlei; Kineton, the Domesday hundreds of Tremelau, Honesberie, Fexhole and Berricestone; Barlichway, the Domesday hundreds of Fernecumbe and Patelan. Coleshil took its name from Coleshill, a town near the junction of the Cole and the Blythe; Hemlingford from a ford over the Tame near Kingsbury; Knightlow from a hill on Dunsmore Heath; Meretone and Stanlei from the villages of Marton and Stoneleigh; Berricestone from Barcheston on the Stour; Barlichway from a plot of ground on a hill between Haselor and Burton.
Patelau hundred, which derived its name from a tumulus between Wootton Wawen and Stratford-on-Avon, was a liberty of the bishops of Worcester, and in the 17th century, though reckoned part of Barlichway hundred, possessed a court leet and court baron.
Prior to 1974, the boundaries of Warwickshire had remained practically unchanged since the Domesday Survey, but Spilsbury, now in Oxfordshire, Romsley, Shipley, Quat and Rudge, now in Shropshire, and Chillington, now in Staffordshire, were assessed under this county, while Sawbridge, Berkswell, Whitacre Over and Whichford, now in this county, were assessed under Northamptonshire. Warwickshire was united with Leicestershire under one sheriff until 1566, the shire court for the former being held at Warwick.
In the 18th century Warwickshire included the deaneries of Warwick and Kineton within the archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester; the rest of the county constituting the archdeaconry of Coventry within the Lichfield diocese, with the deaneries of Coventry, Stoneley, Merton and Arden. In 1836 the archdeaconry of Coventry was annexed to the diocese of Worcester, and in 1854 its deaneries were entirely reconstituted and made thirteen in number. In 1861 the deanery of Alcester was formed within the archdeaconry of Worcester, and Kineton was divided into North Kineton and South Kineton. In 1894 the deaneries of, Coleshill, Northfield, Polesworth, , the archdeaconry of Coventry now including the deaneries of Atherstone, Baginton, Coventry, Dassett Magna, Dunchurch, Leamington, Monks Kirby, Rugby and Southam.
In the wars of the reign of Henry III of England, Simon de Montfort placed Kenilworth Castle in charge of Sir John Giffard, who in 1264 attacked Warwick Castle and took prisoner the earl and countess of Warwick, who had supported the king.
During the Wars of the Roses the Nevilles, represented by the earl of Warwick, supported the Yorkist cause, while Coventry was a Lancastrian stronghold. On the outbreak of the English Civil War of the 17th century Warwickshire and Staffordshire were associated for the parliament under Lord Brooke. The Battle of Edgehill was fought in 1642, and in 1643 Birmingham, then a small town noted for its Puritanism, was sacked by Prince Rupert. Coventry endured a siege in 1642, and skirmishes took place at Southam and Warwick.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industries of Warwickshire were almost exclusively agricultural, the extensive woodlands north of the Avon affording pasturage for sheep, while meadows and water-mills were numerous in the river valleys. The woollen industry flourished in Norman times, and Coventry was famed for its wool and broadcloths in the reign of Edward III of England.
Coal was probably dug at Gruff in the 12th century, but the Warwickshire collieries only came into prominence in the 17th century, when John Briggs of Bedworth made an attempt to monopolize the coal trade. Birmingham was already famous for its smiths and cutlers in the 16th century. In the early 17th century the depopulation and distress caused by the enclosures of land for pasture led to frequent riots. The silk industry at Coventry and the needle industry about Alcester both flourished in the 18th century.
Warwickshire returned two members to the parliament of 1290, and in 1295 Coventry and Warwick were each represented by two members. Tamworth returned two members in 1584. Under the Reform Act[?] of 1832 the county returned four members in two divisions; Birmingham was represented by two members, and Tamworth was disfranchised. Under the act of 1868 the representation of Birmingham was increased to three members.
Of pre-Norman architecture some traces appear in the fine church of Wootton Wawen in the Arden (western) district. Otherwise the type is scarce, but Saxon remains, such as burial urns and jewelry, have been found in several places. as near Bensford Bridge on Watling Street.
For ecclesiastical architecture Coventry with its three spires was famous. After its destruction by enemy bombing during World War II, it was replaced by a modern cathedral designed by Basil Spence[?] in 1951. The cathedral was completed in 1962 with the installation of the tapestry, "Christ in Majesty", by Graham Sutherland[?].
Among village churches there are many fine examples. Of those retaining Norman portions may be mentioned: Wolston and Berkswell in the Coventry district; Polesworth, formerly conventual, and Curdworth in the north; and in the south, in the neighbourhood of Edgehill, Burton Dassett, a very noteworthy building, and Warmington. where there is a remarkable specimen of domus inclusi or anchorite's chamber. There are also fine examples of Decorated work, such as Knowle, Solihull and Temple Balsall in Arden, and Brailes under the southern hills.
Among the numerous religious houses in the county several have left remains. Such are the Cistercian foundations of Coombe Abbey near Coventry, of the 12th century, adjoining the mansion of that name in a beautiful park; of Merevale near Atherstone; and of Stoneleigh near Kenilworth, also adjoining a famous mansion. This abbey was a 12th century foundation, but a majestic gatehouse of the 14th century also stands. Maxstoke Priory[?], in Arden, was a foundation for Augustinian canons of the 14th century. Wroxall Abbey was a Benedictine nunnery of the 12th century; but the name is given to a modern mansion.
In view of the large share the county has had in war, it is not surprising to find many examples of great fortified houses or castles. Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle, the one still a splendid residence, the other a no less splendid ruin, are described under those towns. At Hartshill (the birthplace of Michael Drayton the poet) there is a fragment of a Norman castle. Among fortified mansions Maxstoke Castle is of the 14th century; Baddesley Clinton Hall is of the 15th as it stands, but is an eartier foundation; Astley Castle is another good specimen of the period.
Compton Wynyates[?], once fortified, is a beautiful Elizabethan house of brick, so remarkably hidden in a hollow of the southern hills as to be visible only from the closest proximity on all sides; Charles I lodged here during the Civil Wars. Charlecote Park is a modernized Elizabethan hall in an exquisite situation on the Avon above Stratford. Of more modern mansions Arbury Hall, Astley Castle, Newnham Paddox, Ragley Hall[?] and Walton Hall may be mentioned.