KENILWORTH - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"KENILWORTH, a parish and small town in the Kenilworth division of the hundred of Knightlow, county Warwick, 4 miles N. of Warwick, and 101 N.N.W. of London. It is a station on the London and North-Western branch line of railway. The parish, which is of large extent, is situated in a champaign country between Coventry and Warwick, and contains the hamlet of Redfern. It was anciently called Kenelworda, and was part of Stoneleigh prior to the Norman Conquest. After that event it was given by Henry I. to Geoffrey de Clinton, who founded an Austin priory for canons regular, which had a revenue at the Dissolution of £643 14s. 9d.

The same Geoffrey, shortly after the founding of the monastery, rebuilt the castle on the site of an earlier Saxon fortress. This castle was sold by his grandson to Henry III., who conferred it with the hand of his sister Eleanor on Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, by whom it was greatly enlarged and strongly fortified. After the defeat of the earl at the battle of Evesham, the castle held out, under his younger son Simon, against all the royal forces, commanded by the king in person, for six months, but was at length reduced by famine. It was then conferred by the king on Prince Edmund, afterwards created Earl of Leicester, who in 1278 held a grand tournament within its walls, at which one hundred knights and many ladies wearing "silk mantles" assisted.

In 1327 it was the scene of the abdication and imprisonment of Edward II. It was considerably enlarged by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose son becoming king, the castle reverted to the crown. Queen Elizabeth gave it to her favourite, Dudley Earl of Leicester, by whom the gatehouse was built, and who also erected the gallery tower and Mortimer's tower at each extremity of the tilt-yard, and after having completed and embellished the castle at a prodigious expense, entertained the Queen and her whole court for seventeen days, as related in Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth", where the best account of the place is to be found.

During the civil war of Charles I. it was taken possession of by Cromwell, and finally dismantled. The remains, covered with ivy, consisting of Cæsar's tower, the walls of which are 16 feet thick, built by Geoffrey de Clinton, the keep, banqueting-hall, 86 feet by 45, with three windows almost entire, &c., form the principal attraction of the town. It contains a bank, institute, reading society, and police station. Kenilworth was once noted for its extensive manufacture of combs, which of late has considerably decreased.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Worcester, value £280, in the patronage of the lord chancellor. The parish church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is an ancient edifice, with a square embattled tower crowned with a spire. The church has several doorways, and contains a very antique font, also monuments and a crest of the Dudley family. In addition to the parish church there is a district church, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, the living of which is a perpetual curacy*, value £50, in the patronage of the trustees.

The new church of St. John, erected by subscription at the cost of £3,000, was opened in 1852. It is a stone structure, with a tower containing one bell. The parochial charities produce about £137 per annum. The Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, and Unitarians have each a chapel. There are National, British, infant, and free schools. The views from Kenilworth Castle are most varied, forming one of the principal attractions of Kenilworth. The Earl of Clarendon is lord of the manor and principal landowner. Wednesday is market day, but little business is transacted. A cattle fair is held on the 1st April."

"REDFERN, a village in the parish of Kenilworth, county Warwick, 4 miles N. of Warwick."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]