A view over Warwick, with the Church of St Mary
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||CV34, CV35|
Warwick (// WORR-ik) is a market town and county town of Warwickshire, England. It lies near the River Avon, 11 miles (18 km) south of Coventry and forms a small conurbation with Leamington Spa and Whitnash. Its population was 31,345 in 2011. Signs of Neolithic activity precede unbroken habitation to the 6th century AD. It was a Saxon burh in the 9th century; Warwick Castle was built during the Norman conquest of England. Warwick School claims to be the country's oldest boys' school. The earldom of Warwick, created in 1088, controlled the town and built its walls, of which Eastgate and Westgate survive. The castle became a fortress, then a mansion. The Great Fire of Warwick in 1694 destroyed much of the town. Warwick missed industrialisation, but the population has grown almost sixfold since 1801.
Human activity on the site dates back to the Neolithic era, when settlement may have begun. Archaeological work on the site of Warwick School in 2017–2018 revealed the footings of a sizeable Roman barn from the 2nd century AD.
Saxon and medieval
From the 6th century onwards, Warwick was continuously inhabited. The name Warwick means "dwellings by the weir", implying that the original settlement was located by a natural weir over the River Avon, possibly on the south side of the river, which offered easily cultivable land.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 914 reports that the Anglo-Saxon Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of king Alfred the Great and sister of king Edward the Elder of Wessex, built a burh or fortified dwelling there on a hilltop site overlooking the earlier riverside settlement, as one of ten to defend Mercia from the Danes (Vikings). Warwick was chosen as a site for the burh because the local outcrop of sandstone alongside the Avon provided an easily defensible position at a strategic site by the river crossing, with a good source of water and building material. In the early 10th century, a shire was founded with Warwick as its county town. During the reign of Æthelstan (924-939) a royal mint was established at Warwick. This was one of two established in Warwickshire at the time, the other being at Tamworth. The Warwick mint continued until the mid-12th century. In 1016 the Danes invaded Mercia and burned down much of Warwick including a nunnery, which stood on the site of today's St Nicholas Church.
William the Conqueror founded Warwick Castle in 1068, while on his way to Yorkshire to deal with rebellion in the north. Building it involved pulling down four houses. The castle stood within the larger Anglo-Saxon burh and a new town wall was created close to the burh ramparts.
The prosperity of medieval Warwick rested on its status as an administrative and military centre, however it was poorly positioned from the point of view of trade, and was consequently never a commercial or industrial centre of more than local significance in medieval times.
Medieval Warwick was controlled by various Earls of Warwick, mostly of the Beauchamp family. It became a walled town. It is unknown quite when the town wall was built, but references to it are found as early as the 12th century. It had mostly been demolished by the early 16th century. Today the only remains are the east and west gatehouses, there was previously also a north gatehouse, but this was demolished. On the south side, the bridge over the Avon was said to fulfil the role of a gatehouse, and likely had a barrier. The west gate was first recorded in 1129, and had a chapel of St James above it, which was reconstructed in the 14th century and extensively restored in 1863–1865. The east gate was rebuilt in the 15th century with the Chapel of St Peter above it. It was rebuilt again in 1788 and was once used as part of the The King's High School, but is now a holiday home.
The town's Priory was founded in around 1119 by Henry de Beaumont, the first Earl of Warwick. It was later destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, it stood on the site of the current Priory Park. Henry de Beaumont also founded the Hospital of St John near the east town gate. It is now the site of the 17th century St John's House. Relatively few medieval buildings survive in Warwick, however one of the most notable examples is the Lord Leycester Hospital on the High Street, whose oldest parts date from 1383.
During the English Civil War the town and castle were garrisoned for Parliament under Sir Edward Peyto. In 1642 the castle underwent a two-week siege by the Royalists commanded by the Earl of Northampton, however, the besiegers lacked any cannons powerful enough to damage the castle. The siege collapsed when, on hearing of the approach of the Earl of Essex to Southam, Lord Northampton marched his force away towards Worcester. Major John Bridges was appointed governor of the castle in 1643, and a garrison was maintained there with artillery and other stores until 1659, which at its height in 1645 consisted of 302 soldiers.
Great Warwick fire
Much of the medieval town centre was destroyed in the Great Fire of Warwick on 5 September 1694, which, within five hours destroyed 460 buildings and left 250 families homeless. Thus most of the town-centre buildings are of late 17th and early 18th-century origin, although some medieval timber-framed buildings survive, especially around the edges of the town centre.
The fire burnt down much of the medieval church of St Mary. However, the chancel and the Beauchamp Chapel survived, the latter having been built between 1443 and 1464 according to the wishes of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who had died in Rouen in 1439. A full-size reclining copper-gilt effigy of him lies on his Purbeck marble tomb – a fine piece of medieval metalwork cast in 1459.
18th century to present
In 1788 the Earl of Warwick obtained an Act of Parliament to enable him to build a new bridge over the Avon: Castle Bridge, which consists of a single sandstone arch was opened in 1793. It replaced an older 14th century bridge further downstream, known as Old Castle Bridge, which fell into ruin, although remains of it can still be seen.
The railway arrived in Warwick in 1852 when the Great Western Railway opened its man line between Birmingham, Oxford and London through the town, along with Warwick railway station. However, the train service proved to be a disappointment to Warwick, as no express trains served the town, stopping at nearby Leamington Spa railway station instead.
Warwick was largely bypassed by the industrial revolution; during the early 19th century, only minor industrial activities developed in the town, such as hat making. By the early 20th century, some engineering industry had been established locally.
The Warwick Pageant was a major festival in the grounds of Warwick Castle in 1906, organised by Louis N. Parker from a house in Jury Street. As Pageant House, this subsequently served as the offices of Warwick Borough Council, until the enlarged Warwick District Council was formed in Leamington Spa in 1974.
Populations before the 1801 census can be based on indirect measures. Historians suggest that Warwick had a population of about 1,500 in 1086. Indicators for ensuing centuries are sparse, but by the mid-16th century it is thought to have been about 2,000, which increased by the late 17th century to over 3,000. At the time of the first national census in 1801, Warwick had 5,592 inhabitants. This population nearly doubled by 1851, when it reached 10,952, but thereafter growth was slower for more than a century, reaching 15,349 in 1951 and 16,051 in 1961. Since then it has almost doubled, to 31,315 in 2011.
Possible city status
In 2008, the Coventry Telegraph reported that Warwick District Council would make a bid for city status for Warwick. According to the article, Councillor Michael Coker, later district council leader, said he would have been pleased to see anything that promoted Warwick. As he put it, "I don't know how one goes into the process of applying for city status, but Warwick is a very ancient and important town.... Obviously it wouldn't be big enough to be a city in the governance sense, but if it were given the title I'd be happy to obtain it.... Locally we don't appreciate what a lovely town it already is."
There have been no further bids for city status since.
Population growth has led to Warwick adjoining its larger neighbouring town, Leamington Spa, with which it forms a conurbation of some 95,000 inhabitants. Both, along with Kenilworth and Whitnash, are now administered as part of Warwick District, which has its headquarters in Leamington, although each retains a separate town council. Warwickshire County Council remains based in Warwick itself.
Warwick is represented in Parliament as part of the Warwick and Leamington constituency. It has been held by the Labour Party since the 2017 general election, when Matt Western was elected as the constituency's Member of Parliament. From the 1945 general election until 1997 the constituency elected a Conservative MP. In 1997 a Labour MP was elected and held the seat until 2010 when Chris White was elected for the Conservatives. White lost his seat when Theresa May called a snap election in 2017.
The 17th-century antiquarian William Dugdale wrote that Warwick was "standing upon a rocky ascent from every side, and in a dry and fertile soil, having... rich and pleasant meadows on the south part... and... woodland on the north." Two factors have affected Warwick's built environment: the Great Fire of 1694 and the lack of industrialisation. In the 19th century, the widespread industrialisation of England largely passed Warwick by. One reason was that the town did not lie on important roads and the River Avon was not navigable as far as Warwick.
Suburbs of Warwick include Bridge End, Cliff Hill, Emscote, Forbes, Myton (connecting Warwick with Leamington Spa), Packmores, The Cape, The Percy, Warwick Gates, Woodloes Park and the newly established Chase Meadow.
Warwick Gates and Chase Meadow
Warwick Gates is a housing estate and business park in Heathcote, south-east Warwick, which was built in the late 1990s. Although separated from Warwick town centre by open fields, Warwick Gates falls within the Warwick South and Bishops Tachbrook parish. It is adjacent to Whitnash, a small town near Leamington Spa, and the village of Bishops Tachbrook. The Tachbrook Park and Heathcote industrial estates are also nearby. The NHS Royal Leamington Spa Rehabilitation Hospital is adjacent to Warwick Gates.
In the early 2010s another new estate, Chase Meadow, was built to the south-west of the town next to Warwick Racecourse. Its amenities include a public house, a Chinese takeaway and a fish and chip shop.
Warwick experiences the usual English maritime climate, marked by a narrow temperature range, mild winters and cool summers. The nearest official Met Office weather station is at Wellesbourne, about 6 miles (10 km) south of the town centre and at a similar elevation.
The absolute maximum temperature (also the absolute maximum for the county of Warwickshire) stands at 36.1 °C (97.0 °F) recorded in August 1990. During a typical year, the warmest day should reach 30.0 °C (86.0 °F), and 16.5 days should report a maximum of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or higher.
The lowest recorded temperature is −17.8 °C (0.0 °F), recorded in January 1982. Typically, 53.3 air frosts are recorded in an "average" year.
|Climate data for Wellesbourne, elevation 47 m (154 ft), 1971–2000, extremes 1960–|
|Record high °C (°F)||14.5
|Average high °C (°F)||7.0
|Average low °C (°F)||0.9
|Record low °C (°F)||−17.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||53.84
At the 2001 UK census, Warwick had a population of 23,350. The population density was 8,841 per square mile (3,414/km2), with a 100 to 95.7 female-to-male ratio. Of those over 16 years old, 29.0% were single (never married), 43.4% married or widowed, and 8.9% divorced. Warwick's 10,285 households included 33.1% one-person, 36.7% married couples living together, 8.6% were co-habiting couples, and 16.8% single parents with their children; these figures were similar to those of the wider district of Warwick, however both borough and town had higher rates of single parents than England (9.5%). Of those aged 16–74, 26.2% had no academic qualifications, above the figure for the district but below the proportion nationally (22.2% and 28.9% respectively), and 26.2% had an educational qualification such as a first degree, higher degree, qualified teacher status, medical, dentistry or nursing qualifications, those for midwives and health visitors, etc., compared to 19.9% nationwide.
Due to its proximity to north-south and east-west motorway routes, many companies have a head office in the town. Since November 2004, National Grid plc has had its UK headquarters on the Warwick Technology Park south of the town between the A425 road and A452 road. Phillips 66 and their petrol station group, JET, have an office on the Technology Park. Other businesses with head offices here include lingerie company Bravissimo. IBM, Gerflor and Volvo Group UK have bases on the Wedgnock Industrial Estate in the north of the town, near to the A46 trunk road. Other companies with regional headquarters in Warwick include Bridgestone, Calor, Kantar and Delphi Automotive. In recent years several high-profile national and international companies have set up large office complexes in and around Warwick, notably National Grid plc and IBM. There is also an out-of-town retail park called Leamington Shopping Park (formerly The Shires Retail Park).
Warwick hosts several annual festivals, including: the Spoken Word; Classical and Contemporary Music; a Folk Festival; and a Victorian Evening, held in late November or early December. St. Mary's Church hosts a series of Early Music concerts, and the Bridge House Theatre hosts the Music-in-Round concerts. Warwick Chamber of Trade helps to promote the town for visitors, residents and businesses. The town is also famous for Warwick Castle, whose construction began in 1068. The town centre is also known for its mixture of Tudor and 17th-century buildings.
Warwick is also known for Warwick Racecourse, near the west gate of the medieval town, which hosts several televised horse racing meetings a year. Within the racecourse is a small golf course. J. R. R. Tolkien seems to have been very influenced by Warwick (where he was married in the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Immaculate) and by its Mercian connections: Lynn Forest-Hill, in an article in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS 8 July 2005 pp 12–13) argues cogently that two important settlements in Tolkien's work were modelled on Warwick – Edoras closely on the early town, and Minas Tirith more remotely on the Norman; and that aspects of the plot of The Lord of the Rings are paralleled in the romance known as Guy of Warwick. Christopher Tolkien, in The Book of Lost Tales, stated that Kortirion, the main city of Tol Eressëa, "would become in after days Warwick."
Warwick and its historic buildings have featured in a number of television series, including the BBC's drama series Dangerfield, the period dramas Pride and Prejudice and Tom Jones and Granada Television's Moll Flanders. Parts of the town substituted for Elizabethan and Jacobean era London in the third-series episode two ("The Shakespeare Code") of Doctor Who which ran 7 April 2007. Filming took place in June 2019 for A Christmas Carol, which was screened on UK television at Christmas 2019.
Warwick Racecourse is located just west of the town centre. Adjacent to it is Racing Club Warwick F.C., founded in 1919. The city has many long-established sports clubs, including Warwick Hockey Club, founded in 1920.
There are a number of secondary schools located within Warwick, including Warwick School, an independent day school for boys (with a small boarding department), The King's High School For Girls, an independent day school for girls, Myton School and Aylesford School, both of which are state run co-educational schools. Campion School and Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa include parts of Warwick in their priority areas. Warwick Preparatory School is an independent day school and nursery for boys aged 3–7 and girls 3–11. It is part of the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, together with King's High School and Warwick School.
Warwick School is an independent school for boys which claims to be the oldest boys' school in England. The actual date of its founding is unknown, although 914 has sometimes been quoted. For some years the school claimed that King Edward the Confessor (c.1004–1066) chartered it, although there is no direct evidence for this, and King Henry VIII re-founded the school in 1545. Whatever the truth of the matter, there is no doubt that there has been a grammar school in the town of Warwick since before the Norman Conquest, and its successor, the present independent school, has been on its current site south of the River Avon since 1879.
University of Warwick
The nearest university is the University of Warwick, which is named after the county of Warwickshire, rather than the town, and is in fact situated several miles north of Warwick on the southern outskirts of Coventry. Adding to the location confusion is the fact that Coventry is no longer in the county of Warwickshire, but instead is in the West Midlands, leading to the current situation where the university straddles both counties.
- Collegiate Church of St Mary
- Lord Leycester Hospital
- Lord Leycester Hotel
- Market Hall
- Guy's Cliffe House
- Market Square
- The Dream Factory
- St John's Museum
- St Michael's Leper Hospital
- St. Nicholas' Park
- Saxon Mill
- Shire Hall
- Warwick Castle
- Warwick Hospital
- Warwick Racecourse
- Warwick School
- Hill Close Gardens
Warwick is on the M40 London-Birmingham motorway, connected to junctions 13, 14 and 15; it is also on the A46 dual-carriageway trunk road positioned between Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon. Warwick has several council off-street car parks in the town. There are also a few privately run car parks, including those at the railway station and the castle.
The town has a railway station with direct rail services to Leamington Spa, London, Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon; these services are provided by Chiltern Railways. In addition, a few peak-hour trains to and from Birmingham are operated by West Midlands Trains. Warwick Parkway, an out-of-town station opened in 2000 to the west of the town, provides faster commuter services to London (about 1 hour 10 minutes) and Birmingham. Historically, the Leamington & Warwick Tramways & Omnibus Company operated between the towns from 1881 to 1930.
Bus services to Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon and Coventry are operated by Stagecoach in Warwickshire from the bus station in the town centre.
There is also a National Express coach stop in the town's bus station with limited services. The nearby Warwick Parkway railway station also has a coach stop with more frequent services.
The Grand Union Canal and the River Avon also pass through the town. The restored Saltisford Canal Arm is close to the town centre – it is a short branch of the Grand Union Canal, the remains of the original terminus of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal, dating back to 1799. The Saltisford Canal Trust has restored most of the surviving canal, which is now the mooring for colourful narrowboats and a waterside park open to the public. Over 800 visiting narrowboats come by water to Warwick each year and moor on the arm.
The town of Warwick has formal twinning arrangements with two European towns: Saumur in France (since 1976) and Verden in Germany (since 1989). Havelberg in Germany has been a friendship town since 1990 when it was adopted by Verden. There is also a friendship link with Bo District in Sierra Leone.
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