History of Warwickshire.


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Warwickshire was first recorded in 1016 when it was known as Waeinewiscscr. The name comes from the Anglo Saxon 'the dairy farm by a river dam.' War means an offshoot from a larger farm. Wic means a weir or dam constructed for catching fish.

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Warwickshire is bordered by Staffordshire and the West Midlands to the north-west, Leicestershire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the east, and Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire to the south, and Worcestershire to the west. The county is fairly undulating although a range of Limestone hills rises on its south-eastern boundary which includes Edgehill. Historically, the county is divided into two areas - The Feldon and The Arden. The Feldon lies to the south-east of the county and is generally open country whereas The Arden was, historically at least, the wooded area to the north-west of the River Avon. Arden is a Celtic word for a 'well wooded area.' Very little remains of the massive forest that once covered the northern part of the county, the top end of which formed the North Warwickshire coalfield. Coal was being mined near Nuneaton in the 13th century, and it was an important local industry 400 years later. The extraction was later centred on five collieries in a triangle between Coventry and Nuneaton as base and Tamworth as the apex. The coalfield extended 25 miles from north to south and was seven miles across at Nuneaton. The principal rivers of the county are the Avon, Tame and Anker.

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The Romans have left their indelible mark on the county in the form of several main routes including Watling Street, Fosse Way and Icknield Street. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the county formed part of the Kingdom of Mercia and, following the Norman conquest, two impregnable castles were built at Warwick and Kenilworth. It was at the latter that Edward II signed the renunciation of his crown in 1327. Robert Catesby, a Warwickshire man, was a prime mover in the Gunpowder Plot. Indeed, the county had a large network of conspirators' houses. Following the plot's failure, many of them escaped on several of the King's horses which they stole from Warwick Castle before their capture at Holbeache. The first battle of the English Civil War was fought at Edge Hill on 23rd October 1642.

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Although only a shadow of its former glory, The Arden Forest helped to shape the county's economy and remains an important element of Warwickshire. Church Hill stands at 689ft over the village of Burton Dassett and features a lookout tower that may once have been a medieval windmill. At 854ft, Ilmington Down is the highest point in the county.

Warwick Castle is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Great Britain. Kenilworth Castle was founded around 1122 by Geoffre de Clinton and later converted into a palace by John of Gaunt. Baddesley Clinton is arguably the finest medieval moated manor house in England. Compton Wynyates was built in 1480 by Sir Edmund Compton and one of the finest Tudor houses in Britain along with the timber-framed building of 1550 at Packwood House. Rugby School was founded in 1567 and made famous by Thomas Hughes' 'Tom Brown's Schooldays.' Charlecote Park, an Elizabethan mansion which, though the interior was reconstructed in the 19th century, is noted for its design. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre was constructed in 1932 replacing the theatre destroyed by fire in 1926. Ragley Hall is a Palladian-style mansion dating from 1680. Anne Hathaway's Cottage is the house in which William Shakespeare's wife was born.

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Warwickshire Breweries

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This brewery was founded by Joseph Ansell in 1857. He was originally a maltster and hop merchant but, together with two of his sons, he moved into the brewing business in 1881. I have a fair amount of information on this brewery so have created a separate page for the company. Click here to read more about Ansell's Brewery Limited of Aston.

Holt Brewery Company

This brewery was founded in February 1887 although the company was established to formally acquire the brewery of Henry Fulford created in 1872. Holt's were fairly aggressive and acquired other local breweries in order to gain and secure their share of the Birmingham market. They expanded their estate considerably when they bought the Sparkbrook-based Grigg & Brettell Ltd in 1912 and Myatt's of Wolverhampton in 1927. By the time the company had 250 public houses, Holt's were themselves acquired by Ansell's Brewery Limited in 1934.

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A Halted Mail Coach by Henry Thomas Alken [The British Postal Museum and Archive]

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