Day 8 – Warwick

Thursday, April 13, 2017
My plans for the day were to delve a bit further into the history of the area by means of the public archives, before seeing some of it more visually in Warwick Castle. Staying in town today meant I had time to enjoy the breakfast offered by the hotel, so after tucking into a big English breakfast I set out. Not much opens before 10 am so I had time to wander over to the northwestern edge of town into Saltisford where the remains of a small leper hospital remains.

The first St. Michael’s church was established in 1135 by Roger, Earl of Warwick, and there was reference to it being a leper hospital by 1275. By the mid-1500’s it was in ruins, and only 2 buildings remain on site: this chapel from the 1400’s and a half-timbered Master’s house from the 1400-1500’s (covered by a green tarp in the background). Throughout the 1300-1500’s leper houses became less needful in England, and this one ended up as an almshouse in 1545 before being converted into housing over the next few centuries, and was then privately owned. It seems a shame to watch the old buildings fall to disrepair.

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This painting on the side of a building told of one of the highwaymen who rode the Warwick turnpike in the 1700’s. Those returning from selling their goods at the market square would often lose their profits to Bendigo Mitchell and his trusty horse Skater. He was eventually caught in 1776 and publically hanged just behind where I was standing.

After a quick stop into a grocery store along the way for my lunch later, I went on to the Warwickshire County Records Office and went through the process of obtaining a pass to access the archives.  My hopes were to perhaps shed some light on exactly what year my family left England, what might have happened to the land and the family who remained, and if there was anything to indicate why they left England. As I only had a 3 hours, I knew it was a shot in the dark to come up with any amount of information. The records office has a vast array of different types of ancient ledgers, diaries, municipal records, etc., and I had fun just looking through some of the old books. There was a microfilm of the church records – births, deaths, and marriages – from the church my family went to in Hatton parish, but the writing from the late 1500’s was so different from the handwriting today it might as well have been in a different language. Fortunately, there was a hand-written transcription that was much more legible. I didn’t really learn anything new, but I felt a deeper connection to the community.  The rejoicing over births, the sorrow over the deaths that often followed too quickly, and wondering at the stories of the young people who married someone from a neighbouring community – how did they meet? was it a love match? a parent’s choice?  I think I could have spent months on end here and not make a dent in the information and stories I could glean from these records.

I pulled myself away at 1 pm and hurried the few streets over to Warwick Castle, eating my lunch as I walked. As it is Easter holidays, the castle grounds are quite crowded, but not unpleasantly so.

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Watching an archery demonstration.
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Entrance to the jail.
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It was very dark and damp at the bottom, the sole source of light and fresh air came from a tiny opening far above your head.
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The oubliette – early form of solitary confinement where prisoners would be shoved down into this tiny, lightless pit and forgotten about.
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The remains of the old bridge crossing the River Avon. This would have been the south entrance into the walled town.

A little history about the castle: this site’s first recorded history comes from 914 AD when Ethelfleda, princess of Mercia (Anglo-Saxon midlands of England), had a burh or fortified area built here to defend their land against the Vikings. There were 10 major fortifications built, strategically placed. Little over a century later after the Norman invasion, King William recognized the value of having a fortification here and had a wooden motte and bailey castle built in 1068. It was replaced by a stone castle between 1154-1173. Several different families owned the castle and the title of earl – either the family did not have a direct male descendant and it passed to a cousin, or a family fell out of favour with the ruling monarch. The upkeep of the castle was expensive and by the 1500’s it had fallen into disrepair. When Queen Elizabeth visited in 1566 and again in 1572, a timber-framed lodging was made for her within the castle as its current buildings were not fit to stay in. In 1604, King James I gave the castle to Sir Fulke Greville and he spent an incredible amount of money restoring it. The family received many well-known visitors over the years, and in 1978 it was sold to a company to be a tourist attraction.

The buildings and grounds were set up to be fun and interesting for all ages, showing what castle life was like at different periods through history.

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Armories Room – there were gunlocks, brown bess muskets, a blunderbuss, grenade throwers, and brigandine light armour.
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Queen Elizabeth I’s saddle and handkerchief from the 1500’s.
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Moving through time, each room showed what life was like from different time periods, and what that room would have looked like then.
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I found another secret doorway.  😀
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The green drawing room for men to sit and relax in the 1700’s. The paintings are of noblemen who fought and died during the civil war.
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The blue boudoir was originally a dressing room to a state guestroom. It was redecorated in the 1890’s with this blue silk from Lyon.
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Marie Antoinette’s clock
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A narwhale tusk – I wasn’t expecting to see this here.
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Along this corridor the story of Guy of Warwick was told. According to legend, Guy fell in love with Lady Felice of Warwick but because he was of lower social standing, he had to prove himself. He became a knight and slew dragons and giants and wild boars. He married Felice but felt guilty over his violent past so he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He returned just in time to save the land from invading Danes. He kept his identity secret and returns to Warwick and lives the rest of his life in prayer in a cave on a cliff-side just outside of town, now known as Guys Cliffe. On his deathbed he had his ring returned to Felice to reveal his identity so they could spend their last moments together. The bone at the top of the photo is said to be a rib from a giant dun cow that he saved a town from.

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This buffet was built from a single oak tree from the grounds of nearby Kenilworth Castle.  It is carved with scenes of Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Kenilworth” to tell the love story of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Robert Dudley.
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Early 1900’s life of Francis and Daisy Greville who loved to entertain and had many notable visitors.
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The library.
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Drawing a bath for his lordship.


I then toured some more of the castle grounds while pausing for a show, watching children trying out jousting, and had tea in the peacock gardens:

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A trebuchet – a sort of catapult used in medieval warfare. This design can launch an 80 lb object 980 ft and is the largest currently functioning trebuchet in the world. In 2015 during a show, they launched a fire ball which directly hit the thatched-roof boathouse which was completely destroyed by flames.  
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Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon is just 8 miles away past these trees. Another place I would have liked to visit if there was more time.
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A birds of prey demonstration. He threw up pieces of food into the air and they would swoop down and catch it easily.
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Inside the old water mill.
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In the bear pit where they kept a bear for bear baiting – popular form of entertainment in the 1400’s where a chained bear would fight hunting dogs. If the bear yelped, the dog won.


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I then went to a section that was set in the 1400’s with the War of the Roses. Richard Neville became the 16th Earl of Warwick through marriage and he became known as the Kingmaker. He chose kings and raised armies like an elaborate game of chess. This section was set in 1471 and showed Neville’s men preparing to go to battle. This was to be his last – he died on the field.

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It was very interesting, as I had just read a novel a month or so before called The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory and now I was seeing the details of the book played out before my eyes.


I had reservations that evening at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in town called Fusca. It is located in the old cellar of a building which gave it an interesting atmosphere. The food was incredible – fresh and full of flavour, and there were some interesting combinations that I would not have thought of mixing. I enjoy different things. Most of menu was vegan so I had a wide selection I could choose from that was dairy-free. If anyone finds themselves in Warwick, I highly recommend going – it is well worth it!

Vietnamese Vegetable Rolls with a blend of flavours of lemongrass, cilantro, mint, and pickled ginger amongst the vegetables. I also ordered a side of pankoras – veggies with Indian-style spices in a chickpea flour batter and fried, served with a coconut yoghurt dipping sauce. I topped it off with a dessert of chocolate, strawberry, and fennel brownie with home-made vanilla ice cream (yes, dairy-free – but it was so creamy and no unnatural flavours, you would swear it was real ice cream). It had a strawberry sauce that went over it as well.  It was all amazing!

After, I went for a little walk as there were a couple more streets in Warwick I wanted to walk through. It was growing dark by the time I walked back to the hotel, but the town felt quite safe compared to many I had been to so far.

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