Houses of Interest: Warwickshire

The opening salvo in the Warwickshire Houses of Interest post takes in a moated medieval manor house. Expect the #ECWtravelogue to concentrate more on the west midlands in the coming years as the academic focus (aka dad taxis & removal services) of Château KeepYourPowderDry shifts to Coventry and Warwick.

See also the entries for:
Warwick Castle 

Baddesley Clinton is a hidden gem of a property: located half way between Solihull and Leamington Spa, the house is cared for by the National Trust. So expect plant sales, café and over priced fudge. Dating from the 13th Century, Baddesley Clinton was home to Henry Ferrers, noted antiquarian. Henry died in 1633 and the house was inherited by his son, Edward. Edward would be made High Sheriff of Warwickshire 1639-1641.

The Ferrers were Catholic recusants, and whilst they did try to keep out of the wars and remain 'neutral' their notoriety as Catholics positioned them in the 'probably Royalist because they are Catholic' category. For this reason the family and estate were heavily 'taxed' by Parliament's men. The volunteer guides at the property are barely able to hide their disdain for this 'taxation' by Parliamentarian soldiers. 

There are a number of contemporaneous accounts listing the spoils of these raids: 'a plush saddle', gunpowder and a musket. a Geneva Bible, 'a gelding of bright bay colour', and 'many linens out of ye drying chamber'. After the Wars Edward submitted a compensation claim of £375 (worth about £40k today); alas, we don't know if he received this money. The Ferrer's coffers don't appear to have recovered after the ravages of the Wars.

By a process of deduction the most likely contenders for this plundering could be Colonel William Purefoy's Regiment of Horse (so if you decide to represent them, make sure that there is at least one bright bay horse just in case): but this is by no means certain.

What's there now? Much of the history of the property has been embellished by... you guessed it, the bloody Victorians. 

A fine example of this 'embellishment' is the blood stain on the floor from the house's 'medieval murder scene'... a conversation piece created from pig's blood, appearing in the nineteenth century (the murder did take place, but no pigs were harmed).

Much of the artwork on the walls was painted by the self taught Rebecca Ferrers in the 1870s. 

There is a zischagge, cuirass and buff coat on display: these appear to have been left behind by those beastly roundheads. The real star of the show is the beautiful house, set amongst stunning gardens and landscape.

Please note: if following a SatNav to the property, once you pick up the brown direction roadsigns, follow them and ignore the SatNav. The SatNav will try to route you via some very narrow country lanes.

At the outbreak of war Kenilworth Castle was the property of Queen Henrietta Maria, under the stewardship of Richard Carey, Duke of Monmouth. Charles used Kenilworth as a staging post for his forces prior to Edgehill. After the battle the Royalist garrison quickly dissipated upon hearing of the advance of Lord Brooke and a sizeable force intent upon taking the stronghold. Parliament’s men would garrison the castle until it was ordered to be sleighted in the 1650s.

Cared for by English Heritage, the romanticised ruins has a restored Tudor garden, a small interpretative museum, a very expensive car park, and the inevitable tearoom. Understandably the Castle is presented using the bigger story of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.

Southam has two interesting properties; The Old Mint pub, and the Manor House.

The Old Mint was originally a medieval mint, utilised by Charles I to mint coin to pay his troops from silver donated by his supporters. 

Charles would stay at the Manor House prior to Edgehill, apparently giving a very poor attempt at a rousing speech to his commanders.

Southam also likes to claim the first battle of the English Civil War: Charles has raised his standard at Nottingham Castle, and Lord Brooke of Warwick is leading 3000 foot soldiers and 400 horse to Coventry. Brooke's men march into Southam, ransack the Reverend Holyoak’s house and are billeted in the town’s Inns and private houses for the night. Two miles away, the Earl of Northampton with 800 horse and 300 foot are encamped. Early on the 23rd August, 1642, a protracted skirmish takesplace in the surroundings of the town (we don't know exactly where).

The alarm is raised! The soldiers prepare for battle, and early next morning the armies confront each other in the fields around our small market town.  There follows four hours of cannon & musket fire, cavalry charges and deadly hand to hand combat with swords and pikes.

Warwick boasts a number of places of interest (other than the castle). Most notably Lord Leycester's Hospital (currently undergoing a major refurbishment/restoration). At the time of the wars it was a hospital for old soldiers.

Warwick Museum has nothing of interest on display for the C17th aficionado, the building however is a fine example of an early C17th market hall.

The Collegiate Church of St Mary (also undergoing a major refurbishment/restoration) was damaged during the Wars: the stained glass windows were of note even in the C17th but were destroyed by soldiers. Thankfully the Beauchamp windows were copied by Wencelaus Hollar, so we have a small inkling of what was destroyed.

The Battle of Curdworth Bridge is often claimed (along with a number of other skirmishes) as being the first 'battle' of the First Civil War. Sir Richard Willys was sent to escort 2 troops of horse, one of dragoons, 500 foot soldiers and baggage from Kenilworth Castle to Tamworth Castle. The Royalists left Kenilworth traveling via Berkswell, Meriden, Packington and Coleshill, Warwickshire. 

The battlefield site

1200 Parliamentarian troops and trained bands from Birmingham tried to stop them making the journey. The Parliamentarians were unsuccessful and Sir Richard was able to make it to Tamworth. 

Curdworth church

Twenty men are believed to be buried by the south wall of the chancel of Curdworth Church, and it is also thought that there is a mass grave to the south of the church. Little remains of the bridge itself, and it is now crossed by a very busy road. The battlefield site is believed to be in the Lichfield Road/Marsh Lane area close to the bridge. 

The same Royalist baggage and military manoeuvre may have been involved in an even earlier engagement at Coleshill Manor. Coleshill Manor was rediscovered during archaeological preparatory work for the HS2 rail works. Substantial remains of the manor's gatehouse were uncovered and were pockmarked by many hundreds of musket ball marks. Was there a skirmish, or was the gatehouse used for training/target practice? The gatehouse remains have been removed from the site, and it is hoped that they may be reconstructed on a different site. The dig was documented and appeared in Digging For Britain (series 10, episode 3), and in numerous news reports including this one from the BBC.

Maxstoke Castle was garrisoned for Parliament, the garrison was untroubled by Royalists. Maxstoke is a private residence, shrouded from view from the road by trees. It does occasionally open its doors as part of the National Garden Open Days scheme. It is worth having a glance over when you drive past as you can sometimes see a tiny snippet of a turret (if the trees aren't in full leaf).

Postcodes for SatNavs
Baddesley Clinton, B93 0DQ
Kenilworth Castle, CV8 1NG
Old Mint, Southam CV47 0EP
Manor House, Southam CV47 0HE
Lord Leycester's Hospital CV34 4BH
Warwick Museum CV34 4SA
The Collegiate Church of St Mary CV34 4RA
Battle of Curdworth Bridge site, Curdworth B76 9HP
Curdworth Church, Curdworth B76 9EY
Maxstoke Castle, Maxstoke B46 2RD

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