1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kenilworth

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KENILWORTH, a market town in the Rugby parliamentary division of Warwickshire, England; pleasantly situated on a tributary of the Avon, on a branch of the London & North-Western railway, 99 m. N.W. from London. Pop. of urban district (1901), 4544. The town is only of importance from its antiquarian interest and the magnificent ruins of its old castle. The walls originally enclosed an area of 7 acres. The principal portions of the building remaining are the gatehouse, now used as a dwelling-house; Caesar’s tower, the only portion built by Geoffrey de Clinton now extant, with massive walls 16 ft. thick; the Merwyn’s tower of Scott’s Kenilworth; the great hall built by John of Gaunt with windows of very beautiful design; and the Leicester buildings, which are in a very ruinous condition. Not far from the castle are the remains of an Augustinian monastery founded in 1122, and afterwards made an abbey. Adjoining the abbey is the parish church of St Nicholas, restored in 1865, a structure of mixed architecture, containing a fine Norman doorway, which is supposed to have been the entrance of the former abbey church.

Kenilworth (Chinewrde, Kenillewurda, Kinelingworthe, Kenilord, Killingworth) is said to have been a member of Stoneleigh before the Norman Conquest and a possession of the Saxon kings, whose royal residence there was destroyed in the wars between Edward and Canute. The town was granted by Henry I. to Geoffrey de Clinton, a Norman who built the castle round which the whole history of Kenilworth centres. He also founded a monastery here about 1122. Geoffrey’s grandson released his right to King John, and the castle remained with the crown until Henry III. granted it to Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. The famous “Dictum de Kenilworth” was proclaimed here in 1266. After the battle of Evesham the rebel forces rallied at the castle, which, after a siege of six months, was surrendered by Henry de Hastings, the governor, on account of the scarceness of food and of the “pestilent disease” which raged there. The king then granted it to his son Edmund. Through John of Gaunt it came to Henry IV. and was granted by Elizabeth in 1562 to Robert Dudley, afterwards earl of Leicester, but on his death in 1588 again merged in the possessions of the Crown. The earl spent large sums on restoring the castle and grounds, and here in July 1575 he entertained Queen Elizabeth at “excessive cost,” as described in Scott’s Kenilworth. On the queen’s first entry “a small floating island illuminated by a great variety of torches . . . made its appearance upon the lake,” upon which, clad in silks, were the Lady of the Lake and two nymphs waiting on her, and for the several days of her stay “rare shews and sports were there exercised.” During the civil wars the castle was dismantled by the soldiers of Cromwell and was from that time abandoned to decay. The only mention of Kenilworth as a borough occurs in a charter of Henry I. to Geoffrey de Clinton and in the charters of Henry I. and Henry II. to the church of St Mary of Kenilworth confirming the grant of lands made by Geoffrey to this church, and mentioning that he kept the land in which his castle was situated and also land for making his borough, park and fishpond. The town possesses large tanneries.