Abbey Fields Timeline

 Further details can be found in my book, The Abbey Fields

30,000 BC       The valley is formed at the end of the ice age

c1120              The Priory of St Mary is established and includes the land immediately around it

1447                The Priory’s status is raised to that of an Abbey

1538                The Abbey’s downfall is sealed under the 1534 Act of Supremacy. The Abbey had 20 acres of land enclosed by a wall

c1650              The Abbey Lake is drained; it becomes the Oxpen Meadow

1700                The Abbey is a ruin

1753                The land ownership passes to Thomas Villiers, later the 1st Earl of Clarendon of the second creation. By now, the fields are rented out for grazing livestock

1834                Floods carry away part of the Abbey’s mill-dam in the centre of the fields

1840                St Nicholas churchyard is extended into the fields leading to an archaeological investigation in that area

1858                2,000 of the town’s 3,700 inhabitants sit down to a meal in the Abbey Fields to celebrate Queen Victoria passing through the town

1860                The iron bridge in the centre of the fields is mentioned; its age is unknown

1866                A further churchyard extension leads to the building of a wall alongside its western boundary

1879                Annual winter flooding of the Oxpen Meadow creates an ice-skating rink. This particular year over 500 skated on one day

1879                A well-established pastime of youths bathing naked in the Abbey Fields brook is becoming more frowned upon; there are calls for a proper bathing place to be created for them

1881                The St Nicholas churchyard needs extending again, but the Earl of Clarendon says no

1882                Late in 1882 the Earl of Clarendon puts the entire Abbey Fields estate up for sale as building land

1884                On 12th May the Abbey Fields is sold in three sections; the central 40 acres to the Local Board for a park who take out a loan to pay for it, 13 acres to a group of 18 Preservationists who wish to keep the view from their Abbey Hill and Rosemary Hill houses, and four areas around the outside to a Syndicate for building purposes. Grazing continues, the rents are used to pay off the loan

1884                On 28th November, the Preservationists convey their 13 acres to the St Nicholas churchwardens but allow the Local Board to use the land as part of their park

1885                The churchyard is extended again, using part of the Syndicate’s land. On the day of its dedication, 28th May, ‘indecent youths’ were again bathing in the brook

1885                June; the provision of a swimming bath, a cricket pitch and a lake in the park is discussed but nothing happened

1885                July; a new footpath is created from the central iron bridge to Forrest Road

1886 – 1890    Burials in the latest churchyard extension are delayed by an archaeological investigation

1889                On 14th March, for £400 the Local Board buy from the Syndicate 3 acres or so around the churchyard to add to the park, which increases to about 57 acres

1891                Questions are asked as to why the Board has not created any facilities in the park

1894                The Local Board is replaced by the new Kenilworth Urban District Council (KUDC)

1895                On the back of election promises, a swimming pool in the park is planned

1896                On 1st June, the swimming pool is opened; it is 75ft long and varies in depth from 2ft 6ins to 5ft

1897                A new footpath from Bridge Street to the swimming pool is made

1897                The first set of park bye-laws is made, organised ball games are not allowed but cycling on the paths is

1902                An avenue of trees is planted on the path from Bridge Street to St Nicholas church. During the next two years the swimming pool path and the diagonal path from Abbey Hill to Bridge Street also become avenues. Residents complain that there are too many trees and the views across the park are being ruined

1902                The first mention of seats being provided in the park

1904                A swimming club is formed, primarily to teach boys to swim

1908                A footpath from the swimming pool, alongside the brook to the Castle Ford, is created by simply fencing off a narrow strip of land

1909                On Friday 13th August, pool attendant Henry Trunkfield is murdered after the pool is closed for the day; his wife finds his body floating in the shallow end

1910                The first record of an organised football match being allowed in the park

1913                On 26th April the bowling green is opened. It has been constructed by a newly formed club who pay rent to the KUDC, on condition that it is open at all times for the public to play on

1916-18           Several areas of the park are used for the growing of food, including an area of allotments

1917                Gertrude Evans donates 27,739 sq yds of her land alongside Forrest Road to add to the park. It was purchased in 1884 by her father as part of the syndicate

1920                A captured German field-gun is put on display in the park

1920                The children’s play area is opened with swings, a trapeze and a giant stride

1922                On 26th February, the new war memorial is dedicated; it is built not in the park as such but on a widened area of the road to circumnavigate the covenant that prevents all structures

1922                On 22nd March, excavations in the park of the Abbey ruins begins largely to provide work for some of the many unemployed. It continues for about 18 months

1923                On 7th May, the first two tennis courts, of grass, are opened and are run by the bowls club

1923                In December, the town’s first public conveniences are built in the park just north of the swimming pool

1925                The number of grass tennis courts is increased to 6

1925                A new swimming club is formed, the original having closed during the Great War

1925                The German field gun is moved – to a new position alongside the War Memorial! It is thought that it was eventually scrapped during the WW2 drive for metal

1926                The still-surviving tennis and bowls pavilion is built

1926                Putting greens are created behind the tennis courts

1926                The field between Luzley Brook and The Bungalow (now Ford House) is prepared for use as a playing field; the pupils from School Lane are the first known to make use of it

1927                The carnival, in its second year, is allowed to make use of the park for the first time

1929                The Working Men’s Club team are the first known to make use of a new permanent football pitch is the park

1932                The Friends of Kenilworth Abbey and its Surroundings is formed and carry out much work looking after the ruins and churchyard

c1932              Two hard surface tennis courts are added to the 6 grass courts

1934                A drinking water fountain is built alongside the swimming pool path

1934                In September the swimming pool is closed for public health reasons

1935                In June, the new ‘Kenilworth Lido’ is opened, it is more than twice the size of the original pool and has thatched changing rooms matching the tennis Pavilion

1935                The bye-laws are amended to allow the playing of games on Sundays; the children’s play area is also now open on Sundays, the equipment having previously been locked up

1936                At least two permanent football pitches are provided alongside the Luzley Brook

1938                On 22nd October, Gertrude Evans donates a second area of land, alongside High Street, to add to the park. The total area is now 64 acres 2634 sq yds. A narrow path is created diagonally across it by cows walking nose to tail to the next gate; it becomes known as the Cow Path

1938                In the autumn, air-raid trenches are dug across the park. In May 1939 three are made into concrete shelters

1940                The Oxpen Meadow is left to fill to provide a ready water supply should it be needed after air raids. The brook is also dammed and the Victorian steam fire engine placed alongside it to be at the ready

1940                11 acres of the park are ‘under the plough’; other areas are used as allotments

1945                Only one grass tennis court is in a usable condition

1946                Two more hard tennis courts are laid, 2 grass courts are retained

1947                ‘No cycling’ notices appear around the park for the first time

1948                The last two grass tennis courts are replaced by an 18-hole putting green

1948                The Agricultural Society holds their annual show on the Oxpen meadow for the first time

1949                A refreshment kiosk is opened at the corner of the swimming baths in an existing building and is run privately under licence

1949                There are moves to end grazing in the fields now that the loans for purchase have been paid off; rationing and a national food shortage ensures that grazing continues

1950                An area of the park is lost as part of Abbey Hill is widened due to congestion caused by buses; the widening includes a bus lay-by and in 1951 a ‘park shelter’ that doubles as a bus shelter is added

1951                A new swimming club is started, the previous one having ceased during WW2

1951                Three football pitches are in use

1952                A temporary car park is created off Bridge Street specifically for park users

1953                As part of the coronation celebrations, a climbing frame, large slide and extra swings are put up

1954                The Agricultural Show moves to the bottom of the Memorial Field where the ground is levelled. This area is still used for shows today

1957                Catering at the kiosk is taken over by the Council

1959                Plans for the future of the park are drawn up; they include making a lake, rebuilding the swimming pool, new conveniences, a new kiosk, a new road from Abbey Hill to access a car park at the swimming pool, and to build flower beds and a rockery

1960                The annual temporary bridge for the fairground people to cross the brook near to Bridge Street is adopted by the Council and becomes permanent

1962                The Kenilworth Society suggest the proposed lake should not be for boating but for wildfowl, or, as the KWN called it, a ‘high class duck pond’

1962                A Pitch and Putt course is laid out on the slope up to Abbey Hill

1962                In October, Punch, the Council’s last cart horse and resident in the park, dies, ending the Council’s need for grazing land

1963                On 25th March, all grazing in the park is ended

1963                The football pitches are used on Sundays for the first time

1963                The 50-year-old bowling club is down to 12 members; the Council finally take over the green and its maintenance

1963                Due to the dangers of the roads, there are calls for children cycling to school to be allowed to cycle through the park. The idea is refused

1964                In September, the rebuilding of the swimming pool changing rooms begin

1966                Gertrude Evans dies; she is buried with the rest of her family in the churchyard extension her father sold to the church in 1884. The grave overlooks the High Street land she donated to the park

1966                Castle farm is chosen as a long-term replacement for football pitches in the park

1968                The income from the Pitch and Putt course is one and a half times that of the tennis courts

1968                ‘Heat the Pool’ movement is started by swimming club members

1970                The pool is heated for the first time; dangerous overcrowding sees numbers limited to 400 at a time‼

1971                The original 1923 conveniences are replaced

1973                The Kenilworth History Society starts to list the relics stored in the Abbey Fields barn

1973                The Agricultural Society move their show from the park; the Lions Club hold their first

1974                The KUDC purchase a 1.42 acre field behind Little Virginia to add to the park, having tried unsuccessfully several times since 1914; it is known as The Paddock

1974                A 150 by 100ft corner of his garden is donated to the park by Councillor Whiteman of High Street. These two additions bring the final total area of the park to 66 acres and 660 sq yds

1977                The now-named Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society opens the Barn as a museum

1984                After years of debate and arguments, a 25mtr indoor swimming pool is planned for the park; a poll shows only 34 per cent are in favour of the pool being sited in the park

1985                Organised football in the park ends with the opening of the Castle Farm facilities

1986                The indoor pool is opened

1989                The Kenilworth Inset Plan restricts ‘formal recreation’ to the area already in use for swimming, tennis, bowls, and play equipment, and that the Oxpen Meadow is to become a permanent lake. The Paddock is shown as part of the park

c1990              The First Boxing Day Duck Race is held by the Kenilworth Lions Club

1991                A wide-ranging consultation sees 600 respondents. Two-thirds say ‘leave the Abbey Fields as they are’; the other third is split half-and-half between careful change and returning the fields to their appearance as it was years before. At about this time, the popular Pitch-and-Putt course is closed

c1994              The Friends of Abbey Fields is formed by Jonathan Newey

1996 & 1997   WDC create a wildflower meadow; it is described as a shambles and that Kenilworth people did not want it; the area is mowed back to its normal state

1997                The decision is made to create a permanent lake on the Oxpen meadow after its drainage system fails, damaged during the swimming pool rebuilding

1998                Jonathan Newey dies and the Friends of Abbey Fields disbands

c2000              The old children’s play equipment is replaced

2002                A new Friends of Abbey Fields is formed by Sandra Whitlock

2003                The whole park area becomes a Scheduled Ancient Monument; the air –raid shelters have the same level of protection as the Abbey ruins. (The swimming pool, gravestones, play equipment, etc, are not included)

2005                WDC announce they will no longer maintain the bowling green due to its lack of use

2008                A broken drainage pipe is not repaired due to the £8,500 cost; it creates a marshland which is kept due to its biodiversity

2010                The Friends of Abbey Fields list 64 types of trees in the park

2011                WDC create another wildflower meadow; this time it is generally well-received

2013                Much of the play equipment installed a dozen years earlier has become dangerous; it is replaced with a much larger scheme costing £100,000 and also covers the bowling green

2013                The free car park becomes Pay and Display; during work a number of previously unknown walls associated with the Abbey are discovered, only the second such find in 90 years; they are not investigated

2013                A Town Council Action Plan survey has over 1500 respondents; 77 per cent said a cycleway through the park should be provided

2016                Plans for a cycleway are made public; despite claiming to ‘avoid impact on historic features of the park’ it includes the demolition of the ancient iron bridge

2018                In a review of its leisure activities, WDC announce that the outdoor pool may be closed in favour of a second, smaller, indoor pool for teaching purposes.

To be continued.....