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 KENILWORTH, St Nicholas, 6: 14-0-22 in F#

Grid Reference 140/285724 Kenilworth Church - Source M Chester
Postcode CV8 1LD
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 1000-1030 & 1745-1830
Practice Tuesday 1930-2100



Set at the Coventry side of Kenilworth, by the Abbey Fields and its car park, don't mistake this church for St John's at the other end of the town near the A46 road just north of Warwick, it having a spire and a chime of 10!

The land on which the church stands is part of a swathe of what, in the 12th century, was the tiny settlement of Chinewerde, given by King Henry I to his chamberlain and treasurer Geoffrey de Clinton. By around 1119 this swathe had been cleared of woodland under de Clinton's order so that an Augustinian priory housing 16-20 canons could be built, dedicated to Mary the Virgin and meant for the saying of masses for its founder's eternal soul. At around the same time, and a short walk to the west , de Clinton built Kenilworth Castle. The twin foundations were to be closely linked throughout their history: the priory (which had been raised to abbey status in 1458) was dissolved in 1538 and survives today as just a few sections of ruined masonry close by St Nicholas' Church.  

It is conjectured that there was a Norman parish church on the site during the 12th century, and there is reference to a parson in the 1285 Registers of Godfrey Giffard, the Bishop of Worcester. The earliest reference to a parish church on the site, though, as distinct from the church of St Mary's priory, is from Pope Nicholas' taxation records of 1291. The substantial tower and the north and south aisles were added in the 14th century. The original nave roof, lowered in 1580, was at a higher pitch than that which can be seen today; the line of the earlier roof can still be seen as a scar on the eastern face of the tower. The chancel roof was taken down and relaid in 1692 under the auspices of the then vicar, William Best, at a cost of £80. Raised galleries were erected in both of the nave aisles in the middle of the 18th century to accommodate the large congregations of the time. In 1865, under Reverend Bickmore, St Nicholas' was thoroughly restored. The nave galleries (along with the contemporary singers' gallery at the west end of the nave) were taken down in 1876, the same year that the roof timbers were exposed by the removal of the church's flat ceilings. It was also in the 19th century that the north and south transepts were built, the clergy vestry was added, and the south wall of the chancel was pierced to create a chancel aisle (refurnished in 1932 as the Lady Chapel). The sandstone spire was entirely rebuilt after a lightning strike in 1858.

The then existing four bells were recast, tenor apparently around 19cwt, in 1656 by Bryan Eldridge, an iterant founder from Chertsey, in Coventry into a ring of five, tenor 15-0-13. The frame was made by William Ragge of Coventry, assisted by his son. Some of this frame may remain in the base of the spire. The trebles were recast by John Briant of Hertford (1795) and Joseph Smith of Edgbaston (1734) respectively. The other three survived to the 1875 restoration, when the tenor was retained and five new bells cast. The second of the ring of 5 found its way to St Matthew's, Surbiton where it is the service bell, alongside 8 hemispherical bells cast by Warner's. How it came from Taylor's at the same time as this remains something of a mystery.

Frame and fittings are by Taylor 1960 - the frame, unusually, being positioned diagonally in the tower. The following appeared in The Ringing World of June 10th 1960:

"Work has started on the restoration of St. Nicholas’, Kenilworth, and the rehanging of the present six bells in a new iron frame by Messrs. Taylors, of Loughborough. It is hoped to complete the work in about six months. The local band are appreciative of the invitation to practise in neighbouring towers while awaiting the return of their own bells". On November 11th 1960 it reported; "The work of restoration of the tower of St. Nicholas’, Kenilworth, is now completed and the bellhangers have commenced the work of rehanging the bells. They hope to have them ready for ringing by the end of the month.". The dedication took place on Tuesday, December 6th 1960.

The canons have been removed from the treble, second and tenor, the others appear to have been cast with flat tops. The ringing room is also unusual in that it has a clock face in the ceiling, driven by the main church clock. The weights of the front five when originally installed were: 1. 5-2-14 - 2. 5-3-23 - 3. 7-2-20 - 4. 8-3-18 - 5. 11-0-17.

The inscriptions are given in Tilley and Walters' "Church Bells of Warwickshire"

The first peal on the bells was rung in 1938.

The church was featured in The Ringing World as part of the Central Council's visit to the area in 1971:

(Click to enlarge)

A church that is well worth visiting, enter via the north door by the tower. If you have time you may wish to explore the historic ruined castle near to the church.

Details of the Bells

1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1875   5-1-19  29.50"  1244.0Hz (D#-1c)
2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1875   5-2-12  31.50"  1107.0Hz (C#-3c)
3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1875   7-2-11  34.25"   988.0hz (B+0c)
4 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1875   8-3-10  36.25"   933.0Hz (A#+1c)
5 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1875  10-3-25  39.25"   831.0Hz (G#+1c)
6 Bryan Eldridge, Coventry        1656  14-0-22  42.50"   741.0Hz (F#+2c)

Photo Gallery

kenilworth2_small The Norman Doorway. Source: Mike Chester  
The Church - Looking East  The Normay Doorway in
the West Wall of the Tower
kenilworth3_small kenilworth_trebles_small kenilworth3rd_small
The Clock in the
Ringing Room Ceiling
 The Trebles The Third 
kenilworth4th_small kenilworth5th_small kenilworth6th_small
The Fourth  The Fifth  The Tenor 
A Plan of the Church

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