1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Warwickshire
WARWICKSHIRE, a midland county of England, bounded N. by Staffordshire, E. by Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, S. by Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, and W. by Worcestershire. The area is 902.3 sq. m. The river Avon, watering a rich valley on a line from N.E. to S.W., divides the county into two unequal parts. The greater, lying to the N.W., drains principally to the Trent through the rivers Cole, Blythe, Rea, Anker and minor streams. Between these valleys, and dividing the system from that of the Avon, the land rises in gentle undulations, and is of plateau-like character, generally between 400 and 600 ft. in elevation. There are considerable tracts of this nature on the western boundary, both north and south of Birmingham, on the eastern boundary north of Rugby, and in the centre between the Blythe, the Anker and the Avon. From this side the Avon receives the Swift, the Sowe and the Alne. The northern district was distinguished by Camden as the Woodland, as opposed to the southern or Feldon, “a plain champain.” The northern woodland embraced the ancient forest of Arden (q.v.) and it is this district which gave to the county the common epithets of “woody” or “leafy.” The Feldon or south-eastern district is almost wholly in the Avon valley. From this side the Avon receives the Learn, the lichen and the Stour. Along the south-eastern boundary runs the highest line of hills in the county, reaching some 800 ft., and including Edge Hill (which gives name to the battle of 1642), and the Brailes, Dassett, Napton and Shuckburgh hills. The county boundary here extends across the highest line of hills, to include the headwaters of some of the feeders of the Cherwell, and thus a small part of the drainage area of the Thames. These hills rise abruptly, and command wide views over the champaign. The finest silvan scenery is found on the banks of the Avon; the position of Guy's Cliffe and of Warwick Castle are well-known examples. It is not difficult to trace the influence of the scenic characteristics of the county in the writings of its most famous son, William Shakespeare.
Geology.—The Archean rocks are represented by some volcanic ashes and intrusive dykes (the Caldecote Series), which are exposed north-west of Nuneaton. They dip south-westward under the Cambrian beds—Hartshill Quartzite and Stockingford Shales—which give rise to higher ground; the quartzite, which is opened up in numerous large roadstone quarries, contains towards its summit a fauna suggesting that of the Olenellus zone, one of the oldest faunas known. The quartzite as well as the overlying shales is seamed with intrusive dykes of diorite. A small inlier of the same shales occurs at Dosthill, south of Tamworth. The Coal Measures of the Warwickshire coalfield crop out in the north of the county between Nuneaton and Tamworth and contain valuable coal-seams; they pass conformably under the so-called Permian red sandstones and marls which are apparently the equivalents of the Keele Beds of Staffordshire, and like them should be grouped with the Coal Measures; they occupy a considerable area north and west of Coventry, and at Corley form high ground (625 ft.); in several places shafts have been sunk through them to the productive Coal Measures below. The rest of the county is occupied in the northern half by the Triassic red rocks, and in the south-east by the Lias. Of the Trias the Bunter (soft red sandstones with pebble-beds) is represented only between Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield, where it is succeeded by the Keuper Sandstone, which is occasionally exposed also around the edge of the coalfield (Tamworth, Coventry, Warwick, Maxstoke); the Keuper Marls occupy a large area in the centre of the county, while some sandstones in them form picturesque scarps near Henley-in-Arden. The highly fossiliferous Rhaetic beds which introduce the Lias are seldom exposed. The Lower Lias limestones are worked for cement (as near Rugby) and abound in ammonites. The Middle Lias sands and limestones follow, and form escarpments (as at Edge Hill, 710 ft.), but these and the lowest members of the Oolite series scarcely cross the county boundary from Oxfordshire. Glacial drifts—boulder-clay, sand and gravel—overspread large areas of the older rocks; their composition shows them to have been deposited from glaciers or ice-sheets which entered the district from the Irish Sea, from North Wales and from the North Sea. Later fluvio-glacial gravels of the Avon valley have yielded mammalian remains (hippopotamus, mammoth, &c.), while palaeolithic implements of quartzite have been found in the old gravels of the Rea near Birmingham. Coal, ironstone, lime and cement are the chief mineral products; manganese ore was formerly got from the Cambrian rocks.
Climate and Agriculture.—The climate is generally mild and healthy. The soil is on the whole good, and consists of various loams, marls, gravels and clays, well suited for most of the usual crops. It is rich in pasture-land, and dairy-farming is increasing. It has excellent orchards and market-gardens, and possesses some of the finest woodlands in England. About five-sixths of the total area, a high proportion, is under cultivation, and of this about two thirds is in permanent pasture. Oats and wheat occupy the greater part of the area under grain crops. In connexion with the cattle rearing and dairy-farming, over half the acreage under green crops is occupied by turnips, swedes and mangolds.
Industries.—The industrial part of the county is the northern. Warwickshire includes the greatest manufacturing centre of the Midlands—Birmingham, though the suburbs of that city extend into Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Metal-working in all branches is prosecuted here, besides other industries. Coventry is noted for cycle-making, and, with Bedworth and Nuneaton and the intervening villages, is a seat of the ribbon- and tape-makers. A small rich coalfield occurs in the north-east, extending outside the county northward from Coventry. Clay, limestone and other stone are quarried at various points, and an appreciable amount of iron ore is raised.
Communications.—The main line of the London & North-Western railway runs within the county near the N.E. boundary, by Rugby, Nuneaton and Tamworth, with branches to Leamington and Warwick, Coventry and Birmingham, and cross-branches. The northern line of the Great Western railway runs through Leamington and Warwick to Birmingham, with branches to Stratford-on-Avon and Henley-in-Arden. The Leicester and Birmingham branch of the Midland railway crosses the north of the county by Nuneaton, and the Birmingham-Evesham line of this company serves Alcester. The East and West Junction railway, from Blisworth in Northamptonshire, serves Stratford-on-Avon and terminates at Broom Junction on the Evesham line of the Midland. Water communication through the east of the county is afforded by the Oxford and Coventry canals. The Warwick & Napton canal joins the Oxford at Napton; the Warwick & Birmingham joins these towns, and the Stratford-on-Avon is a branch from it. The Fazeley canal runs N.E. from Birmingham. None of the rivers is of commercial value for navigation.
Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 577,462 acres, with a population in 1891 of 805,072, and in 1901 of 897,835, the chief centres of increase lying naturally in the parts about Birmingham and Coventry. The area of the administrative county is 579,885 acres. The municipal boroughs are: Aston Manor (pop. 77,326), Birmingham (522,204), Coventry (69,978), Leamington, officially Royal Leamington Spa (26,888), Nuneaton (24,996), Stratford-on-Avon (8310), Sutton Coldfield (14,264) and Warwick (11,889), the bounty town. The urban districts are: Bulkington (1548), Erdington (16,368), Kenilworth (4544) and Rugby (16,830). Among the towns not appearing in these lists there should be mentioned: Alcester (2303), Atherstone (5248), Bedworth (7169), Coleshill (2593), Foleshill (5514) and Solihull (7517). Warwickshire is in the midland circuit, and assizes are held at Warwick. It has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into 14 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Birmingham, Coventry, Royal Leamington Spa, Stratford-on-Avon, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick have separate commissions of the peace, and the boroughs of Birmingham and Warwick have, in addition, separate courts of quarter sessions. The total number of civil parishes is 267. The county, which is mostly in the diocese of Worcester, but also extends into those of Lichfield, Gloucester, Peterborough and Oxford, contains 297 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. Warwickshire has four parliamentary divisions—Northern or Tamworth, North-eastern or Nuneaton, South-eastern or Rugby, and South-western or Stratford-on-Avon, each returning one member. The parliamentary boroughs of Aston Manor, Coventry and Warwick return one member each, and that of Birmingham has seven divisions, each returning one member.
Birmingham is the seat of a university, of the large grammar school of King Edward VI., and of other important educational institutions. At Rugby is one of the most famous of English public schools. The King's School, Warwick, is a large boys' school, and the Leamington High School is for girls. There is a day training college for schoolmasters and schoolmistresses in connexion with Mason University College, Birmingham. Among other institutions there may be mentioned, the Lady Warwick College for the instruction of women in the higher branches of agriculture, &c., founded by Frances, countess of Warwick, at Reading in 1898, and subsequently removed to Studley Castle in western Warwickshire, where there is accommodation for 50 students.
History.—The earliest English settlers in the district now known as Warwickshire were a tribe of Hwiccas who, pushing up the Severn valley in the 6th century, made their way along the passages afforded by the Avon valley and the Roman Fosse Way, the extent of their settlement being indicated by the ancient limits of the diocese of Worcester. The vast forest of Arden, stretching from the Avon to the site of the modern Birmingham, barred any progress northwards, at the same time affording protection from the Anglian tribes who were already settled about Atherstone, and it was only after the battle of Cirencester in 628 that the whole of the Hwiccan territory was comprised in Mercia. In 675 Cosford was included in the endowment of Peterborough, and in 757 Æthelbald was slain at Seckington in a battle with the West Saxons. The shire of Warwick originated in the 10th century about Æthelflæd's new burgh at Warwick, and is mentioned by name in the Saxon Chronicle in 1016, when it was harried by Canute. The Danes made frequent incursions in the district in the 10th and 11th centuries, but no traces of their settlements occur south of Rugby.
The shire offered little resistance to the Conqueror, who was at Warwick in 1068, and Thurkill the sheriff was one of the few Englishmen to retain large estates which he had held before the conquest, his family long continuing in the county under the name of Arden. The fortification which he had raised at Warwick William entrusted to Henry, son of Roger de Beaumont, afterwards earl of Warwick, and Robert, count of Meulan, Henry's elder brother, had an important fief. Coventry Minster was richly endowed, and in 1285 the prior claimed among other privileges to have an independent coroner and to hold two courts a year. The earldom and castle of Warwick subsequently passed to the Beauchamps, and in the reign of Henry VI. to the Nevilles. The Clintons, founders of the castles and priories at Maxstoke and Kenilworth, enjoyed large estates in the county during the Norman period.
The ten Domesday hundreds of Warwickshire are now reduced to four, all of which are mentioned in the 12th century. Hemlingford represents the Domesday hundred of Coleshill; Knightlow, the Domesday hundreds of Bomelau, Meretone and Stanlei; Kineton, the Domesday hundreds of Tremelau, Honesberie, Fexhole and Berricestone; Barlichway, the Domesday hundreds of Fernecumbe and Patelau. Coleshill took its name from Coleshill, a town near the junction of the Cole and the Blythe; Hemlingford from a ford over the Tame near Kingsbury; Knightlow from a hill on Dunsmore Heath; Meretone and Stanlei from the villages of Marton and Stoneleigh; Berricestone from Barcheston on the Stour; Barlichway from a plot of ground on a hill between Haselor and Burton. Patelau hundred, which derived its name from a tumulus between Wootton Wawen and Stratford-on-Avon, was a liberty of the bishops of Worcester, and in the 17th century, though reckoned part of Barlichway hundred, possessed a court lect and court baron. The boundaries of Warwickshire have remained practically unchanged since the Domesday Survey, but Spilsbury, now in Oxfordshire, Romsley, Shipley, Quat and Rudge, now in Shropshire, and Chillington, now in Staffordshire, were assessed under this county, while Sawbridge, Berkswell, Whitacre Over and Whichford, now in this county, were assessed under Northamptonshire. Warwickshire was united with Leicestershire under one sheriff until 1566, the shire court for the former being held at Warwick.
In the 13th century, Warwickshire included the deaneries of Warwick and Kineton within the archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester; the rest of the county constituting the archdeaconry of Coventry within the Lichfield diocese, with the deaneries of Coventry, Stoneley, Merton and Arden. In 1836 the archdeaconry of Coventry was annexed to the diocese of Worcester, and in 1854 its deaneries were entirely reconstituted and made thirteen in number. In 1861 the deanery of Alcester was formed within the archdeaconry of Worcester, and Kineton was divided into North Kineton and South Kineton. In 1894 the deaneries of Aston, Birmingham, Coleshill, Northfield, Polesworth, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield were formed into the archdeaconry of Birmingham, the archdeaconry of Coventry now including the deaneries of Atherstone, Baginton, Coventry, Dassett Magna, Dunchurch, Leamington, Monks Kirby, Rugby and Southam.
In the wars of the reign of Henry III. Simon de Montfort placed Kenilworth Castle in charge of Sir John Giffard, who in 1264 attacked Warwick Castle and took prisoner the earl and countess of Warwick, who had supported the king. During the Wars of the Roses the Nevilles, represented by the earl of Warwick, supported the Yorkist cause, while Coventry was a Lancastrian stronghold. On the out break of the Civil War of the 17th century Warwickshire and Staffordshire were associated for the parliament under Lord Brooke. The battle of Edgehill was fought in 1642, and in 1643 Birmingham, then a small town noted for its Puritanism, was sacked by Prince Rupert. Coventry endured a siege in 1642, and skirmishes took place at Southam and Warwick.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industries of Warwickshire were almost exclusively agricultural, the extensive woodlands north of the Avon affording pasturage for sheep, while meadows and water-mills were numerous in the river valleys. The woollen industry flourished in Norman times, and Coventry was famed for its wool and broadcloths in the reign of Edward III. Coal was probably dug at Griff in the 12th century, but the Warwickshire collieries only came into prominence in the 17th century, when John Briggs of Bedworth made an attempt to monopolize the coal trade. Birmingham was already famous for its smiths and cutlers in the 16th century. In the early 17th century the depopulation and distress caused by the enclosures of land for pasture led to frequent riots. The silk industry at Coventry and the needle industry about Alcester both flourished in the 18th century.
Warwickshire returned two members to the parliament of 1290, and in 1295 Coventry and Warwick were each represented by two members. Tamworth returned two members in 1584. Under the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned four members in two divisions; Birmingham was represented by two members, and Tamworth was disfranchised. Under the act of 1868 the representation of Birmingham was increased to three members.
Antiquities.—Of pre-Norman architecture some traces appear in the fine church of Wootton Wawen in the Arden (western) district. Otherwise the type is scarce, but Saxon remains, such as burial urns and jewelry, have been found in several places, as near Bensford Bridge on Watling Street. For ecclesiastical architecture Coventry with its three spires is famous, and among village churches there are many fine examples. Of those retaining Norman portions may be mentioned: Wolston and Berkswell in the Coventry district; Polesworth, formerly conventual, and Curdworth in the north; and in the south, in the neighbourhood of Edgehill, Burton Dassett, a very noteworthy building, and Warmington, where there is a remarkable specimen of domus inclusi or anchorite's chamber. There are also fine examples of Decorated work, such as Knowle, Solihull and Temple Balsall in Arden, and Brailes under the southern hills. Among the numerous religious houses in the county several have left remains. Such are the Cistercian foundations of Coombe Abbey near Coventry, of the 12th century, adjoining the mansion of that name in a beautiful park; of Merevale near Atherstone; and of Stoneleigh near Kenilworth, also adjoining a famous mansion. This abbey was a 12th century foundation, but a majestic gatehouse of the 14th century also stands. Maxstoke Priory, in Arden, was a foundation for Augustinian canons of the 14th century. Wroxall Abbey was a Benedictine nunnery of the 12th century; but the name is given to a modern mansion. In view of the large share the county has had in war, it is not surprising to find many examples of great fortified houses or castles. Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle, the one still a splendid residence, the other a no less splendid ruin, are described under those towns. At Hartshill (the birthplace of Michael Drayton the poet) there is a fragment of a Norman castle. Among fortified mansions Maxstoke Castle is of the 14th century; Baddesley Clinton Hall is of the 15th as it stands, but is an earlier foundation; Astley Castle is another good specimen of the period. Compton Wyniates, once fortified, is a beautiful Elizabethan house of brick, so remarkably hidden in a hollow of the southern hills as to be visible only from the closest proximity on all sides; Charles I. lodged here during the Civil Wars. Charlecote Park is a modernized Elizabethan hall in an exquisite situation on the Avon above Stratford. Of more modern mansions Arbury Hall, Astley Castle, Newnham Paddox, Ragley Hall and Walton Hall may be mentioned.