Abbey Fields, 1947
In 1947 an aerial photographic survey was made of the entire country. In 2022 Historic England published online a good proportion of the images including some of Kenilworth. Here I take a look at some of the details seen in the Abbey Fields just 63 years after it became a park; it is amazing to think that at this time there would have been people living in Kenilworth that remember the fields before it was a park.
|There is much to see in this part of the park, and indeed outside the park with Abbotsfield and its gardens. What is now the Cow Path was still a trackway, created by cows being herded across the field for grazing. Halfway down can be seen the remains of a wall at the end of which was the ox pen, giving its name to the field below, the Oxpen meadow. At the bottom can be seen part of hedge, once a field boundary, and to the right is a now lost pathway entrance from High Street.|
|The hard surface tennis courts, then four but today 5, were on at least one occasion during the war used for a dance! Between them and the brook were two grass courts (originally all the courts were grass); these were restored briefly after the war but eventually became the putting green in 1948.|
|Alongside the war memorial an ‘Experimental Plot’ was established during the war to educate the townsfolk on growing their own food. It was dug back into the park later in 1947.|
|The Abbey ruins were uncovered in excavations soon after the Great War, and were not re-covered until 1965, creating the terraces. The shadow inside the horse-shoe shaped Chapter House is of the surviving above-ground ruined wall. The area yet to become a car park appears to have been cultivated, presumably as part of the war effort.|
|The swimming pool is top right, and Forrest Road at the bottom. The field on the right looks to have been recently harvested; oats and barley are known to have been planted here during the war; it was also used as allotments in the Great War. The hedgerow to the right was removed in 1954 to create a showground for the Agricultural Society which is still used as such today. Top left can be seen a football pitch which remained in use until the 1980s, and was notorious for being very wet, as the author can testify!|
|The Oxpen Meadow. It had been flooded in winter to provide ice skating since before the fields were a park, but in summer was drained. A new drainage scheme saw the field used in 1948 as the site for Kenilworth’s Agricultural Show, but it soon moved to the newly created showground (see the photo, above). Today of course it is the lake, constructed in 1997 and is, to an extent, a recreation of the Abbey Lake on the same site, drained over 400 years previously.|
|The two fields in the south-eastern quadrant have distinctly different appearances. That on the left, with its barn alongside the path, has been in continual use as pasture for livestock, whilst on the right alongside Rosemary Hill the field was cultivated during the war. Tree planting around the Abbey Hill border has yet to begin. The construction of the bus stop and shelter, and associated widening of the road encroaching into the park, is still three years away.
The central hedgerow was removed to improve the open space in about 1963; there is a scheme to reinstate it which hopefully will not come to fruition.
|And finally, the swimming pool, still pretty much as it’s 1935 rebuild. The cascade can be seen near the filtration plant to the left, and terracing is on the bowling green side. Although not very clear, the changing rooms at each end were built in the same style as the still surviving bowling green and tennis courts pavilion.|
Explore the photographs here: Historic England, search for ‘Kenilworth’
See also, post-war Kenilworth: 1947
More Abbey Fields articles:
How the land was acquired Full details on how each plot became part of the park between 1884 and 1974.
The Covenants Each plot came with a covenant and restrictions
Abbey Fields Cycle Path Always under discussion, a complete record of attempts for cycling to return to the park
The Swimming Pool The history of the pool from its origins in the 1890s until the present day, with a number of photographs
Car Parking in the Abbey Fields How the car park came about
Bye-laws The non-observance of bye-laws is often discussed, here you can see them all
Abbey Fields Archaeology A guide to the many archaeological explorations of the Abbey and its surroundings from 1840 to the present day
Abbey Fields Play Equipment Some aspects of the park play equipment, now established over a century
Abbey Fields Timeline A chronology of the Abbey Fields starting in the ice age!
Return to Abbey Fields home page
See also my book: