The King's England: Warwickshire

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The King's England: Warwickshire

"No other book has done for Warwickshire what this book does”. Thus began the original publisher’s advertisement for this title, which first appeared in 1936. Much has changed in Warwickshire since those days, but this book now has the added attraction of showing the modern reader a perfect snapshot of the Warwickshire landscape as it was before the last half century altered it beyond all recognition, illustrated with over 200 period photographs of the historic county.

The pictures, though, are only part of the book’s appeal: in over 350 pages, the author examines Warwickshire alphabetically, village by village and town by town. Arthur Mee says in his preface, "Nowhere in Warwickshire is history far from us”, and indeed his text is peppered with not only those many Warwickshire men and women who appear on the wider stage of the Nation’s history: Richard Beauchamp, Robert Dudley, Lady Jane Grey at Astley; Joseph Arch, champion of the agricultural workers; George Eliot at Arbury, and of course, Shakespeare, wandering by the Avon.

However, through the auther’s love of a good local anecdote, we also meet in these pages Old Dr Parr of Hatton, who had such a dread of the East wind that his friend Sheridan, as a joke, kept him prisoner in his house for a fortnight by fixing the weathercock, or Charles Jennens of Nether Whitacre, who lived in such sumptuous grandeur that his friends referred to him as "Soliman the Magnificent” and who encouraged Handel, his guest, to play the organ in local churches.

Inevitably, the greatest city in the county, Birmingham, the workshop of the Empire, is given its due, but Stratford, with nearby Charlecote, and Warwick, with its Leycester Hospital and Beauchamp Chapel, are all thoroughly examined, while perhaps the most interesting feature for today’s reader is the detailed description of Coventry and its cathedral, subsequently lost five years later in the Blitz.

All those who know and love Warwickshire will surely agree with the author’s original assessment: "Here is treasure rich indeed”.

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