We have a number of groups of volunteers researching the history of Warwick and how it relates to the Court House. There are additional topics mentioned below that we would like to investigate, so please contact us if you could help.
A History Research Sub-Group of Unlocking Warwick volunteers is examining the archives at the County Records Office in Priory Park.
There is a wealth of material there, carefully managed by the Heritage and Culture Warwickshire team, who can help visitors find documents in the Search Room.
A particularly useful resource is the archive of the Warwick Advertiser (now the Courier) which gave extensive accounts of hearings in the Court House. We have found some interesting reports from the mid-19th century, which reveal the social conditions of the time.
Unlocking Warwick is hoping to research particular themes, such as the reconstruction of the town after the devastating ‘Great Fire of Warwick’ in 1694, where the street names came from, the tradespeople and shops, the Hill Close Gardens and the other old gardens of Warwick, the history of health and sanitation, and early schools and education. The information can be used for talks or displays in the Court House.
We are particularly interested in researching crime and punishment, and the evidence of grim social conditions which emerges from some of the Petty Sessions hearings in former centuries. When we find illuminating cases which came before the magistrates in the Court House, we re-enact them with an ad-hoc group of volunteers and actors from the local Jephson Players – calling our group ‘The Court House Players’.
Cases from 1851 have been enacted 6 times in the Ballroom for appreciative audiences who were encouraged to join-in with heckling and loud reactions to the sentences handed down from the bench.
Unlocking Warwick is working with the University of Warwick Law School to help students research former court cases, and to re-enact them to bring history alive. In May 2015 the Court House Players combined with students and staff from the Law School to re-enact local cases from the mid-19th century. In the future we aim to help law students to research the Warwickshire County records, then write and stage their own reconstructions of British justice in the past.
We are keen to hear from you if you have interesting material about life in Warwick in the past. So send us your memories, your pictures, or your family stories. Email our secretary Francis Godwin if you think you have something of interest to others.