Visitors to Warwick from London and Winchester joined local people for Unlocking Warwick’s Court House Tour on Saturday 19th June, conducted by Sue Rigby.
She told of the Saxon origins of ‘War-Wick’, the settlement by the weir, the arrival of the Normans, and how Robert Dudley, had managed to gain possession of the town’s Guildhall at the Westgate. Robert – the Earl of Leycester and younger brother of Ambrose Dudley, the Earl of Warwick – had claimed that the town burgesses had disrespected him by not greeting him at the town gate, though it is reported he had misled them about the arrangements. To appease him the burgesses gave him their Guildhall to use as a military retirement home – the ‘Lord Leycester Hospital’.
In return the burgesses were given the Cross Tavern on the site of the present Court House to use as the mayor’s parlour and meeting rooms instead. The guests on the tour heard about the Great Fire of Warwick that devastated the centre of the town, the rebuilding of Warwick according to new architectural rules, and the commissioning of a handsome new Court House to be built by the noted local architect, Francis Smith.
They saw the Council Chamber and heard about the Oken and Eyffler charities that exist to this day maintaining almshouses, and they had a look inside the Regency ballroom on the first floor. Now restored to its original splendour, it’s used for a variety of functions and musical events – when Covid restrictions permit. The guests on the tour thanked Sue enthusiastically; ‘Very enjoyable!’ was the general verdict.
The next free Court House Tour will be on Saturday July 3rd at 11am. Please book your place at the Visitor Information Centre, or call them on 01926 492212