Kineton and Gaydon, Warwickshire

PUBLISHED: 23:42 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 February 2013

Kineton St Peters Church

Kineton St Peters Church

In the first of a new series of village features, Richard Shurey takes us on a historical journey to Kineton and Gaydon with suggestions for a walk in the area.

In the first of a new series of village features, Richard Shurey takes us on a historical journey to Kineton and Gaydon with suggestions for a walk in the area.

Photograph: Stuart Purfield

Walking among the old buildings of Kineton it is difficult to imagine the scene on a late autumnal date in 1642. Then the streets were blocked by wagons and the impedimenta of war. The site of the great Civil War battle took place on farmland a mile or so to the south of the village on the 23rd of October; unfortunately the place cannot be visited as it is surrounded by a vast and secret military depot.

On the day of battle, the standard of Charles I was hoisted on the heights of the now wooded Edge Hill. He then descended the steep slopes to give fight to the great armies under Lord Essex. We read that one of the supporters of Charles (Sir Jacob Astley) pleaded to heaven "O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day; if I forget Thee do not Thou forget me!" Then: "March on, boys!"

What one wonders were the feelings of the good folk of Kineton with the noise and smoke of the nearby battle and the remnants of the 14,000 exhausted troops of the 3rd Earl of Essex, Commander in Chief of the Parliamentarian forces. It is said they found billets in Kineton before declining more immediate

fighting and withdrawing to

Warwick.

But some swear that in the peace of Kineton it is possible to hear in a breeze the sounds of war, the thud of shot and the shouts of the troops spoiling for a fight. Others aver that they have seen the ghostly galloping white charger of the Prince Rupert.

But enough of the past of the Civil War, (details of the Battlefield Trail on www.battlefieldtrust.com) what of the large village today of about 2,500 inhabitants - a place that was listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086? Peter Ashley-Smith is the Secretary of the Kineton Historical Society and could fill in with many interesting facts about Kineton. I found the place a delightful amalgam of the old and new. There are modern developments that blend well with the grey and brown stone buildings of the village of the past. There is a building capped by thatch here and there - some with the wisteria tumbling from the eaves almost to the pavement.

There is the Market Square where until a century ago the weekly Tuesday market (founded by Stephen de Segrave in the 13th century) was held. The right of an annual fair was a precious right granted by the monarch and this is still commemorated now and then with a visit by the Mop Fair. The Farmer's Market is held in the little square but the added attraction is the Hog Roast! The Market is part of a new initiative to encourage the community to grow more of its own food.

There is another square bordered by little shops and with the war memorial in the centre. This records the sacrifice of the youth of the two World Wars with almost 40 fatalities (including three Private Askews) in the first conflict, and ten in the second. The engraving tells us:

'These nobly played their part, These heard the call, For God and King and Home, They gave their all'. Very sad, but are we not speaking the same eulogies to war dead today in puzzling conflicts far from home?

Education has always been important here but it was in 1958 that many young people came to Kineton when the High School was opened. Because the town alone could not sustain this large school, children arrive in many buses from the surrounding villages. The school is now a Specialist Sports College. One of the old schools was in a building (now swathed in ivy with high hollyhocks nudging the walls) in the centre of the little market square.

The sturdy tower of the church dedicated to St Peter (with its magnificent open battlements and pinnacles) is from the 14th century and overlooks the village. ('Toffeecoloured' one record calls the worn stone although the toffee looks pretty soft to me!). Much of the rest of the place of worship is from later times, some was rebuilt (or improved some said) by Sanderson Miller. (I remember him more for building the tower based on the Guy's Tower of Warwick that marks the assembly place of Charles I before the battle - perhaps because it is a noted inn!) There is no incumbent at present but when appointed the vicar will have to cover six widely scattered parishes.

As a contrast to the ancient Anglican building there is a fine new Catholic Church on the Gaydon Road.

Bridge Street in the shadow of the church is bordered by lovely buildings of mellowed stone. This road drops down to the infant River Dene that after 10 beautiful languid miles joins the River Avon at Charlecote.

A good javelin's throw from the river is the site of a motte and bailey castle. It is marked on my map but little remains to help us with any history; no-one in the village could enlighten me. "Must have been Norman" - that's as far as I could get with some people.

The map marks the line of an old railway line but Peter tells me that Mr Beeching thought that not enough travellers used it and it closed about 30 years ago. On the ground one can see the bridge parapets on the roads out of the village.

Kineton has to be a sober place with now only one hostelry - the Carpenters Arms. The Rose and Crown in the Market Square has long gone - I was told by an old resident that the date it bears (1664) is false - the whim of the brewers to advertise their beer! The Red Lion on the corner of Bridge Street is now a private house and if you are looking to buy a rather attractive looking hostelry the Swan Hotel is on the market!

Pointing like a giant finger from the North East of Kineton was a two mile long aircraft runway. Gaydon RAF station was built on the site of a small 1942 airfield. With the Cold War danger, bases were needed for the country's V-bomber squadrons and from 1955 there were Valiants and Victors. Today the airfield site is used for the wonderful Heritage Motor Centre (www.heritage-motorcentre.uk.uk). This year much attention is paid to the 50 years of the Mini but I especially was intrigued by the Time Road to see how motoring and family life changed from the 1900s to the present day.

On the southern border of the old airfield is the little village of Gaydon. There are two inns - the Gaydon Inn was popular with the airmen but there are no memorabilia, only hidden silent memories in the walls!

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