Polesworth, Warwickshire

PUBLISHED: 23:48 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

Polesworth Abbey Vicarage

Polesworth Abbey Vicarage

This ancient village has a fascinating history and was mentioned in several of the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters.

A monasterie was founded here on the banks of the river Ancor by King Egbert of mercia in 829 AD and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary . . .

Polesworth Monastery appears in at least four of the Cadfael mysteries written by Edith Pargeter (under the pen name of Ellis Peters).

Mrs Jean Wood, long-time resident of Polesworth and author of a number of books about the area, wrote to Warwickshire Life to tell of the 'Cadfael Connection' which came about after she had lost a particular favourite book. Searching for a replacement in the St Giles Hospice Book Shop in Atherstone she came across another book - one of the Cadfael mysteries, she writes:

"It brought Polesworth into the story which is one of the books written by Ellis Peters (real name Edith Pargeter) When I saw her face on the back cover of one of her famous Cadfael Mysteries I decided to write to her . . .she had such a homely face that I thought she looked approachable!

Polesworth is mentioned in at least four of the Cadfael mysteries, some only a reference to the Abbey, but others arranging the story involving the Abbey of that time, giving the names of the Abbess and the nuns. That is why I was so eager to find out more and this is what she write:

From the account given, it is clear that Polesworthhad an exceptionally good reputation throughout its history, for its virtue and efficiency and for the excellence of its school.

She wrote that she hadn't got the actual names of the sisters of Polesworth but had obtained them from various sources. I had hoped that there really was a Sister Ursula and Sister Benedicta making a new place or rest and a chapel in the forest!

Studying the life of the nuns of that time makes one realise what a heritage we have here in Polesworth.

When fiction awakens interest we should be so proud that the church of St Editha, Polesworth Abbey is still here."

Buildings to see:

Polesworth Abbey

Today you can see St Editha's church which stands on part of the former Abbey grounds - some ruins of the 11th century Benedictine Abbey can still be seen. As befits an Abbey of its day Poleworth had a large fruit and vegetable garden, fish ponds, a bake house, dormitory, infirmary, forge, and a watermill. Although it largely escaped Henry VIII's dissolution by 1539 only 14 nuns remains and the Abbey was sold to the Goodere family in 1544.

The Nunnery Gatehouse

Recently, funding for its restoration has been found and the gatehouse is currently surrounded by scaffolding. The timber-framed buildings on the eastern side are 14th-15th century. This wasn't just a gateway - it's said that criminals were once locked up here.

The Tithe Barn and Dovecote at Hall Court

The current building, commissioned by Sir Francis Nethersole in around 1655 was refurbished in 1995, and is thought to be on the site of the original monastic barn. Tithes paid for the upkeep of the vicarage and for Nethersole School. The base of the dovecote is thought to be the original stone, but the building was substantially repaired in the 12th and 14th centuries.

Industrial past:

Coal has been mined in and around Polesworth since the Abbey's earliest days and was well established by the 17th century. The coming the canals and the railways helped boost the industry. The only coalmine in the area still working is at Grendon but visitors can see how things once were at the Pooley Hall mining heritage centre. Bricks and pots were two other great industries in the area and the The Midland Brick and Terra Cotta works was once one of the biggest employers in the area (after mining). The works were demolished in the early 70s to make way for housing.

Three things to do around Poleworth:

Drayton Manor Theme Park - for thrill seekers and families alike. www.draytonmanor.co.uk; tel: 0844 472 1950. Tickets can also be bought by calling the Ticket Hotline on 0844 472 1960.

Pooley Fields Heritage Centre

Find out about Polesworth's mining history at the former Pooley Hall Colliery site. Pooley Lane B78 1JA.
Tel: 01827 897438

Alvecote Pools Nature Trail

An old miners' path nowadays makes a delightful nature trail beside pools and marshes. Robey's Lane, B78 1JATel: 024 7630 8999

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Warwickshire Life