Categories
History

Kenilworth Castle

Since finishing my master’s degree, I’ve been visiting various castles around the UK. A few weeks ago my partner and I decided to venture to Kenilworth Castle. Located not too far from us, the ruins show five centuries of architectural development. It’s a gem in the center of England and was a joy to explore.

Exploring the ruins. Photo by Radu Costinescu

History

Founded in the 12th century around a Norman Great Tower, in the town of Kenilworth, the castle was developed by its various owners over hundreds of years. Kenilworth Castle was also the site of many historically important events. Enlarged by King John (1166 – 1216) at the beginning of the 13th century, a significant amount of money was spent on improving the castle’s water defences which were created by damming local streams. An outer bailey was also added, making it able to withstand attacks from both water and land. These defences were effective during the Siege of Kenilworth (1266) which lasted for six months and is documented as the longest siege in medieval English history.

The 14th century saw Kenilworth Castle fall into the hands of John of Gaunt (1340 – 1399), the fourth son of King Edward III (1312 -1377). He spent his time turning the castle into a palace, one of his most remarkable feats being the creation of the Great Hall.

It was later gifted to John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland in 1553 during the reign of Edward VI (1537 – 1553). He started making additions to Kenilworth but was executed later in the same year by Queen Mary I (1516 – 1558) for his involvement in a plot to place Lady Jane Grey (1537 – 1554) on the throne. Kenilworth was restored to his son Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (1532 – 1588) after the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). Robert Dudley remained a favourite of the Queen and he spent much of his time renovating the castle, adding the gardens, in order to impress her. She visited four times, with her final visit in 1575 lasting for an impressive 19 days.

In 1588 Robert Dudley died without a legitimate heir but the castle did eventually pass to his illegitimate son of the same name. He arranged to sell Kenilworth to Henry, Prince of Wales (1594 – 1612) but, when he died before the purchase could be complete, his brother Charles, later King Charles I (1600 – 1649) bought it. It played a significant role in the English Civil War (1642 – 1649) as a Royalist stronghold and was used by King Charles I during the Battle of Edgehill in October 1942. However, on Royalist retreat the castle was garrisoned by Parliamentary forces and kept under their power until 1649. Parliament ordered the slighting of the castle in which segments of it were destroyed and other areas were turned into farmland.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle was still used as a farm but the ruins became popular as a tourist destination. The castle was taken over by English Heritage in 1984 and has been open to the public ever since.

The Castle

The ruins of Kenilworth are very impressive at first glance and give visitors the opportunity to explore the towers via several platforms which take its guests 18 meters up into the towers. Visitors can stand where Elizabeth I’s private rooms would have been whilst taking in breathtaking views of the countryside. There are also opportunities to explore the castle keep which was originally built in the 12th century and the Great Hall, built in the 14th Century by John of Gaunt.

The Elizabethan Garden

A view of the garden from the terrace. Photo by Radu Costinescu

The gardens have been recreated to resemble what they would have looked like during Queen Elizabeth I’s progress. In its center is the marble Atlas fountain, carved with scenes from the Roman poet Ovid’s (43BC – 17/18 AD) most well-known work ‘Metamorphoses’, surrounded by an array of flowers and herbs. It can be viewed, in all its splendour, from the terrace.

Exhibition

Located in Leicester’s Gatehouse is an exhibition exploring the relationship between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley. There are plenty of opportunities for interaction including a room for families to explore history through play. The Tudor stables also have a small retrospective exploring the castle’s history complete with sensory displays.

Leicester’s Gatehouse. Photo by Radu Costinescu.

Overall Experience

Kenilworth is a truly magnificent place and is a must see for those traveling through Kenilworth.

Basic Information

Website: Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)

Location: Castle Green, Kenilworth CV8 1NG

Ticket prices vary for off-peak and peak times and can be found on their website.

Opening Times: 10:00 – 16:00

Accessibility: The Great Hall, garden, and exhibitions are all accessible to those with limited mobility. However, the upper floors of Kenilworth Castle are only accessible via stairs. Assistance dogs are welcome. There are a variety of sensory options for those who are blind and visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing. Please visit their access page to get a full list of facilities.


Categories
Uncategorized

Making Magic: The Importance of Music Venues.

The live music industry has been hit hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic and there are many small venues, crucial to giving talented musicians a platform to showcase their work, which sadly won’t recover financially from it. Such venues, dotted all over the UK, have facilitated and supported a growing cultural framework for years by introducing generations of people to new musical movements, artists, and more. Whilst I wish I could write about the contribution of every single venue in the UK, an impressive feat that would take most of my life to complete, I have instead settled on writing about three which I believe showcase both their importance to music history and to the growth of the live music industry today. I have given a short introduction to each below.

Moles Nightclub, Bath

Founded by Phil Andrews, who also happens to co-own the Jane Austen Museum, the club opened on New Year’s Eve in 1978. The venue was initially for folk and jazz artists. However with the arrival of disco, Moles had to modernise in order to keep up with the rapidly changing music scene. The range of music on offer at Moles soon grew to incorporate live rock music. By the late 1980’s Moles had established itself as a popular destination for touring musicians. Phil extended his club to include a recording studio which saw the likes of Elbow grace it’s doorway.

Now, Moles Nightclub has become a favourite for students with an array of varying music tastes. Whilst Cheesy Tuesday’s will accommodate anyone with a love for the noughties, Wednesday nights are now dedicated to rock and metal, for anyone with a taste for the heavier stuff. The club also has brilliant links with music students and upcoming bands. Moles provides a platform for new talent to showcase their creative portfolio, network, and grow. I myself have discovered many great artists through going to various events.

De Montfort Hall, Leicester

De Montfort Hall was built by the Corporation of Leicester and finished in 1913. The hall has had some notable guests over the years. In the 1960’s both The Beatles and Bob Dylan sold out the venue, an accomplishment that other artists such as The Rolling Stones were unable to achieve.  The hall was also a stop on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1973.

Nowadays De Montfort Hall is not only used to showcase live music. It has become a hub for opera, ballet, and religious festivals. Until recently, the grounds of De Montfort Hall hosted Simon Says Festival. Created in partnership with a few of Leicester’s independent music venues, the festival gave homegrown talent the opportunity to connect with wider audiences.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool

We all know where I’m going with this one. The venue is probably most well known for playing host to The Beatles, but I’m going to give a little run down of its history which begins before that. In 1957 the venue opened its doors for the first time. Named after the French club Le Caveau De La Huchette Alan Sytner, the club’s owner, wanted it to become a popular venue for Jazz music. His plan was pretty successful with many Jazz legends performing at the venue such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Marie Knight, and Big Bill Broonzy. They also hosted the Quarry Men Skiffle Group which both John Lennon and later Paul McCartney were members of. The 1960’s saw the takeover of Beat Music and the rise of The Beatles. Their first performance took place on the 9th of February 1961 albeit with a slightly different line up since the group were initially a quintet with Stuart Sutcliffe on Bass and Pete Best on Drums.  It was at one of their performances that Brian Epstein spotted them. He became their first manager and secured them their first record contract. However, when the band appeared in 1962, Sutcliffe and Best were no longer apart of the line-up with Ringo Starr making his first appearance on drums. Their last performance as a group took place on Sunday the 3rd of August 1963. After a short closure in 1966 the club was reopened by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The newly refurbished club had new renovations including a souvenir shop and café. The 1970’s saw the likes of Status Quo, Queen, and Suzi Quatro grace the venue.

Interior of the Cavern Club

The 1980’s saw The Cavern Club enter a very turbulent time. On the 9th of December 1980, Beatles fans all over the United Kingdom woke up to the news that John Lennon had been fatally shot. This saw the music venue become a site of mourning and remembrance for many local fans. The club also saw a series of redevelopments with the creation of a bar, restaurant, and shop. The 1990’s saw the venue change hand’s with Cavern City Tours becoming new owners of the club. The space continued to be a springboard for new talent well into the 2000’s. Today, the Cavern Club still promotes live music but also works as a heritage sight, paying homage to its long and varied history.

I have given a very brief overview of each venue above (I really didn’t do The Cavern Club justice!), but I hope that my summaries have given an idea of how they’ve been influential in helping music to thrive.