It is surprising that Kenilworth is not better known when you read it’s history. Along with its castle it is certainly worth spending some time exploring.
A settlement existed at Kenilworth by the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, which records it as Chinewrde meaning “farm of a woman named Cynehild”.
Geoffrey de Clinton (died 1134) initiated the building of an Augustinian priory in 1122, at the same time as he initiated the building of Kenilworth Castle. The priory was raised to the rank of abbey in 1450 and suppressed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. Thereafter the abbey grounds next to the castle, were made common land in exchange for common land that Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester used to enlarge the castle. Only a few walls and a storage barn of the original abbey survive.
Just off Coventry Road in Kenilworth is a field called the Parliament Piece. It is traditionally said to be the site where Henry III held a Parliament in August 1266, while his troops besieged Kenilworth Castle, where the late Simon de Montfort’s followers, led by Henry de Hastings, were still holding out against the king’s forces. This Parliament led to the Dictum of Kenilworth: a settlement that offered the rebels a way of recovering the lands that the Crown had seized from them. One copy of the Dictum is endorsed in castris apud Kenilworth — “in the camp (or castle) at Kenilworth”. Members of the public have free access to Parliament Piece, which is owned by the Open Spaces Society and leased to Warwick District Council.
Elizabeth I visited Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle several times, the last of which was in 1575. Dudley entertained the Queen with pageants and banquets that cost some £1,000 per day, presenting diversions and pageants surpassing anything ever before seen in England. These included fireworks.