Pocket Britain

A medium-sized town on the banks of the River Avon, famous for its castle

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Warwick is a medium-sized town on the banks of the River Avon. It was founded in the year 914, as a line of defence against the marauding Vikings, who would sail down the rivers and pillage the nearby towns and villages. Back then, the entire town was focused around a large fort - and in the modern age, the same can still be said.
Warwick's current town centre is clustered right next door to its beautiful, imposing castle, which is one of the best examples of its kind in the country. Despite having its origins in the 10th century, work began on the current fortification in 1068. This was under the instructions of William the Conqueror, shortly after he acquired that name by taking over the entire country. He built a series of castles throughout England, however, out of all of these, Warwick's is the most fun to visit.
This is because in 1978, the building was sold to the same group that runs Madame Tussaud's, who undertook extensive restorative work to both the castle and grounds, and turned the place into an entertaining tourist destination. Today, visitors can explore the building itself, taking in opulent banquet halls and lavish bedchambers, with plentiful examples of clothing, weapons, and suits of armour. Outside, there are frequent displays by jesters, jousters, and bird handlers. There is also a working trebuchet, which is the biggest catapult in the world. New events and attractions are frequently added, such as the new dungeon area beneath the castle, which displays all sorts of grisly torture devices.
The rest of the Warwick's town centre is also filled with old buildings, but most of these are from the 17th and 18th centuries. Just prior to this time, a huge fire had broken out reducing dozens of the older buildings to ruin, and damaging many more.
Thankfully, several of the town's historic buildings are still standing, such as the Lord Leycester Hospital. This is actually a collection of several distinctive medieval timber structures, including a Great Hall, a chapel, several houses, and the Guildhall. These buildings used to host all sorts of important functions, from business meetings, to banquets. In fact, when King James I held a dinner here, it bankrupted the entire town for ten years! Today, the Lord Leycester is used as a retirement home for ex-servicemen. It remains one of Warwick's most recognisable places.
Other landmarks include the Collegiate Church of St Mary - an eye-catching gothic building in the dead centre of town - and the historic Racecourse, which is only five minutes walk away. This 200-year-old horse racing venue is one of the premier venues for the sport in the country. Many of its races are televised, and people travel from far and wide to enjoy them.
Fans of other sports should visit one of Warwick's many parks, which provide opportunities for swimming, football, and more. Golf enthusiasts in particular will find plenty to enjoy, as there are several courses within easy reach. The town is also known for its diverse programme of events and festivals. These range wildly in subject and tone, from Victorian or folk festivals, to spoken word events, and contemporary music concerts.
All in all, Warwick is an attractive and charming town, with lots to see, and lots to do. And of course the castle makes it worth visiting, all on its own.
Visitor Information
Warwick Tourist Information Centre, The Court House, Jury Street, Warwick, CV34 4EW. Tel: 01926 492 212
Warwick Castle is open daily (except Christmas day), from 10am to 5pm (6pm in Summer). Entry costs around £15 for adults, £10 children. Warwick, CV34 4QU. Tel: 0871 265 2000

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