The first reference to
Warwickshire was in 1001, as Waringscir named after Warwick defining
"dwellings by the weir”. In the early 11th century Warwickshire became a
division of the Kingdom of Mercia.
Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and
Gloucestershire all have boundaries with Warwickshire and there is just 3 miles
between the north of the county and the border with Derbyshire.
Warwickshire is an
average-sized English county covering an area of almost 2,000 square kilometres
and it runs some 60 miles (97 km) north to south with the north and centre of
the county being the most populated regions.
The market towns of
northern and eastern Warwickshire were industrialised in the 19th century, and
include Atherstone, Bedworth, Nuneaton and Rugby. However during the twentieth
century distribution centres and light industry have substituted the more
traditional heavy industrial business.
Of the northern and
eastern towns, only Nuneaton and Rugby (as the birthplace of rugby football)
are well-known outside of Warwickshire. The prosperous towns of central and
western Warwickshire include Warwick, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth,
Stratford-upon-Avon and Alcester, where light to medium industries, services
and tourism are the main employment sectors.
The south of the county
is mainly rural and sparsely populated and includes a small area of the
Cotswolds where the county borders with north-west Gloucestershire. Shipston-on-Stour
is the sole town in the south of Warwickshire.
Ebrington Hill located
on the Gloucestershire border is the highest point in Warwickshire at 261m. Many
places situated in the north-western area of Warwickshire include the phrase ‘in-Arden’
within the name as most of Western Warwickshire was occupied by the historic
Forest of Arden.
As both Coventry and
Birmingham were integrated into the newly formed administrative county of the West
Midlands in 1974 Warwickshire no longer has any cities. Areas previously part
of Warwickshire include most of Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry and Sutton
Coldfield. These became part of the metropolitan county of West Midlands (and
Sutton Coldfield became part of Birmingham) in 1974 following the re-organisation
of local government.
The historic county
boundaries are still used by certain organisations, such as Warwickshire County
Cricket Club or are based in Birmingham. Coventry is effectively in the centre
of the Warwickshire area, and still has strong ties with the county. The town
of Tamworth was historically divided between Warwickshire and Staffordshire,
but since 1888 has been completely in Staffordshire.
In 1931, Warwickshire
gained the town of Shipston-on-Stour from Worcestershire and several villages,
including Long Marston and Welford-on-Avon, from Gloucestershire. Due to its
strong textile industries and central location in England Coventry was the most
important and dominant city in Warwickshire during the Middle Ages. Two major
railway lines pass through Warwickshire, The Chiltern Main Line and The West
Coast Main Line and Coventry Airport is located in the Warwickshire village of Baginton.
Near to the centre of
Warwick is the restored Saltisford Canal Arm, which is currently a short branch
of the Grand Union Canal. The arm is the remains of the original terminus of
the Warwick and Birmingham Canal and dates back to 1799. The Saltisford Canal
Trust has repaired most of the surviving canal, and is now the mooring for
colourful narrow boats and also a public waterside park. Travelling by water,
over 800 narrow boats visit Warwick annually to moor on the arm.
Places of interest
include Brinklow Castle, Coombe Abbey, Arbury Hall, Charlecote Park, Coombe
Country Park, Hartshill Hayes County Park and the Heritage Motor Centre and
Cricket Club plays at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Memorable Warwickshire players include
Brian Lara, Bob Willis, Allan Donald and Ian Bell. Warwickshire is a great breeding
ground for cricketers and has more Clubs than any other County within the
Midlands. The county is also strong at Hockey and Old Silhillians Hockey
Club is the home of Warwickshire hockey.
Warwickshire is notable for being the
birthplace of William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon and even today road
signs at the county boundary describe Warwickshire as "Shakespeare's
County". The county has also produced other literary figures including Rupert
Brooke, Michael Drayton and George Eliot.