October 21st, 2016

Sharing history of Kenilworth’s medieval Gatehouse

Updated: 3:12 pm, May 07, 2015

THE HISTORY of Kenilworth’s medieval Gatehouse is to be revealed to all.

Warwickshire County Council’s in-house archaeology team, Archaeology Warwickshire, is working with Kenilworth Abbey Advisory Committee’s Harry Sunley Memorial Project on plans to open the 14th century ‘Tantara’ Gatehouse to visitors.

The Gatehouse in Abbey Fields is the most significant standing remain of the Augustinian priory which was to later become the Abbey of St Mary.

The Gatehouse was originally an imposing two story building at the heart of the monastery, but the upper floor, together with almost all the surrounding building were destroyed in 1538 during Henry VIII’s closure of the monasteries.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Gatehouse was used as a cottage, and during the First World War for drying herbs, but the picturesque ruin has now been closed to the public for many years.

The £30,000 project to reopen it – in honour of the late Harry Sunley who was an authority on the Abbey until his death in 2011 – aims to create space in the two existing chambers to display objects, such as a 14th century stone effigy of Prior Robert Salle, and explain the history of the Grade I-listed building.

So far over £4,000 has been raised and the project is keen to receive further donations to help with the aim of opening to the public by 2017.

Archaeology Warwickshire, working with Kenilworth Abbey Advisory Committee, have been busy at the site, helped by volunteers from Kenilworth History and Archaeological Society and ‘A’ level archaeology students from Leamington’s Trinity School.

Archaeology Warwickshire Manager, Stuart Palmer, said: “This is a great opportunity to study one of the county’s most iconic buildings and we are hoping the dig will reveal previously unknown abbey buildings and structures that may have stood against the remains of the gatehouse in the past.”

The first stage of works involved the excavation of an area outside the Gatehouse to see how best to get an electricity supply into the building, which would be needed to open it to the public.

To donate to the Harry Sunley Appeal call treasurer Sue Hutchins 01926 864119, or send cheques made out to ‘Harry Sunley Memorial Project’ to Castle Barn, Round Farm Lane, Kenilworth CV8 1PP.

* People are being urged to dig in at Warwick’s St John’s Museum.

Archaeology Warwickshire and Dig St John’s Museum are offering people the chance to become an archaeologist on tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (July 26).

Cost is £6.00 per person and dig sessions are at 10am, 11am, noon, 2pm and 3pm. There will also be archaeology sandpit for the under 5’s to explore and craft activities. Call 01926 412132 to sign up.

Roy Crick from the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society unearths an original buttress. 30.014.001.leam.jm2 (www.buyphotos247.com)

The Gatehouse is the most significant standing remain of the Augustinian priory which was to later become the Abbey of St Mary.

30.014.001.leam.jm4 (www.buyphotos247.com)