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Town

Nuneaton

Nuneaton

Details

Nuneaton is the largest town in Warwickshire and is most famous for its associations with the 19th century author George Eliot, who was born on a farm on the Arbury Estate just outside Nuneaton in 1819 and lived in the town for much of her early life. In her novel Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), 'Milby' is the thinly disguised market town of Nuneaton.

The town is located 9 miles (14 km) north of Coventry, 20 miles (32 km) east of Birmingham and 103 miles (166 km) northwest of London. The River Anker runs through the town. Nuneaton has a population of between 78,000 and 80,000. Towns close to Nuneaton include Bedworth, Atherstone and Hinckley, with Tamworth and Lutterworth a little further afield. The nearest city is Coventry, sited 9 miles (14 km) from the centre of Nuneaton. Leicester and thereafter Birmingham are next closest major cities. An unusual local landmark is Mount Judd, which is a large mound of quarry residue that was formed when Judkins Quarry was dug out. Mount Judd lies in the northwest of the town and can be seen for miles around.

Nuneaton's name came from a 12th century Benedictine nunnery (parts of which still survive) around which much of the town grew. Prior to this it was a settlement known as 'Etone', which translates literally as 'water-town'. Nuneaton was listed in the Domesday Book as a small hamlet. A market was established in 1233 (and is still held today). The first recorded use of the modern name was in 1247 when a document recorded it as 'Nonne Eton'. The Nunnery fell into disrepair after 1539 (with Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries).

King Edward VI School was established by a royal charter in 1552. From 1944 it became a grammar school for boys and, although it was locally known as KEGS, it never included the word 'grammar' in its name

Nuneaton grew gradually from the 17th century onwards, due to its position at the centre of the Warwickshire coalfields. At the time of the first national census in 1801 Nuneaton was already one of the largest towns in Warwickshire, with a population of 5,000. During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, Nuneaton developed a large textile industry. Other industries which developed in the town included brick and tile making and brewing. By 1901 the population of Nuneaton had grown to 25,000.

NUNEATON ABBEY

An ancient abbey church founded at 'Eaton' in the 1150s was home to Benedictine nuns and gave the present town the name 'Nuneaton'. Very little survives today of the original building. The cruciform church was sold after the Dissolution and converted into a mansion. Abandoned in the 17th century it was quarried away until all that survived by the 1860s were the foundations, some low walls and the battered crossing piers of the former central tower.
In 1876-77 this desolate ruin was brought back to life as a place of worship after centuries of neglect, when four of the original seven bays of the nave were rebuilt on the old foundations in Neo-Romanesque style by the Gothic Revival architect C.C. Rolfe with the old crossing piers enclosed by a temporary brick structure for use as a chancel. The west wall was also left in plain brick to allow for possible completion of the nave on the ancient footings further west at a later date, though this retains its incomplete appearance to this day.

In 1904 the chancel was rebuilt in neo-gothic style on the old foundations east of the crossing by Harold Brakspear, followed by the north transept in 1930. The architect had drawn up plans to restore the south transept and central tower too, but sadly these were never realised, leaving the south transept as a ruin sealed off by the 1877 'temporary' brick wall and leaving the church in an odd truncated state today (comprising half the nave, the chancel, north transept and base of the crossing).

Inside the ruined crossing piers remain from the original church, as well as part of a fine medieval tiled floor and the bases of what remained of the walls. Outside, the ruins of the nave and south transept remain as they were, along with the base of what is thought to have been a chapter house.

The church (such as it stands) is used as the Parish Church of St. Mary and is known locally as the Abbey Church. Despite this building's significance in Nuneaton's past and its extraordinary recent history, it is a relatively unknown and obscure place, with little promotion or signage.

Nuneaton has a museum and art gallery in the grounds of Riversley Park adjacent to the town.

GEORGE ELIOT'S INSPIRATIONS

Many locations in George Eliot's works were based on places in or near her native Nuneaton, including:
• Milby (town and parish church, based on Nuneaton and St Nicolas parish church)
• Shepperton (based on Chilvers Coton)
• Paddiford Common (based on Stockingford, which at the time had a large area of common land)
• Knebley (based on Astley; Knebley Church is Astley Church, while Knebley Abbey is Astley Castle)
• Red Deeps (based on Griff Hollows)
• Cheverel Manor (based on Arbury Hall)
• Dorlcote Mill (based on Griff House)
• The Red Lion (based on the Bull Hotel, now the George Eliot Hotel in Bridge Street, Nuneaton)
• Middlemarch (based on Coventry)
• Treby Magna (also thought to be based on Coventry)
• Little Treby (thought to be based on Stoneleigh)
• Transome Court (thought to be based on Stoneleigh Abbey)

Contact

Nuneaton

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Address

Warwickshire,
CV11 4EA