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Warwickshire


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Was an archetypal Mercian shire, regular in shape and taking its name from the chief town. Camden placed it in the territory of the Cornovii and divided it into the arable south, or Fielden, and the wooded north around the forest of Arden. The Fielden territory had been part of the land of the Hwicce. Warwickshire formed the heartland of the kingdom of Mercia: in the 8th and 9th cents. Tamworth was the chief residence of the Mercian monarchs and Warwick was refounded in 914 by *Æthelfleda, lady of the Mercians.

It remained a rural county throughout the Middle Ages. Warwick itself was a significant provincial city, Kenilworth and Warwick castles important until the civil wars, and Coventry had a reputation for cloth‐making. The gradual improvement in transport through inland navigation, turnpikes, and finally railways brought Warwickshire into the national orbit. The Liverpool to Birmingham railway opened in 1837, the London to Birmingham in 1838.

The modern history of the county is the development of industry in the northern parts around Birmingham and Coventry, exploiting the proximity of woodland, coal, and iron resources. Camden described Birmingham in Elizabeth's reign as ‘swarming with inhabitants and echoing with the noise of anvils’. It passed Coventry in size during the 17th cent. and by 1700 had grown to around 15,000 people. It was given two MPs by the Great Reform Act of 1832. In the later 19th cent. Birmingham was granted city status and under Joseph Chamberlain led the way in progressive local government. To nail‐making, small arms, cutlery, and button‐making was added industry of all kinds: Cadbury's moved to Bournville in 1879 and the Austin Motor Company opened at Longbridge in 1905. By 1911 the population was well over half a million.

*Stratford‐upon‐Avon owed its fame as a tourist attraction largely to the Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769, organized by David Garrick. The salt springs at Leamington had been known since Tudor times, but the expansion of the town was 19th cent., the Pump Room opening in 1814. Nuneaton developed as a textile centre, Courtauld's setting up a factory in 1920, and Rugby grew steadily after the opening of the London to Birmingham railway, on which it was an important junction.

Subjects: British History.


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