Warwick is among the largest Cotswold towns with a population of over 25,000 and lies along the northernmost border of the region. It is the capital town of Warwickshire; its name means “dwellings by the weir.”
Don’t let the size of this town fool you though – you’ll see the same gorgeous, centuries-old architecture in the streets of Warwick as in the rest of the Cotswolds. The olden-day feel of the Middle Ages permeates the busy streets and colours every day life with a sense of mystery. Warwick was originally founded as a fortified burh in 914 by Anglo Saxon Ethelfleda, the sister of Edward the Elder. This burh served as the foundations of the famous Warwick Castle. Warwick was invaded by the Vikings in 1050 (who burned most of it down). Since the fortified portions held strong, the town went on to thrive in spite of its hardships to become the county town of Warwickshire. During the Middle Ages, the Beauchamp family walled in Warwick (the east and west gatehouses are still standing today). The town was besieged during the English Civil War by the Royalists for two weeks. Sadly much of the town later burned in 1694, thus most of the buildings you see were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but you can still locate some surviving medieval structures on the outskirts of the town centre.
Warwick has numerous landmarks which tourists can enjoy. Like other Cotswolds towns, Warwick offers antique shopping in its gift shops and also hosts a market event every Saturday as well as a largely monthly farmers’ market. Smith Street, Jury Street and Swan Street are probably the most well known shopping areas in the town.
For those who enjoy museums, Warwick has much to offer in the form of the St. John’s Museum, the Warwickshire Museum, the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum and the Queen’s Own Hussars Museum.
Warwick has one of the largest and most renowned churches in England, the Collegiate Church of St. Mary. The church was founded in 1123 by Robert de Newburgh, the 2nd Earl of Warwick. It was damaged in the fire in 1694 that destroyed much of Warwick but the damaged sections of the nave and tower were reconstructed within a decade by builders Francis and William Smith. The tombs of many well known individuals are located in the church including Thomas Beauchamp, Fulke Greville First Baron Brooke, Richard Beauchamp and others. The North Transept contains a chapel dedicated to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
The most famous landmark in Warwick is Warwick Castle. The original fortifications were constructed by Anglo Saxon Aethelflaed in 914, but it was William the Conqueror who founded Warwick Castle itself in 1086. The castle passed down the line of the Earls of Warwick. Eventually it belonged to Henry of Anjou and afterward King Henry II. King Edward IV was imprisoned there in the 15th century by Richard Neville. The castle underwent many architectural modifications over the years but retains a strongly 14th century character. The grounds the castle was built in were converted into a garden in the 17th century.
While visiting the castle, tourists can enjoy not only the amazing structure itself but also a Dungeon tour and shows featuring combat, archery, falconry and more. You can check out medieval war machines in action during your tour of the castle; a reproduction Ballista and a Trebuchet are launched in demonstrations twice a day.
There is so much to see and do in Warwick that a visitor to the Cotswolds would be truly remiss to neglect to visit the town. Warwick can give you an immersive and exciting experience of medieval history!