Can town match 1966 spectacle?

Kenilworth pageant
Kenilworth pageant

Plans are afoot to celebrate the 750th Anniversary of the Siege of Kenilworth Castle next year.

Many Kenilworth people will remember the 700th anniversary celebration in the town back in 1966.

Now the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society is hoping to match it.

The society’s chair Jan Cooper said: “Perhaps we should be preparing to celebrate that extraordinary event now before it is upon us?

“A great spectacle was made of it 50 years ago, which some people will, I am sure, remember and I should be pleased to receive any suggestions as to how we can try to match that.

“In 2011 the late Harry Sunley wrote an excellent booklet entitled ‘The Great Siege of Kenilworth Castle’ which was a local bestseller for several months. The siege was the longest in Medieval England and the attackers never got in - what a castle!”

The main event of the 1966 celebration took place on June 11 at Kenilworth Castle and the Kenilworth Historical Society newsletter reported: “Despite very heavy downpours of rain in the night, by 2pm, when Lord Kenilworth unveiled a plaque marking the occasion, the weather was fine and there was an excellent array of people in costume amid the gaily coloured stalls of the mediaeval fair.

“The attendance was in excess of 7,000 and a fairly handsome profit is expected.

“The major events – the mediaeval entertainment, demonstrations of fencing and archery, the duel between the cannon and an armoured car and tilting the quintain – all went according to schedule. The tug-of-war had to be delayed whilst the rope was located – some bright spark had pushed it into the muddy stream.”

The commemoration also included a lecture, a radio broadcast and an exhibition in the castle gatehouse.

The lecture given by Dr C H Knowles, MA, at Kenilworth Grammar School on May 4 was well-attended. His subject “The Dictum of Kenilworth and the end of the Barons’ War” dealt with the events leading up to the siege of the erstwhile followers of Simon de Montfort, under Henry de Hastings, in Kenilworth Castle, the siege itself and the dictum enacted by a Parliamentary Committee sitting at Kenilworth during the period of the siege.

King Henry III’s forces, with siege artillery, besieged the castle in June 1266, but in spite of all their efforts, the garrison held out until December, when an epidemic forced them to surrender.

If anyone has any ideas for next year’s celebration contact Jan Cooper on 07971 549963.