The Abbey Fields are an extensive public open space which forms the green heart of Kenilworth.
It is used by both residents and visitors for recreation from kite flying to playing tennis. The 68 acres of the Abbey Fields includes a swimming pool (both indoors and outdoors), a lake, children’s play area and heritage trails & interpretation. As well as being an amazing space, The Abbey Fields are also rich in history with the remains of an historic Abbey.
Close to the Parish Church of St Nicholas lie the ruins of the Abbey of St Mary the Virgin. It was first founded by Geoffrey de Clinton in 1119 as an Augustine priory. In 1447, the Priory had the unusual distinction of being raised to Abbey status by Henry VI. Henry VII attended mass at Whitsuntide in 1487 & 1488. A history of the Priory is available online here >>
At its height the Abbey had the second highest income in the County. However, all that remains now are small parts of the Nave and Chapter House, the ruined gatehouse and another building of unknown origin known today as the ‘Barn’.
Under Henry VIII, the Monasteries Dissolution Bill was passed in 1538, and it was the beginning of the end for the Abbey. Within a few years the Abbey was dismantled, and it later passed into the hands of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (Elizabeth I’s favourite), who removed much of the stone for repairs and extensions to Kenilworth Castle.
The magnificently decorated Norman Porch at the western entrance of St Nicholas’ Church was also erected from material removed from the Abbey in the 16th century as part of the repairs to the Church.