St Mary’s Abbey Warwick
Warwickshire CV8 1BP 
 
 
 
Few visible remains are left of the once great Abbey of St Mary the Virgin at Kenilworth.  Some of the buildings’ foundations are underground in St Nicholas churchyard with the remainder in the adjacent Abbey Fields Park.
 
Priory dates from around 1123
Around 1119 Geoffrey de Clinton (treasurer to King Henry I) was granted land on which to build a castle.  Between 1123 and 1129, as a spiritual act of gratitude, Geoffrey founded a priory for Augustinian Canons.
 
Normally a priory would be attached to a Cathedral but not in Kenilworth’s case.  It remained independent, benefitting from further gifts and land lavished on it by Geoffrey de Clinton.   A barn, a gatehouse, a belltower and an infirmary were subsequently built near to the main monastic buildings of the priory, and St Nicholas Church was built nearby in about 1291.
 
Abbey dates from 1447
In 1447 the priory was raised to Abbey status by King Henry VI.  Kenilworth Abbey grew to be one of the wealthiest in the county.  By the 16th century seventeen churches in the area were held by the Abbey.
 
In 1538 the Dissolution of the Monasteries began and the great Abbey was broken up but its strong royal connections did allow some of the fine decorative stone to be re-used in Kenilworth.
 
The new owner of the castle, Robert Dudley, (1st Earl of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite) used the stone from the ruined abbey to improve his own residence and the magnificently decorated Norman porch at the western entrance of St Nicholas’ Church was also erected from material removed from the Abbey as part of the repairs to the Church.
 
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Abbey Barn Museum
The once great Abbey covered a large area. All that is left visible above ground now are small parts of the Nave and Chapter House, the ruined gatehouse and an old storage barn whose walls are peppered with shot marks, perhaps from skirmishes in the Civil War in 1642. The barn now houses a small museum.
 
The Kenilworth Abbey Barn Museum is open every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday in summer and admission is free. Opening times are posted on the door. Downstairs it also houses the Abbey Interpretation Project. For further details go to Web: Kenilworth Abbey Barn Museum
 
Abbey Fields
Adjoining the ruins is Kenilworth’s major park, Abbey Fields.  Sited on 68 acres (27.5 hectares) of ancient abbey farmland, the park has fine views of the historic town, castle and parish church as well as incorporating a lake, a swimming pool, café, public toilets, tennis courts, and a children’s playground.  There are excellent walks along the banks of Finham Brook.  
 
Getting There
- By Walking
The ruins can be accessed on foot from the free Abbey Fields Car Park.
 
- Using Public Transport 
The ruins can be accessed on foot the Bus Service 12 stop in Bridge Street or from the Bus Service U2 stop in Abbey Hill.
 
- By Walking from Kenilworth Castle  A track leads to a gap near the Ford. After crossing the busy road, paths in Abbey Fields beside the lake lead to the ruins, swimming pools, café and public toilets.
 
- By Car
Easy access from motorways – M1, M6, M40, M4. There is plenty of easy parking in Kenilworth, in the town centre, at Abbey Fields and the Castle.
 
Google Maps - St Mary's Abbey