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Warwick History, United Kingdom

Because of its name, it is likely that Warwick, UK began as a Saxon mill town.  The word War comes from “weir” which is a small dam that can be used to make a pond in a stream.  These ponds were often made near mills.  The work Wick means “settlement.” 

The first known history goes back to 914 A.D.  Around this time, the Saxons were creating “burhs” or fortified towns all over the Anglo-Saxon land in order to protect people from Viking attacks.  It is said that Ethelfleda, who was the sister of Edward the Elder, an Anglo-Saxon king, built walls and a ditch on the River Avon near Warwick and these fortifications started Warwick Castle

Unfortunately, this did not keep the Vikings from invading and burning down parts of Warwick.  The town did survive, however.  Unlike many burhs which remained fortifications only, Warwick turned into a thriving market town.  The Anglo-Saxon’s also made the town the seat of a “shire” which was an important administrative center similar to a county.

After the Normans entered Warwick they built Warwick Castle from wood.  It was rebuilt later out of stone.  A wall was built around Warwick at this time and the East and West Gates are still standing today.     During the 12th century, St. Sepulchre’s Priory and St. Mary’s Church were both built.  Within one hundred years there were also Dominican friars living in Warwick. 

Having a castle in the area meant soldiers which meant that there was suddenly a bigger market to sell local goods to.  This helped to stimulate the town’s economy even more.  Beginning in the mid-13th century, the town even had annual market fairs. 

After Henry VIII came into power he closed most of the priories in his kingdom and Warwick was among them.  In 1571, though, Lord Leicester founded Lord Leycester Hospital which were almshouses meant to aid the poor and needy. 

At the time of the English Civil War in the mid-1600’s, Warwick was on the side of Parliament.  The town was under siege by Royalist armies for two weeks but still managed to survive.  Besides war, the town was struck with other calamities during the 17th century.  In the early-1600’s many of the town’s residents were killed by the plague and in 1694 a major fire consumed many of the town’s original and medieval buildings, including the nave and tower of St. Mary’s Church.  Despite a century of tragedies, Warwick bounced back and most of the town was rebuilt in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  This included the destroyed segments of St. Mary’s Church.

Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Warwick continued to grow and progress steadily.  This progression continued into the early 20th century even though the population growth had slowed down by that time.  No matter what kind of changes have taken place in the town, though, it never turned to manufacturing for economic stimulation.  Warwick remains a market town to this day.

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