Bedworth Town Trail
The Bedworth Society town trail is slightly less than a mile and a quarter long and can easily be walked in about an hour. This can be extended by exploring the Miners Welfare Park, or a welcome rest in the green oasis of Church Walk . The trail starts and ends in All Saint’s Square in the town centre, for many years an open market place, with ancient market rights held by the Lords of the Manor.
1. All Saints Square
On the east of the square are the Nicholas Chamberlaine Almshouses, a delightful mock-Elizabethan quadrangle of Grade II listed buildings dating from 1840, which were restored internally and externally in the early 1980s.
Painting of Pump House by Mike Shepperton
Nicholas Chamberlaine was a wealthy land owning Rector of Bedworth, who left money in 1715 to build schools and almshouses, and is the town’s main benefactor after serving the town for fifty one years.
Walking through the shops into High Street we pass the Parish Church of All Saints, on the right next to the Health Centre and Police Station which stand on the site of the original Bedworth Almshouses, built in 1715, and the old Central Schools which were demolished around 1971.
4. Civic Hall
At the junction with the Coventry Road is the entrance to the town cemetery and the town’s War Memorial which was erected in 1921. This is a source of pride to the town as it is believed to be the only place in Britain where Armistice Day has been continuously commemorated every year, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Parade on 11th November
Several graves in the cemetery are worthy of note including that of Canon Evans, a nephew of George Eliot, and rector of Bedworth for 51 years from 1876.
Across the road from the cemetery are the attractive wrought iron gates of the Miners Welfare Park. The original gates were fromm Coombe Abbey near Coventry, and were purchased in 1925 for the Urban District Council, by the Town Clerk, Mr. Thomas Topp. However, the gates were replaced in 2018, and a new remembrance area made to the side.
7. Winding Wheel from Newdigate Colliery
Another popular reminder of the town’s mining heritage is the ‘Miner in the Park’, made from recycled metal.
9. 'Top Shops' in Rye Piece
Top Shops were a common sight in Bedworth during the 19th and early 20th centuries, although most have now been demolished. The lower two floors served as the weaver's living quarters, whilst the weaver’s loom was on the top floor with its large windows providing maximum light.
Crossing Rye Piece Ringway (mind the traffic) we come to the Catholic Church of St. Francis.
11. St. Francis Terrace
At the top of King Street cross back across the paved pedestrian area to the Parish Church.
Originating in the 13th century, it was last rebuilt between 1888 and 1890, and re-consecrated on 29th May 1890.
The interior was reordered in 2000 when the opportunity was taken to incorporate a two story Narthex at the west end of the church which replaced the church hall. The wonderful carved rood screen was moved to separate the narthex from the rest of the church.
Outstanding and long serving Rectors have included Nicholas Chamberlaine, Henry Bellairs who lies buried in Exhall churchyard, and Frederick Evans, nephew of George Eliot.
Walking down Church Walk turn right at the Market Hall into Mill Street .
On the left before reaching the end of All Saints Square is another row of what were originally silk weaving ‘top shops’. At one time Mill Street was lined with top shops. Restoration of the roofs and upper storey gained a Bedworth Society award in 1992.
14. Bedworth Methodist Church
We also pass the popular ‘Harry’s’ Bakery, one of Bedworth’s oldest though much altered shops.
Enjoy a breakfast or their range of home made cakes and bread.
16. Former Esra Chapel
The adjoining row of houses is Grove Terrace, with their interesting dormer windows and patterned brickwork.
18. Old Meeting Graveyard
The Old Meeting United Reformed Church is an original 18th Century square chapel is a Grade II listed building, and is a very fine example of its type, with a beautiful interior. Look inside if you can as a major restoration was carried out in 2011. Note also the date scratched into the bricks by the builders in 1726 during its building and again in 1808 when the roof was raised.
The Old Meeting congregation in Bedworth was established in 1686 by the Rev. Julius Sanders.
20. The Parsonage
It was the threat of the demolition of the Parsonage in 1981 which created the driving force for the formation of the Bedworth Society.
2. Almshouses in Winter
This restoration and the superb landscaping which brings the Almshouses into the town centre, gained the first Bedworth Society Award in 1984, and provide an attractive feature that few town centres can emulate. The award plaque is displayed on the pillar at the entrance to the Almshouses next to an old plaque which refers to the Five Mile Act of 1665 when non-conformists were banned from worshiping within five miles from a corporation, in this case, Coventry.
The pump house in the centre of the quadrangle was restored in 1994, having narrowly avoided being demolished. The pressure for its restoration was mainly due to the activities of the Bedworth Society.
3. All Saints Parish Church
On the left we see the popular Civic Hall and Bistro which was built in the mid 1970s and the modern Library.
5. War Memorial
The parade through the town of serving troops and ex-servicemen with British Legion banners attracts many town’s people and visitors each November. The service and two minute silence at the War Memorial is attended by dignitaries of Church, State and Military is possibly the highlight of the Bedworth year.
6. Original Gates to the Miner's Welfare Park
The Coventry trams terminated here until the second world war, and for that reason it gained the name “Top of the trams” which is still used by many of the townsfolk.
Walking through the well maintained park with its beautiful flower beds and trees, we see the winding wheel of the former Newdigate Colliery which serves as a reminder of Bedworth’s industrial past.
8. Miner in the Park
Sports facilities for cricket, football, tennis, bowls and swimming are all to be found in the park.
The cricket pavilion is named in honour of a local man, William Johnson, who served as Liberal MP for North Warwickshire from 1906 to 1918.
Leaving the park by the Rye Piece gate there are two old three story houses on the left with the top storey showing their “Top Shop” silk weaving origins.
10. St. Francis R.C. Church
Built on this site in 1883 as quite a small church, improvements and enlargements followed. An organ was installed by local organ builder Robert Topp of Roadway, Bedworth, and finally the porch and tower were added.
The church was consecrated on 4th September 1923 by Archbishop McIntyre, having been raised to the status of parish church in May 1919.
In the early 1970s, the interior of the church was partially modernised.
The tabernacle, altar, pulpit, font, Mary and Child, and the Sacred Heart and Risen Christ were all made by Carmel Cauchi, the famous Maltese artist and sculptor. He is noted for his work in churches in many parts of the world.
Moving on from St. Francis we turn left at the junction with King Street to pass a very distinctive line of blue brick 'diaper' patterned houses, St. Francis Terrace.
12. Health Centre
Passing between the church and the health centre go through the churchyard and into Church Walk, with its large green space. Halfway along Church Walk turn right along a footpath and into Church Way with the Market Hall on the right to reach Mill Street.
13. Mill Street 'Top Shops'.
On the opposite side of Mill Street is Bedworth Methodist Church, rebuilt after a fire in 1941.
15. Harry's Bakery in Mill Street.
Crossing the northern end of All Saints Square, we reach Chapel Street.
Until the advent of the Ezra Chapel in 1844, this street was called Hob Lane, possibly the oldest street name in the town. Going down Chapel Street we pass the left three terraced houses which were converted many years ago from the old chapel.
17. Grove Terrace
Turn left into The Grove, then left again alongside the old burial ground, last used in 1878, of the Old Meeting Reformed Church.
19. Old Meeting United Reformed Church
Continue up the cobbled chapel yard and turn left at the main road and return to All Saints Square, passing the original Parsonage and Nurses House, the ground floors of which now house Bedworth Heritage Centre. The windows and general detail are typical of the care and craftsmanship of the builders who built the almshouses.