St Nicholas Warwick

ST. NICHOLAS, Warwick - Church of the Month - May 2012

Helen McGowan and James Kerr report on St Nicholas, Warwick, a recent recipient of a grant from the WCHCT.

“Lots of visitors go to Warwick to see the castle. They usually take in the grandeur of St Mary’s while they’re in the vicinity. However, there is a third attraction to explore in Warwick. The present church of St Nicholas, sited in the popular St. Nicholas Park and facing one of the Warwick Castle gates, is a descendent of a much older church found on this site many centuries before the building you see today.

“The present church was opened in 1785 and little is known of the older religious houses that have occupied the site, although it is thought that a nunnery, destroyed in 1016, was built here. Frequent repairs to later buildings are mentioned in the churchwardens' accounts of the later 16th and early 17th centuries; in 1587, for example, a large number of shingles were bought for the roofs and work was done on 'the foundation of the bottoms of the windows'. There was a clock in the tower which may have been installed in 1562 when it is first mentioned in the accounts, and a cross stood in the churchyard.

“When a brief was issued in 1776 for its rebuilding, the church was described as very ancient, apart from the tower and spire; these had been rebuilt in 1750. The roof timbers were badly decayed and the north and south walls and pillars were moving and making the building unsafe.

“The new church that you see today was built by Thomas Johnson of Warwick. The build cost of about £1,500 came from private subscriptions, loans and the sale of pew rents.

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“There are illustrations of St Nicholas church to be found in paintings by Canaletto. The artist made at least two commissioned visits to Warwick, between 1748 and 1752, creating five paintings and three drawings of the castle. In one Canaletto paints the spire of St Nicolas's Church through the gatehouse arch, in life the spire is not visible from this view point so he was using artistic license here! Another view, of the South Front of the Castle – see above - contains a clear representation of the St Nicholas and surrounding buildings to the right of the canvas.
“St Nicholas has been a recent recipient of a grant from the Warwickshire and Coventry Historic Churches Trust. You can read an account of their extensive – and expensive! – repair project to make their tower and spire safe enough to ring the bells in the Spring Newsletter

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