This is a nice simple tea towel which I bought in 2001. It is good quality cotton, making it very useful and absorbent. It has a cream background with three ‘framed’ sketches of scenes from Warwick, an unusual design.
Although Warwick Castle is a major tourist attraction, I have never been there. Big castles aren’t my thing. The other two pictures are a ‘different kettle of fish’. While I only bought this tea towel in 2001, those two pictures remind me of my visits to Warwick back in the 1970s. At Swansea University I shared a room, in my first year, with Ann; we remained close friends throughout university. She was my bridesmaid and we still keep in touch 40 years later. Ann lived in Leek Wootton, near Warwick, and I spent many a happy weekend there with her family. Ann’s father had an association with the Lord Leycester Hospital and I remember him taking us on a tour of the public rooms at the Hospital, telling us about the history. I can clearly remember the huge Great Hall with its beams and rickety flooring; it felt unsafe but it had been around so long I knew it would last until after my visit!!
The Lord Leycester Hospital is, of course, not a hospital; the term is used in the ancient sense meaning ‘a charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy, infirm and aged’. The Hospital is actually a historic group of timber-framed buildings on Warwick High Street dating from the 14th Century, clustered around a Norman Gateway into the town, with its 12th Century Chantry Chapel above it. In the reign of Elizabeth I, it came under the care of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as a ‘place for the retirement of old warriors’. It is now an independent charity for ex-servicemen and their wives, housing eight families. There are a number of rooms open to visitors like the Great Hall and it is a popular venue for weddings; a very photogenic setting.
I have always loved the idea of the Lord Leycester Hospital’s connection with Robert Dudley, one of my favourite characters in history. The tales of his relationship with Elizabeth I and his fall from grace, a man of power and wealth bestowed on him by the Queen; it has always had a bit of a mystery about it which I like. It is interesting to note that the Hospital is spelled with a ‘y’ (Leycester), different from the city of Leicester. Why? Well, there is an explanation on the walls of the Bretheren’s Kitchen, a delightful tea room, always busy, in the midst of the Hospital. Apparently it was always optional as to whether Robert Dudley used the ‘i’ or ‘y’; he used both but a copy of his will is on display in the Bretheren’s Kitchen where he uses the ‘y’.
St Mary’s Church is another place I visited with Ann – a church founded in 1123 and where there has been a place of worship for more than 1000 years. It is a beautiful building and well worth a visit.
Warwick is steeped in history. My liking for Robert Dudley as a historical figure, and his links with Warwick, have always made places like Lord Leycester Hospital even more special. Using the tea towel, and drifting away on a tide of memories, makes me think of my links with Ann and her family. Happy times. Strangely, whenever I think of Warwick, and my visits, it is always bright sunshine. Surely that must be a distorted memory?
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