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William the Conqueror
Warwick ( WORR-ik) is the county town of Warwickshire, England. The town lies upon the River Avon, 11 miles (18 km) south of Coventry and just west of Leamington Spa and Whitnash with which it is conjoined. At the 2011 United Kingdom census, it had a population of 30,114, a considerable increase from 23,350 a decade earlier.
There has been human activity at Warwick as early as the Neolithic, and constant habitation since the 6th century. A Saxon burh was created at Warwick in the 9th century and Warwick Castle was established on the site in 1068 as part of the Norman conquest of England. Warwick School claims to be the oldest boys school in the country. The earldom of Warwick was created in 1088 and the earls controlled the town in the medieval period. During this time Warwick was given town walls; Eastgate and Westgate survive. The castle developed into a stone fortress and then a country house and is today a popular tourist attraction.
The Great Fire of Warwick in 1694 destroyed much of the medieval town and as a result most of the buildings post-date this period. Though Warwick did not become industrialised in the 19th century, it has experienced growth since 1801 when the population was 5,592. Racing Club Warwick F.C., founded in 1919, is based in the town. The town is administered by Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council has its headquarters in Warwick.
Human activity on the site of the town dates back to the Neolithic, when a settlement may have been established. From the 6th century onwards, Warwick has been continuously inhabited. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in the year 914 the Anglo-Saxon Ethelfleda Lady of the Mercians, daughter of king Alfred the Great and sister of king Edward the Elder of Wessex, built a burh or fortified dwelling at Warwick. It was one of ten burhs built to defend the kingdom of Mercia against the Danes. Warwick was chosen as the site for one of these fortifications because of its proximity to the important transport routes of the Fosse Way and the Avon. In the early 10th century a new shire was founded with Warwick as its administrative centre, giving the settlement new importance. The name Warwick means "dwellings by the weir". In 1050 the Danes invaded Mercia and burned down much of Warwick including the nunnery (which stood on the site of the present day St Nicholas Church).
William the Conqueror founded Warwick Castle in 1068 on his way to Yorkshire to deal with rebellion in the north. Building a castle within a pre-existing settlement could require demolishing properties on the site, and in the case of Warwick four houses were pulled down. The castle was within the larger Anglo-Saxon burh and a new town wall was created close to the rampart of the burh.
In the medieval period Warwick remained under the control of various Earls of Warwick, mostly of the Beauchamp family, becoming a walled town. Today the only remains of the town walls are the east and west gatehouses. The eastern gatehouse now serves as part of the Kings High School, a sister institution to Warwick School. Warwick was not incorporated as a borough until 1545. The towns Priory was founded in 1142 on the site of the current Priory Park.
During the English Civil War the town and castle were garrisoned for Parliament. The garrison, under Sir Edward Peyto, withstood a two-week siege by the Royalists. Later musters from 1644 to 1646 record a garrison of up to 350 men under the command of Colonel William Purefoy and Major John Bridges. The middle of the 17th century also saw the founding of Castle Hill Baptist Church, one of the oldest Baptist churches in the world.
Antiquarian William Dugdale wrote in the 17th century that Warwick was "standing upon a rocky ascent from every side, and in a dry and fertile soil, having ... rich and pleasant meadows on the south part ... and ... woodland on the north". Two factors have affected Warwicks built environment: the Great Fire of 1694 and the lack of industrialisation. The fire destroyed much of the town, and the subsequent rebuilding was largely in one style. In the 19th century, when other towns were rapidly growing during the Industrial Revolution, Warwick did not experience the same growth. As a result, the factories and workers housing largely passed Warwick by. Part of the reason Warwick did not develop as a centre of industry was that the town did not lie on important roads and the River Avon was not navigable as far as Warwick.
Due to its proximity to north-south and east-west motorway routes, many companies have their head office in the town. Since November 2004, National Grid plc has had its UK head office on the Warwick Technology Park south of the town between the A425 road and A452 road. Phillips 66 and their petrol station group, JET, have their UK base also on the Technology Park as do lingerie company Bravissimo. IBM and Volvo Group UK have bases on the Wedgnock Industrial Estate in the north of the town, near to the A46 trunk road. Other companies with regional headquarters in Warwick include Bridgestone, Calor, Kantar and Delphi Automotive.
Warwick hosts annual festivals ranging from the Spoken Word to Classical and Contemporary Music to a Folk Festival and a Victorian Evening, held in late November or early December. St. Marys Church hosts a series of Early Music concerts, and the Bridge House Theatre hosts the Music-in-Round concerts. Warwick Chamber of Trade helps to promote the town for visitors, residents and businesses. The town is also famous for Warwick Castle, the construction of which began in 1068. The town centre is also known for its historic architecture and contains a mixture of Tudor and 17th-century buildings. In recent years several high-profile national and international companies have set-up large office complexes in and around Warwick, notably National Grid plc and IBM.
Warwick is also known for Warwick Racecourse, near the west gate of the medieval town, which hosts several televised horse racing meetings a year. Within the racecourse is a small golf course. Warwick Hospital, Royal Leamington Spa Rehabilitation Hospital and St Michaels Hospital (a psychiatric unit that superseded Central Hospital, Hatton) are situated within the town.
J. R. R. Tolkien seems to have been very influenced by Warwick (where he was married in the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Immaculate) and by its Mercian connections: Lynn Forest-Hill, in an article in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS 8 July 2005 pp 12–13) argues cogently that two important settlements in Tolkiens work were modelled on Warwick — Edoras closely on the early town, and Minas Tirith more remotely on the Norman; and that aspects of the plot of The Lord of the Rings are paralleled in the romance known as Guy of Warwick.
Warwick and its historic buildings have featured in a number of television series, including the BBCs drama series Dangerfield, the period dramas Pride and Prejudice and Tom Jones and Granada Televisions Moll Flanders. Parts of the town subbed for Elizabethan and Jacobean era London in the third-series episode two (The Shakespeare Code) of Doctor Who which ran 7 April 2007.
Warwick has many long established sports clubs including Warwick Hockey Club which was founded in 1920 and Racing Club Warwick F.C. founded a year earlier.