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Mary Arden's house
Mary Arden's house

Wilmcote is a village in the English county of Warwickshire, about three miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon. It has a population of about 1,200. It has a church, a primary school, a village hall, a village club, one small hotel, a shop and a pub.

Wilmcote also has one major tourist attraction - Mary Arden's House - and sees many visitors because of this and because it is a popular stop on the Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham Canal, and is on a National Cycleway.

Wilmcote is an old village and is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, but little is known about it between then and the sixteenth century.

[edit] Mary Arden

In around 1540 Mary Arden was born in Wilmcote, a farmer's daughter. She married one John Shakespeare, moved to Stratford-upon-Avon, and gave birth to William Shakespeare - recognized as the greatest English playwright to live.

Mary Arden's House is now owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and is open to the public. It houses a museum of countryside life and is well worth a visit.

William Shakespeare's life and times have been very extensively researched and documented and much is therefore known about Wilmcote from the time of Mary Arden onwards. The Shakespeare Records Office which is run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has a good collection of materials including early maps and photographs.

[edit] Wilmcote Quarries

The geology of the area around Wilmcote contains areas of good limestone, and a significant quarrying industry grew up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly after the opening of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal in 1816 which was routed through Wilmcote because of the quarries.

The area today has many small disused quarries, mostly filled in, and the just-visible paths of tramways linking them to the canal for transport. There is one larger quarry which has not been filled in and which is now a nature reserve. There are also remains of lime kilns, built to turn the limestone into cement.

Wilmcote stone splits well into sheets and was used for paving as well as for building. It was used for paving the floors in the Houses of Parliament when these were rebuilt in the nineteenth century.

The last of the quarries closed in the early twentieth century, but they have left a great legacy for the village. There are several rows of former quarry workers cottages, built in Wilmcote stone, and a pub called the Masons' Arms. They quarries are also one of the main reasons why the canal and railway, which add so much to the village today, were routed via Wilmcote. The first Wilmcote railway station opened in 1860, on a site alongside the canal wharves: it was replaced by the present station when the line was doubled in 1908.

[edit] Wilmcote Church and the Oxford movement

The Oxford Movement was a Catholic revival movement in the Church of England in the early nineteenth century, centred in Oxford. Wilmcote was the site they chose to build a church, a school and a retreat house.

Wilmcote in the early nineteenth century had no church (as it was then a part of the adjoining parish of Aston Cantlow). It was a poor working-class village, and the population was increasing due to the growth of the Wilmcote quarries. The village was therefore much in need of a church and a school, both of which it still has.

The church, built in 1841, is a very unusual small Anglo-Catholic church, dark, spiritual, and on Sundays filled with the smell of incense. It was designed by the renowned architect William Butterfield, a leader in the Gothic revival.

Some views of Wilmcote in old postcards

Coordinates: 52°13'N, 1°45'W

(Source: Wikipedia)
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