Warwick 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 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 period, 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. 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. The castle developed into a stone fortress and then a country house and is today a popular tourist attraction. Warwick School claims to be the oldest boys' school in the country.
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. Although Warwick did not become industrialised in the 19th century, it has experienced growth since 1801 when the population was 5,592. Warwickshire County Council has always had its headquarters in Warwick.
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 River Avon. In the early 10th century a new shire (or county) 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. 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, and became 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 King's High School, a sister institution to Warwick School. Warwick was not incorporated as a borough until 1545. The town's Warwick Priory was founded in 1142 and is now located in Priory Park.
During the English Civil War the town and castle were garrisoned by Cromwell's army. 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 Civil War period in the middle of the 17th century also saw the founding of Castle Hill Baptist Church, one of the oldest Baptist churches in the world.
Much of the medieval town was destroyed in the Great Fire of Warwick which occurred in 1694. As a result, most of the buildings in the town centre are of late 17th- and early 18th-century origin, although a number of older medieval timber framed buildings survive, especially around the edges of the town centre.
The fire burnt down much of the medieval church of St Mary. Both the chancel and the Beauchamp Chapel, however, survived, the latter having been built between 1443 and 1464 according to the wishes of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (who died in Rouen in 1439). A full size reclining copper gilt effigy of the Earl lies upon his Purbeck marble tomb – a fine piece of medieval metalwork cast in 1459.
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.
Population growth has led to Warwick becoming joined to its larger neighbouring town Leamington Spa with which it forms a small conurbation. Both towns are now, along with Kenilworth and Whitnash, administered as part of Warwick District, which has its headquarters in Leamington, although each retains a separate town council. Warwickshire County Council remains based in Warwick itself.
Warwick was originally made up of the two ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Warwick St. Mary and Warwick St. Nicholas. The two ecclesiastical parishes were made civil parishes in the 19th century and together made up Warwick Municipal Borough. In 1921 Warwick civil parish was created out of Warwick St. Mary and Warwick St. Nicholas. Some alterations were made to Warwick's boundaries in 1931 by swapping areas with surrounding parishes, but no parishes were abolished in the process. (Source: A Vision of Britain through Time and linking pages).