St Mary the Virgin, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Feature Sets (2)


After the dissolution of the Abbey in 1538, some of the stone was used for the Earl of Leicester's developments at Kenilworth Castle,c.1570; other stones were used for local building foundations, etc. Loose sculptures from the excavations of 1890 and 1922 are now held in the 'Barn', an essentially 14thc. monastic building, later used as a barn. The site was covered over in 1967 for preservation.


Loose Sculpture



h. incl. necking 0.12 m
h. not incl. necking 0.09 m
h. of impost 0.9 m
h. incl. necking 0.25m
h. not incl. necking 0.22m
h. incl. necking 0.13 m
h. not incl. necking 0.10 m
h. of plain face 0.5 m
total w. 0.34 m

Two multi-scallop round ?respond capitals with plain necking, projecting from a rough squared block. The impost is plain above a shallow chamfer.

Double scallop attached capital, with necking. The cones are short and have tapered fillets at the outer angles. The shields continue upward without interruption. There are vestiges of white and red pigment.

Similar to a. but multi-scalloped (three to each face and one shared on the angle) and damaged on one side. The underside has a shallow circular recess, for locating the shaft. (diam. 0.24 m). The capital is weathered and there are no traces of pigment. The stone is green/grey sandstone.



d. 0.30 m
l. 0.50 m
w. 0.30 m

Head corbel

Head corbel, possibly female, with a large square face, long nose and lenticular, bulging eyes, no ears are visible, but long strands of hair are carved at the sides of the face. The forehead and the area below the upper lip is missing. Part of the top is hollowed out to form a basin, with a hole at one end. Carved from local sandstone. The corbel was found in a garden at Finham Road, Kenilworth,c.1983, and donated to the 'Barn' collection. There is no reason to suppose that it did not come from the Castle or Abbey.

Sections of vaulting ribs

The dimensions of the individual mouldings vary appreciably, but the mean radius of the vault ribs (1-3 below) is calculated as 6.3 m.


extrados chord 0.170 m
flank 0.355 m
soffit chord 0.161 m
w. of soffit 0.455 m
extrados chord 0.17 m
flank 0.41 m
radius 6.60 m
soffit chord 0.16 m
w. of soffit 0.52 m
extrados chord 0.20 m
flank 0.35 m
soffit chord 0.20 m
w. of soffit 0.75 m

Two sections of vault rib bear traces of painted decoration on one side of the blocks. See ii. 1. below.

Three sections carved with lozenges, two complete and one damaged (or unfinished); the carving is similar to those above. There are traces of paint on all surfaces except the rear embedded face and damaged/unfinished moulding.

A number of fragments of soffit lozenges similar to the above. Only one is complete, some have mortar on their rear faces. Some surfaces bear traces of fire blackening.

Nineteen sections retrieved from Finham Brook, 15 km W of the Abbey. Each comprises three rows of nested lateral chevrons with fillets in the angles, the central row raised above the outer rows. There are 18 stacked stones and one damaged fragment, showing vestiges of paint (white, red over white and grey over white).

Fourteen sections carved as above, set into the 'lapidary wall' in the churchyard. There are traces of paint (white, red over white and grey over white) on all areas except on the rear embedded face.

Sixty-three sections carved on both sides with two rows of stepped chevron, lateral to the soffit, forming a lozenge in the centre. There are fillets between the chevrons.

Forty-nine sections, carved as above. There are traces of paint (white, red over white and grey over white) on all areas except on the rear embedded face.



diam. 0.15 m
h. 0.515 m
diam. 0.155 m
h. 0.69 m
diam. 0.15 m
h. 0.47 m
h. 0.36 m
diam. 0.165 m
h. 0.38 m
diam. 0.153 m
diam. 0.144 m
h. 0.47 m
w. 0.19 m
h. 0.515 m
h. 0.47 m

?Tear-drop section, plain.

Round, plain shaft, broken one end.

Octagonal, plain shaft, complete.

Octagonal, plain shaft, complete.

Octagonal shaft decorated with nested chevron, which alternates a concave, beaded profile with a convex, plain profile. Of light grey stone.

Round, plain shaft, broken at one end.

?Tear-drop section plain shaft, square at one end, the other broken or rebated.

Round, plain shaft, complete.

Round, plain shaft, broken at one end.

Unidentified moulding

The fragment resembles a thin voussoir although it is squared at the top . The soffit is plain and curved, with a radius of c. 0.21 m. The face is carved with three rows of lateral chevron of the profile: roll, hollow, roll, in shallow relief. The rear face of the fragment has rough diagonal tooling apart from an incised semicircle. There are traces of white and red on white pigment, and splashes of modern green paint. There are traces of mortar on the carved face.


d. 0.115 m
w. at top 0.38 m



h. of face 0.40 m
h. of inner face 0.15 m
h. of outer face 0.24 m
w. of edge 0.46 m
w. of face 0.21 m
w. of label 0.07 m
w. of face 0.31 m
h. of inner face 0.15 m
h. of outer face 0.24 m
w. of edge 0.46 m
w. of face 0.33 m
w. of label 0.10 m
cord 0.13 m
h. of face 0.53 m
soffit radius 0.43 m

Twenty voussoirs carved on the soffit with two rows of stepped, centrifugal, lateral chevrons, separated by a fillet. The mouldings vary in size. There are traces of paint on the voussoirs, white and red on white.

Twenty voussoirs, including three double springers, reconstructed in 1975 to form two bays of an arcade, with six voussoirs to each arch. There is also one loose voussoir (described below). The springers and voussoirs are carved on both faces with a single row of lateral centripetal chevron which clasp a thick roll on the soffit. The chevrons on the visible face are followed by a three-quarter roll then a wide fillet. The rear face is plain. The stones bear vestiges of grey or white pigment. The stone is light grey.

One springer: this has a plain vertical side, perhaps for the abutment of a second springer to form a double. On the face, in a square frame formed by a small roll, is a quatrefoil with a central boss and four radial veins. This is partially framed below by a concave band with pellets along the hollow . The soffit is carved with a thick roll flanked by frontal chevron between small rolls (w. 0.30 m). The rear face is plain. The stone is whitish and coarse and has traces of grey paint and splashes of modern green paint.

One voussoir. Carved on the ?inner face with two rows of stepped chevron, lateral to the face and with each row separated by a fillet. The ?outer face has one row of chevron, carved point-to-point with the first row, with a roll clasped between the points. The inner chevrons clasp a roll between them. The stone is lighter than is usual for Kenilworth sandstone.

One voussoir carved with two rows of stepped chevron, lateral to the face and separated by a fillet. Part of a incised pattern of what could be hyphenated chevron may be seen on the face. The stone bears vestiges of white and red on white paint.

One Springer: damaged. The springer is carved with each side with two rows of stepped chevrons, lateral to the soffit and separated by a fillet, the inner row forming a lozenge. The springer has vestiges of white, red and brown/red on white pigment on all moulded faces.


Kenilworth became an Abbey from c. 1447.

The material described here comes mainly from the 1922 excavation, although the excavation report gives few clues as to provenance. The excavation log-books (if any) have not been located. Future plans for the building will allow a better examination and determination of the radii painted decoration etc.

The vaulting ribs bear a striking resemblance to those at Iffley and Bristol. Iffley was a church of the Kenilworth canons between 1170 and not later than 1279, having been given by Juliana de St Remy, the cousin of the founder's grandson, Henry de Clinton.

There is implied mention of type VI (i) and (ii) in Carey Hill's excavation report, their provenance being the Chapter House, which was compared with that at Bristol Cathedral (also Augustinian). The inside width of the Kenilworth Chapter House was c. 8.60 m giving diagonalsc.12 m - fair agreement with the estimated 6.30 m radius for (i) 1 - 3.


  • E Carey-Hill, 'Kenilworth Abbey', Birmingham Archaeological Society Trans. and Proc. for the year 1927. 52.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 285 723 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Warwickshire
now: Warwickshire
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
now: not confirmed
now: St Mary the Virgin
medieval: St Mary the Virgin
Type of building/monument
Ruined Augustinian priory, formerly abbey  
Report authors
Harry Sunley