Warwickshire can boast of being the birthplace of the British imagination, for this is Shakespeare’s own county. There is more to it though; Birmingham gained its place in the industrial revolution two hundred years after its place in the cultural revolution.
Stratford-on-Avon, the place of William Shakespeare’s birth and of his death, has become a place of pilgrimage. His birthplace remains almost as he would have known it; a leaning half-timbered house, one of many in the town and in the villages of the neighbourhood, including the home of his wife, a large thatched, half-timbered house in beautiful country. Outside the town once stretched the Forest of Arden, an enchanted place which many celebrated, and though little woodland remains, the names of Hampton-in-Arden and Henley-in-Arden remain. The villages in this part of Warwickshire suggest what inspired the bard’s sense of beauty.
North-west of Hampton-in-Arden is Solihull, a pleasant town, but the opening of the Birmingham conurbation, and eastward the bands of motorways and great roads cut through the middle of what would otherwise be rich farmland and countryside. At the other end of the roads, at the centre of the county, is Coventry, once the centre of the motor car industry but now a more various city. Coventry was devastatingly bombed during the Second World War.
Birmingham sits on the north-western part of Warwickshire. It is the second largest great city in Britain. Birmingham was built on heavy industry; it was known in its heyday as “the toyshop of the world”. Birmingham is the centre also of the greatest network of canals in Britain, linking it not only with the industrial towns of the Black Country but also with the rest of the country. The whole area is rich in coal, the fuel of industry. Now Birmingham is a city constantly reinventing and redeveloping itself. Its many suburbs have a variety unique to the city. Birmingham long ago expanded beyond Warwickshire to cover the fields of Worcestershire and Staffordshire too.
Watling Street, a Roman Road, forms the border with Leicestershire for some distance in the northeast as once it formed the border of the Danelaw.
County Town: Warwick
Main Towns: Alcester, Aston, Birmingham, Coventry, Kenilworth, Nuneaton, Royal Leamington Spa, Rugby, Solihull, Straford-Upon-Avon, Sutton Coldfield, Warwick.
Main Rivers: Avon, Tame, Anker, Leam, Sherbourne.
Highlights: Aston Hall; Baddesley Clinton; Coventry Cathedrals; Ragley Hall; Shakespeare’s birth place, Stratford; Warwick Castle.
Highest Point: Ebrington Hill Shoulder 853 feet (SP 187 425).
Area: 885 sq miles
County Flower: Honeysuckle