With special thanks to Jeff Clarke for his contribution to this history of Clemens Street
Clicking on the images will bring up a larger more detailed picture.
Leamington or ‘Lamintone’ was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “240 acres of land worth £4 with two mills worth 24 (old) shillings”. On an early street plan of 1783, Old Leamington is shown as a hamlet with one main street, with tracks leading over the Napton to Warwick canal bridge towards the village of Whitnash.
The original Clemens Street was laid out in 1808 and probably got its name from Samuel Clemens of Warwickshire, a landowner of 1773. Whilst demolition and new building has taken place over the intervening years, the main architectural gems of the original street design still remain, although their useage has changed. Many of these early buildings were the work of John Webb who owned brick kilns in the Court Street area with building materials being brought in by canal transport.
The 1783 map shows no housing. It does however show the sites of Ellison’s Library on the corner with High Street; access to the Royal Hotel which ran behind the buildings to front onto High Street; The Blenheim Hotel; Booth’s Terrace running up to the canal bridge and Reads Baths (under the new railway bridge) together with a Meeting House and Smart’s Baths
Samuel’s brother William Read a Baptist Minister leased the Clemens Street/High Street corner site and built “Read’s Baths” over a saline well. Post World War II, these premises used to be a shoe and leather shop, selling leather and repairing shoes with the rooms above still being used as a private members club.
Smart’s Marble Baths were built in 1819 extracting saline water from a 60 foot deep borehole and deriving its name from the marble used to build it. They were exquistely fitted out to be in keeping with Clemens Street which at that time was the town’s most fashionable thoroughfare. They then became the Imperial Fount Baths. By 1850 the name had changed to the Fountain Public House. The original baths contained a library and assembly rooms and was evidence that Clemens Street was both a fashionable and up and coming area for the gentry of the time.
Behind Clemens Street many sub-standard houses were being built at low cost in order to compete with the town’s development north of the river. These cramped courts and alleys gradually degenerated into slums and remained so for the next 100 years. The public’s desire to “take the waters” began to decline, a change in social trend that impacted on all the baths in the town.
On a map of 1800 this building was shown as the site of an Independent Chapel. The first non conformist chapel was built in 1816. By 1848 it had become a theatre only to revert back to a congregational free church in 1868.
An 1889 map shows this again as a Free Congregational Church. The original portico was demolished but the three windows still remain.[divider]Around 1910, the Zephyr Carburettor Company took over the building and then Lockheed who moved from London and with a small staff began making the brakes for the first Wolsley cars until the company became part of Automotive Products.
Early maps show that on this site was a foundry, adjacent to which was a ‘skin hospital’. Whether this was for general use or specifically for the foundry workers is not known. When these buildings were demolished, they became the site of houses with long gardens until these were demolished in the 1960s to make way for a modern supermarket.[divider]
Overlooking the canal was an outlet of Burgess and Coleburn which used to supply canal traffic with provisions. It was used later by Avery Scales. The blanked off windows may be the result of the Central Government of the time’s “Windows Tax”.[divider]
This was a row of houses once used to provide Board and Lodgings. Note the number of chimneys, not all of which might have been attached to fireplaces, since the number of chimneys also indicated the level of householder wealth.[divider]
Originally a boarding house, the Royal Hotel (shown on a map of 1800) changed its name to the Stoneleigh Hotel in 1812 although at one time, it was the Tap Room for the Blenheim Hotel next door. The adjacent Booth’s Terrace was subsequently renamed Tower Street.
The Stoneleigh Arms is now derelict following closure in the 1990’s.[divider]
The property with the seven windows was built as The New Hotel, later to become The Oxford Hotel and subsequently The Blenheim Hotel supposedly named after the then Duke of Marlborough who was reputed to have stayed there. Eventually, this property was converted to housing.
It was in this area that one of Leamington’s most famous characters James Bissett opened a library, news room and picture gallery.[divider]
These two buildings were thought to be the site of an old church when the two mirror- imaged buildings either side of Union Walk were linked. Horse drawn brewer’s drays used Union Walk to access the beer cellars of The Great Western Hotel.[divider]
This plaque under the railway bridge marks the site of Copps Hotel fronting onto High Street. In its time it was one of largest in Leamington. It was demolished to make way for the railway bridges in 1847.