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Nuneaton WEB.jpg
Nuneaton Town Centre
Grid reference: SP361918
Location: 52°31’23"N, 1°28’6"W
Population: 70,721  (2001)
Post town: Nuneaton
Postcode: CV10, CV11, CV13
Dialling code: 024
Local Government
Council: Nuneaton and Bedworth

Nuneaton is a town in Warwickshire, 9 miles north of Coventry and 20 miles east of Birmingham. It is the largest town in northern Warwickshire and serves as a local centre for the surrounding towns and villages. The town lies on the River Anker.

At the edges of Nuneaton are a number of vantages giving fine views over the surrounding Warwickshire countryside and nearby towns, some of which vantages are marked as viewpoints on Ordnance Survey maps. In particular one point to the west of Hartshill Hayes Country Park gives views north to Atherstone and looking northeast as far as Leicester.

Nuneaton is most famous for its associations with the 19th century author George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), who was born on a farm on the Arbury Estate just outside Nuneaton in 1819 and lived in the town for much of her early life. In her novel Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), "Milby" is the thinly disguised market town of Nuneaton.

Surrounding towns which look to Nuneaton include Bedworth, Atherstone and Hinckley. Tamworth is a nearby rival urban centre.

Northwest of Nuneaton rises a hill known as Mount Judd, which can be seen for miles around. Mount Judd however is not a natural hill but a large mound of quarry waste that was formed when Judkins Quarry was dug out.[1]


Nuneaton's name came from a 12th-century Benedictine nunnery (parts of which still survive) around which much of the town grew. Before this it was a village recorded as Etone in the Domesday Book of 1086, which means as 'river-town'. In the Domesday Book Etone appears as a small hamlet.[2]

A market was established in 1233 (and which is still held today). The first recorded use of the modern name was in 1247 when a document recorded the town as 'Nonne Eton'. The Nunnery was dissolved in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and its buildings fell into disrepair.

King Edward VI School was established by a royal charter in 1552. From 1944 it became a grammar school for boys and, although it was locally known as KEGS, it never included the word "grammar" in its name. In 1974 it became a sixth form college. Other grammar schools in Nuneaton during the 1944 to 1974 period were Nuneaton High School for Girls and Manor Park. Additionally Nicholas Chamberlaine School in Bedworth was an early comprehensive school that had a grammar school stream.

Nuneaton grew gradually from the 17th century onwards, due to its position at the centre of the Warwickshire coalfields. At the time of the first national census in 1801 Nuneaton was already one of the largest towns in Warwickshire, with a population of 5,000.[3] During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, Nuneaton developed a large textile industry. Other industries which developed in the town included brick- and tile-making and brewing. By 1901 the population of Nuneaton had grown to 25,000.[3]

Nuneaton became an urban district in 1894, and was upgraded to the status of a municipal borough in 1907.[4]

A number of munitions factories were located in Nuneaton during the War, for which reason it suffered heavy bombing damage during Second World War. The heaviest bombing raid on Nuneaton took place on 17 May 1941, when 100 people were killed, 380 houses were destroyed, and over 10,000 damaged,[5] a few smaller raids took place on the town, most notably on 25 June 1942. As a result of the bombing, much of the town centre was rebuilt in the post-war years.

Nuneaton Abbey

An ancient abbey church founded at 'Eaton' in the 1150s was home to Benedictine nuns and gave the present town the name 'Nuneaton'.

Very little survives today of the original building. The cruciform church was sold after the Dissolution and converted into a mansion. Abandoned in the 17th century it was quarried away until all that survived by the 1860s were the foundations, some low walls and the battered crossing piers of the former central tower.

In 1876-77 this desolate ruin was brought back to life as a place of worship after centuries of neglect, when four of the original seven bays of the nave were rebuilt on the old foundations in Neo-Romanesque style by the Gothic Revival architect C C Rolfe with the old crossing piers enclosed by a temporary brick structure for use as a chancel. The west wall was also left in plain brick to allow for possible completion of the nave on the ancient footings further west at a later date, though this retains its incomplete appearance to this day.

In 1904 the chancel was rebuilt in neo-gothic style on the old foundations east of the crossing by Harold Brakspear, followed by the north transept in 1930. The architect had drawn up plans to restore the south transept and central tower too, but sadly these were never realised, leaving the south transept as a ruin sealed off by the 1877 'temporary' brick wall and leaving the church in an odd truncated state today (comprising half the nave, the chancel, north transept and base of the crossing).

Inside the ruined crossing piers remain from the original church, as well as part of a fine mediæval tiled floor and the bases of what remained of the walls. Outside, the ruins of the nave and south transept remain as they were, along with the base of what is thought to have been a chapter house.

The church (such as it stands) is used as the Parish Church of St. Mary and is known locally as the Abbey Church.

Despite this building's significance in Nuneaton's past and its extraordinary recent history, it is a relatively unknown and obscure place, with little promotion or signage.


Abbey Church of St Mary

Nuneaton's name recalls its former Benedictine nunnery, destroyed at the time of the Reformation. The remaining fragments were much later incorporated into the Anglican church building now known as the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin in Manor Court Road. This is a Victorian construction. The original ruins are left to be an obvious feature of the new building and its immediate setting. The town's ain parish church however is St Nicolas, close by the town centre.

Other religions

  • Islam: a mosque stands on Frank Street, Chilvers Coton
  • Sikhism: two Sikh temples stand in Attleborough and in Chilvers Coton


Ropewalk Shopping Centre

Nuneaton's traditional industries like textiles and manufacturing have declined drastically in the post-war years. Due to its good transport links, Nuneaton is now largely a commuter town for nearby Coventry and Birmingham. However electronics and distribution remain major economic activities in the town. MIRA Limited, formerly the Motor Industry Research Association, is based on a disused wartime airfield on the A5, to the north of the town. One of the biggest developments in the town's history, the multimillion-pound Ropewalk Shopping Centre, opened on 1 September 2005 in the hope that it will give the town extra income from the shopping, attract more visitors and retailers, and steer shoppers away from larger retail centres such as Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Solihull, with other shopping available at the longer established Abbeygate Shopping Centre located in the centre of the town. The town centre itself has undergone a successful transition from being an uninteresting 'dormitory town' service centre in the 1980s to a relatively thriving and well-planned retail and business district by the 2000s.


  • Nuneaton annually enters the Britain in Bloom competition and in 2000, Nuneaton and Bedworth was a national finalist.
  • Nuneaton is home to the largest carnival in Warwickshire which takes place every June – see
  • Nuneaton was home to the smallest independent newspaper in Britain (the Heartland Evening News) until it was purchased in 2006 by life News & Media

George Eliot's inspirations

Statue of George Eliot on Newdegate Square

Many locations in George Eliot's works were based on places in or near her native Nuneaton, including:

  • "Milby" (town and parish church, based on Nuneaton and St Nicolas parish church);
  • "Shepperton" (based on Chilvers Coton);
  • "Paddiford Common" (based on Stockingford, which at the time had a large area of common land);
  • "Knebley" (based on Astley; Knebley Church is Astley Church, while Knebley Abbey is Astley Castle);
  • "Red Deeps" (based on Griff Hollows);
  • "Cheverel Manor" (based on Arbury Hall);
  • "Dorlcote Mill" (based on Griff House);
  • "The Red Lion" (based on the Bull Hotel, now the George Eliot Hotel in Bridge Street, Nuneaton);
  • "Middlemarch" (based on Coventry);
  • "Treby Magna" (also thought to be based on Coventry);
  • "Little Treby" (thought to be based on Stoneleigh);
  • "Transome Court" (thought to be based on Stoneleigh Abbey).


  1. Garner, Tony. "Silhouetted Spoilheap". Warwickshire Photo Gallery. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  2. Nuneaton&
  3. 3.0 3.1 A brief history of Nuneaton
  5. Veasey, Ted, (2002) Nuneaton: A History ISBN 1860772153

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Nuneaton)