Warwick Shire Hall
On Saturday night I attended a reception at the Shire Hall in Warwick courtesy of the Chairman of the County Council, Dave Shilton along with my amazing, trusty, ‘bestest’ friend in the whole wide world…Vicki. We had no idea what to expect and were greeted at the door by the chairman and his wife and led through to the hall where the reception was being held. The main hall is stunning and we both gratefully accepted a glass of wine in the beautiful surroundings. Dave stood up and spoke to all of his guests and explained that we were at liberty to look around all of the Court rooms, cells, Council Chambers etc…
As soon as we heard this we were both chafing at the bit to go and explore and wandered into one of the court rooms. After several photos of us in the dock pleading innocent (?!) we wandered downstairs to the cells. Well, I say wandered, I really mean to say hobbled,very, very cautiously down the steep concrete stairs with crutch in hand determined not to fall and set my foot back again!
The main hall
The ‘modern’ cells
We went on an extensive tour of the floor below but Dave had said something about a 17th century dungeon and whilst the cells were stark and depressing they definitely weren’t what you would call a dungeon! Suddenly Vicki took a sharp turn to her right and I made the tricky turn and followed her. We stood at the top of a set of stairs that led down to what appeared to be a black hole. If I had approached the first set of steps with trepidation then these were a whole different ball game! A long dress didn’t help matters although when I was getting ready it had seemed like a great idea! The route down was damp, very uneven and incredibly steep. However, there was no way I was passing up seeing a genuine dungeon that hadn’t been tampered with by some leisure conglomerate and turned into a sterile, sightseeing ‘experience’. We both had no idea that anything was below the Shire Hall, never mind something as dramatically historic as this.
The Dungeon…so damp and cold
An incredible insight
I barely navigated my way down without falling with Vicki ahead of me constantly telling me to take great care and offering to hold my dress. We made it and what unfolded before us was deeply shocking. This really was the way it had been hundreds of years ago, cold, damp stone with plants growing out of the walls and only one tiny gridded hole in the ceiling for food to be thrown down. In the middle was a hole where ‘everything’ drained into. The room was circular with posts all the way round with cast iron rings embedded into them, this was where the prisoners were shackled and we were later informed that in this tiny space there would 50 people who had no room to lie on their backs and had to lie on one side in order to fit in.
We both stood there in shock trying to take in what it must have been like to be incarcerated here. Many prisoners died we were told and the bodies sometimes not removed for days. Sitting and lying in their own urine and excrement, fighting for whatever meagre food was thrown down to them must have been worse than a living hell.
I feel extremely privileged to have been offered the opportunity to see behind the scenes and attend such a prestigious event and would like to extend my sincere thanks to Dave Shilton for inviting us. We both had a lovely evening and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.