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County of Warwickshire. Attribution: By Nilfanion, CC BY-SA or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons
County of Warwickshire. Attribution: By Nilfanion, CC BY-SA or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Warwickshire had two parts, Arden and Felden, traditionally divided by the River Avon. Arden was high land, mostly covered with the Forest of Arden, and Felden was the open country. The charcoal of the Forest of Arden fuelled the early Industrial Revolution in Birmingham and Coventry.

Boundary changes have removed these large conurbations from Warwickshire, but there is still a division between the north and south of the county. In the north are the industrial towns of Atherstone, Bedworth, Nuneaton and Rugby, and in the south are the tourist hubs of Stratford-upon-Avon, Kenilworth, Warwick and Leamington Spa.

Warwickshire is also of course famous for inspiring some of the world’s greatest literature. William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, is the best known, but George Eliot grew up in Nuneaton and Philip Larkin was born in Coventry.

Notable archaeological finds and sites in Warwickshire include the following:

  • A Lower Palaeolithic river channel was discovered deep in a gravel quarry at Waverley Wood Farm in the 1980s. Since then, five handaxes have been found there. They were made by an early species of human (Homo heidelbergensis) around half a million years ago, and are among the oldest stone tools in Britain.
  • Meon Hill is perhaps the best-preserved of all the Warwickshire Iron Age hillforts. The Heart of England Way long-distance trail runs around the foot of the hill, and there is now a permissive path to the top. Little is known about this hillfort; there are a few surface finds but no modern excavation has been carried out.
  • The Fosse Way Roman road runs across the heart of Warwickshire, now mostly as the B4455. Another major Roman road, Watling Street – now the A5 – forms the north-eastern boundary of the county.
  • Despite these two major roads, there are no Roman cities in Warwickshire. Roman small towns in Warwickshire include Alcester, Chesterton, Tripontium and Mancetter.
  • The Lunt outside Coventry was extensively excavated from the 1960s onwards, revealing three phases of occupation as a Roman fort. It is now reconstructed as an archaeological park.
  • Wasperton gravel quarry has produced some of the most remarkable archaeology in the county, with Iron Age and Roman settlement, and a cemetery with both Roman and Anglo-Saxon burials. Elsewhere in the village, crop marks show settlement going back to the Bronze Age.
  • Several deserted medieval villages have been excavated in Warwickshire, including Burton Dassett (Dassett Southend). Villages in the Feldon area often have medieval fields of ridge-and-furrow surviving under pasture.

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