Bedworth, Warwickshire: a swanky estate for the poor, receiving a free banana and being interrogated for walking without a dog

I had never considered going to Bedworth, that is until I visited nearby Nuneaton recently. In the museum I grabbed what I thought was a postcard of Nuneaton to add to my collection only to find when I got home that it was a picture of Bedworth’s quaint Almshouses.

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Bedworth is a small town situated between Nuneaton and Coventry and in the past was responsible for coal mining, hat making and ribbon weaving. The only personal knowledge I had of it was that back in the 1980s two of my former colleagues starting married their life there. It was the cheapest place to buy a home if you had meagre cash. I don’t think the town has faired economically better since, judging by this closed down pub and another not closed, but requiring adequate barring on all windows.

My first sighting on leaving the rail station was a pair of terraced houses named “Roast Ox Terrace”. Along with a downpour, this was not a good start and as I started to walk about I noticed those around me appeared to be either mentally or physically unwell. 

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The Civic Hall, for the town’s entertainment and bistro wares:

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There is a small indoor market which looked a little sorry for itself. I don’t usually wander around indoor markets as I dislike the smell of meat but thought I would give this one a tour.

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Fortunately there was no flesh on sale here, just nylon knickers and nighties and a retro stall selling fake Nazi armbands. I headed for the grocer at the back and asked him for the biggest banana he had. I felt guilt that I was not gathering up a shedload of weekly food haul especially as the stall was deathly quiet. You can imagine the depth of that guilt when he handed me a large banana “on the house” and wished me a “Happy Christmas!“.

Graves

As I walked around a graveyard an old man made a special effort to approach me and ask where my dog was. He told me he had been looking all over for it. The chap seemed most taken aback to find someone walking alone in fresh air purely for the fun of it.

I saw the same man a very short while after in the Miner’s Welfare Park and again he singled me out for further questioning. “What ARE you looking for, duck?” (I thought it was just Stoke residents that call people “duck” but I heard it several times during my hours in Bedworth). I admit my head swivels a lot when I travel, so keen am I to take in all my fresh surroundings. Again, he found it difficult to comprehend that I was merely touring for pleasure. He actually appeared rather put out about it.

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The Miner’s Welfare Park land was bought by the Parish Council and laid out with funds from the Miner’s Committee. It opened in 1923 but it took until the year 2000 to be awarded The Best Public Park in Britain. It is well equipped with tennis courts, a bowling green, a swimming pool and one massive pit head miner’s wheel. I headed to the Mayor’s Cafe in the park grounds, relieved to shake off my cross-examiner.

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The Mayor’s Cafe is a vegetarian cafe situated in the park, run by friendly people who give discounts (on already cheap meals) for the unemployed. There is only one main option per day and as I went on a Friday it was tacos (minus the sour cream for me). The meal was varied and filling and the most spicy part of the dish had kindly been placed in a miniature paper bowl with advanced warning of its potency. They don’t serve vegan puddings but I had my free banana which fortunately I managed to neck down guilt free.

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The best bit of Bedworth are their almshouses; quaint dwellings were built in 1840 using an endowment left to the town by former long standing wealthy Rector, Rev Nicholas Chamberlaine.

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Historically, almshouses were charity run homes for the poor. Today they are warden secured homes for old aged pensioners but only if they have been residents of Bedworth. There are a total of 28 homes and a communal lounge plus the Governor’s Hall (the separate small square building) is unlocked for extra special events.

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Every May out front of the almshouses, the annual Founder’s Day party kicks off, celebrating the life of the generous Rev Chamberlain. For reasons I am not privy to, each child is given a fruit bun by the mayor and so the event has become known as Bun Day.

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Every autumn at All Saints church a thanksgiving service is held in honour of the Rev too.

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I have no idea what story this monument near the Rye Piece Ringway tells. Not even the Bedworth Society website could enlighten me.

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