The Reverend Nicholas Chamberlaine came to Bedworth in February 1664 and remained in office until his death on 14th July 1715. During his 51 years in what was then a village he acquired land and property. He had married Elizabeth Green of Wyken, near Coventry, but she died whilst he was vicar of Leek Wootton, and so he spent all his years in Bedworth as a widower.
A strong Dissenting tradition
Bedworth was the poorest parish in Warwickshire with a strong Dissenting tradition which might have contributed towards his decision to leave money for schools for Anglican children and Almshouses for poor elderly parishioners. What is interesting to us 300 years later is that the charity survived and prospered. The second set of Almshouses were built in 1840 and are now one of the finest buildings in North Warwickshire, and four Church of England schools still benefit from the charity’s largesse.
Celebrating the 300 years in grand style
This year the trustees of the charities (there is now one dealing with the Almshouses and one dealing with the schools) are celebrating the 300 years in grand style.
The events started with Founder’s Day in May, often known locally as Bun Day. There is also a Pitkin Guide to explain the history of the charities, available from Bedworth Heritage Centre for £5, or by contacting John Burton, the author, on 024 7661 9126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is an exhibition of artwork relating to Nicholas Chamberlaine during July and August in the Fishbowl gallery at Bedworth Civic Hall. Over the weekend of July 10-12 there is a Flower Festival with the theme of the history of industry in Bedworth. The Festival is being put on by Nuneaton Flower Guild.
A service of thanksgiving
On the 300th anniversary date, 14th July, there will be a service of thanksgiving in the Almshouse grounds at 10.30 followed by the unveiling of a special plaque in Bedworth parish church.
There is also a special china mug which will be on sale from 14th July, and there are special tours of the Almshouses on Saturday 18th July (now largely booked) and 15th August (still places available).
Later in the year 300 trees are to be planted locally, there will be a play about Nicholas Chamberlaine by pupils of Nicholas Chamberlaine School and there is already an exhibition about the charities in Bedworth Heritage Centre (open Tuesday and Friday 10.30 – 1.00; Saturdays 10.30 – 3.30) in All Saints Square.