Bedworth is a small market town in the northern part of Warwickshire. The roots of the town are very old, with a reference to it being found in the Doomsday book of 1086.
The town is situated 5 miles north east of Coventry and lies between the adjacent M6 motorway and the A5 trunk road.
The five miles from Coventry is an important part of Bedworth’s history because of the passing of the Five Mile Act in 1665. This forbade any assembly of non conformist church goers for worship and preaching within five miles of a corporate town such as Coventry. The centre of Bedworth is exactly five miles from Coventry, the old five mile post standing at the entrance to the almshouses. The Rev. Julius Saunders came to Bedworth in 1686, and taking advantage of the act established the Old Meeting congregation just north of the mile post. The old plaque that was on the mile post can still be seen on the left hand gate post of the almshouses.
The current population is approximately 42,000 the majority of whom work in Coventry and surrounding towns.
Since 1974 Bedworth has been joined with the larger neighbouring market town of Nuneaton to form a District Borough Council instead of being an Urban District Council in its own right.
Bedworth is very well placed in the centre of the motorway network, adjacent to junction 3 of the M6 and within easy reach of the A5.
In addition to local bus services there are direct and regular bus links to Coventry, Nuneaton and Leicester.
Mainline railway stations with direct links to London, Birmingham and the north of the country are at Coventry and Nuneaton.
Bedworth has its own railway station on the Coventry to Nuneaton line.
Coal and Bedworth
For many centuries the town was a coal mining community. The first references to the extraction of coal locally was in the 13th century. Bedworth is on the eastern edge of the North Warwickshire coalfield where the coal outcrops at the surface.
The Warwickshire coal field covers an area of approximately 385 square kilometres from Tamworth in the north to Warwick and Leamington in the south.
Records show continuous working since the 13th century, particularly between Tamworth and Bedworth.
The opening of the Coventry to Bedworth canal in 1769 stimulated output and subsequent canal construction made Warwickshire coal competitive in London.
Rapid railway development in the 19th century increased demand still further and deeper mines were exploited.
Output increased from 500,000 tons annually in the 1850s from 20 small mines to 4,000,000 tons from 30 pits in 1909.
The peak year of 1939 saw production of 5.8 million tons from 20 pits.
Good geological conditions favour machine mining, and this attracted high levels of investment in machinery and equipment in the local pits.
The last pit in the Bedworth area to cease production was Newdigate Colliery in 1982, Coventry Pit, on the edge of the borough, surviving until the early 1990s.
In addition to the mineworkers, Bedworth had a thriving silk ribbon industry, brought to the town by the French Protestant families, the Huguenots in the 18th century. They set up hand-looms in their own homes and continued in Bedworth the work in which they were highly skilled.
They subsequently taught their craft to the local people, and soon the industry became prosperous and continued so for about hundred years.
The ribbon weaving industry collapsed in 1860, when the Cobden treaty with France removed the duty on French silks entering England. As a result of this many Bedworth families sought new homes in the Colonies and sailed away in emigrant ships, such as the Culoden, some to Canada and others to Australia and New Zealand.
Some of the weavers who stayed in Bedworth managed to earn a living carrying out bead crochet work. This decorative bead work was very popular during the later part of the Victorian era.
After the collapse of the ribbon trade, the arrival of the hatmaking trade was a saviour to Bedworth. This was a trade traditional to the neighbouring towns of Nuneaton and Atherstone but the factories of Pickerings(where the Tesco store is now) and Woottons in Bulkington Lane brought much needed jobs to the town. Hatmaking in Bedworth lasted until the mid 1950s.
Bedworth was becoming a dormitory town for Coventry and Nuneaton, the car factories attracting many workers from the North Warwickshire pits.
There is very little industry in Bedworth today, but we still have a surviving silk ribbon factory in the town, Toye, Kenning and Spencer making banners, flags, medal ribbons and regalia which are exported around the world.