Leamington Courier series: Review of the year 2018

Much happened in the news in Leamington, Warwick, Kenilworth and their surrounding areas in 2018 - here's our month-by-month review of the year

Monday, 24th December 2018, 12:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:50 am
Warwick District Council's proposed HQ


2018 kicked off with a number of headquarter plans and appeals. The 2nd Warwick Sea Scouts appealed for help raising £650,000 for their new headquarters as part of their ‘building a future’ project. By the end of the year they celebrated completing the first phase with the opening of their jetties.

Warwick District Council’s HQ plan to rebuild a multi-storey car park with new council offices was approved, making way for a series of stories (above). There were also a some feel-good stories including Lucy Field and Nicki Scott raising £10,000 for the Special Care Baby Unit at Warwick Hospital, Kenilworth councillor Michael Coker being listed for an MBE in the New Year Honour’s List and Laura Raines (above) from Warwick losing half her body weight in a year in tribute to her mum .

Laura Raines (above) from Warwick lost half her body weight in a year in tribute to her mum .


This month saw plans for new additions to the district including a new shopping park in Princes Drive Leamington and a B&M in Warwick.

February also saw more reaction to the district council’s parking strategic for its HQ plans and Kenilworth Railway Station faced another delay to its opening. It was delayed numerous times before opening in April 2018.

Also Hannah Deacon from Kenilworth continued to fight for her epileptic son, Alfie Dingley, to be treated with medicinal cannabis. We continued to follow Hannah’s campaign throughout the year.

A Roman Villa was discovered during building works for the new Kings High School off Banbury Road (above).

A Roman Villa was also discovered during building works for the new King’s High School off Banbury Road (above). We also had a touching story about Steph Atkin’s social media post about homelessness, which inspired thousands of people after being shared far and wide.


In March the district was hit by snow and following on from the Steph Atkin story in February we spoke to the homeless man who inspired Steph. Known as Steve, he put a spotlight on the homelessness situation in Leamington and told his personal story, urging people to stop and talk to homeless people (above).

This month also saw the district council agree to help the LWS Night Shelter with its new premises and a homelessness summit was held with a range of organisations to help tackle the issue.

Hector Ashwood outside the Talbot Inn

Warwick was also named in the top 10 Best Places to Live in the Midlands by The Sunday Times guide.

March also saw the launch of our pothole campaign and the final version of Kenilworth’s Neighbourhood Plan was also published.


The ongoing controversy surrounding the Warwick District Council’s new HQ plans rumbled on all year, and April was no exception. This month, the plans were temporarily put on hold while the Government stepped in to take a look at them.

Kenilworth Station officially opened in May.

But within days, Government planners said the plans were fine to continue - much to the dismay of campaigners and local MP Matt Western. April also marked 20 years since the huge floods in the district (above) and we looked back on the events with a special pull-out supplement, as well as articles in the paper and in our Looking Back section.

Leamington was chosen as the location for a national experiment to tackle litter problems. The scheme is called Now or Never, headed by Clean Up Britain, and the Courier was quick to sign up as partner.

In April, we said goodbye to one of the town’s most popular figures, Hector Ashwood. Hector, who died aged 85, ran the Talbot Inn, known to many as ‘Hector’s House’.


After years of hope, and lengthy delays, Kenilworth finally breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed the return of its railway station (above). A large crowd turned out to get on board the first train. A report into the reason behind the delays was due to be published in the autumn but - you guessed it - it has been delayed.

We helped a victim of the Windrush scandal get help. Iciline Brown struggled to get back her British status and her daughter Monica took up the case. After hitting a brick wall, the Warwick Gates resident spoke to us - and said the media coverage helped officials adopt a change in attitude.

Steve Atherton completed his year of challenges

There was sad news when residents woke up to see the historic rangers hut in St Nicholas Park, Warwick, on fire. The 100-year-old building was destroyed (above).


There was great news in June - young Alfie Dingley (see February) finally got the cannabis treatment his family had been campaigning for. Since then, his epilepsy has been kept under control.

Crowds lined the streets to see the Women’s Cycling Tour as it came through our towns once again (above). On top of that, it was announced that the Men’s Cycling Tour would also come through the Warwick district in the autumn. Another sporting success for the area.

Plans were also unveiled for a new hostel to help the ever-growing rough sleepers in the district, as well as money for support workers.

And one of those fundraising and raising awareness of homelessness is Steve Atherton (above). In June, he completed his 56 exciting challenges in the year he turned 56. He continues to help homeless shelters.

This month also marked the 40th Peace Festival, 75th Kenilworth Show and the brand new Guy of Warwick Day to remember the local legend.


In July the first baby was born at Warwick Hospital’s Bluebell Birth Centre which was opened that month.

The baby girl, Misty Hopkins, was welcomed to the world on July 4 weighing 8lbs 30zs.

In Leamington, 70 people gathered outside the town hall to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS in an event organised by MP Matt Western (above).

They had been born in each year since the NHS was established in 1948.

The town also bid farewell to war hero Ron Walton who served 39

years in the RAF and fought in the ‘Longest War’ in Burma. He died aged 91.

Later in the month, authors Jim Layton and Keith Hancock launched their book Fire in the Belly to celebrate 50 years of music in Warwick and Leamington.


By the end of August, 
Newbold Comyn Leisure centre had reopened with new facilities after a multi-million pound 
refurbishment project was completed.

Cllr Michael Coker, portfolio holder for culture, hailed the new facilities which should now be enjoyed by generations of users for years to come.

During that month the sixth Warwickshire Pride - the festival which celebrates lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) life and culture - was held in Leamington and welcomed pop singers The Cheeky Girls as one of its musical acts.

Also in August, Leamington Night Shelter founder Chris Johnson announced his retirement.

Chris, who is now in his late 70s, and his friend Margaret Moore set up the shelter in 2009 and it now attracts around 40 to 50 guests every Wednesday and Sunday night.


Kenilworth man Michael Umhofer made a heartfelt appeal in the hope of raising enough money to pay for treatment for his wife, Sophie, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of just 36 (above). To help the couple, who have two young children, visit tgofundme.com/sophie039s-cancer-battle.

Commemorative stones were unveiled during a ceremony at the war memorial in Leamington town centre to remember two heroes from the town.

Lt John Cridlan Barrett and Pte Henry Tandey were both awarded the Victoria Cross for their service in the First World War.

In sporting news, members of Old Leamingtonians RFC agreed for Premiership club Wasps RFC to establish a permanent training base at their ground.


October kicked off with the news that the much- maligned Kenilworth Horse Fair would no longer be held at Thickthorn Island, following an agreement between the landowners and Warwick District Council.

Later in the month, Warwickshire Police’s Chief Constable Martin Jelley 
announced the alliance between the force and West Mercia Police was set to end.

The alliance allowed the forces to share resources and save money.

House of Fraser in Leamington was also saved from closure thanks to retail tycoon Mike Ashley.

After her personal victory in April, Kenilworth mother Hannah Deacon went on to win her battle to change the law on medical cannabis.

And it was announced that six new names would be added to Kenilworth’s war memorial thanks to extensive research by historian Susan Tall.


It was revealed that bus company Stagecoach could be cutting several services in the district - before the county council stepped in a month later to save the day.

A plan to alter the car park in Archery Road, to mitigate the loss of parking when Covent Garden car park is demolished in Leamington as part of Warwick District Council’s HQ plans, was rejected by its own planning committee. Remembrance services on Sunday November 11,marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, were superbly attended (above). In the middle of November, a long-awaited public meeting was held on the district council’s HQ plan.

Finally, Kenilworth’s Neighbourhood Plan was adopted after the town voted ‘yes’ in a referendum.


New plans for a 1,200-pupil secondary school were announced at the start of December, as Warwick District Council realised more capacity was needed.

The school is set to be built on land off Oakley Wood Road near Whitnash and Bishops Tachbrook.

Kenilworth’s Christmas Lights were switched on by loved members of the community - June Clifford who has worked at Tesco Express for many years, along with Hannah Deacon and her son Alfie Dingley.

Warwick Castle produced a revised masterplan for the castle - which includes a possible hotel within the grounds.

And it was announced that Kenilworth’s poppy appeal broke records, raising £28,600.

It was mainly thanks to the work of Sam Chrimes, who had to juggle the appeal with looking after his ill wife, Anne.

Alfie Dingley and his mum Hannah Deacon
The Women's Cycling Tour in Leamington
Dale and Isabel Hopkins with their daughter Misty who was the first baby to be born at Warwick Hospital's new Bluebell Birth Centre in July.
Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre
Mike Umhofer and his wife Sophie. Photo by Michael J Umhofer.
Chris Johnson and Margaret Moore celebrate his retirement from working for the Leamington Night Shelter.