"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 14 February 2014

Snowdrops at St Giles, Packwood

I went along to St Giles Church, Packwood, at the end of last week in search of Snowdrops. I've had problems with my desktop computer (hopefully now fixed!!) so this is the first chance I've had to do a post. Apologies too to anyone who has been visiting my blog for any length of time as I have written about this church several times in the past.

A church has stood on the site for over 800 years. The original building was probably wooden and replaced by the present stone chancel and nave in the late thirteenth century. The church is dedicated to St Giles, a French patron saint for beggars and the lame. The church is always open as a refuge for displaced people which I think is rather lovely considering so many churches are locked most of the time these days.

One wedding of interest that took place at the church was that between a Lichfield bookseller Michael Johnson and Sara Ford from Packwood - their son was to become the famous literary figure and dictionary author - Samuel Johnson.

Snowdrops are just starting to flower around the churchyard.

The older part of the churchyard is allowed to grow a little "wild" which is great for wildlife. The churchyard is one of the richest sites in the county for wildflowers with over 100 species being recorded some quite rare for Warwickshire. I will visit again in a month or so because it (along with St Patricks in nearby Earlswood) has the most wonderful display of primroses.

Lichens on the stone walls of the church.

The porch was built in the 18th century. Many church porches are large because in the past couples were often married in the porch as the ceremony mentions "carnal sin" and the couple following the service were finally allowed to enter the church itself for a blessing.

It was lovely to see the teasels being left for the birds to enjoy.

This stained glass window shows a fawn - a symbol of St Giles - the fawn was reputed to have provided St Giles with milk when he was a recluse.

Late thirteenth century glass can be seen at the top of this window.

The parish chest is believed to be Norman and could even predate the church. It was hewn from a tree trunk and chests like these were once used to store parish records.

Medieval wall paintings representing the Day of Judgement and dating back to the fourteenth century. These "Doom Paintings" were covered with whitewash during the Protestant Reformation after 1547. They were only discovered in 1927 when funeral hatchments were removed from the wall. Unfortunately the paintings were damaged as plaster was peeled off but they have since been restored. The photos below were taken on a previous visit as for some reason the photos taken last week failed to show so much detai1.

An old sundial on one of the exterior church walls. Scratch dials or Mass Dials were used when a stick was inserted into the centre to use the sun to tell the times to celebrate mass.

Arrow sharpening slits on the church wall from a time when men were expected to practice archery every Sunday.

This is the Tower of Atonement which was added in the late Fifteenth century by Nicholas Brome, Lord of Baddesley Clinton as an act of atonement for murdering a priest around 1483 at Baddesley Clinton for "finding him in his parlour chockings his wife under ye chinne" (Ferrars). He's been mentioned before in this blog - he is actually buried at nearby Baddesley Clinton in an upright position by the church door so people walk over him as they enter the church - another act of atonement for the murder he committed. In Baddesley Clinton House there is actually a "blood stain" on the floor originally said to be from the murder although I seem to remember it has been tested and found to be pig's blood.

Packwood Hall is now privately owned so I couldn't get any closer than this to take a photo but the building dates back to Medieval times. Edith Holden, author of The "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" written in 1906 mentions visiting the Hall and being shown a lamb by the farmer. She also mentions seeing snowdrops at the hall and in the churchyard. Much of the filming for the ITV series on Edith took place around Packwood.

An interesting tree stump, rosehips and beech leaves.

Sadly no lambs yet but plenty of sheep feeding in a field adjacent to the church. As you can see they spotted me very quickly :)

Reference: "An Historical Guide to St Giles Church, Packwood, Warwickshire"


Margaret Adamson said...

Hi RR. Love the Snowdrops, I got shots of them yesterday as well. Great shots of the stain glass windows. I did see lambs the other day but I was driving and could not stop to get a shot of them. Looks a lovely church and you are right that they are leaving the teasels for the birds.

Countryside Tales said...

Fascinating post and I loved all the detail such as the arrow scratching- a real touch-stone with the past. Beautiful glass and paintings too. And what an interesting story about the priest-murderer. I don't much fancy the idea of someone being buried upright :-(
I hadn't thought before about what excellent sites church yards make for wild flowers- I wonder how many of them have active management plans for such things? Worth a bit of investigation... CT x

Bovey Belle said...

What an absolutely fascinating post and I learned things I never knew before, such as the "Mass or Scratch" dials, and I'd forgotten about having to practice archery every Sunday.

I love the ancient wall paintings - so many churches had these covered over after the Civil War (HOW much we lost then). One of our favourite little churches is at Kempley in Herefordshire, and that has quite an atmosphere, and wonderful wall paintings. My husband would love the parish chest - I always have to take photos of similar ones when we look at old churches.

SeagullSuzie said...

What struck me first was how dry it all looks! Great photos of the snowdrops-they are starting to come out down here too. I hope to get to one of the NT properties which has just opened quite soon to see the daffs and snowdrops. Love that church porch, I would have been quite happy to marry under it.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret. I haven't seen any lambs yet but hopefully soon. The churchyard is "managed" for wildlife which is wonderful :)

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much and I'm glad you enjoyed. The murderer story is fascinating especially as it links sites in the area.

I became interested in churchyards being wildlife havens a year or so back when writing my Edith Holden posts. Many of the Warks churchyards "manage" sympathetically for wildlife. There is a project called Living Churchyards - Caring for God's Acre which encourages churches to leave wild areas etc. I bought a lovely book (second hand) by Francesca Greenoak all about Wildlife in the Churchyard which has some charming wildflower illustrations :)

I have a list somewhere of churchyards I'd like to visit in Wark because of their wildlife interest - will try and visit some this year :)

Bovey Belle Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed the post :) The little guide books you can buy in churches are often stuffed full of interesting information.

I've enjoyed your posts on churches - there are so many in Herefordshire I would love to visit. I love seeing the ancient wall paintings too and as you say so sad that we have lost so many.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie It was dry on the day but very squelchy under foot = wore my wellies!

I look forward to seeing photos of your forthcoming trip to new NT property :) I will go back to Packwood when the daffodils are out.

Hope you are coping ok in Brixham - the south-west looks so horrendous on the news :(

Wendy said...

A fascinating post, Caroline. What an interesting place to visit for all sorts of reasons! I love the history and the stories and the visible signs of it all like the wall paintings and the arrow sharpening slits. I'm so pleased the church is still open - it is horrible when a church has to be locked up.
The snowdrops are beautiful - lovely to see the churchyard is kept as a haven for wildlife.

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Many thanks :) There's several churches I've visited only to find door firmly locked. I understand why they have to do it but its very sad. Luckily, quite a few local ones are open :)

There are quite a few churchyards not too far away that are wildlife havens so I'll try & visit more this year.

Em Parkinson said...

I just adore those doom paintings. I'd like to own one. I guess I could try and reproduce one somehow but I'm not sure it's possible to capture that naive quality. Wonderful varied post - thanks RR!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much - glad you enjoyed the post. The Doom Paintings are rather wonderful - in fact I just love the history in old churches.

The strange thing is that on the photos I took on this visit the paintings didn't really show up at all on the photos which is why I used archive photos of mine. I hope they haven't faded as they were only restored a few yeas ago!

Dartford Warbler said...

i have yet to see a good showing of snowdrops in our soggy corner of Hampshire, so your post was very cheering!

The wall paintings in the church are fascinating. Telling the story to those who could not read in medieval times. Thank goodness these ones will be preserved and appreciated now.

Ragged Robin said...

Dartford Warbler - Thanks :) Must admit they're the first snowdrops I have seen :)

Love finding medieval wall paintings in churches - something so special about them :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Adorable! I absolutely love the entrance to that church. It looks straight out of the Shire. I would love to be surrounded by medieval work. The design has such a unique look. Hope all is well in your world. Chris

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris. I do hope you get to visit England some day - I think you would love it over here :)

Fine here thanks. Just hoping to avoid virus son and husband have - son had a temperature of 102/103 last night :( Hope all is well with you.