"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

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Berkswell Church

We had a pub lunch at the Sixteenth Century Bear Inn at Berkswell last week - we had gone the week before on our Wedding Anniversary but the pub had been closed due to a leaking water pipe :(

Photo of The Bear from a previous visit.

The dining area in the pub is called Cromwell's Room which refers to Cromwell's troops lodging in the village before the Battle of Kenilworth. During recent renovations a Cromwellian helmet and boot were found in an interior wall. For centuries the annual October Stattis Fair (when workers and servants from the surrounding countryside met up in seek of employment from local farmers) was held here.

We were due to pick up E on the way home and had 15 minutes spare so paid a brief visit to the beautiful Church of St John the Baptist which dates back to 1150.

Wayside Preaching Cross

The stone steps pre-date the church and are probably Saxon.

The porch dates from the Sixteenth century and the room above was originally the Priest's room, then the village school and later the parish council house. It is now used as a Vestry - access is via a series of steps.

The Oak door leading into the church is 600 years old and was made with hand made nails.

The Font (1946) and the Pulpit (1926) contain vineleaf motifs that copy the ancient screen carvings and are the work of Robert Thompson of Kilburn. Hidden around the church are 9 carved mice (the mark of the woodcarver Thompson). I've only found 2 on previous visits but found a third today in the Lady Chapel - really need to take a torch with me I think to examine all the carvings closely.

Mouse on the Font

the Pulpit and in the

Lady Chapel.

More carved wood - sorry not the best of photos - it was a dull and gloomy day and consequently it was dark in the church.


Stained Glass

A rare example of a Sanctus Bell dating from the 16th Century or perhaps even earlier.

Such Bells were often placed in a wooden frame inside the rood screen which separated the Chancel from the Nave. In Medieval times it would have been rung just before the consecration of the bread and wine.

I didn't have time to go down to the Crypt this time but its a beautifully peaceful, tranquil place so I've included a few photos from a previous visit.

The Crypt is a fine example of Norman architecture and dates back to the 12th Century (the East part was built around 1150 and the Western Octagonal part later in the century). It is believed to be a reconstruction of an earlier crypt that dated back to Saxon times and there may have been a shrine on the site.

Sadly, there was no time to look for graffiti (Medieval or otherwise).


Margaret Adamson said...

Loved the Saxon steps, stain glass windows andd wonderful wooded carvings. Have a wonderful weekend.

Bovey Belle said...

That looks like quite a high-status church from what you have shown us inside. Lovely carvings on the misericords (those alone say money!) and I love the Thompson meeces too.

Toffeeapple said...

What a shame that you could not have your anniversary lunch. I am sure that the Church would have made up for it though, it was rather magnificent.

Deb said...

I do love the misericords, especially the little church mouse and the crypt. Thanks for sharing. ;-)

David Turner said...

That Robert Thompson was a busy fellow wasn't he but judging by all the wonderful wood carvings in this post one can certainly see why he was in such high demand! I also enjoyed the stained glass, the crucifixion one being nice and colourful, whilst the more modern and modest Virgin and Child is lovely & understated.

The Sanctus bell is very interesting, certainly a relic of much earlier times, whilst the Crypt, as you say, looks most beautiful and tranquil, a nice place I would imagine for a spot of quiet reflection.

Hope you have a most lovely weekend and kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much - its a lovely church :) Have a good weekend too!

Bovey Belle - Thanks very much - I think you are probably right about it being a high status church - its also in the Simon Jenkins 1000 Best churches book. Must go back and find the rest of the mice!

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much - its one of my favourite churches!

Deb - Thanks so much Deb. Glad you enjoyed. I went to another church today and found more misericords :)

David Turner - Thanks so much David. Found a website re: the Robert Thompson company recently (there is a visitor centre) and it includes a very interesting video about how they carve things.

The crypt is one of those places with a very special atmosphere and as you say a spot for quiet reflection. One of these days I'll return and try and find the mice and get photos of everything in the church!

Have a lovely weekend too and best wishes to you all :)

Ragged Robin said...

Peter Keene - Thanks so much for leaving a comment - I am so sorry but for some reason it hasn't published it. Its now appeared under comments but won't let me re-publish it. But just to say so pleased you enjoyed the misericords - I have some more for you from Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.

Ragged Robin said...

Peter Keene - Apologies - have found your comment now - it was on the earlier post I did on Berkswell! Thanks so much and am really pleased you enjoyed the church and misericords :)

Millymollymandy said...

That porch is gorgeous and the carved mice rather fun! It's always so amazing the amount of incredibly skilled work that goes into these old buildings (whether churches or not) - these days most people in the building trades wouldn't be able to do anything like this even with modern tools. I know there are some artisans keeping old traditions alive, even just for restoration purposes, but they are few and far between.

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks Mandy - its the history and craftsmanship (carvings, misericords, stained glass, fonts etc.) which I enjoy so much in churches. Robert Thompson's Company is still going (albeit rather expensive to buy the furniture!). I was just having a discussion on Twitter about how in those days the craftsmen would, I have been told, had to wait until toolmakers visited as they went round the country,to repair/buy tools.

Countryside Tales said...

What a beautiful place. I love the little mice and the cross and ancient stone steps and the black and white room above are all fascinating. Like the look of the pub too and happy anniversary :o)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT - am pleased you enjoyed. Its a very interesting and lovely church.