"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

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Berkswell - A Picturesque Village and Church

D and I had an afternoon out yesterday - it was such a lovely sunny day. The plan was to track down the location of a painting he gave me for Christmas entitled "Conker Lane" which was painted locally. Unfortunately, we failed in that quest although further internet research since means I think I have finally tracked down where it is so I will return!

I saw my first butterfly of the year as we drove through Temple Balsall - a large buttery yellow male Brimstone.

We had a pub lunch at "The Bear", Berkswell which dates back to the Sixteenth century.

The pub was originally called the "Bear and Ragged Staff" inn taking its name from the coat of arms of the Earls of Warwick - once Lords of the Manor of Berkswell.

After lunch we had a wander round the village and church.

Berkswell has had several famous residents including Jeremy Brett the actor who played Sherlock Holmes in a tv dramatisation.

Secondly, the tennis player Maud Watson lived at what is now called Wells House

She was the rector's daughter and won the first Ladies Single Champion at the Championships, Wimbledon in 1884.

It is believed the village takes its name from Bercul's Well. Bercul was a Saxon chieftain and the well (shown in the photo below) may well have once been dedicated to an Anglo-Saxon god. An ancient round stone in the nearby church may have supported a statue of this god. Monks from Lichfield who brought the Christian faith to the village would have baptised their first converts in this well.

Village War Memorial located in the churchyard

Wayside Preaching Cross - the stone base steps predate the church and are probably Saxon.

The Church of St John Baptist - one of the finest examples of Norman and early English Architecture in the Midlands. The twelfth century church was built upon the site of an earlier Saxon church and remains in the crypt date back to the eighth century.

Its a few years since I last visited this church but it is one of my favourites due to its beauty, history, architecture and atmosphere.

The church porch dates from the sixteenth century. The room over the porch is now a vestry but was originally the priest's room and then the village school and later the parish council house.

The fifteenth century Tower replaced an earlier one. Its interesting that the sundial on the tower is larger than the clock!

The oak church door which contains a smaller priest's door is over 600 years old and was made with hand-made nails.

The Font

The Mice of Berkswell - Scattered round the church are at least nine mice carved into oak by the Yorkshire Furniture Maker Robert Thompson - this one I found on the font.

Looking towards the Chancel from the Nave

Another of the Berkswell Mice - this one was carved on the lectern.

Wooden carvings, Memorials and Stained Glass

Misericord carvings under seats in the Chancel - these were used by monks and canons to rest on during particularly long church services.

The Nave

Another of the Berkswell Mice - this time carved on a chair.

A rare Sanctus Bell - this dates from the sixteenth century or possibly much earlier. These bells were often hung in their wooden frame and mounted inside the rood screen which separated the Chancel from the Nave. In Medieval times the bells were rung just before consecration of the bread and wine during the Christian Eucharist. Following the Reformation this practice was banned and thus not many of these bells have been found in England. This particular bell was discovered in 2011 in the Church Tower when it was being restored.

The crypt is entered from a pew in the North aisle. It is a beautiful example of Norman architecture and one of the finest church crypts in the country. The eastern part was constructed about 1150 and the octagonal or western part later that century. It is believed an earlier crypt dated from Saxon times and may once have been the shrine of a saint.

Wall Paintings

The low stone seat which runs round the walls was made for children and the elderly/infirm to rest on and led to the saying "The weakest go to the wall".

Some of the cottages in Berkswell date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

I think this is the cottage that houses a local museum. I've been planning to visit this for ages but on checking the website when I got home it looks as though it will be closed this year due to lack of visitors which is very sad.

Beehive Cottage

The Village Stocks - not the best of photos but I took this out of the car window as we were leaving! It is claimed these were built for a one-legged ex-soldier and his two drinking companions as there are only 5 holes for the legs!!!

Lots of beautiful crocuses were in flower all round the village.

Sorry for the large amount of photos - got a trifle carried away!!


The Quacks of Life said...

lovely photos RR

it is a fascinating building isn't it!

Dartford Warbler said...

Don`t apologise - thank you for a lovely walk around an interesting old village! We are so fortunate in Britain to have centuries of history in almost every town and village.

I love the Mouse Man mice in the church!

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks Pete :) I seem to remember you combined a visit to Berkswell with the lovely St Alpheges Church, Solihull? Both are really beautiful churches.

Dartford Warbler - Many thanks - so glad you enjoyed. Yes, we are lucky here so many lovely places to visit wherever you live :)

The Berkswell Mice are rather cute :)

SeagullSuzie said...

That's a lovely place to visit and so nice to see blue skies in photos at last!
I love the carved mice. There are quite a few old oak doors in Totnes like that one. Berkswell has some very pretty cottages and it's a shame about the museum.
So nice to see crocus in the sunshine.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie Many thanks. The weather has been so lovely and Spring-like over the last few days :) I'll try and find more mice next time I go :) There were crocuses everywhere - had to find some in the shade to stop sun bleaching them out!!! I'm not very good with the White Balance setting :(

Wendy said...

Berkswell looks a fascinating place to visit with so much history. It is interesting to see so much left of the Saxon age there. The crypt looks amazing and very atmospheric. I'd love to wander around the church - I'd probably want to find all those wooden mice!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy Many thanks. The crypt is incredible and does have a wonderful atmosphere - so still, quiet and tranquil. I would have liked to have searched for more mice. First time I visited I had husband in tow and this time son - neither of whom particularly like churches so both times I had to be quicker than I wanted to be :( But its a churchyard I visit in summer in search of Spotted Flycatchers (on my own!!!!) so I'll pop into the church later in the year and have more time :)

Anonymous said...

A thoroughly enjoyable post with a plethora of lovely pics from your corner of the world :-) That really is a gorgeous looking village and the church is very impressive indeed. It is also interesting to see the Robert 'Mouseman' Thompson carvings, especially since his workshop, which is now open to the public, is not far from our Ryedale home.

I hope you are well and apologies for the lack of feedback lately.

All the best and kind regards :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Many thanks - I'm so glad you enjoyed the post :)I'm especially pleased you enjoyed the mice carvings and its wonderful to hear of the connection with your area :)

There's really no need to apologise for lack of feedback. Its difficult enough to keep up with blogposts normally let alone when you have been as busy as you are. I hope I'm right in thinking you have moved. I do hope you will be very happy in your new home :)

I'm fine thanks and hope you are well too :)

Best wishes Caroline

Unknown said...

Hi Caroline again a brilliant article beautiful pics the misericords look in excellent condition
Peter (@woodcarver_t)

Ragged Robin said...

Peter Keene - Thanks so much Peter - I am so pleased you enjoyed. Such a joy to see misericords :)