"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 22 February 2024

Snowdrops at Temple Balsall


Temple Balsall had a snowdrop event on Sunday 11th February which I was hoping to visit but at the moment there are so many roads closed on the route mainly due to HS2 work and that weekend both the M42 and A452 were closed as well while a bridge was being demolished and another road was shut due to flooding. Consquently I abandoned the idea! but D and I did visit Temple Balsall on a later day in the same week.

There were snowdrops to be seen everywhere - in the car park, in the churchyard, along the Bread Walk and in a wood by the cemetery.

I love Temple Balsall as its just steeped in history and has such a special atmosphere. It takes its name from the preceptory of the Knights Templar that was founded there c1150.  In 1312 when the Templars were disbanded the estate passed to the Hospitallers who retained the land until  1541 at the Dissolution.  Two grand-daughters of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, bequeathed money to the area.  Lady Anne Holborne (died 1663) left money for the church to be repaired and an endowment for the minister.  Lady Katherine Leveson (died 1674) endowed the Hospital and the school. 

Temple House was a house built in 1740 and was used by  the governors of Lady Leveson's hospital - a Francis Smith and William Smith II.

The graves in the foreground belong to the Dames which was the name given centuries ago to the ladies who lived in the almshouses (hospital).

St Mary's was repaired in the C17th and restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1848/9.  Does the church date back to the Hospitallers or the Templars?  Pevsner says that using historical evidence it has been suggested it was built by the Hospitallers c1320 or later but stylistically it is likely to belong the the later C13th and the Templars.

The church is now open until 2.30 pm each day - sadly we were just a bit too late to find it open. Its a church I really do need to revisit to get better photos of the interior.

Snowdrops are also known as Candlemas Bells, The Purification flower, Fair Maids of February and Snow Piercer.

Research suggests that they were introduced to Britain in the C15th by Italian monks. They are not a native British plant and those seen in the wild would be garden escapees or planted.  They are now naturalised and found in woods and near streams throughout Britain. Snowdrops are able to survive winter weather, frosts and snow as they contain antifreeze proteins that stop crystals that would damage the cells forming.  The flowers provide welcome nectar for early emerging bees.

In the Language of Flowers snowdrops represent hope, purity, humility, virgin innocence and gratitude.  They are often found in churchyards and monastery gardens as they were grown for the Purification of the Virgin Mary, the Feast of Candlemas, on 2nd February each year.

The Old Hall was encased in brick in the C19th and inside there are the hidden remains of a late C12th aisled hall which belonged to the preceptory.

After wandering round the churchyard and garden at the Old Hall we walked along the Bread Walk, past a stream, to a wood. Snowdrops and a few primroses were growing on the grass at the side of the path.

The small wood which is on the Green Man Trail was full of snowdrops.

Walking past the church again on our way back to the car park.

I am sure this sign is new and its of great interest because when we visited last August and walked all round the area I saw this particular grave in the churchyard and wondered then if there was a connection.

(The two photos of the grave were taken last August)

Old barn by the car park.  

We briefly called into the farm shop at Balsall Common on the way home.


"The Buildings of England Warwickshire" by Chris Pickford and Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, 2016.

"Britain's Wildflowers: A Treasury of Traditions, Superstitions, Remedies and Literature" by Rosamond Richardson.

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone wishes to use one I would be grateful for an email first - thanks).


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Lovely to see the snowdrops and historic buildings, but you sent me down a rabbit hole with that grave! You see, I was sure that the song was written by Jack Judge, a music hall performer, in response to a bet. To win the bet Jack had to write a song and perform it that same day. There's a song about it by Bill Caddick (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fl35Rr7Vk) called "The Writing of Tipperary" and a statue of Jack in Stalybridge, where he performed his song that evening. Apparently the song was credited to Williams/Judge.

Ragged Robin said...

John "By Stargoose and Hanglands" - Thanks so much. I've just googled the song again and its very confusing. There seems to be some suggestion Judge and Williams wrote it together and another link suggests that after Williams died Judge claimed the song as his own!
I was very sorry to read on your blog that you haven't been well and I send very best wishes to you and hope the treatment will help.

Rustic Pumpkin said...

As spectacular in their own way as a bluebell wood in Spring! I often ponder what is and what is not native. Snowdrops seem so quintessentially the flower of our winter, but now maybe not ours at all.

Ragged Robin said...

Rustic Pumpkin - Thanks so much. Quite a few of what we class "native" wild flowers are not native as such but gradually become naturalised I think. English bluebells are native but not the dreaded introduced Spanish Bluebell which can be a threat as they will hybridise :(
I must go in search of a bluebell wood this year. Ryton Woods just past Coventry is the best local site - haven't been for a few years.

The Quacks of Life said...

got to love snowdrops. they are the sign of spring!

The Wessex Reiver said...

What's not to like about this write up, the Knights Templar connection (a fascinating era of our history) and snowdrops. I've recently read that Galanthus nivalis may be much older in the UK, coming in with Roman occupiers. Whatever the history, no one can be sure I think, those little white bundles provide joy in these dark days. Interesting too that Tipperary connection.

Ragged Robin said...

The Quacks of Life - Thanks so much. Snowdrops are always such a welcome sight at this time of the year :)

Ragged Robin said...

The Wessex Reiver - Thanks so much - glad you enjoyed. Temple Balsall is a fascinating area. I have two more books on it and The Knights Templar to read and I found them in a local second hand bookshop.

That is interesting about the Romans - I should have done more reseach. From what I can gather (see comment above) I think Tipperary was jointly written by Williams and Jack Judge - another slightly confusing issue!!

Rosie said...

All your local road problems sound horrendous. I thought we had problems here with constant roadworks and huge potholes but yours sound a lot more disruptive. I always love your posts on Temple Balsall and it's history which sounds fascinating. The snowdrops look wonderful, I'm so glad you could get there to see them:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much. Roadwise its awful round here what with the dreaded HS2 work and also on M42 they are radically changing the junction at Birmingham airport which is also affecting nearby roads :(
Thanks re Temple Balsall posts - it was so lovely to see loads of snowdrops :) I still have two books on the area to read which I bought second hand at Books Revisited.

Billy Blue Eyes said...

Why is it that Churchyards have such beautiful snowdrop displays, I visited one this week where the snowdrops had just gone over but the place was covered in them It must have been beautiful seeing the carpet of snowdrops.

Ragged Robin said...

Billy Blue Eyes - Thanks so much and yes it was a beautiful sight. I think they are often found in churchyards because they were planted for Candlemas (The Feast of the Purification of Mary) on 2nd February.

Millymollymandy said...

A beautiful post, Caroline! Thanks for all the info about snowdrops. I too like one of your readers wondered if they were really native and wild, or just garden escapees. I wonder how many years those snowdrops have been growing to have clumped up like that (and spread by seed no doubt)! I wouldn't class them as a sign of spring particularly, as they flower in the winter but they certainly do brighten up the gloomy days of late winter! The history of the buildings is interesting too, thank you.

None here as I said before, but I have Tete a Tete narcissus flowering in windowbox tubs at the moment and that is so joyful to look at out of my kitchen door. There are also crocus in the same tubs and later grape hyacinths, but I think I need to buy some snowdrops to plant as well!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed the post :) Its a fascinating area and has a lot of interest in quite a small area :)
I have a few snowdrop plants in the garden and have lost some over the years your narcissus sounds lovely - crocuses are always a joy too and I particularly like grape hyacinths :) I used to have some miniature irises but they seem to have disappeared too!

CherryPie said...

I feel your pain about road closures. Many roads near to us are closed too, making it difficult to get from A to B.

I enjoyed reading about Temple Balsall and seeing the beautiful snowdrops in their all to brief appearance at this time of year.

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you and you have my sympathies. Road closures also mean that those that are open are heavily congested :(
Glad you enjoyed the post on Temple Balsall.

Midmarsh John said...

Always lovely when we reach Snowdrop time. Those, along with crocus, let us know that Spring should be round the corner.

Ragged Robin said...

Midmarsh John - Thanks so much and I totally agree :)