Pictures of Berkswell
Berkswell, nestling in the Heart of England, is one of those pretty villages oozing with the pleasant atmosphere of a by-gone era. It has all the attributes of the perfect English village, leafy lanes, ancient church and historic timber-frame and stylish modern properties, a picturesque village green with quaint stocks, and facing the green an attractive bow-fronted village shop.
The village probably dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, its name comes from Berculs-well, Bercul was an Anglian chieftain, and the "well" part of Berkswell indicates that the village had its own spring or stream.
The manor of Berkswell originally belonged to the Earl's of Warwick. Early in the 12th century it was granted by Henry I to Henry de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, to be used for raising game for hunting. Since this time Berkswell Hall has been altered, added to and rebuilt, it has a fascinating history, which includes remaining with the Earls of Warwick until 1557 after which date it passed through the hands of various owners. Today, this fine building, lying in a beautifully landscaped park, is converted to provide fashionable country apartments.
Berkswell church is the highly picturesque focal point of the village, and should be visited. It is a handsome red sandstone church building with parts dating back to the 12th century. Dedicated to St.John the Baptist, the church is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Norman and Early English architecture in the Heart of England region. Interestingly, within its ancient walls, mingling with the church treasures from the past are pieces belonging to the 20th century. Robert Thompson, noted 20th century woodcarver, is responsible for the splendid oak font and various other carvings in the church. Thompson's famous hallmark - the mouse - is well represented, in total there are 17 of his mice in the church.
The church crypt is outstanding, it shows amazing Saxon stonework, and it is likely it was used as a place for sacred relics. Visitors should note the unusual half-timbered entrance porch and quaint half-timbered vestry which was formally the village school.
The church stands in an elevated grassed churchyard where you can see tombs and graves of several centuries as well as an imposing stone memorial cross.
Of the noted buildings in the locality, 17th century Nailcote Hall is certainly worthy of a visit. The hall, looking out over lovely landscaped grounds dotted with ancient trees, is an extravaganza of timber framing with gables and tall chimney pots. Now a luxurious country house hotel, Nailcote Hall has the very best of leisure facilities, including a championship golf course. Inside, the hall has retained much of its earlier character and visitors can enjoy a relaxing time and fine dining in memorable surroundings.
Just outside the village is yet another superb property, this is Blind Hall Farmhouse, a glorious brick and timber building lying on a lane connecting Berkswell with Meriden. The lane is part of the 100 mile Heart of England Way, running from the Cotswolds to Cannock.
After enjoying this lovely, historic village, take time to visit the Bear and Ragged Staff Inn. Outside this gorgeous 16th century building is a curiosity from the Crimean War, a cannon captured from the Russians and allegedly fired only once since then - this was on January 4th 1859 as a spectacular prelude to a dinner for the local gentry! The Inn is full of atmosphere, its name comes from the arms of the Earls of Warwick, the original Lords of the Manor of Berkswell, and its dining room is known as Cromwell's Room, commemorating the time when Cromwell's troops lodged in the village during the English Civil War.
In the last century Berkswell was the birthplace of Jeremy Brett (1933-1995), noted for his fine TV performance as Sherlock Holmes in the series produced by Granada Television, and for many other accomplished film and television roles.
This must be one of England's loveliest villages, it is evocative of a life before urbanisation and modernity, it is that perfect idyll of much loved English country life where you can re-discover the peaceful tranquillity of yester-year.
Berkswell can be located a short distance from both Knowle and Balsall Common, it lies in an area of rich agricultural countryside where often you can see fields full of ripened corn and lush meadows grazed by lazy cattle and sheep. Coventry is the nearest large city, this has shops in abundance plus the stirring sight of its magnificent modern cathedral set within the ruins of the old one which was destroyed by the ravages of World War II.
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