St John Baptist Berkswell - Church of the Month – April 2012

Visitors have been coming to St John Baptist in Berkswell for centuries. They still come in large numbers today to this remarkable Grade I village church, loved and beautifully cared for by those who keep it open to visitors every day of the week.

It is thought that the origins of the village name – Bercul’s Well – point to this being a place where pilgrims once came to be baptised. The Norman crypt – accessible to all who visit – was the original church building. The low step running around the walls allowed those who were elderly or infirm to take a break during the long services. It has a growing reputation as a place for healing peace for 21st century
pilgrims who find this spot spiritually refreshing.

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There is so much to see here apart from the crypt – children and grown ups alike love to see how many carved mice they can find on the wooden furniture inside. And there’s a crocodile too on the pulpit! The interesting graffiti carved on the front pew was perhaps made by the local carpenter who was working here in the 1700s. An example of early advertising!
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Inside, close to the altar, you’ll find some beautiful and notable carved marble and alabaster memorials to the great and the good who lived in Berkswell - the Eardley-Wilmots were generous benefactors of this church for generations.

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The timbered porch is of particular interest. Churches often hosted school rooms in places and a small school operated here for many years. You can still see the stairs
that the pupils would have used to access this.

Close to the churchyard you’ll find a gravestone to the Watson sisters, Lillian and Maud. They were the daughters of the Rector and were the Williams sisters of their day being Ladies Wimbledon Champions in the late 1800s!

The Heart of England Way and the Coventry Way meet here so there are plenty of options for walking from Berkswell village. The Bear is the excellent local pub and there is good parking in the centre of the village.

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