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BERKSWELL* St John Baptist 6, 16-2-7 in F (GF)

Grid Reference 139/224791 Berkswell Church - Source M Chester
Postcode CV7 7BJ
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 0930-1000 & 1630-1700 (GMT - Last)  1730-1800 (BST - Last)
Practice Friday 1930-2100
Other Information Church Website


This really is a church that deserves close examination before you ring. St John's church has fine examples of well preserved Norman architecture dating back to the 12th Century, including two remarkable Norman crypts. A feature of the church is the two storey gabled and timbered porch added in the 16th Century. The room over the porch is now the vestry but was originally the first school room in the village. The pegs for the boys hats and the benches are still there. Much of the woodwork in the church was carved in the 20th century by the famous wood carver Robert "Mousey" Thompson. The south and north walls of the chancel have some carved corbels under the eaves, faces not totally human with feline ears, it is thought they were to ward off evil,or perhaps to warn folk against evil-doing. The remains of two 'scratch dials' are on the south wall. They were used by the priest to tell the time for the services. Near the dials is the grave of Maud Watson, the first woman Lawn Tennis Champion at Wimbledon. Miss Watson was the daughter of a former rector and lived next door to the church in the Old Rectory, a fine red brick Georgian house, now a private home called 'The Well House'.

The organ is reputedly a very good one, made by Willis of London in 1897, and no-one will countenance moving it as it is felt that it will have a negative effect if they did. This causes a problem for the ringers. They have to ring from behind the organ in an area the width of the tower, but only 5/6 feet wide. This makes the rope circle somewhat squashed, with a large gap between the 4th and the 5th. Nevertheless they go well. Access is down the right hand side of the organ.

Prior to the current ring, the three bells that were incorporated into the ring of six hung in a wooden four-bell frame, Pickford Type 4.3, with the largest parallel pit unoccupied.  Therefore, there is a possibility that there were once four bell here, but nothing certain has yet been found. The frequencies were 1050Hz, 881Hz and 794Hz, as measured in the tower. The Edwardian Inventory had noted "iij belles".  The current fourth is certainly one of the bells that was in the inventory, but the third is dated afterwards and the 5th has the Brasyer Shield on it, which appears to have come into use in Leicestershire after the date of the inventory. It is likely that this bell was cast within a few years of the Giles bell. There are several records of the ringers being paid to ring, and given beer, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in the church accounts.

Frame and fittings are by Taylors 1898 when a new treble, third (not second as stated in Church Bells of Warwickshire) and tenor were added. The fourth and fifth were tuned and all three were 8th turned at this point in time. The bells were rehung on ball bearings in 1933, also by Taylors. Tilley speculates that the 5th was cast by Newcombe and Hugh Watts in partnership. However, this is unable to be proved and nothing has yet come to light to show that these two founders did work as partners. The old bells have had their canons removed and the new bells were cast without canons. There is a small mediaeval sanctus bell. It was once hung in the beams of the roof of the tower, but is now on display in the North Aisle. It is 6.25" by an unknown founder.

The inscriptions are given in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire":

The first peal on the bells was rung in 1907 - with a note about it "elsewhere" in the same edition of Bell News!


The Peal at BERKSWELL.-This is the first peal on the bells, also the first peal of Doubles by all except the ringer of the tenor. First peal by the ringers of the treble and 2nd; also the first peal as conductor.

Parking is a little bit restricted near the church, but is quite possible within walking distance of it.

Details of the Bells

1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough   1898   5-3-15  30.25"  1169.0Hz (D-8c)
2 Geoffrey Giles, Coventry         1584   5-1-27  30.25"  1050.0Hz (C+6c)
3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough   1898   7-1-07  34.00"   938.0Hz (Bb+11c)
4 John de Stafford, Leicester     c1380   7-2-06  36.00"   876.0Hz (A-8c)
5 Edward Newcombe                 c1600   9-3-09  38.50"   787.5Hz (G+8c)
6 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough   1898  16-2-07  45.00"   700.0Hz (F+4c)

Photo Gallery

berkswell2.jpg berkswell_west.jpg berkswell3 berkswell_plan.jpg
The Nave The Church - Looking West
Access to the Ringing Chamber is
Via the Right Side of the Organ 
The Crypt  A Plan of the Church

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