History Files
 

 

Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of the West Midlands

by Peter Kessler, 16 October 2010

 

 

Solihull Part 2: Churches of Temple Balsall, Balsall Common & Barston

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Temple Balsall

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Temple Balsall, lies at the western end of Fen End Road, immediately north of the private drive into Temple House. The church is also very visible from Kenilworth Road, midway between Balsall Common and Dorridge. The impressive building was constructed in the fourteenth century as a chapel of the Knights Hospitaller, successors to the Knights Templar. They established a preceptory where a number of brothers lived and ran the estate.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Temple Balsall

The church was left derelict following the Dissolution, but was rescued in 1660 by Lady Anne Holbourne. It became the chapel of the almshouses established by her sister, Lady Katherine Leveson, in 1674. The building was renovated by Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1840s, and became a parish church in 1863. Temple Balsall was transferred, along with the County Borough of Solihull, from Warwickshire to the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull in the West Midlands in 1974.

St Peter, Balsall Common

St Peter, Balsall Common, is on a site on the south-west corner of Holly Lane and Balsall Street East, which is on the south-western edge of the village. The church is a small, red-brick construction which was erected in 1871. It consists of a nave and chancel, a small bell cote at the west end, and a notable east window (seen nearest to the camera), with a steeply-sloping grey slate roof. The church observes a tradition of 'high church' observance in its services.

St Peter, Balsall Common

Balsall was originally part of Hampton-in-Arden, but became a separate parish in 1863, and was enlarged by the inclusion of part of Knowle in 1932. Immediately south of Balsall Common is the modern settlement of Meer End, which had the half-timbered mission of St Richard's Church, opened in 1929. It was still there in 1947 but is impossible to find today, although a possible candidate is on the eastern side of Kenilworth Road immediately south of the Windmill Lane junction.

St Swithin's Church, Barston

St Swithin's Church, Barston, stands on the southern side of Barston Lane in the centre of the village. The original church on this site was constructed from the eleventh century onwards. At the time, Barston seems to have been the parish church for almost all of Berkswell, variously written as 'Bertanestone' and 'Bercestone'. Portions of the parish were detached in the reigns of Henry II and John, given to the Knights Templars, and on their dissolution to the Hospitallers.

St Swithin's Church, Barston

The old church burnt down in 1721. The present replacement church was built in the Georgian style between 1721-1727 on the same site, with the help of one Thomas Fisher of a long-established local family. It was extensively altered to suit Victorian tastes about 1897, with the most notable change being the removal of the round-headed arched windows (which survive in the tower) in favour of neo-Gothic replacements. The tower contains six bells, the last added in 1960.

All photos on this page contributed by Aidan McRae Thomson.

In Depth
In Depth
 

 

     
Copyright
Images and text copyright all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.