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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, lies at the western end of Fen End Road, directly 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 in which a number of brothers lived and ran
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, 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.
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, 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.
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 kindly contributed by Aidan