About 20 yards on your left as you approach the gate leading to the churchyard of the parish church of St John the Baptist is a large stone tank some 15 feet x 15 feet and around 5 feet deep (4.6m x 4.6m x 1.5m approximately). The tank, said to be a baptismal tank, is fed by a spring or stream which enters from the north through a low culvert. At the time of this visit however the spring and tank were both completely dry as can be seen from the photographs.
Carved into the stone on the south side of the tank is an inscription recording that the well was "restored by subscription" with a date which seems to be 1831 but may be 1881. It must clearly date from before its date of restoration but it's unclear how old the tank is as although full immersion baptism was used by the early church and by a number of the non-conformist denominations which arose in the 17th to early 19th centuries it has not normally been used by the Church of England.
It is thought the village is named for Bercul, a local chieftain who converted to Christianity in the 8th century.
Those of a gastronomic bent may also be familiar with the village's most famous product - Berkswell cheese, a hard ewe's milk cheese in the Pecorino or Manchego tradition.
Holy Well in Sandwell Valley Country Park lies next to the ruins of the old Sandwell Priory and is the site of an annual well dressing by hardy local pagans on the Sunday nearest to Imbolc. The well itself is otherwise neglected and the water source is shrouded in a structure of concrete and metal bars. The water rises within the well housing and flows out through a conduit-cum-trough at the front.
Meriden (Between Birmingham and Coventry)
Traditionally this village is regarded as the centre of England. On the western edge of the village lie the remains of St Lawrence's holy well, from which spring two outlets - one becomes the Humber and the other flows to the Bristol Channel.
Stourbridge - Wychbury Hill Fort (Near Clent Hills)
“An Iron Age hill fort with very well-preserved banks and ditches, though they are somewhat lost amid woodland. The centre holds an atmospheric grove of mature (and ancient) yew trees which has been a popular gathering place for local pagans at Samhain for socialising and informal ritual all year round.. The (arguably) oldest yew was 4.6metres (185 inches) round, hollow, and often used as a shrine.
Unfortunately the number of fires (some not properly extinguished), litter and aluminium cans left lying around increased over the years. At the summer solstice in 2002 the tree was finally burned down by the inevitable fuckwit. People left flowers and placed messages of affection on and around the tree. One of the limbs of the tree was dendrochronologically dated, although the results are unknown. If anyone knows, please let us know. The ruined tree is shown with Steve Sant, White Dragon's original webmaster.
Wychbury also stakes a claim (though not a very good one) as one of the many sites of King Arthur's last battle.... For anyone interested in architecture, there is also one of the best examples of the Dorian style embodied in the Temple of Theseus mounted on the south slope of the hill (although now surrounded by barbed wire and covered with graffiti thanks to the local youths).”
Update August 2002
DISASTER! The worst happened to the oldest Yew - burnt down at midsummer by some fuckwit. This great tree now lies wrecked on the wood's floor. People have left flowers, and have placed messages of affection on and around the tree. One of the limbs of the tree has been dendrochronologically dated, although I am not aware of the results. If anyone knows, please let us know. Pictured below is the ruined tree, with Steve Sant, White Dragon's original webmaster.
Stourbridge - St Kenelms Church, Clent Hills.
“The church of St Kenelm was built in the 1400s on the site of an earlier religious settlement. The area surrounding the church is quite beautiful, and certainly magical. There is a well in the grounds of the church (dating from Victorian times) with a rag tree, although many of the rags hung are synthetic. A new well-head was built in 1985 by Lord Cobham of Hagley, but many think it ghastly. In fact the well has moved three times before its current incarnation.
The church originally had a northern entrance (photo above right) which has been bricked up, although no-one seems willing to say whether this had anything to do with suppressing pagan die-hards. The southern entrance to the church has an impressive tympanum (photo left) depicting Kenelm with an angel on each side and serpents or dragons overhead.”
A fascinating legend surrounds St Kenelm, although the historical facts tend to disagree with it. The legend has it that when king Kenulph of Mercia died, young prince Kenelm (Born 786 CE) at the age of seven became king. His older sister and her suitor plotted to remove Kenelm, and so a hunting 'accident' was arranged on the Clent Hills. In the end, Kenelm was beheaded by his sister's suitor, and his soul travelled to Rome as a dove, informing the Pope of his death. Missionaries return to England to find Kenelm's body, and upon locating it, a well springs up from his grave.
For those interested in knowing more about this fascinating site, see David Taylor and Mike Smith's article on Bob Trubshaw's At The Edge site, but please come back afterwards :-)
Sutton Coldfield - SP 1296
The park contains three remaining holy wells - Rowton Well, Druids' Well and Keeper's Well. Sorry - no other information yet!
The site of an important Preceptory of the Templars. The chapel remains, as does a Great Hall, though the latter has been subdivided into cottages and is occupied and therefore not open to the public.
Wednesbury - Statue of Sleipnir (modern)
“Finally, someone was bold enough to commission an essentially heathen monument! And it's no small matter, either!
On the hilltop, overlooking the new Metro Trams Maintenance and Operations centre in Wednesbury (a town owing its name to old one-eye), stands an impressive dedication to Woden's own form of transport, Sleipnir - the eight legged horse born from a questionable union between Woden's brother, Loki, and a giant's Mare.
The stainless steel sculpture was erected in November 1998 as an example of Altram's contribution to enhance the environment along Midland Metro.
Sculpted by Steve Field, a Dudley artist, and manufactured by several local firms including Apollo Engineering and Watsons, the steel horse is 45 feet long and 25 feet high. It has a truly dynamic feel to it, especially as you approach it from the bottom of the hill, and presents itself as a most fitting monument in keeping with the area's mythology, and industrial heritage. A most striking feature is the clear blue eyes.
Predictably, the local clergy were not amused. However somebody in the planning department stuck to their guns and saw the project through. Not to be beaten, though, the local Roman Catholics have been blessing each piece of rolling stock added to the Metro Tram system.
The only thing to spoil all this splendour has been the vandalism. There is damage to the base of sculpture itself, and a rope noose tied half way up the tail accompanied by racist graffiti.
The statue can be found on a hilltop just off the Black Country Spine Road (A41) opposite its junction with Leabrook Road (A4037).”