Berkswell is a pretty posh neighbourhood: the whole place reeks of prosperity. Its church is the sort of picturebook building that complements it perfectly. Carved from pink sandstone, beautifully situated, squat and well-ordered and with its almost-too-good-to-be-true half-timbered porch it glowed in the later Sunday afternoon winter sunshine when we visited: the very vision of English rural perfection.
Berkswell Church, though, is no Victorian re-creation of the “ideal” country church. The north arcade and chancel are Norman, and the church also boasts one of largest and best Norman crypts in England.
This is an ancient place deep in the now sadly depleted Forest of Arden that Shakespeare would have known so well. The churchyard cross is believed to have replaced a Saxon one placed there by the local landowner, Bercul, who, along with the well close the church may well have given “Berkswell” its name.. The base may well be the original one.
The nave was constructed in about 1050 and the chancel followed shortly afterwards. The eastern part of the crypt too is believed to be from this date. The chancel itself, the chancel arch and the two westernmost of the three arches of the north arcade are very obviously Norman. This is not the exuberant and decorative Norman of, say, Barfreston or Iffley. Arch decoration and capitals are restrained. There is a corbel table around the exterior of the chancel, but the carvings are quite mannered - even dull - compared with the riotous melange at